The Cincinnati Reds will take on the revitalized Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday at PNC Park, looking to put a poor head-to-head record behind them and advance to the divisional round of the playoffs.
The Pirates have won 11 of 19 head-to-head matchups this season, including the last three in Cincinnati.
Of course, that all goes out the window when the postseason comes around. Anything can happen with the season on the line, especially in a do-or-die wild-card game.
Where: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA
When: Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. ET
Francisco Liriano will start for the Pirates on Tuesday, according to manager Clint Hurdle, per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune:
Hurdle: "Liriano is going to get the ball Tuesday." #pirates— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) September 28, 2013
Reds manager Dusty Baker has elected to go with Johnny Cueto instead of Mat Latos, per Mark Sheldon of MLB.com:
Baker said Latos' arm was barking. One reason behind the decision for starting Cueto. #reds— Mark Sheldon (@m_sheldon) September 28, 2013
Starting Cueto may not be such a bad thing. The right-hander has posted a 2.82 ERA and 1.05 WHIP this season. He has looked good coming off a strained lat, allowing one run in 12 innings while notching 10 strikeouts in his last two starts.
Another thing: Cueto has allowed just one run in 12.1 innings (two starts) against the Pirates this year. He posted nine strikeouts in those two starts.
From 2010 to 2012, he owned a 6-2 record and 1.82 ERA in 11 starts against the Pirates. That included holding Pittsburgh to a .180 average during that span.
Who will win on Tuesday?
Granted, Liriano has been excellent at home this season, going 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA while allowing opponents to hit just .174, but he's also 0-3 with a 3.70 ERA against the Reds this year.
The Reds have scored more runs after the All-Star break than the Pirates, in two fewer games. They also rank third in the National League in ERA during that span, while the Pirates rank seventh in the category.
Ultimately, I value Cincinnati's overall second half more than its recent five-game slide. I also like Cueto against the Pirates more than I like Liriano against the Reds.
Prediction: Reds 5, Pirates 4