For the few who have suggested the Pirates should nonchalant it in Cincinnati this weekend and save everything they have for the wild-card playoff game Tuesday, which, if they proceed in such a manner, will be played at the Great American Ball Park, here are some things to consider:
• Since PNC Park opened, the Pirates are 17 games under .500 at home and 259 games under .500 on the road.
• They are 518-533 at home, an 80-win pace. On the road, they are 395-654, a 61-win (101-loss) pace.
• Only once have they failed to win at least 36 games at home: 34 in 2005. Only once have they won more than 36 on the road.
• In 2009, they were 40-41 at home and 22-58 on the road; in 2001 they were 38-43 at PNC and 24-57 away from it.
Home field is important. It's worth playing for.
The Pirates are 50-31 at home this season, the third best home record in the National League.
Francisco Liriano, the Pirates scheduled starter Tuesday, is 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA at PNC Park, where opposing batters have a .174 average against him. On the road, Liriano is 8-7 with a 4.33 ERA. His road BAA is .261.
Finally, this: Liriano is 0-2 with a 6.71 ERA at Cincinnati. Facing the Reds at PNC Park, he is 0-1 but with a 1.93 ERA.
Home field is important.
This is not to suggest that if the Pirates fail to win the three-game series, which begins tonight, they have no chance of winning the playoff game. They do. But their chances won't be as good.
In light of the home-field advantage the Pirates -- who are 5-4 at home this season vs. the Reds and 3-4 on the road -- have at PNC, manager Clint Hurdle must throw everything he has into the first two games of the series and if they both are not lost or won, the same thing into the third.
That means Charlie Morton pitches Friday on a short rope and A.J. Burnett does the same on Saturday.
If Morton gives up two runs in the first and a leadoff double in the second, he cannot be allowed to continue pitching until the Reds have scored three more times, as was the case in St. Louis Sept. 8. If Burnett gives up two runs in the first inning and a leadoff triple in the third, he cannot be allowed to continue pitching until the Reds run total is five, as was the case in St. Louis Sept. 6.
The Reds will start right-handed pitchers in the first two games of the series -- Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo -- which means the Pirates lineup is cast in stone. There are no strange decisions, like starting Garrett Jones instead of Marlon Byrd on Wednesday. Nor is there a need to sit Neil Walker. Russell Martin, if he's able, should catch the Saturday day game after the Friday night game.
If the Pirates win the first two games or lose them, there's no need to go full throttle on Sunday. But if the games are split, Sunday becomes the most important game of the season and Gerrit Cole pitches with the same lineup behind him.
If Sunday is meaningless, as much is it is important for Cole to stay in his rhythm and pitch at least a few innings, he should be scratched and put on the wild-card roster in case Liriano has one of his all-too-frequent meltdowns.
This would not mess with the rotation if the Pirates advance. Burnett and Morton could pitch the first two games of the division series on Thursday and Friday. After an off day, both Liriano and Cole would be ready for Game 3 on Sunday.