Baseball players don't like to attach too much importance to any one regular season game. But the Reds admitted afterward that Sunday's game was one they had to have.

They got it.

After going back and forth with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first two games of the big series here the Reds went for the early knockout in Game 3 with five runs in the first and two in the second on the way to an 11-3 victory over the Pirates before a crowd of 38699 at PNC Park.

"We don't want to continue to fall behind" Reds outfielder Chris Heisey said. "If we're going to have to play a one-game playoff we'd sure like to do it at home. To fall two games behind after today would have made it an uphill battle. We've played a lot better at home."

The Reds took the series two games to one. They are tied with the Pirates for second place in the National League Central with six games to play. The two teams who are even (8-8) in the season series meet again next weekend in Cincinnati for the final three games of the series.

Both the Reds and Pirates are 2 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals pending the outcome of Sunday night's game.

"Every game is huge from here on out" said Bronson Arroyo Sunday's winning pitcher. "When you're within one or two games of the lead with a week left to go that's where you want to be. We're in good position."

The Reds finish at home. They have three with the New York Mets starting Monday night followed by the Pittsburgh series. The Reds are 48-26 at home.