MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ned Yost used his usual pre-series meeting to lay it all out for his players and coaches. The next 17 games in 17 days will determine whether the Brewers play into October for the first time in a quarter century.

"Usually a Major League season is like a marathon," Yost said he told the players. "You have to stay controlled and level-headed in order to survive. It's a long, long time.

"But just like a long, long race, when they bang that gun for the final lap, that's when everybody all-out sprints to the finish line. That's where we are at right now. We just go out and give everything we have these last 17 games."

The Brewers entered a three-game series against the Reds one-half game behind the Cubs in the National League Central. Winners of two straight since the Brewers played their last game, the Cubs began a crucial four-game series on Friday in St. Louis against the Cardinals, who entered the weekend five games back.

The remaining schedule seems to favor the Cubs, who do not have any games left against teams with winning records. The Brewers, meanwhile, have a pair of tough, four-game series left at Atlanta and versus San Diego. But while the Cubs finish the regular season on a weeklong road trip, the Brewers play their final seven games at home, where they were an NL-best 45-26 entering Friday.

"We have to just play the game that we're capable of playing," Yost said. "We don't have to, 'Take it to the next level.' We don't have to do anything special. We just have to make sure we consistently make the routine plays and just play our game. If we do that, we'll be in great shape."

There is a balance between staying loose and knowing what is at stake, he conceded.

"You'd better have your focus where it needs to be these last 17 games," Yost said. "You go out and play like a 12-year-old, but you don't act like a 12-year-old, if you know what I'm saying. You're playing a game, but you still have to be smart, you have to be focused and you have to have the 'whatever it takes' mentality."

"You have to enjoy it, but we have to go," added Prince Fielder. "All that 'relax' stuff is fine, but you have to know how to relax with some intensity. Sometimes it's not time for relaxing. You have to do it. I'm not relaxed. I'm having fun, but I am intense and I am ready to win."

Done deal: The Brewers sent left fielder/first baseman Andrew Lefave to the Washington Nationals on Friday as the player to be named in the Sept. 4 trade that brought left-hander Ray King back to Milwaukee.

Lefave, a 23-year-old, left-handed hitter, batted .345 at Class A West Virginia this season and was the South Atlantic League batting champion. He hit 17 home runs, drove in 79 runs and posted a .957 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

He missed the final five games of the regular season with a wrist injury and was placed on the disabled list during West Virginia's playoff series.

"We told them about it," general manager Doug Melvin said. "We told them we had X-rays if they wanted to see them and follow up, and they said they would deal with that later. You can trade injured players, you just have to be upfront about the injury."

King has made four appearances so far for the Brewers, allowing three earned runs in two total innings.

In the Minors: West Virginia and advanced Class A Brevard County were both eliminated in postseason series on Thursday night, leaving Double-A Huntsville as the only Brewers affiliate still active. Huntsville dropped a 6-1 decision to Montgomery on Thursday in Game 2 of the Southern League Championship Series, leaving the teams tied at a game apiece. The series was scheduled to continue Friday night.

Last call: Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday of the Day of Atonement, begins just before sundown on Sept. 21, and some wondered whether that meant Brewers third baseman Ryan Braun would sit out two games. He cleared it up on Friday. "I am half Jewish, and I am not Orthodox," Braun said. "So I never grew up celebrating the holidays. I'm going to play." ... Left-hander Brian Shouse rejoined the team after missing two games to attend the birth of his third child. Trish Shouse gave birth to a healthy girl, Daisy Jane, in Peoria, Ill. With the Brewers' next win, the team will match its total from last season. ... Second baseman Rickie Weeks turned 25 on Thursday.

Up next: Right-hander Jeff Suppan will face fellow righty Kirk Saarloos on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. CT.