Thanks to last season's addition of another Wild Card spot, the Cincinnati Reds find themselves holding a coveted playoff berth -- were the season to end today.
But in order to make a push in the National League Central race and avoid a winner-take-all Wild Card showdown, the Reds are going to have to start stringing victories together very soon.
Well, they've already won three straight, and Saturday night at Great American Ball Park, the Reds have a chance to make it four in a row in the second game of a three-game set against the Padres.
A red-hot Tyson Ross gets the ball for the Friars, looking to continue his string of solid starts since he was moved back into the rotation after the All-Star Game.
Ross (2-5, 2.91 ERA) won his first two starts after the break before dropping a pitchers' duel against the Yankees last Saturday. He worked six scoreless frames, but he surrendered a two-run home run to Curtis Granderson on a fastball he left over the plate in the seventh.
Other than that pitch, Ross' three starts since returning to the rotation have been practically flawless. In 20 innings, he has allowed just three runs on eight hits.
"We're excited about Tyson," Padres manager Bud Black said. "We were excited about him in the offseason. We saw him in Spring Training, and we were excited about him. So these last two outings should give him a great boost of confidence moving forward here."
Opposite Ross will be Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani, who is looking to regain some of his control. He walked five batters and threw just 56 strikes in 103 pitches against St. Louis last Saturday, yet he managed to limit the Cards to three runs and picked up the win.
Cingrani (5-1, 3.05 ERA), the only left-hander in the Reds' starting rotation, has made a habit recently of working in and out of trouble.
"He's always got the fastball in his back pocket, where he can go to it whenever he really needs to make a pitch," catcher Devin Mesoraco said. "That's pretty much all it is. Most of the time you see when guys get on base, guys throw more offspeed pitches. I think it's the complete opposite with Tony."
Padres: Quentin to hit DL
Ailing San Diego left fielder Carlos Quentin will be sent to the disabled list before Saturday's game. Quentin has been battling a sore right knee for the entire month of August and hasn't played in a game since July 30.
"We were hoping that we were going to get him through this," Black said. "But it looks as though that's not going to happen in the next four or five days. So let's retroactive it, and we'll see where we are five days from now."
Quentin, who leads the Padres in both slugging and on-base percentage, has played in just 82 of the club's 115 games this season.
Reds: Hanigan returns
In his first game back from a left wrist sprain, Cincinnati catcher Ryan Hanigan went 0-for-2 with two walks.
Out since July 9, Hanigan called his recovery process "a grind." He came close to a return once, but suffered a setback when his wrist and hand began to hurt while swinging.
"I definitely think I jumped the gun there trying to come off, that first time I had a chance to," Hanigan said. "It took a little longer than I thought, unfortunately."
• In total, hitters on the current Reds roster are batting just .235 against Ross with one extra-base hit -- a double by Shin-Soo Choo, who is 1-for-6.
• The Padres hold a 17-16 all-time edge over the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
• Reds outfielder Jay Bruce is riding a nine-game hitting streak against the Padres, during which he is hitting .394 with two homers.