Johnny Cueto hurled six shutout innings and the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-3 on Thursday to become the first team to clinch a berth in next month's Major League Baseball playoffs.
The Reds improved to 91-59, 11 games ahead of St. Louis in the National League Central division, and need only two victories or St. Louis losses to ensure a division crown.
Reds manager Dusty Baker was absent from the dugout for the second game in a row after doctors diagnosed him with an irregular heartbeat. He was expected to remain overnight in a Chicago hospital.
Cueto improved to 18-9 for the season, 9-6 in road games, by scattering five hits and four walks. The Reds scored five runs in the seventh inning to break a scoreless deadlock.
Henry Rodriguez drove in his first two major-league runs while Joey Votto, Didi Gregorius and Xavier Paul also knocked in runs for the Reds, who have won seven of their past nine games to seal a second playoff trip in three seasons.
"Anything less than winning the World Series is selling ourselves short," Votto said. "That's our goal."