By Julian Linden
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The hunt for another red October is gathering momentum in Cincinnati.
It has been 36 years since the Big Red Machine completed back-to-back World Series wins and more than two decades since the Reds won the last of their five World Series titles but hopes are building that the long drought may be about to end.
For the second time in three seasons, the Reds are through to the playoffs after winning the National League Central division title.
In 2010, their postseason ended as quickly as it began when they were swept 3-0 by the Phillies but they are better prepared this time.
They were the first team to win their division title and finished the 2012 regular season with 97 wins and 65 losses, second only to the Washington Nationals (98-64).
"We've played very successful baseball this year, and we've competed with the best teams at a very high level," first baseman Joey Votto told MLB.com.
"We've done a lot of winning this year, but I think anything but setting the World Series as our standard would be selling ourselves short."
Votto missed a third of the season because of a left knee injury but still finished with the best batting average (.337) and remains the team's leading offensive weapon, along with Jay Bruce, who hit 34 home runs and 99 RBI's.
"A combination of '10 and '11 has prepared us for this year in the sense that we know it's not just going to happen," Bruce said.
"But we also know we are very capable. We've done a very good job this year of understanding that and capitalising on every opportunity we've had. We're a much better team."
While the Reds' may not boast as much batting firepower as their playoff rivals, they do have one of the best pitching rosters.
Their rotation boasts four starters with at least 200 innings and 12 wins, including ace Johnny Cueto with 19 wins, and the bullpen has been the best in the Majors.
The Reds, who open away to the San Francisco Giants, have also shown their ability to overcome problems.
They lost a handful of players to injury throughout the season but still managed to win and also had to cope without their inspirational manager Dusty Baker, who was absent for 11 games after suffering a mild stroke.
"Two years ago, we were in the playoffs," Cincinnati chief executive Bob Castelli said. "This year, we're going to go deep in the playoffs."
(Editing by Ian Ransom)