NL Wild Card Game 2013: Who Has the Pitching Advantage in 1-Game Play-In?
Both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds have relied heavily on pitching this year to carry themselves into the postseason.
Tuesday night, the Pirates will put the ball in the hands of SP Francisco Liriano, as they look to win their first playoff game since 1992. The Reds, on the other hand, will give SP Johnny Cueto only his third start after being on the disabled list for 10 weeks during the regular season.
Liriano has been the best pitcher for the Pirates this year posting a 3.02 ERA and winning 16 games. In years past Liriano has been erratic on the mound, but this year he has found his stride and carried the staff.
In 2012, Cueto was a lights-out pitcher. He finished with a 2.78 ERA with a 19-9 record. However, 2013 was a different story. Cueto only pitched 11 games going 5-2 with a 2.82 ERA in a limited sample size due to back and oblique injuries.
Nonetheless, the Reds are confident that Cueto can continue the success he's had after coming off the DL in September. In his two starts since, Cueto allowed only eight hits and one earned run in 12 innings of work. Cueto has had success against the Pirates throughout his career and will look for that to continue Tuesday.
If Liriano or Cueto are unable to go the distance, both clubs will look to their strong bullpens. Cincinnati has the bigger names led by Aroldis Chapman, but the Pirates do have the third-best bullpen in the big leagues. The Pirates bullpen has an ERA of just 2.89 compared to the Reds, which has a 3.52 ERA.
Who Will Have a Better Wild Card Game?
If the Reds can give Cueto an early lead look for him to come out firing on the road. Cueto is capable of going eight innings strong, which leaves the Pirates with an uphill battle facing Chapman and his 100+ mph fastball in the ninth.
This game will have all the drama that fans look for in October baseball and will come down to just a few plays. I suspect Liriano to give up one too many hits to the Reds power lineup allowing Chapman to come in and save the day.
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