Sweet mother of pearl, the Reds are actually going to the playoffs

Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce celebrates hitting a home run against the Houston Astros in the ninth inning of their MLB National League baseball game in Cincinnati, Ohio September 28, 2010.  REUTERS/Matt Sullivan  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

For years, MLB writers have had it easy when it came to making season predictions for the Reds.

4. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have loads of young talent and one day, it’ll all come together. But this is still the Reds – they’ll find a way to finish in the middle of the pack. It’s been 10 years since the last time they made the playoffs, so bank on them missing out again.

Rinse and repeat.

But that, “one day, it’ll all come together” part is happening right now.

Jay Bruce hit a walk-off home run in the 9th inning off Astros’ reliever Tim Byrdak on Tuesday as the Reds beat Houston 3-2 to win the NL Central for the first time in over a decade. The win also guarantees that they’ll be heading to the postseason for the first time in 15 years.

There’s no rest for the weary, however, as the Reds are in a battle with the Giants (and maybe the Padres if they can get their act together) for home field advantage in the NLDS. The Phillies have run away with the top seed in the NL, but home field advantage would obviously be huge for Cincinnati, as it would be for all clubs.

If the playoffs were to start today, the Phillies would have the top seed, followed by the Giants, then the Reds, then the Wildcard-winning Braves. Since the Braves and Phillies can’t play each other in the first round, Cincinnati would play Philadelphia and San Francisco would host Atlanta.

Teams aren’t going to back down from any opponent at this point in the year, but avoiding the Phillies would still be beneficial. Thus, the Reds need to finish strong and secure that second spot.

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2010 MLB Preview: NL Central

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Next up is the NL Central.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (4)
Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday could help the Cardinals win this division sauced out of their minds on a nightly basis. That said, would anyone really be surprised if Carpenter’s arm falls off and the starting pitching (which is among the best in the league) suffers? It’s happened before, so if you answered “yes” to the proposed question then you sir or madam, have not been paying attention. Still, the addition of Brad Penny (who pitched well in the second half last year) will strengthen the club’s starting pitching and Kyle Lohse is a fine middle of the rotation guy. Pujols and Holliday will ignite the offense again, although Colby Rasmus might be the key to whether or not this team makes a serious World Series run. Skip Schumaker is a solid table setter, but how Rasmus fairs hitting in front of Pujols and Holliday could be the difference between the Cards winning the NL Central again and playing for a championship. David Freese better produce too or else the club will regret not acquiring a veteran third baseman in the offseason. All in all, the Cardinals are the best the NL Central has to offer and should make another postseason appearance this season. But how far they go beyond that depends on whether or not Carpenter and Wainwright can continue their magic and if Pujols and Holliday receive help from the rest of the lineup.

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2009 MLB Preview: #20 Cincinnati Reds

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Offseason Movement: The Reds signed a true leadoff hitter in Willy Taveras and added catcher Ramon Hernandez in a trade with the Orioles. The club also signed free agents Jacque Jones, Arthur Rhodes, Jonny Gomes and Daryle Ward.

Top Prospect: Yonder Alonso, 1B
Alonso is quickly becoming a polished hitter and has displayed a good combination of average and power. Thus far, he’s tore up the Hawaii Leagues, hitting .323 with three dingers in 93 at bats. If all goes well, he should spend this year in Double-A, work his way up through the minors and possibly get an opportunity to crack the big league roster in 2010.

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