The Cincinnati Reds have left themselves no margin for error as they try to stay alive in the race for the second National League wild-card berth.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are playing to keep a streak of their own alive.
Thanks to the schedule-makers, the Reds are getting a boost in their raceto catch the St. Louis Cardinals.
Beginning with Tuesday's home game against the Pirates, they play NL Central cellar-dwelling Pittsburgh five times in their final 11 games. They also play the Washington Nationals, the last-place team in the NL East, four times in Cincinnati beginning on Thursday.
One other advantage in Cincinnati's favor may be their slugging first baseman. Joey Votto has reached base in 12 of his last 14 plate appearances, including all five Monday night, going 3-for-3 with two homers and two walks in Cincinnati's 9-5 win over the Pirates.
The Reds (78-73) have beaten the Pirates 13 consecutive times at Great American Ball Park, their long run of home dominance against Pittsburgh since winning 18 straight between the 1939 and 1940 seasons.
The Pirates (56-94) have won their last four series and eight of their last 13 games overall, but need to win Tuesday to give them a chance to extend that series streak on Wednesday. The Reds, on the other hand, can snap their string of eight series losses with a win Tuesday.
The Pirates jumped out to a 5-0 lead Monday, marking the 11th time in 18 games they've scored at least five runs in September.
"I do think the one thing we've been more consistent on is our approach, and I give those guys credit," Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. "I think we've put a little bit more of an emphasis on that."
In Monday's win, the Reds scored four times in the third inning in a rally that started with two out and nobody on base. Jonathan India worked a walk, Kyle Farmer singled and Nick Castellanos doubled home both runners. Then Votto belted a two-run homer, his first of two long balls.
"It's a good reminder," David Bell said of Votto's postgame praise of India. "It's the at-bats leading up to the (homers). It all adds, keeping a lineup going. It was a great reminder from Joey."
Four Reds relievers also combined to hold the Pirates scoreless over the final 5 2/3 innings.
"They were amazing," Bell said. "They allowed just a hit or two. No runs. Each and every one of them pitched well."
The Reds will send right-hander Tyler Mahle (12-5, 3.59) to the mound in his 31st start of the season as the Reds try to clinch their first series win since Aug. 19-22, a four-game sweep of the Marlins. Mahle has dominated the Pirates this season, going 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in three starts. He is 4-3 with a 3.02 ERA in nine career starts against Pittsburgh.
Mahle has established single-season career highs in starts (30), wins (12), innings pitched (165 1/3), strikeouts (192) and quality starts (11).
Pittsburgh counters with Mitch Keller (4-11, 6.14). The 25-year-old righthander will be making his 21st start of the season. His last start was a no-decision in a 5-4 Pirates win over the Reds at PNC Park on Sept. 15.
Keller is 1-4 with a 5.09 ERA in eight starts since being recalled on July 31. Keller is 1-1 in his last five starts after losing four straight and seven of his eight previous decisions.
Keller is 0-3 with a 7.86 ERA in six career starts against the Reds, including 0-2 and an 8.78 ERA in three starts this year. He allowed seven runs on seven hits in 3 1/3 innings in a 14-1 loss on May 10 in Pittsburgh.
--Field Level Media