7:10 PM ET, September 27, 2013
Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio
Pittsburgh: Burnett (9-11, 3.39 ERA)
Cincinnati: Bailey (11-11, 3.40 ERA)
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is sure that his team is still in the NL Central race and won’t give up until the mathematics no longer work for them.
Even while the scenario is more likely this weekend’s three-game set in Cincinnati will wind up determining the site of Tuesday’s wild-card game between Pittsburgh and Reds, Hurdle still has his mind set on a possible division title heading into tonight’s series opener.
The Pirates (91-68) trail first-place St. Louis Cardinals by three games, and they will need to sweep the Reds and have St. Louis drop all three to the last-place Chicago Cubs just to create a one-game playoff for the Central crown.
The Pirates, who on Monday locked up their first MLB postseason berth since 1992 , would need to take two of three in this set to host that one-game playoff versus Cincinnati (90-69), who were eliminated from the division race after falling 1-0 to the New York Mets on Wednesday.
According to the MLB live betting lines, a tie in the standings would give home-field advantage to Cincinnati based on head-to-head play, as the teams enter this series 8-8 against each other on the season.
The Reds are heading to the postseason for the third time in four years, but they dropped the final two of a three-game series against the Mets after winning six of seven.
The Pirates had a hard time solving A.J. Burnett on Saturday, and he’ll be sent to the mound for the series opener.
Burnett (9-11, 3.39 ERA) beat Cincinnati as he struck out a season-best 12 while allowing two runs over seven innings in a 4-2 win.
The 36 year-old had 28 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings while going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three outings versus the Reds this season. However, the Arkansas native is 2-5 with a 5.36 ERA in eight career starts in Cincinnati, and he has a 6.68 ERA in his last six outings away from home.
The Pirates will counter with Homer Bailey, who gave up four runs — two earned — and walked four in 5 2/3 innings while suffering his first defeat in nearly two months Saturday. The right hander (11-11, 3.40) went 6-0 with a 2.60 ERA over his previous nine outings overall and was 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA in his last four against Pittsburgh, including a no-hitter Sept. 28, 2012.