“We need to win out,” second baseman Jonathan India told reporters on Sunday after a 4-2 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the final home game of the regular season. “Bottom line, we need to win every game. That’s our goal now. We need to win at any cost. It’s the only way we have a chance.”
Here’s the situation for the Reds, who enjoyed an off day Monday:
Wild card standings: The Philadelphia Phillies (87-69) have all but locked up the first wild card and can clinch it with one more victory.
There are four teams contending for the final two wild cards. The Arizona Diamondbacks (82-73), who trail the Phillies by five games, have a half-game lead over the Chicago Cubs (82-74). The Cubs swept the Colorado Rockies over the weekend at Wrigley Field.
The Miami Marlins (81-75) trail the Cubs by a half game. The Reds (80-77) trail the Cubs by 2½ games.
if the Reds win their last five games, they will need the Cubs and Marlins to go no better than 3-3 and the Diamondbacks to finish no better than 3-4 down the stretch.
What’s next: The Reds play their final five games on the road. They face the Cleveland Guardians (74-83) on Tuesday and Wednesday and then play three games over the weekend against the St. Louis Cardinals (68-88).
• The Cubs play six games on the road against teams that have already clinched division titles — the Atlanta Braves (100-56) and Milwaukee Brewers (88-68)— in the final week.
• The Diamondbacks are the only contending team with seven games remaining. They play the Yankees (78-77) in New York on Monday and then play three games on the road against the Chicago White Sox (60-96) before closing the regular season with three home games against the Houston Astros (85-71).
• The Marlins play six road games: three against the Mets (71-85) and three against the Pirates (74-82).
Tiebreakers: If the Reds go 5-0 and the Cubs go 3-3, they will tie the Cubs and win a head-to-head tiebreaker because they won the season series 7-6.
if the Reds tie the Marlins, the Marlins will win the tiebreaker. The teams split six regular-season games. The next tiebreaker is intradivision record. The Reds, who are 20-29 against the Central Division, would lose that tiebreaker because the Marlins are 25-24 against the East Division.
The Reds own the tiebreaker against the Diamondbacks because they won the season series 4-3.
The formula for breaking ties gets complicated if there is a three-way tie or even a four-way tie for the wild cards.
If the season ended today: The Braves and Dodgers would earn the top two seeds and first-round byes.
In best-of-three wild card series, the Cubs would earn the No. 6 seed and play the No. 3 Brewers in Milwaukee, and the No. 5 Diamondbacks would play the No. 4 Phillies in Philadelphia.
In summary: The Reds have put themselves in a hole by losing two straight series to the Minnesota Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates. If they don’t make the playoffs, they will be haunted by a number of recent losses, including a 13-12 loss to the Pirates on Saturday when they blew a 9-0 lead and a 5-3 loss to the Twins on Thursday when they lost a 3-2 lead in the ninth.
The Reds are 11-11 in September after a 10-17 August. Prior to that, they put together three straight winning months.
Why have the Reds struggled? Their pitchers had the eighth-worst ERA (5.03) in baseball in August and have the sixth-worst (5.25) in September.
The offense has been better than the pitching but still average. The Reds rank 18th in runs scored (100) in September and 13th in batting average (.252).
Reds at Guardians, 6:10 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410