The adage is almost as old as baseball itself: The route to winning a title is playing .500 ball against the best teams but beating up on the lesser-record teams.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are getting part of the equation right. After defeating the first-place Colorado Rockies 9-6 on Sunday, they're 9-7 against one of the teams they're chasing for the National League West title and 7-9 against the other, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
They're also a combined 8-6 against the other two NL first-place clubs, going 5-2 against the Atlanta Braves and 3-4 against the Chicago Cubs. They're 4-3 against the Milwaukee Brewers, who currently lead the NL wild-card standings.
Los Angeles took two of three in Denver despite being without closer Kenley Jansen (irregular heartbeat) to close to within one-half game of Colorado in the NL West. Justin Turner was 4-for-5 with three extra-base hits Sunday -- a homer and two doubles -- and Enrique Hernandez also homered.
"We're trying to chase those guys down," Turner told the team's website. "The bullpen answered the bell, we won the two games we had a lead. We scored runs, got into the other team's bullpen in the third inning."
But the Dodgers, who open a three-game series against the last-place Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on Monday night, aren't entirely taking care of business against the teams that could give them a path to a sixth consecutive division.
They're 2-4 against the last-place Miami Marlins and 0-4 against the Reds, who swept them in a four-game series at Dodger Stadium on May 10-13 -- arguably the highlight of the Reds' season and the lowest point of the Dodgers' season. Outside of that series, Cincinnati is 57-83 in 2018.
If it weren't for the San Diego Padres, who've dropped 12 of 16 to their southern California rivals, the Dodgers would be having a frustratingly poor season against the teams they theoretically should be defeating.
At least they'll be sending a pitcher to the mound Monday night who knows how to beat the Reds, who've lost eight of 12 and 13 of 18. They lost 7-6 Sunday to the San Diego Padres in a game that didn't end until almost 9 p.m. EDT because of a 92-minute rain delay.
Left-hander Alex Wood (8-6) will be looking to improve to 4-0 in his career against the Reds, although he hasn't faced them since June 6, 2017. In that game, he held the Reds to one run and four hits in eight innings before Jansen finished a 3-1 Dodgers win at Great American Ball Park.
Overall, Wood is 3-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four career starts against Cincinnati, limiting their hitters to a .184 average. He will be pitching for the first time in a week, or since he didn't figure in the decision as the Dodgers lost 4-2 to the New York Mets last Monday in Dodger Stadium. He allowed one run and five hits in five innings.
Wood is 7-1 with a 2.39 ERA and a .229 opponents' batting average in his last 13 starts. He'll face left-hander Cody Reed (0-2), who is coming off a 7-3 loss Tuesday to the Pittsburgh Pirates in his first Reds start since April 9.
Reed gave up six runs and nine hits in five innings in Pittsburgh after going 4-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 17 starts with Triple-A Louisville. This will be his 15th career start since debuting in the majors in 2016, a year after Cincinnati acquired him from the Kansas City Royals in the Jonny Cueto trade. The Reds are 0-14 in his previous starts.
Reed, who is 1-10 with a 6.22 ERA in 35 career major league games, tried putting a positive spin on his most recent start.
"I know that I'm jamming guys, I'm getting the ball in, working away, up and down," Reed said. "I felt fine. I was throwing strikes, threw five [innings] and battled. I made it through five and tried to keep my game in it as much as I could."
The Dodgers haven't played in Cincinnati since sweeping a three-game series there June 16-18, 2017, outscoring the Reds 21-10.