Friday, February 21, 2014

Which home games are 'must-see' for Reds fans in 2014?

Watching Reds games from the comfort of your own home is nice, but it doesn't come close to seeing the Reds play live and in person. There's a certain experience one gets from attending a baseball game. From the smell of hot dogs, the crack of the bat, and the roar of the crowd, it's a fan experience one cannot receive when simply watching through television. Sure, there's hurdles such as parking, obtaining tickets, and laboring through hot and humid conditions sometimes, but it's always worth it.

With that said, many of us will attend at least one Reds game this season. Some of us will attend multiple Reds games. No matter how many games you plan to attend, it's safe to assume you want to get the most bang for your buck, which means attending the best games the schedule has to offer.

After taking a quick look over the schedule, here are five home series that should produce some riveting outcomes. These were chosen are based on such factors as the quality of the opponent, the projected stakes, which days of the week the series falls on, and what promotions (if any) are available to fans.

March 31 - April 3: St. Louis Cardinals

+ This is a no-brainer, but the Opening Day series against the rival Redbirds is destined to produce some good baseball action. St. Louis will trot out its three best starters (Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn) during the series to square off against Cincinnati's top three (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey). And if watching two playoff teams isn't enough to rev up your motor, the Reds will be giving away 20,000 team calendars before Wednesday's game and then blasting off fireworks afterward.

April 14 - 16: Pittsburgh Pirates

+ The Reds have some unfinished business with the Bucs after getting humiliated at the end of the 2013 season. Entering the final weekend of the regular season, the Reds had a very good chance of hosting the National League Wild Card game if they could just win two out of three against the Pirates at Great American Ball Park. The odds seemed to be in their favor. However, Pittsburgh came in and swept the hapless Reds, which resulted in the Wild Card game being hosted at PNC Park. We all know how that turned out. On April 14, the Reds will get their first crack at redemption. The series takes place from a Monday to a Wednesday. But the storylines surrounding this series are juicy enough to get fans to down to the stadium. Oh, and Monday's game will be the first Bark in the Park of the 2014 season.

June 9 - 12: Los Angeles Dodgers

+ This series will be the lone chance Reds fans can check out the talented roster the Dodgers have assembled. Some in the baseball world predict Los Angeles will win over 100 games this year. A few even think they can touch the 116-win mark that the mighty Seattle Mariners achieved in 2001. Regardless, Reds fans might be interested in seeing the likes of Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, and Matt Kemp in action. And for the older Reds fans, a chance to see an old National League West rivarly renewed should be delightful, as the Reds and Dodgers engaged in many epic battles when the two were regular foes in the old division alignment.

June 20 - 22: Toronto Blue Jays

+ Let's be honest, the Interleague home schedule isn't that great in 2014. Aside from Tampa Bay paying the Reds a visit in April, Cincy boasts only one weekend series against an American League opponent. As usual, Toronto faces a tough road ahead in the AL East, but they should bring a bunch of talent into the Queen City when they arrive. Namely, slugger Jose Bautista, shortstop Jose Reyes, former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, and former Red Edwin Encarnacion, who has emerged as a star in the American League. Before Saturday's game, the Reds will hand out 25,000 Ken Griffey Jr. bobbleheads commemorating his 500th home run. Lastly, barring any more snow days, school should be out for the summer too, so it should make for a good time at the stadium.

July 25-27: Washington Nationals

+ Yes, the first 20,000 fans through the gates for Saturday's affair receive a Mr. Redlegs mustache, but that's not what makes this series so alluring. Although the Nats had a disappointing 2013 season, they really came on late in the year, and they're looking to get back to the postseason in 2014 with new manager Matt Williams. Washington possesses a great starting rotation with Stephen Strasburgh, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Doug Fister at the top, and they have a nucleus of good bats to go along with it in Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Jayson Werth to go along with it. This series also figures to be the last weekend series of the summer before area schools start back.

Honorable Mentions: April 11-13 (Tampa Bay Rays), May 23-25 (St. Louis Cardinals), July 11-13 (Pittsburgh Pirates), August 6-7 (Cleveland Indians), August 21-24 (Atlanta Braves), September 26-28 (Pittsburgh Pirates)


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