Sep 20, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (47) reacts to a scoreboard tribute recognizing the 1000th strikeout of his career against the Cincinnati Reds during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Cincinnati Reds won 6-5 in ten innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Game #163 Scenarios: Liriano vs. Latos

If the Reds can’t run down the St. Louis Cardinals in six days, it’s time for game 163. There are a ton of variables to discuss, but this article will focus on a Liriano vs. Latos in scenario. Other scenarios will be produced prior to game 163, which will explore all the possibilities not discussed here.

First, big picture. While pitching has defined the 2013 season for both teams, just one team between the two is living up to its reputation in September. This month, the Pirates have a team ERA of 4.11, a significant spike from the team’s cumulative 3.29 ERA for the entire year. While the Reds have a cumulative team ERA of 3.38, the ERA in the month of September is 2.95. Ships passing in the night? Maybe. But despite major steps back for guys like Jeff Locke, the Pirates should feel good about their chances sending their ace, Francisco Liriano to the bump in game 163.

The Reds have endured some success against Liriano. This year, the veteran is 0-3 against the Reds with a 3.70 ERA. And while that may still be decent, his numbers at home are worthy of Cy Young discussion. He’s 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA. Another reason the Pirates would more than likely send Liriano against the Reds is his dominance against lefties. Lefties hit just .120 off Liriano. Because lefties define the lineup for the Reds, this could be a real problem for an offense that fluctuates more than Lance McAlister’s opinion about it.

The only downside to Liriano is the obvious endurance question that will be asked louder now following a 94-pitch exit from a game the Pirates were winning. His ERA for the month of September is 4.70. Plus, he’s only lethal at home. Away from home, Liriano ERA long jumps to 4.15.

It’s 6.10 at Great American Ball Park after just ten innings pitched and two losses.

You have to assume a very low amount of runs being scored in Pittsburgh. Obviously that changes if the venue becomes Great American Ball Park. The Reds did just wallop the Pirates for eleven runs, but let’s take more into consideration than just one game. In this article, Mat Latos is tasked with getting the Reds to the NLDS.

Mat Latos isn’t having a good month, at least not to his standards. He’s sitting on a 3.23 ERA for the year, which makes for a really good year, but his numbers in September are reason to revisit who you want to send in a one game do-or-die format. Latos has an ERA of 4.40 with a 1-1 record this month. While brilliant at GABP (9-1, 2.89 in 13 games), Latos only boasts a pedestrian 3.48 ERA on the road.

In five games started against the Jolly Roger, Latos has an ERA of 4.08 and is 1-1. He’s surrendered 26 hits in just over 28 innings, so he’s obviously not fooling many. Three of the games started were at PNC, where Latos is 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA.

Latos doesn’t dominate the Pirates, but he does manage the team’s better hitters pretty well. Andrew McCutchen only hits .250 off him while Neil Walker bats just .238. Both have 20 at-bats or more against Latos. Garrett Jones is hitting just .167 off the young right-hander. Russell Martin, .200. Pedro Alvarez is the only Pirates Latos really struggles with – he’s hitting .280 off Mat with a home run in 25 at-bats.

CONCLUSION: Latos and Liriano will be defined by the ballpark they pitch in. Liriano is simply too good at home, and Latos is a much better pitcher at GABP than he is away; plus, Latos doesn’t dominate the Pirates. And while Liriano “struggles” against the Reds (term used as lightly as possible), his numbers at home are too established to not sweat. Last Friday night was a really good preview, and you never know what’s possible once both teams get to the bullpen.

Still. Liriano’s trajectory doesn’t look as promising at the moment. Questions about endurance and stamina will surround the veteran in the coming week, especially following a game he was too gassed to continue before hitting 100 pitches. While Liriano is phenomenal at home, he’s almost an entirely different pitcher on the road. Mat is better at home, but the disparity is hardly that dramatic when he’s on the road. Ultimately, the 25 year old looks to be a better bet at this time than his 29 year old opponent.

Tags: Cincinnati MLB Playoffs Pittsburgh Pirates Reds

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