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Reds battling for extra October home games

Reds battling for extra October home games

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CINCINNATI -- Sure, the Reds have undisputed ownership of the National League Central after their magic number on the Cardinals reached the big zero.

Does that mean Cincinnati's days of scoreboard watching and jockeying for position are over for the regular season?

Not even for a nanosecond.

"We have to win the most games we can," said pitcher Edinson Volquez. "We can finish with a better record. We want to start at home."

With races in the NL West and the NL Wild Card still wide open, the 88-69 Reds are facing multiple Division Series scenarios -- where they have to travel either to Philadelphia, San Diego or San Francisco. Although the 94-64 Phillies have all but locked up the best record in the NL to secure home-field advantage, the Reds could still get the second-best record and have up to three home games in the NLDS, and face a Wild Card team like Atlanta, San Diego or San Francisco.

If the season ended on Tuesday, they would meet the Phillies while the Giants would host the Wild Card-leading Braves. Manager Dusty Baker has already indicated he will try to toe the line of going for the best possible playoff seeding while trying to give key players rest over the final five games.

"I think you want home-field advantage," said Reds starter Bronson Arroyo. "There are some matchups depending on who we're going to play that are better for us and not so good for us. Hopefully, we'll take a look at the standings, see how everybody is playing. We'll play as good as we can and try to win every ballgame. But at the end of the day, you hope you get to play at home to start the playoffs."

Unfortunately for the Reds, they haven't fared too well against their potential foes -- they own a combined 9-16 record against them. On the road vs. those teams, it's 2-10. On the bright side, that means Cincinnati is 7-6 at home.

The most unappetizing opponent at this point would be the Phillies, who boast the most formidable top of the rotation -- the "H2O" trifecta of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. The Reds went into the All-Star break after being swept in four games at Citizens Bank Park. Three of those games were decided in extra innings, and the fourth was a 1-0 defeat.

However, the Reds have also beaten Halladay once this season, on June 30, and defeated Oswalt -- usually a Reds killer -- twice while he was with the Astros.

Either of the West Coast opponents offers a different headache in terms of history. Although the Reds were 7-8 out West this season, much improved from their recent track record, they are 20-40 in the Pacific time zone in the past five seasons, including 5-11 at San Diego and 8-9 at San Francisco. In two losses to the Giants on Aug. 23-24, the Reds gave up a combined 27 runs.

The Reds were just at PETCO Park over the weekend and lost a pair of 4-3 games on Friday before taking a blowout 12-2 win on Sunday.

The Reds took two of three in a home series from the Braves from July 30-Aug. 1. Both games at Atlanta in May were one-run losses. The latter was a spectacular six-run meltdown in the ninth inning where a walk-off grand slam by Brooks Conrad popped in and out of Laynce Nix's glove at the wall.

Then again, could there be too much made of having home-field advantage in the playoffs?

The last time a team with the NL's best record reached the World Series was the Cardinals in 2004. In 2006, St. Louis won the World Series despite having only 83 wins in the regular season. And on five occasions in the past decade, the best team in the NL didn't move past the first round. They were the 2008 Cubs, '03 Braves, '02 Braves, '01 Astros and '00 Giants.

"We're just excited to be there," said center fielder Drew Stubbs. "We're going to take care of business no matter who it is."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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