Playoff lives at stake as Brewers visit Reds

All the Cincinnati Reds needed was one extended winning streak to turn a disappointing season into a possible playoff berth.

Cincinnati had high hopes after spending big in the offseason, but the Reds showed little sign of improvement until they ran off six straight victories recently. Now they’re at .500 and in a three-way tie with Milwaukee and San Francisco for the final postseason spot in the National League.

Cincinnati hosts a three-game series with the Brewers starting Monday night.

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It’s the pitching staff that has led this resurgence for the Reds. They held Pittsburgh to six runs in a four-game sweep, and then they took two of three from the powerful Chicago White Sox. Trevor Bauer (4-4, 1.80 ERA) and Luis Castillo (3-5, 3.03) give Cincinnati a formidable starting pitching tandem, and Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker and Joey Votto all have reached double-digit home runs.

Elsewhere in the NL Central, Milwaukee and St. Louis are closing strong as well. Those two teams have each won four in a row — the Cardinals are in second place in the division, a game ahead of the Reds and Brewers.

Milwaukee, which made a late charge last season to earn a wild card, beat Kansas City 5-3 on Sunday, with Daniel Vogelbach hitting two homers and driving in all five runs. The Brewers claimed Vogelbach off waivers earlier this month, and he’s hit .417 in 11 games for Milwaukee, his third team of this short season.

The NL may have to provide the excitement in this final week of the playoff chase, because the American League looks like a done deal. Toronto holds the last spot at the moment and has a four-game cushion.