Who's the Pirates' No. 1 starter?

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Nobody asked me, but ...

• We've done this before, but much has changed. Which Pirates pitcher -- and four have had their very good and very bad moments in the past month -- would you want to see start in the wild-card playoff game, if the Pirates do not win the division? It's possible, manager Clint Hurdle might not have much of a choice since every game down to the last one could be crucial. But if, say, the outcome has been determined before the final series, which starter would you hold back to pitch the first posteason game?

• The Steelers are not as awful as they showed Sunday. But is this the beginning of something bad? All NFL teams go through periods of downturn. I'm not sure the Steelers Nation can handle such a scenario, but that time might be upon us.

• The leading candidate to pitch the first playoff game, if rested, is Francisco Liriano, who was the pitcher of record last night in the Pirates' 5-4 win over Texas. Liriano has 16 wins, one behind league-leader Jordan Zimmermann, who has five more starts.

• This is the final day of what will has been a near-perfect vacation in terms of weather -- and everything else -- on the shores of the Atlantic. I head home tomorrow and expect to become more engaged in the dialogue and producing more and, hopefully, better articles.

• The National League Most Valuable Player Award appears to be Andrew McCutchen's to lose. McCutchen is holding up his end with OPS numbers the past three months of .994, 1.019 and 1.374 (before last night). His biggest rival Yadier Molina, who has a large defensive edge, has posted numbers of .733, .870 and .613. About the only way McCutchen could lose is a total collapse by the Pirates. McCutchen did what MVPs do last night by driving in the first two Pirates runs and the last.

• Please tell me there are not still people out there who believe the Washington Nationals will overtake the Pirates.

• I kept track of the Pirates while out of town via the MLB.com app called, 'At Bat,' and I highly recommend it. It's $3 a month and about $15 for the season. It offers the radio play-by-play of every MLB game every night with feeds from both teams. It works anywhere in the world. A young man of my aquaintance starts his Singapore work day, 12 hours behind EDT, listening to the Pirates games.

• Speaking of MVP, try this: Rank your three top Pirates MVPs? It's an interesting exercise since after McCutchen I'm not sure there's a clear No. 2 or No. 3.

• There was much criticism of Hurdle's decision to allow Justin Morneau, a lefty batter, to face left-handed reliever Neal Cotts in the ninth inning Monday with McCutchen on third base. After all, Hurdle has consistently pinch-hit for Garrett Jones, when he faced lefties in clutch situations. This, as someone pointed out yesterday, is a classic example of criticism without enough information. In 12 career at bats, Morneau had five hits, including a double and a home run, against Cotts.

• There was no attempt yesterday to suggest managers are not important to the success of their teams. They are. Just not nearly as much as players. For those who believe managers/coaches are more importnat than players, follow the careers of Jim Leyland, Joe Torre and Chuck Noll, to name three. All three were winners when they had the players and not winners when they did not. Good players might overcome a bad manager; a good manager can't overcome bad players.

• In case you missed it, Jeannette High's Terrell Pryor threw for 217 yards (19 for 27), two interceptions and one touchdown and ran for 112 yards (13) carries for Oakland in a 21-17 loss to Indianapolis.

• Reports from Sports Illustrated that full-scale cheating in the form of paying players took place for almost a decade at Oklahoma State -- where current West Virginia associate head coach Joe DeForest reportedly was a primary bag man -- serve to raise this question: How many others schools are doing this?

• Has any NFL team ever lost three players for the season, including two starters, in the opening game?

• The NFL's popularity continues to spiral upward: The Green Bay-San Francisco game Sunday was watched by 28.5 million viewers, which was part of the best opening week ever for Fox. CBS and ESPN also had excellent opening week viewership. I guess Roger Goodell isn't running the league into the ground.

• Go figure! The Cincinnati Reds, fresh from having their way with two first-place teams -- three wins in four games vs. St. Louis and three straight over the Dodgers -- lost the first two games of their series with the last-place Chicago Cubs, 2-0 and 9-1.

• With three pitchers in the top 10 in the NL in ERA, led by the formidable Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers are shaping up as very hard to beat in the postseason.

bobsmiziksports


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