While the Chicago White Sox are headed to the postseason for the first time in more than a decade, the Cincinnati Reds finally are playing like the playoff team they expected to be.
Aiming to extend their season-high winning streak to six games, the Reds begin a three-game home series with the American League-leading White Sox on Friday night in Cincinnati.
The Reds (25-26) had high hopes entering the season, but things didn't start to click until recently. Thanks to their streak, the Reds moved into second place in the National League Central and sit in position to reach .500 for the first time since Aug. 3, when they were 5-5.
Luis Castillo struck out 10 over seven innings Wednesday when Cincinnati completed a four-game sweep of Pittsburgh with a 1-0 victory.
"Right now, the clubhouse is just very, very happy," Castillo said. "We hopefully will continue on this run, and we'll be able to continue with this momentum and keep doing what we're doing."
That might not be easy considering Chicago (33-17) has the best record in the American League and clinched a playoff spot, for the first time since 2008, with Thursday's 4-3 win over Minnesota. The White Sox, who hold a three-game lead over the Twins in the AL Central, are a stellar 23-6 since Aug. 16.
"We've just got to keep coming together as a team and see what happens," White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson told NBC Sports Chicago. "It's been a long time coming ... We're excited."
Anderson and teammate Jose Abreu are two likely front-runners for the AL Most Valuable Player award. Anderson is in the mix for a second straight batting title, though his average dropped to .365 after going 0-for-4 on Thursday. Abreu, who's homered in each of the past two games, is batting a sizzling .392 with 14 home runs and 39 RBIs over his past 29 contests.
Chicago manager Rick Renteria appears set to give Jonathan Stiever (0-0, 2.45 ERA) for his second career start. The right-hander allowed a run and two hits while striking out three and walking two over 3 2/3 innings of a 5-2 victory over Detroit in his major-league debut on Sunday.
Stiever and White Sox pitchers will have to deal with Cincinnati outfielder Shogo Akiyama, who is batting .333 with 12 walks in September as he completes his first season in the majors.
The Reds had not named an official starting pitcher as of Thursday evening, though it's possible left-hander Wade Miley (0-3, 6.57) could be ready to come off the injured list from a shoulder injury that's sidelined him since late August. Right-hander Tyler Mahle (1-2, 4.31) might also be an option to take the ball.
Cincinnati is 6-17 all-time against the White Sox, but these teams have not played each other since 2018.
--Field Level Media