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First to clinch playoff berth, Reds have more to do

CHI View Full Game Coverage CAGO -- No champagne bottles were popped, and there was no hugging or dancing. It was all business as usual in the Reds' clubhouse following a 5-3 victory and a three-game sweep of the Cubs on Thursday.

But it wasn't just another win for Cincinnati. The victory made the Reds the first team in baseball to clinch a playoff berth as they secured, at minimum, a National League Wild Card spot.

They key words there are "at minimum."

"It's the first step, of many," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said.

"At the very beginning of the season, if somebody asked us whether or not a successful season would have been getting one of the Wild Card spots, I think we all would have said yes," first baseman Joey Votto said. "I think we should all be proud of the hard work and the diligence and the persistence. Overall, I think we've done a very good job."

Of course, with an 11-game advantage over the second-place Cardinals and a magic number of clinching the NL Central at two, this moment was merely a formality for the Reds. At 91-59, they can clinch Friday with a win over the Dodgers combined with a Cardinals loss to the Cubs.

There is much to be decided in the playoff picture, however. The Reds and Nationals are battling for the best record in baseball and the No. 1 seed that would give a team home-field advantage for the entire postseason. The Reds are a half-game back of the Nats (91-58) for the top record.

"This is just one game," acting manager Chris Speier said. "It's just a step to where we've thought about during Spring Training. It's about winning and going very deep. Just like anybody that gets in this situation, we're thinking World Series. It's just a step. We'll keep plugging along."

Cincinnati has 12 games remaining, all against teams currently alive for a NL Wild Card spot. They face the Dodgers and Brewers at home before ending the season with a road trip at Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

"There's a lot of work left," reliever Sean Marshall said. "We've still got two weeks left in the season. Of course, we want to finish strong and get hot at the end. We've got a lot of games to win if we want to win the World Series. It's not an easy road, but the road to get here wasn't easy either. We're up to it and can have different guys step up. We're sitting in a pretty good spot."

With either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, the Reds would have home-field advantage in the NLDS, but it would be unconventional. This year, in a 2-3 format, the lower seed opens with the first two games at home.

"I think all the boys here are happy. Everybody is happy," said rotation ace Johnny Cueto, who won his 18th game of the season on Thursday. "We feel ready for the playoffs. We want to put the max of what we have into the playoffs."

Cincinnati Reds, Johnny Cueto, Sean Marshall, Joey Votto