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Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

Venue: Great American Ball Park
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Nothing will convince manager Clint Hurdle that his Pittsburgh Pirates are out of the NL Central race until the mathematics no longer work in their favor.

Though 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 the Pirates and Reds, Hurdle still has his mind set on a possible division title heading into Friday's series opener.

Pittsburgh (91-68) trails first-place St. Louis by three games, and it will need to sweep Cincinnati and have the Cardinals drop all three to the last-place Chicago Cubs just to create a one-game playoff for the Central crown.

"We're still focused on the opportunity to win the division," Hurdle told the team's official website after the Pirates' 4-2 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday. "If it turns out (winning the Central no longer is possible), we want to fight and take that (wild card) game back home."

Pittsburgh, which locked up its first postseason berth since 1992 on Monday, would need to take two of three in this set to host that one-game playoff against the Reds (90-69), who were eliminated from the division race after falling 1-0 to the New York Mets on Wednesday.

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.

Andrew McCutchen ranks near the top of the NL with a .318 average, but he's 3 for 24 over his last seven games and hitless in 14 straight at-bats against the Reds.

"We'll try to win a couple, and go from there," McCutchen said. "I'm happy just to have the opportunity (to be in the playoffs). I remember at the beginning of the season, no one gave us a chance, and now look where we are."

Cincinnati is heading to the postseason for the third time in four years, but it dropped the final two of a three-game series against the Mets after winning six of seven.

Manager Dusty Baker is focused on getting the wild-card contest at home, though the Reds have dropped four of six at Great American Ball Park.

"This team seems to take the hard road most of the time," Baker said. "It is very important to have the home-field advantage, but it's not impossible no matter where you play."

Baker's club had a difficult time solving A.J. Burnett on Saturday, and he'll be on the mound for the series opener.

Burnett (9-11, 3.39 ERA) beat the Reds as he struck out a season-best 12 while allowing two runs over seven innings in a 4-2 victory.

"I was locked in," Burnett said. "It was probably the best command of that hook I've had in a long time. I had a put-away pitch, and it's a lot different when you have those."

He's had 28 strikeouts in 18 2-3 innings while going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three outings against Cincinnati this season. The right-hander, though, 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 on the road.

He'll again be opposed by Homer Bailey, who gave up four runs - two earned - and walked four in 5 2-3 innings while suffering his first loss in nearly two months Saturday.

Bailey (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 versus the Pirates, including a no-hitter Sept. 28, 2012.

Reds rookie Billy Hamilton, hitting .389 since making his debut Sept. 3, was successful in his first 13 stolen-base attempts before being caught Wednesday. He went 3 for 6 with two stolen bases against Pittsburgh in Sunday's 11-3 win.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
 
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Weather
weather image  Early fog followed by sunny skies. Mild.
Hi TempLo TempWindHumidityPrecip %
77°F52°F5mph/NE43%6%
Standings
TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
Pittsburgh2nd NL Central8070.5332 ½ 8-2 W 2
Cincinnati4th NL Central7181.46712 ½ 4-6 L 3
 
 
Injuries
Pittsburgh
PlayerInjury
P. AlvarezFoot
J. MercerBack
Cincinnati
PlayerInjury
D. AxelrodOblique
H. BaileyElbow, neck
T. BellElbow
M. LatosElbow
S. MarshallShoulder
S. SchumakerShoulder
J. VottoQuadriceps
 
Series Game Log
DateatResult/TimeWinnerLoser
Apr 18CHCCIN 4-1Simon Samardzija 
Apr 19CHCCHC 8-4Jackson Cingrani 
Apr 20CHCCIN 8-2Bailey Villanueva 
Apr 28CINPPD   
Apr 29CINCIN 3-2Simon Samardzija 
Apr 30CINCHC 9-4Jackson Christiani 
Jun 23CHCCIN 6-1Broxton Rondon 
Jun 24CHCCHC 7-3Arrieta Bailey 
Jun 25CHCCIN 4-1Latos Jackson 
Jul 7CINCIN 9-3Leake Jackson 
Jul 8CINCIN 4-2Cueto Wood 
Jul 8CINCIN 6-5Ondrusek Rondon 
Jul 9CINCIN 4-1Simon Beeler 
Jul 10CINCHC 6-4Parker Hoover 
Aug 26CINCHC 3-0Wood Cueto 
Aug 27CINCIN 7-5Latos Turner 
Aug 28CINCIN 7-2Axelrod Arrieta 
Sep 15CHCCHC 1-0Rondon Villarreal 
Sep 16CHCCHC 7-0Arrieta Cueto 
Sep 17CHC 8:05 PM EDT