Reds in playoff position, but won’t look too far ahead

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Mike Moustakas interview (Aug. 22, 2021)

Cincinnati is off Monday and starts three-game series in Milwaukee on Tuesday

Every Cincinnati Reds fan has followed the wild-card standings closely in recent weeks, watching their team leapfrog four teams and climb from 8½ games back on June 30 to one game ahead on Aug. 22.

» PHOTOS: Reds sweep Marlins

Right fielder Nick Castellanos does not fall into that group of scoreboard watchers. He calls the playoff conversation a waste of time.

“We’ll see at the end of the season where the standings are because then they’ll mean something,” Castellanos said Saturday.

Whether the Reds (69-57) can reach the postseason or not in a 162-game season for the first time since 2013, they have already done something rare for the franchise by staying in the playoff conversation deep into August. They are projected to win 89 games by FanGraphs.com, which gives them a 60.1 percent chance of winning a wild card.

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Here’s are three reasons they Reds were able to close the gap with the Padres (68-58) and then overtake them Sunday:

1. They’re dominating weaker teams: This month, the Reds completed two four-game sweeps of the Miami Marlins (51-74) and Pittsburgh Pirates (44-80), who own two of the three worst records in the National League. They still have nine games against the Pirates in the last 36 games.

“We’ve just got to go out there and focus on one game at a time,” said Reds infielder Mike Moustakas on Sunday after the Reds beat the Marlins 3-1 for their fourth straight victory. “We obviously want to be in a position to make the playoffs right now, but if we start letting our focus get outside of baseball and taking care of our business then anything could happen. There’s a lot of teams in this race right now.”

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David Bell interview (Aug. 22, 2021)

2. They’re getting contributions from all over the lineup: Tyler Naquin hit two home runs Sunday and has four in the last five games. Joey Votto drove in three runs Thursday and two runs Friday and leads baseball with 37 RBIs in the last 30 days.

The Reds, who enjoyed a day off Monday before starting a series in Milwaukee on Tuesday, rank fifth in baseball in hitting (.252) and fourth in runs scored (637).

“It’s not just one person in this lineup that steps up,” Moustakas said. “It’s a complete team effort. It’s somebody new each and every day.”

3. Vladimir Gutierrez is on a roll: While rookies Jonathan India and Tyler Stephenson have earned headlines with their bats, Gutierrez has been the best Reds rookie on the mound. They have won the last five times he has pitched.

Gutierrez’s ERA stood at 4.97 after he gave up six earned runs in four innings on July 19. Since then, he has made six starts and allowed seven earned runs in 38 2/3 innings, lowering his season ERA to 3.87. He gave up one run in seven innings Sunday at Great American Ball Park.

“I’ve been working with DJ (pitching coach Derek Johnson) so much in between starts to get where I am now,” Gutierrez said Sunday through interpreter Jorge Merlos. “It’s paid off and really the today specifically was all about locating my pitches and throwing where I really wanted to. Everything was just going, going, well today for me.”

TUESDAY’S GAME

Reds at Brewers, 8:10 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410

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