Currently atop the wild-card standings, the Pittsburgh Pirates
and Cincinnati Reds know what’s at stake this weekend.
Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano goes toe-to-toe with Cincinnati’s
Mat Latos as these NL Central rivals open a crucial three-game set
Friday night at PNC Park.
After managing four runs during a three-game skid, the Pirates
(88-65) beat San Diego 10-1 on Thursday to move one game ahead of
the Reds (87-66) in the wild-card standings and also one game
behind St. Louis for the division lead. These teams play six of
their final nine regular-season games against each other.
“We are going to hold our destiny in our hands the next week and
a half,” Latos told MLB’s official website.
Pittsburgh has taken seven of 13 in the series, including four
of six at home.
“It’s going to be really exciting. I’m juiced,” said Reds third
baseman Todd Frazier, batting .350 during a 10-game hitting streak
against the Pirates. “You’re going to feel a little fall
atmosphere. Hopefully, it’s a little nippy out there. I love it
like that. It keeps me in tune. Hopefully, it will be a packed
house, and a lot of craziness will happen and we come out with
While Liriano (16-7, 2.92 ERA) is enjoying the best season of
his career, he has compiled a 4.41 ERA in losing each of his three
starts against the Reds. Pittsburgh, though, has backed him with
only one total run in those games.
The left-hander is 8-1 with a 1.37 ERA at home, with his only
loss coming 2-0 to Cincinnati on June 1. Shin-Soo Choo is 6 for 27
with nine strikeouts in their matchups, and Jay Bruce is 0 for
Liriano took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before
surrendering a two-run homer in Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Chicago
Cubs, resulting in his first no-decision.
“He battles and he competes,” manager Clint Hurdle said of
Liriano, who was removed after 107 pitches. “Francisco’s a pro and
he realizes it wouldn’t benefit anyone for him to throw 130 pitches
on Sept. 15.”
Latos (14-6, 3.14) had gone 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA in his previous
10 starts before yielding all five runs in 6 2-3 innings last
Friday in a 5-1 loss at Milwaukee.
“It’s just one of those days where you just have to hit the
reset button and go after them again the next time you go out,” he
Latos is 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 10 career
starts against the Pirates spanning 61 innings. He has had his way
with several of their hitters, including Pedro Alvarez (5 for 22),
Clint Barmes (1 for 15), Garrett Jones (2 for his last 21) and
Starling Marte (2 for 13).
Alvarez snapped an 0-for-18 slump with his 34th homer Thursday,
tied for the most in the NL. Marte missed the game due to the birth
of his first child, leaving his status for this one unclear.
The Reds are coming off a three-game sweep at Houston, winning
6-5 in 13 innings Wednesday. Bruce stayed hot with three hits and
three RBIs, delivering a tiebreaking two-run double in the
The slugging right-fielder is 9 for 17 with a homer and 10 RBIs
in his last four games.
Cincinnati also got a boost from speedster Billy Hamilton, who
went 3 for 4 with two runs and became the first player since 1920
to steal four bases in his first big league start.
“My job is to steal bases, no matter how many I get,” said
Hamilton, who has nine steals in as many tries in eight games since
getting called up Sept. 2. “That’s a really big accomplishment for
one game. So who knows what comes next.”