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Tipsheet: Revived Reds appear ready to climb into playoff bracket

Tipsheet: Revived Reds appear ready to climb into playoff bracket

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Reds inch closer to playoffs with 4-1 win over Pirates

Cincinnati Reds' Tucker Barnhart (16) celebrates with Shogo Akiyama (4) after hitting a home run during the second inning of the team's baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Cincinnati, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)

While the injury-riddled Cardinals teeter on the brink of total collapse, the Cincinnati Reds gain more energy by the day.

"Things are starting to click, finally," Reds reliever Amir Garrett said. "I think we smell some playoff baseball right around the corner. We’ve got to lock it in and really bear down a little bit and just come together. I’m proud of this team."

The Cardinals gave the Reds life by staging their epic Sunday meltdown. Now the Reds are making the most of that gift.

They have won four consecutive games and five of their last six to move within a half-game of the second-place Cardinals.

Their 4-1 victory over the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday moved the Reds within two games of .500 for the first time since Aug. 18.

"Guys are stepping up and really you kind of throw a lot out the window right now as far as what we’re used to," Reds manager David Bell said. "You do whatever it takes to win games. There’s something special about being able to do that. It’s really just about winning a game.”

The Reds were a popular preseason pick to win the National League Central after making expensive offensive upgrades to support their strong starting rotation.

Now, during the final two weeks of this pandemic-shortened season, the team is finally playing like a contender.

“I feel like we haven’t felt that the whole year really, but we feel like we’re picking up steam and we got some momentum on our side,” Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen said. “And it’s a really good feeling when we’re getting timely hits when we need timely hits, and we’re robbing home runs in center field like (Brian Goodwin) did tonight.

“When things are going your way, it feels good. We're moving in the right direction. Sixty-game season, it can flip in an instant, and I feel like that’s where we’re at right now, where we feel like we’re in a good position.”

Here is what folks are writing about the playoff chase:

Collin Whitchurch, Baseball Prospectus: “Monday was more what the Brewers had in mind when they signed [Josh] Lindblom last offseason. He stayed in the strike zone—67.5 percent of his pitches went for strikes, his highest mark of the season—and allowed just three singles in his five innings of work. *guy pointing at his head meme* It’s tough for baserunners to score when you don’t allow many baserunners. The Brewers didn’t invest a ton in Lindblom (the three-year deal is worth $9.125M with incentives that can push it up to $18M) but clearly envisioned him being a steady part of a rotation that has a lot of question marks behind Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes. As the Brewers strive to stay in the playoff race in the season’s final two weeks, more starts like the one Lindblom had on Monday would be a welcome addition.”

David Schoenfield, ESPN.com: “It's time to stick a fork in Flushing's finest. A new owner is apparently on the way in Steve Cohen, but before he can infuse his billions of dollars into the franchise, the New York Mets appear intent on spending their final days under the Wilpons being the Mets. In 2020, that means not hitting with runners in scoring position. In Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Mets managed to turn 11 hits, two walks, two hit batters and a wild pitch into one run – Brandon Nimmo's solo home run. They went 0-for-6 with RISP and stranded 12 runners. The Mets lead the majors in batting average (.279), on-base percentage (.354) and are second behind the Braves in wOBA. Based on their raw numbers, they should be averaging about 5.6 runs per game; instead, they're averaging 4.9. That's because they've hit so poorly with runners in scoring position, ranking 25th in the majors wOBA. They've done a great job of getting runners on base and a lousy job of driving them in. That's the kind of thing that usually corrects itself over 162 games, but now explains why the Mets are 21-27 instead of 27-21.”

Will Leitch, MLB.com: “One of the three best rivalries in baseball -- alongside Yankees-Red Sox and Cubs-Cardinals -- ends up having all sorts of historical implications in the new NL Wild Card round. This very well might be one of the best Dodgers teams of all time, but that doesn’t mean much in a best-of-three series against an upstart team who is arriving to the postseason dance considerably earlier than anyone expected. The Dodgers have been better for the past decade, on the whole, than the Giants, but the Giants are the ones with the three World Series titles. Imagine if the best Dodgers team of this era goes down in the first round to a Giants team that was supposed to be rebuilding.”

Dayn Perry, CBSSports.com: “At this writing, the A's are the only team in the AL West with a winning record. Their counterpart division, the NL West, has just two winning teams. That's notable because in 2020, teams are playing regional schedules -- 40 games against teams within the division and 20 against the corresponding interleague division. That means the A's have fattened up against some non-elite competition. Right now, the A's have the lowest opponents' average winning percentage in all of baseball. Monday's doubleheader against the Mariners, which the A's split, pushed that figure even lower.”

Zach Kram, The Ringer: “The MVP is a narrative honor in addition to a numerical one, and [Fernando] Tatis buttresses his case by positioning himself at the center of the story of the 2020 season. He’s the most exciting player to watch on a nightly basis. He flaunted an unwritten rule—and forced the league to accept that he wasn’t actually in the wrong. And his Padres have transformed from a last-place club in 2019 to the second-best team in the majors, by run differential, and a real threat to the Dodgers in the NL West. [Mookie] Betts might sneak by Tatis in WAR by season’s end, but not by enough to overcome the latter’s narrative advantage. Tatis should become the youngest MVP ever.”

MEGAPHONE

“You know, you have two weeks left and both teams want to be in the playoffs. Both teams have an opportunity to do it. And that's what makes baseball fun, super competitive — two teams going after something that only one team can have.”

• Brewers designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach.

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