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USATSI

The Cincinnati Reds entered Monday's series opening game against the Milwaukee Brewers locked in a three-way tie with the Brewers and the San Francisco Giants for the final playoff spot in the National League. Because this season won't feature tiebreaker games, the Reds actually had the mathematical leg up based on intradivisional record, the first tiebreaker. Be that as it may, the Reds have ample reason to do their best to win the series against the Brewers.

The Reds seemed to know as much, too. Monday's opener saw them turn an 0-1 deficit through five innings into a 6-3 victory behind a good outing from Luis Castillo and a slew of timely home runs. Castillo threw 6 ⅔ innings of one-run ball, holding the Brewers to four hits and three walks while fanning nine batters. Offensively, the Reds were paced by Eugenio Suarez, Mike Moustakas and Curt Casali; those three combined for three home runs and six runs batted in.

For an idea of why the Brewers series is so important to the Reds, consider the three teams' remaining schedules and how the tiebreaker could be impacted by the week's results. 

As it stands, the Reds have a 20-18 record against the Central; the Brewers have a 16-17 mark; and the Giants are at 15-17, pending Monday night's results. Heading forward, the Reds have two intradivisional games to play; the Brewers have seven; and the Giants have eight. 

The disparity in games remaining means that there's a great deal of potential variance in the Brewers' and Giants' records. Whereas the Reds' intradivisional winning percentage will fall somewhere between .500 and .550, the Brewers' could fall between .400 and .575, and the Giants' between .375 and .575. 

In other words, the Reds could save themselves a good deal of headache if they just win the spot outright. With a few more results like Monday's, they'll do just that.