Regardless of whether it’s the Reds or “Los Rojos” stepping in against A.J. Burnett, the outcome has not been favorable for the club from Cincinnati in recent memory. Having to win two out of the final three games in order to gain home-field advantage for Tuesday’s night one-game playoff, the Reds have put themselves in a corner, having to win the final two games of the season to make that a possibility.
Why, some fans may ask, is being at home so important? There are many factors; such as, the Reds are 49-29 at home this year, yet 41-41 on the road, quite a significant swing. Where the true merit comes into play, are the numbers of the pitcher the Reds will be facing Tuesday night, Francisco Liriano. In the friendly confines of PNC Park, Liriano boasts an 8-1 record to go along with a sub 1.50 ERA. Granted, his only loss of the season did come against the Reds, but the Redlegs may have been on the right side of the coin that night as the Pirates had 10 hits on the evening (all singles) and none came around to score, giving them a 2-0 nod. Liriano looks much more human on the road, sporting just an 8-6 record with an ERA north of 4.
The Reds seem to have caught a break in the fact that it won’t be A.J. Burnett pitching when the season is on the line as the once thrown away debris from the New York Yankees yet again baffled the sticks of the Redlegs. Eight innings of one run ball, in which not one lead-off batter reached base, certainly squelched any hopes the home crowd had of getting behind their ballclub. Todd Frazier’s rocket that bounced off the left-field foul pole netting was the only offense the Reds could muster on this night.
Should the Reds find a way to advance onto the NLDS and matchup with either the Braves or the Cardinals, the man who will likely be getting the ball in Game 1 will be the same man who started tonight, Homer Bailey. Bailey created his own mess in the third by hitting Starling Marte on an 0-2 count and then walking both Andrew McCutchen and Justin Morneau before allowing a two-RBI single to Marlon Byrd to let the Bucs jump ahead 2-0. His fastball velocity was definitely with him on the mound tonight, it just didn’t seem that he had a good feel for his slider as many bounced a few feet in front of home plate, sending Ryan Hanigan sprawling all over his canvas. Bailey’s death blow was dealt by the Pirates slugging third baseman, Pedro Alvarez in the 6th when a fastball tailed back over the plate and Alvarez annihilated it for his 35th long ball of the year.
Night after night, it seems the Reds bullpen has kept them in the game, with tonight being Alfredo Simon, Logan Ondrusek and J.J. Hoover having impressive outings in vein. It’s awfully difficult to win when the offense can’t score very much but luckily for the Reds, the season hasn’t been packed away just yet. No matter who is hitting in the two-hole or playing left field Tuesday night, if the bats come to play as fans have seen all year long, the Reds will be advancing on to play into the weekend. If the ice age continues, the club will have the entire off-season to envision what could have been.
With their victory over the Chicago Cubs this evening, the St. Louis Cardinals claimed their right as National League Central Champions. For a team that has been ravished by injuries, the fact that the Redbirds keep jugging out wins gets more impressive by the year and sets the bar high for teams such as the Reds to keep pace. I’m sure if you asked mostly anyone in the Reds locker room, they’ll say that as long as they’re in the Playoffs, they’ll take it any which way.
Saturday matinee baseball gets going on the FOX National Network at 1:05 ET tomorrow as another old nemesis takes the hill against the Reds in the form of sinkerballer, Charlie Morton. He will be opposed by a man who very well may be making his last start in a Cincinnati Reds uniform in Bronson Arroyo, who will no doubt be looking to push this series towards its almost fitting, epic conclusion on Sunday.