Reds clinch playoff spot with win over Mets

Jeff Wallner, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds clinched a postseason berth Monday night, but there wasn't a drop of champagne to be had and no visible celebration in the home clubhouse at Great American Ball Park.
"Out of respect to the teams that aren't where we're at, we're excited," said shortstop Zack Cozart. "But that's not our No. 1 goal. We're still within striking distance of the Cardinals."
Shin-Soo Choo's single off the wall in the 10th inning drove home Devin Mesoraco with the winning run, lifting the Reds to a 3-2 victory over the New York Mets helping Cincinnati clinch its third playoff berth in the past four seasons.
Cincinnati (90-67) and the Pittsburgh Pirates (90-67) are both guaranteed at least wild-card bids thanks to the Washington Nationals losing 4-3 to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Reds and Pirates remain tied for second place in the National League Central, two games behind the Cardinals.
"We were pulling for the Nationals to win so we could get closer to the Cardinals," manager Dusty Baker said. "We've still got five big games to play. It's good to win."
In the 10th inning, Mesoraco singled with one out and reached third on Derrick Robinson's single. Choo launched Sean Henn's pitch off the wall in left-center to win the game.
"We've played so many close games this season. I think we're battled-tested," Cozart said. "You don't want to say it was a must-win, but it was a big game tonight."
Manny Parra (2-3) earned the victory by pitching a scoreless 10th inning. Greg Burke (0-3) took the loss after retiring just one of the three batters he faced.
Reds starter Johnny Cueto allowed two runs (one earned) in seven innings. He walked three and struck out five over 99 pitches.
"I felt good, I felt normal," said Cueto, who was making his second start since coming off the disabled list. "After that last inning I said I could go out in the eighth. But because I was close to 100 pitches, Dusty said no."
Mets starter Aaron Harang allowed two earned runs and five hits in six innings. Harang, who was 3-0 against his former team in three previous starts, issued a season-high six walks while striking out just one.
"I was hoping to go out there and give us a chance to win," said Harang, who pitched for eight seasons with the Reds. "It's always special to come back and pitch in a place where you pitched so long. It feels like you're pitching in your home ballpark. I felt like I pitched well."
Cueto retired nine straight before Lucas Duda launched a 1-0 pitch for a solo home run, tying the score 2-2 with two outs in the sixth. The homer was Duda's 15th of the season.
"He's getting his endurance up," said Baker of Cueto. "He got close to 100 pitches tonight. It's just a matter of time."
The Mets (71-85) had the go-ahead run at second base with one out in the 10th, but pinch-hitter Wilfredo Tovar lined into a 4-6 double play.
"We've got holes, but you can't say we don't play hard," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "Cueto was very good tonight. Aaron pitched a good game. He kept us in the game. We did a lot of things good, we just couldn't muster enough runs."
Choo's RBI single in the second inning drove home Todd Frazier from third, putting the Reds ahead 1-0. Then, with the bases loaded and two outs, Harang walked Joey Votto to force home the second run.
"From night to night, somebody always steps up and gets the big hit," said Harang of the Reds. "I saw a lot of those guys make their debuts and mature as players."
NOTES: Cincinnati reached 90 victories for the third time in a four-year span for the first time since 1976-'79. ... Votto walked a career-high five times, tying a club record. ... Choo was back in the lineup after missing two games with a sore left thumb. He was injured while sliding headfirst to beat out an infield hit in Friday's game. ... Harang has 38 career wins at Great American Ball Park, second most in the ballpark's history behind RHP Bronson Arroyo's 52. ... Cincinnati clinched its third postseason berth in the past four seasons, a four-year stretch of success bested in franchise history only by the Big Red Machine clubs of the 1970s that made the playoffs six times from 1970-79. ... Mets GM Sandy Alderson said RHP Matt Harvey, on the disabled list since Sept. 11 with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, could pitch in the Arizona Fall League as part of his rehab. Harvey is hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery that would cause him to miss the 2014 season.

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