Expect a low-scoring wild-card game between Pirates and Reds

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More random thoughts on the Pirates:

• Previous-performance statistics can be interesting and instructive, but in the postseason, which begins tomorrow night at PNC Park, they're not highly important. Anything can happen in one game. Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto, who has been extremely effective against the Pirates in his career, could have a first-inning meltdown. Pirates starter Francisco Liriano, brilliant at PNC Park this season (1.47 ERA), could badly falter. However, this wild-card playoff game looks like a classic postseason pitching duel.

• Expected Pirates starters vs. Cueto: Starling Marte: 0-5, .000; Neil Walker 6-28, .214; Andrew McCutchen 9-39 (three homers), .231; Marlon Byrd 7-12 (one homer), .583; Pedro Alvarez 5-18, .278; Russell Martin 1-11, .091; Clint Barmes 2-14, .143. Justin Morneau has never faced Cueto, Jordy Mercer is 1-4, .250.

• Expected Reds starters vs. Liriano: Shin-Soo Choo 6-31, .194; Ryan Ludwick. 4-9, .444; Joey Votto 2-10, .200; Brandon Phillips 3-11, .273; Jay Bruce 0-11, .000; Todd Frazier 3-9 (two homers), .333; Devin Mesoraco 2-6, .333, Zack Cozart 2-10 (one homer), .200.

• Three of the Reds top hitters -- Votto, Bruce and Choo -- are lefties and Liriano has been devastating against such batters this season. He's been the best in MLB at retiring left-handed hitters and that includes relief specialists. The line of opposing left-handers vs. Liriano: .131/.175/.146 -- .321. To give those numbers some perspective, here's the line of Clayton Kershaw, also a left-hander and the likely unanimous choice to win the Cy Young Award: .165/.224/.253 -- .477. In 130 at bats facing lefties this season, Liriano has allowed two extra-base hits, both doubles.

• The are no easy opponents in the postseason and as a wild-card entry, the Pirates, should they beat Cincinnati and advance to the National League Division Series, will play the top-seeded St. Louis Cardinals. The positive to that is the Pirates won the season series against the Cardinals, 10-9. The negative to that is beginning Aug. 1, they are 2-7 against St. Louis. A further negative, the Cardinals will have home-field advantage in the best-of-five series and they were 7-2 against the Pirates at Busch Stadium.

• The four players who received the most at bats in the No. 4 slot for the Pirates this season, their ABs in that position and their batting lines: Gaby Sanchez: 105 - .333/.421/.552 -- .973; Garrett Jones: 210 -- .262/.310/.429 -- .739; Pedro Alvarez: 179 - .218/.284/.430 -- .737; Justin Morneau: 63 - .222/.333/.270 -- .603.

• Based on how he has pitched in limited opportunities this season, Brandon Cumpton, who will be 25 in November, deserves a long look in spring training as a candidate to make the starting rotation. He likely won't make the rotation, but he should be the first guy the Pirates look to if another starter is needed. In six games, five starts, and 30 2/3 innings, Cumpton has a 2.05 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and a .226 BAA. In his final three appearances, he pitched 15 innings, allowed no runs, eight hits and two walks while striking out 11. Considering his success, Cumpton could be attractive to potential trade partners of the Pirates.

• Stolmy Pimentel, out of options next season, will make the team as a reliever, although his minor-league history is as a starter. In 9 1/3 innings this season, all in relief, Pimentel had a 1.93 ERA, an 0.86 WHIP and a .171 BAA. He is 23.

bobsmiziksports


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