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CIN@HOU: Leake shuts out Astros over eight innings

A playoff berth is only one accomplishment the Reds wanted to achieve, and they took care of that on Monday. Catching the Cardinals and winning the National League Central is the next goal Cincinnati has on its radar.

"The guys know what's at stake," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They're looking to win the division. The Wild Card is consolation."

Cincinnati beat the Mets, 3-2, on Monday night on Shin-Soo Choo's walk-off single. Just minutes later, the Reds clinched their playoff berth when the Cardinals beat the Nationals, 4-3.

A postseason berth is certainly meaningful for the Reds, but they're still looking to avoid the Wild Card game. Cincinnati is tied with Pittsburgh -- which also clinched a playoff berth Monday -- for second place in the NL Central, two games back of St. Louis. Two of those teams will play in the Wild Card game.

Mike Leake will be on the mound on Tuesday trying to help the Reds, who have won six of their last seven games. In his last three starts, the right-hander is 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA.

Leake was stellar in his last start against the Mets back on May 21, allowing three hits over seven scoreless innings.

Meanwhile, New York will hand the ball to Jon Niese as it tries to even the series. Like Leake, Niese has also pitched well of late. Since he returned from the disabled list on Aug. 11, the left-hander has a 3.06 ERA over eight starts.

"I've just been able to establish all my pitches," Niese said after his last start. "I think I've been able to throw them all for strikes, throwing the cutter on both sides of the plate, the fastball on both sides of the plate. Just a lot more control with my arm feeling better."

The Reds will be looking to beat the Mets again on Tuesday, but they'll also be looking up at the scoreboard to get a clearer picture of their route to the postseason.

"That scoreboard is there," Todd Frazier said. "But we wish we could turn it off until the end of the game."

Reds: Choo returns to lineup with walk-off hit
Center fielder Shin-Soo Choo returned to the Reds' lineup for their series opener against the Mets on Monday. He had missed two straight games with a sore left thumb, which he sustained after sliding into first base in the ninth inning of Cincinnati's 6-5 win over Pittsburgh on Friday.

He had a big night at the plate on Monday, going 3-for-6 with a couple of clutch hits.

In Choo's second at-bat, he came through with an RBI single that put the Reds up, 1-0. Then in the 10th inning, he drove in the game-winning run with a hit off the left-field wall.

Choo said his thumb isn't 100 percent, but it feels well enough for him to play at a critical time of the season.

Mets: Decision on Collins to come after season
General manager Sandy Alderson expressed his support of Mets manager Terry Collins on Monday, but said the team will not announce if Collins is returning until after the season ends.

"I think I've been pretty open about my support of Terry," Alderson said. "I think he's done an excellent job across the board with the talent that he's had, with the injuries that he's had to endure, with the other changes in personnel."

While Collins will finish with his third straight losing season with the Mets, Alderson said wins and losses do not make the final determination on a manager's fate. For much of this season, Collins has written out a lineup full of young players still adjusting to the Major Leagues.

It's the way Collins has managed those inexperienced players, though, that has impressed Alderson and the Mets.

Worth noting
• Brandon Phillips is 6-for-16 (.375) with a double, two home runs and three RBIs in his career against Niese.

• Eric Young Jr. has six hits in his last 19 at-bats (.316).

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