About the only thing the Cincinnati Reds could use more than Monday’s day off is a win.
And some help from the New York Yankees.
For now they’ll settle for knowing they kept their faint playoff hopes alive by snapping a devastating four-game losing streak with Sunday’s 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates – fresh off blowing a 9-0 lead in a loss the night before.
“At the end of the day we have to control the things we can control as a team, regardless of wherever we’re at,” Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson said in the aftermath of Saturday’s historic collapse.
The Reds (80-77) head into Monday’s day off 2 1/2 games out of the final playoff position in the National League, trailing both the Chicago Cubs (82-74) and Miami Marlins (81-75), both of which also have Monday off.
Phillies 87-69 +5.0 (6g left)
DBacks 82-73 +0.5 (7)
Cubs 82-74 -- (6)
Marlins 81-75 1.0 (6)
Reds 80-77 2.5 (5)
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubMLB) September 25, 2023
The Reds are three games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks (82-73) for the NL’s second wild-card spot, which potentially becomes more significant for the Reds if the Diamondbacks lose to the Yankees in New York on Monday, creating a tie with the Cubs for the second and third spots.
Here’s what you need to know about the Reds’ playoff picture and their path to October the final week of the season:
1. The Reds hold the tiebreakers against both the Cubs and Diamondbacks, but not the Marlins. Major League Baseball doesn’t play games to break ties on the field anymore, so those tiebreakers could be huge with four teams bunched within three total games for two spots. Miami holds the tiebreaker against each of the three others in that scrum.
2. “Every single game from here on out is going to be a must-win,” said TJ Friedl, who did his part Sunday with a home run. The Reds play two in Cleveland against the Guardians starting Tuesday, then take another day off Thursday and finish with three in St. Louis against the Cardinals starting Friday.
3. The Reds have the best road record in baseball since May 26 (35-19), which might lend some solace, if not hope, after a miserable 2-4 homestand (their last winning homestand was a three-gamer against the San Diego Padres June 30-July 2).
4. Even if the Reds sweep the final two series and finish 85-77, however, they’ll need help, so keep an eye on the remaining MLB schedule that has the Cubs facing what looks like the toughest gauntlet of the bunch, all on the road, with the Diamondbacks finishing against the defending-champion Houston Astros:
Diamondbacks (7 games left) – At New York Yankees (Monday), at Chicago White Sox (Tuesday-Thursday), vs. Houston Astros (Friday-Sunday).
Marlins (6) – At New York Mets (Tuesday-Thursday), at Pittsburgh Pirates (Friday-Sunday).
Also, for what it’s worth, forget about the Philadelphia Phillies and the top wild-card spot. The Reds are mathematically eliminated from that spot, and the Phillies could clinch the No. 1 wild-card spot outright as early as Tuesday.
And although the straggling San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres aren’t technically eliminated, the only way they come into play for the Reds is if the Reds don’t take care of their own business the next few days.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take,” Stephenson said. “But tomorrow’s a new day, a new opportunity.”
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: How Cincinnati Reds' faint playoff hopes stack up with 5 games to play