(Photo credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports)
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the playoffs have unofficially begun for the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds will look to complete a sweep of the Mets and maintain their grip on a National League wild-card spot on Sunday when they visit New York for the finale of a three-game series.Brandon Williamson (4-4, 4.47 ERA) is slated to start for the Reds against fellow left-hander Jose Quintana (2-5, 3.05).
The Reds continued their timely surge on Saturday night when rookie Christian Encarnacion-Strand's two-run, fourth-inning homer provided the winning runs in a 3-2 victory over the Mets.
The Reds remain tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks -- who beat the Chicago Cubs 7-6 in 13 innings on Saturday -- for the last NL playoff berth. Both teams are 78-72, but Cincinnati has the tiebreaker over Arizona by virtue of a 4-3 win in the season series.
The Reds and Diamondbacks are a half-game behind the Chicago Cubs (78-71) and a half-game ahead of the Miami Marlins (77-72) in the playoff race.
Saturday's win was the fifth in the last six games for the Reds, who are 9-6 this month. Seven of their victories have been by two runs or less.
Derek Law on Saturday night became the third Reds pitcher this week to record a save when he allowed a pair of singles before getting Pete Alonso -- who ranks second in the majors with 45 homers -- to hit into a fielder's choice that forced out Francisco Alvarez at second base.
"Kind of seems that's how it's going every one of these games," Law said. "It's how playoff baseball goes. It just seems like that. Every game's close, every game's down to the wire. You're never out of it."
With Saturday's loss, the Mets (68-80) inched closer to officially falling out of contention -- their tragic number in the wild-card race is five -- and locking up their fifth sub-.500 finish in the last seven seasons.
But the seven-game homestand that will conclude on Sunday has provided the Mets an encouraging glimpse at the potential of the pitchers likely to occupy the majority of their 2024 rotation. Quintana, Jose Butto, Joey Lucchesi, Kodai Senga, David Peterson and Tylor Megill have combined to post a 1.83 ERA this week against the Diamondbacks and Reds.
"Very similar to outings we've been getting from all our guys for quite a while now," Mets manager Buck Showalter said after Megill gave up the three runs (two earned) through 5 2/3 innings on Saturday night. "It's been good to watch."
Williamson returned from the COVID injured list on Tuesday, when he gave up five runs over four innings in the Reds' 6-5, 10-inning win over the Detroit Tigers. He has never opposed the Mets.
Quintana didn't factor into the decision last Monday after allowing two runs over five innings in the Mets' 4-3 loss to the Diamondbacks. He is 4-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 13 career appearances (12 starts) against the Reds.
--Field Level Media