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Preview: Reds at Pirates

GAME: Cincinnati Reds (63-96) at Pittsburgh Pirates (96-63)
DATE/TIME: Friday, October 02 – 7:05 PM EST
WHERE: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
LINE: N/A TOTAL: N/A

After having to watch the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate a division-clinching win on their field, the Pittsburgh Pirates look to secure home-field advantage in the National League wild-card game when they open a season-ending three-game series against the visiting Cincinnati Reds on Friday. The Pirates own a two-game lead over the Chicago Cubs, who hold the tiebreaker.

Pittsburgh is fighting for home field despite owning the second-best record in the major leagues but cannot afford a letdown after its failed pursuit of the Cardinals. “We’ve still got to stay focused on right where we are,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told reporters. “The ultimate goal hasn’t changed, to win a world championship. We’re just going to have to go about it in a different method now.” The Reds stumbled into Pittsburgh having dropped 12 straight games, including a three-game sweep by the Cubs. The Pirates send left-hander Francisco Liriano to the mound to oppose rookie Keyvius Sampson in the series opener.

TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, FSN Ohio (Cincinnati), ROOT (Pittsburgh)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Reds RH Keyvius Sampson (2-6, 6.46 ERA) vs. Pirates LH Francisco Liriano (12-7, 3.27)

Sampson is staggering to the finish line, running his winless drought to eight starts after he was pounded for five runs (two earned) and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings versus the New York Mets last time out. Sampson is 0-5 during the eight-start slide, giving up at least four runs and failing to go past four innings on six occasions each. He fell to 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA versus the Pirates after giving up five runs in 5 1/3 innings on Sept. 9.

Liriano rebounded from an ugly outing at Milwaukee on Sept. 13 to win his last two starts in impressive fashion – both on the road against a pair of postseason teams. Liriano blanked the Cubs on four hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings in his last turn, which followed seven innings of two-run ball to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers. Liriano beat the Reds for the first time in six decisions on Sept. 8, striking out 10 over six scoreless innings.

WALK-OFFS

1. Pirates RF Gregory Polanco has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games.

2. Reds 1B Joey Votto has reached base in 47 straight games, one shy of Pete Rose’s franchise record (1978).

3. Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen needs five RBIs to reach 100 for the first time in his career.

PREDICTION: Pirates 7, Reds 2