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Preview: Pirates at Reds

GAME: Pittsburgh Pirates (82-55) at Cincinnati Reds (57-80)
DATE/TIME: Wednesday, September 09 – 7:10 PM EST
WHERE: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio
LINE: -147, 136 TOTAL: 8.5

In what has mostly been a season to remember for the Pittsburgh Pirates, they have experienced minimal success against the Cincinnati Reds. Coming off a rare win at Great American Ball Park, the Pirates eye their first series win against the Reds in six tries overall on Wednesday when the division rivals complete a three-game set.

Pittsburgh committed four errors in Monday’s series-opening 3-1 setback and Tuesday’s victory improved the Pirates to 5-10 against National League Central-worst Cincinnati (57-80) this season and 12-22 over the last two years. The Pirates received a three-run blast from Andrew McCutchen on Tuesday during a five-run third inning and playing error-free defense behind Francisco Liriano to coast to a 7-3 victory. While Pittsburgh (82-55) was busy clinching its third consecutive winning season – matching the team’s longest such stretch since 1990-92 – and maintaining its two-game lead over the Chicago Cubs for the NL’s first wild-card spot, the Reds fell to 2-3 on their 10-game homestand that ends this weekend with a visit from league-best St. Louis. Cincinnati does not appear to be poised to improve its 14-21 mark against left-handed starters in the finale as red-hot J.A. Happ targets a fifth win in as many starts for the first time in his career.

TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates LH J.A. Happ (8-7, 3.90 ERA) vs. Reds RH Keyvius Sampson (2-3, 6.68)

Since suffering a loss in a rough debut with Pittsburgh on Aug. 4, Happ is 4-0 with a 0.60 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in five trips to the mound and has not yielded more than one run in any of those outings. The 32-year-old journeyman was on top of his game Friday at St. Louis, winning his fourth straight turn after holding the Cardinals to three hits while fanning eight over seven scoreless frames. Happ has not fared nearly as well in six career starts versus the Reds, going 1-3 with a 6.82 ERA.

Sampson continued to struggle on Saturday, recording only nine outs while giving up three runs on five hits and three walks in a 7-3 loss to Milwaukee. The 24-year-old rookie has failed to pitch more than four innings in any of his last four outings, posting a 10.93 ERA and going 0-2 over that stretch despite the fact Cincinnati has scored 12 runs in two of those turns. Sampson made his big-league debut with a scoreless relief inning versus the Pirates on July 30, only to fall to Pittsburgh five days later after yielding three runs in five frames.

WALK-OFFS

1. McCutchen’s homer on Tuesday was his 24th versus the Reds – the most he has hit against any opponent.

2. Sampson’s turn on Wednesday will mark the 40th consecutive contest in which Cincinnati has started a rookie pitcher, more than twice as many as the previous major-league record (19 by St. Louis in 1997).

3. Happ can become the first Pirate since John Candelaria in 1982 to yield one run or less in six straight starts with another such outing on Wednesday.

PREDICTION: Pirates 6, Reds 2