Reds start season-ending six-game homestand vs. Mets

The Cincinnati Reds begin a season-ending six-game homestand on Monday night. They would like to stay at Great American Ball Park into October as well.

The Reds continue to jockey for playoff positioning in the opener of a three- game set with the New York Mets tied atop the wild card standings and two games back of first place in the NL Central.

Cincinnati took two of three from Pittsburgh over the weekend, moving into a tie with the Pirates for the two additional postseason berths. The two clubs have a magic number of two to clinch a playoff spot as the Washington Nationals are five games back in the wild card standings.

The Reds also are still chasing the first-place St. Louis Cardinals, who lost on Sunday night but have already locked up a playoff spot. The Cards open a three-game set with the Nats on Monday.

Cincinnati will host Pittsburgh for three games to close the regular season and the teams could be battling to see who hosts an Oct. 1 wild card game.

The Reds gave the Pirates something to think about with Sunday's 11-3 rout, getting four RBI from Jay Bruce and a big day at the plate from Chris Heisey, who went 3-for-5 with two RBI and three runs scored.

"We needed two out of three no matter what, and however we could do it, so it was a good win for us," said Cincinnati starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who earned the win after allowing three runs over five innings.

Looking to return to the playoffs for a second straight year and for the third time in four seasons, the Reds give Johnny Cueto a start tonight in the hopes of getting the talented hurler ready for postseason action.

Cueto has made just 10 starts this year, going 5-2 with a 3.02 earned run average, due to three separate trips to the disabled list. His latest injury, a strained right lat muscle, sidelined him for nearly 12 weeks before his return to action on Monday versus Houston.

It was successful for the right-hander, who scattered five hits and a walk over five innings and 82 pitches to get the win. Cueto struck out five over 82 pitches in his first outing since June 28.

"I don't have words to describe it. It's something really incredible for me to go that long without pitching, and I came in today and feel really good today," Cueto said through a translator.

The 27-year-old beat the Mets on May 20, yielding three runs on three hits and four walks with eight strikeouts over five innings. He is 2-3 lifetime in this matchup with a 5.45 ERA.

New York comes into this matchup having won seven of its past 10 and finished off a three-game sweep of Philadelphia on Sunday. Wilfredo Tovar came through in his Major League debut with the a go-ahead single in the seventh inning that plated a pair of runners, the second on an error.

"I was looking for something inside," Tovar said. "I got it, and I was able to drive in the run."

Aaron Harang will try to deal his former club a loss tonight as he makes his third start since joining the Mets.

Harang opened the regular season with Seattle and went 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA in 22 games before getting released on Aug. 31. He caught on with the Mets and lost his debut on Sept. 12, a 7-2 decision to Washington even though he struck out 10 and gave up three runs over six innings.

The 35-year-old righty faced San Francisco on Wednesday and got a no-decision, giving up four runs -- three earned -- over five innings and fanning eight.

Harang spent parts of eight seasons with the Reds from 2003-10, going 75-80 with a 4.28 ERA in 217 games. He has won all three of his games against his former club with a 1.89 ERA and that includes a victory in Cincinnati with the Mariners on July 5.

The Reds have won nine of their last 11 versus the Mets, sweeping a three-game set in New York from May 20-22.