CINCINNATI -- Regardless of the outcome of the game Friday night, Charlie Morton's start today contains a great deal of importance.
Whether attempting to nail down home-field advantage after a Pirates win Friday or keeping their home-field hopes alive until Sunday if the Reds win, Morton has a tough task at hand.
"Obviously there will be more emphasis on the game externally, but in here I think we know what we need to do," Morton said. "We know what the game means, but at the same time, that's something we've done well, being pretty objective about what we're doing each day."
Morton worked for a year to put himself in position to carry this responsibility as he recovered from elbow ligament replacement surgery. His spring training lagged behind the rest of the pitchers. He did not debut until June 13. He thinks back from time to time on his season, but not in an all-encompassing sense.
"Whenever I do think about the past, it's not like there's some grand, picturesque slide show going through my mind, the way to the top, the triumph," Morton said. "You appreciate everything, all the experiences you went through."
Morton has plenty to think about in the present and plenty of experience from which to draw. His 13 career starts against the Reds are his second most against any opponent, behind his 14 starts against the St. Louis Cardinals. He has a career 3.97 ERA in 77 innings against the Reds. He has only faced them once this year, and not since June 18, when he allowed three hits in 51/3 scoreless innings.
Last week, Morton watched the Reds hitters live, but the Reds didn't have the benefit of facing him to keep his approach and stuff fresh in their minds. The game, Morton said, will equalize that.
"When guys pitch deeper into games, usually you see hitters being more successful later in the game," he said. "You would think the same might apply."
Gerrit Cole will not start Sunday if the game becomes irrelevant because the Pirates are eliminated from contention for the National League Central Division title and home-field advantage for the wild-card game is decided one way or the other, manager Clint Hurdle said. The Pirates have other options, such as Brandon Cumpton, Jeff Locke, Stolmy Pimentel and Kris Johnson, available to start if they choose.
Hurdle said Cole would serve as a backup Tuesday for a wild-card game. Cole would be ready to enter if Francisco Liriano, the presumptive starter, was injured or struggled early.
Hit batsmen mark
With three regular-season games remaining between the Pirates and Reds, they have a chance to amass the most hit batsmen between two teams this season. Entering the game Friday, the Pirates and Reds combined for 24 hit batters. That number tied the Pirates' total against the St. Louis Cardinals and fell one short of the hit batsmen in this season's series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
Bronson Arroyo, who will start today for the Reds, needs 22/3 innings to reach 200 innings in a season for the eighth time in the past nine seasons. He would join Mat Latos and Homer Bailey as Reds starters with 200 innings this season. In the one year Arroyo fell short -- 2011 -- he had 199 innings pitched.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published September 28, 2013 4:00 AM