To finish with another winning season, the Cincinnati Reds have to go unbeaten during a six-game road trip.
Visiting the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates for the first three might bolster their slim hopes.
Edinson Volquez will try to keep those alive Friday night by earning his first win since returning from a two-month stint in the minors.
The Reds (76-80) have long been out of contention for a second straight NL Central title, but they still have a chance to finish with 82 victories. That would give them their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1999-2000.
Cincinnati will try to start by sweeping the Pirates (69-87), losers of 10 of 13 and five of six at home. The Reds wrap up their season against another sub-.500 team, the New York Mets .
They enter the series at PNC Park with consecutive victories following a 7-14 stretch. Bronson Arroyo pitched a six-hitter in a 2-0 win over Houston on Wednesday.
Volquez (5-6, 5.87 ERA) will hope to follow Arroyo's strong outing with one of his own as he winds down a difficult season.
The right-hander has been sent to the minors twice - spending two months with Triple-A Louisville in his latest stint - and is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts since his most recent recall Sept. 3. He gave up five runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 10-1 loss to Milwaukee on Saturday.
"I want to be more aggressive and throw more strikes," Volquez said.
Volquez is 1-0 with a 3.44 ERA in six career starts against the Pirates, but gave up six runs - including three solo homers - and a season-high six walks during a 7-6 loss April 17.
The Reds have won three of four over Pittsburgh after dropping six in a row. The Pirates have already clinched their 19th consecutive losing season, but will break their string of four straight last-place finishes in the Central.
Jeff Locke will try to give his franchise a 70th win for the first time since 2004 by earning his first in the majors.
Locke (0-2, 6.75) has given up three runs and five hits in each of his two major league starts, but has also received just one run of support. With the Pirates limiting his pitches, the left-hander made it through three innings last Friday in Los Angeles, throwing 30 times in his final frame.
"The first (start), I didn't really know what to expect, didn't know how to harness the emotions," Locke told the team's website after losing 7-2 to the Dodgers. "Today I wasn't nervous at all. I just left a lot of pitches up and got into a lot of deep counts."
Locke is expected to have a limit of 75 to 80 pitches in his first start against the Reds, but will likely have to face Brandon Phillips , who is batting .348 over his past 32 games and has six homers in his last 10.
Phillips is hitting .415 in his last 10 games at PNC.