Playoff drama rare for Reds on final weekend of season

This will be their most drama-filled final series since 1999

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

The Cincinnati Reds and their fans have a problem entering the final weekend of the season. It’s one they would love to have every season but haven’t often had to worry about: How to make sense of the playoff race.

Where do the Reds stand in the Central Division standings? What about the wild-card race? How do the tiebreakers work? What if there’s a three-way tie for the wild card? Will the St. Louis Cardinals have to make up two games against the Detroit Tigers on Monday? Etc.

All these questions are hard to answer because they’re new. Baseball expanded the playoffs from 10 to 16 teams in the pandemic-shortened 60-game season. In the National League, there are still six teams competing for four remaining playoff spots.

Not even first baseman Joey Votto can keep up. He was asked Wednesday after a 6-1 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers at Great American Ball Park if he analyzes the standings after games.

“I tried,” Votto said. “It’s too confusing. It’s like if they win and then they win and we win and then they lose and they lose. I feel like there will be a moment, whether it’s Sunday or Monday, where we’ll finally find out where we’re going if we do happen make the playoffs. That’s about as far as I’ll look ahead. It’s much too confusing, but it’s the best kind of thing, the best kind of confusing. And wow, I’m so glad we played so well during this homestand. We would not have been in the mix. we needed to play really good ball, and we put it together. It’s good.”

The Reds (29-28) won eight times in a 10-game homestand and play three games on the road against the Minnesota Twins to close the regular season. If the season had ended Friday, they would be the first wild card and be the No. 7 seed in the National League.

This is the first time in 21 years the Reds have entered the final series with this much drama. Even the last time they made the playoffs, the only question on the final weekend was whether they would play the wild-card game at home or on the road. Here’s a look back at their recent playoff races during the wild-card era, which started in 1994.

2013: The Reds were contending for the division title until the final week but lost their last five games, finishing seven games behind the St. Louis Cardinals, and settled for the second wild card. The Reds clinched one of the two wild cards on Sept. 24 with four games left in the season.

However, the Pirates swept three games from them in Cincinnati to close the season and earned the right to host the Reds in the wild-card game. The Reds lost that game 6-2.

2012: The Reds clinched the Central Division championship on Sept. 22 with 10 games remaining.

2010: The Reds clinched the Central on Sept. 28 with a walk-off home run by Jay Bruce against the Houston Astros. Five games remained in the regular season.

1999: This was the last time the Reds entered the final weekend of the season not knowing if they would make the playoffs but having a chance to do so. They led the Central by one game with four games to play but lost three of their last four games and saw the Houston Astros win the division by one game.

The Reds then had to play the New York Mets in a one-game playoff for the wild card and lost 5-0 on the road.

1995: The Reds had a double-digit lead in the Central throughout September and clinched the division on Sept. 21 with 10 games remaining.

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