The Reds hold an 11 1/2-game edge in the division, while sitting just 2 1/2 games behind the Nationals for the best record in the NL and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Cincinnati's magic number to clinch the Central is 8.
The Reds will have a chance to improve their positioning for home-field advantage this weekend as they battle the last-place Marlins, while the Nats take on the NL Wild Card-leading Braves.
It doesn't hurt that the Reds will be sending the red-hot Bronson Arroyo to the mound in Friday's series opener. Arroyo is 5-0 in his past six starts, while allowing three runs or fewer and pitching at least six frames in each of those outings.
"I've just been a guy that needs regular work," Arroyo said after allowing just one run over seven innings Saturday against the Astros. "Too many days off makes me feel weak. I have a strange body like that. I need to be in the weight room doing stuff. Later in the season, I can dial up. I generally feel good down the stretch."
As for the Marlins, it's been a rough go of it considering the lofty preseason expectations.
Despite entering the year with World Series aspirations, Miami finds itself 18 games below .500. The disappointing season led the club to trade away starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to the Tigers for a group of prospects in late July.
One of those prospects, Jacob Turner, will be taking the mound for the fourth time in a Marlins uniform Friday. The 21-year-old Turner is the Marlins' No. 3 prospect according to MLB.com, and he is coming off the best start of his young career.
Turner allowed just two runs on four hits over six innings last Friday against the Nationals, but was lifted after just 81 pitches because of a predetermined pitch limit of 80-85.
"We have to take care of everybody," manager Ozzie Guillen said about the early exit for Turner. "That's the reason we tried to stay away from him."
Reds: Broxton first choice to close short-term
The Reds' bullpen hasn't missed a beat the last two games without Aroldis Chapman, as Jonathan Broxton and J.J. Hoover each notched a save. Hoover's completed a sweep of the Pirates, and was the first of his Major League career in his first opportunity.
Broxton pitched a scoreless ninth on Tuesday and Hoover followed suit on Wednesday, each allowing one baserunner in the process. Manager Dusty Baker said Broxton figures to be his main closer in Chapman's absence, but other pitchers -- like Hoover -- could get a shot depending on matchups.
"[Broxton] is the No. 1 candidate. But it's matchups, too," Baker said. "If they have three lefties, it could be [Sean] Marshall. It could be Broxton, it could be [Jose] Arredondo, it could be Hoover. Broxton is the No. 1 choice. We try to limit Broxton to two days in a row, too."
Marlins: Brantly providing pop behind plate
Despite a slow start following his promotion from the Minors last month, rookie catcher Rob Brantly seems to have found his stroke in the month of September.
After hitting just .219 in August with eight strikeouts and three walks, the 23-year-old backstop is hitting .407 this month with six walks and just three strikeouts.
"One thing about this kid that's going to make him special, this kid wants to be good and he wants to learn," Guillen said.
Carlos Lee is 17-for-53 (.321) with five doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs in his career against Arroyo.
Arroyo allowed five runs on 10 hits to the Marlins in his first start of the season on April 8. The five runs remain tied for his season high.