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A win in this series finale would bring each clubhouse one step closer to playoff baseball. For the Minnesota Twins (79-72; before Tuesday's game), October is inevitable unless they have a monumental collapse. As for the Cincinnati Reds (79-73), they're going to need a strong finish and an extra loss by at least one of the teams directly ahead of them. With Wednesday's game, these clubs once again put fate into their own hands. Great American Ball Park is still the venue for the final clash. This time, the first pitch is scheduled for 12:35 p.m. EDT. Who will inch closer to clinching a playoff spot when these clubs collide?
*Published before Tuesday's results
Minnesota's Miniscule Magic NumberEven after losing on Monday, a Cleveland loss made Minnesota five games away from an AL Central title. By the time this game starts, it could be three. Pitching has powered Minnesota this far, as only three teams are allowing fewer runs per game. Bailey Ober will try to keep it going with a strong outing on Wednesday. Things have been rough for Ober lately, as his ERA since July 29 is at 6.27. He hasn't pitched more than 5.0 innings in any of those starts. Also concerning is that Ober has allowed a homer in nine consecutive outings. The Twins have a subpar bullpen, largely relying on the rotation to get wins. Ober hasn't been reliable for that lately.
Offensively, September has been fantastic for the Twins. They are putting up over six runs per game through their first 17 of the month. Minnesota has MLB's worst strikeout rate, but when things are going well, they're drawing walks and clobbering homers with the best teams league-wide. They're fifth in walk rate and homers for the entire season and actively dominating both areas in September. This club still has an issue with baserunning. Ditto a low team batting average. The strikeouts won't help at all, especially in October. However, they're tearing the cover off the ball right now, at least when they're not earning free passes.
Free Daily Lock Pick: MLB: Yankees vs Blue Jays - September 20th - Max Confidence Comp CLICK TO SEE PICK NOW
Reds Reaching For OctoberThe Senior Circuit's wild-card race is theater, particularly for the final two spots. The Diamondbacks (79-72) have the second spot, 0.5 games ahead of the Reds. Another NL Central team, the Cubs (78-72), are tied with the Reds for the final seed but still have the edge in the loss column. Cincinnati has the head-to-head tiebreaker over both teams, so only needs to tie them to overtake them in the standings. 0.5 games behind the Reds are the Marlins (78-73), who will probably finish with the better intradivision record and thus that tiebreaker (Miami finished 3-3 against Cincinnati). San Francisco is also lurking 2.0 games back of Cincinnati (76-74) and has the head-to-head edge. Got all of that?
Winning more than those teams will make the various tiebreaking scenarios irrelevant. When Hunter Greene toes the rubber on Wednesday, he'll be trying to win a big game just as the Reds have always envisioned. The major issue is that Greene struggled at home, bringing a 5.94 ERA into this game. On the flip side, his last three starts have been strong, culminating in 17.0 innings and five runs allowed (three earned). Most importantly, all three outings ended with a happy Reds handshake line. Cincinnati's bullpen ranks third in WAR, so getting them the ball ahead of Minnesota should lead to a shut door.
Cincinnati's offense isn't at its June level right now, but this is still a team that's 11th in runs per game. This young team (and Joey Votto) is 10th in walk rate, which leads to the most steals in the majors. Hitting at home also gives them a major boost in the power department. Strikeouts are also a concern for the Reds, as they're 23rd in strikeout rate. Still, they do everything else decently enough. Except for run, as no team is weaponizing their speed in the same way as the Reds.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Cincinnati's Hunter Greene has been dealing lately, and he'll keep it going with a win on Wednesday. He's led the team to three straight wins, giving up only three total earned runs in those starts, and another solid outing will hand the ball to a strong bullpen. The Reds subdued Minnesota on Monday, so they have the blueprint.
Offensively, the Reds should tee off on Bailey Ober, who has an ERA over 6.00 in his past seven starts. They hit more homers at home, and Ober has allowed at least one in nine straight, so expect a Red to go yard. Minnesota's bullpen isn't much better, so Cincinnati can keep scoring after Ober departs. The Reds should take this one at home, with room to spare.
Full-Game Total Pick
Looking at how these teams are set up for this game, the over is easily the best bet. Minnesota is averaging 6.18 runs per game in September. They bring that to Great American Ball Park, one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the majors. Along with that, they're taking on Hunter Greene and his 5.94 home ERA to start this game. The Twins should score plenty of runs.
Then there's Cincinnati, who is just outside of MLB's top 10 in run-scoring this season. They will face Bailey Ober, who has given up at least one homer in nine straight starts. He has a 6.27 ERA since late July and is backed up by a below-average bullpen. On a warm afternoon, this game will hit double-digit runs.