NL Wildcard Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates/Cincinnati Reds
The 2013 edition of the one game National League wild card round is set to take place tomorrow night at 8:07PM. This is the second year the new playoff format has been introduced and this year features the Cincinnati Reds visiting PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. These two teams play out of the NL Central and a third NL Central team, the St. Louis Cardinals are ready for a divisional round matchup with the winner of the NL wildcard, which will once again feature division rivals no matter who takes tomorrow’s game. Let’s take a look at why each of these teams could win tomorrow’s game.
Why Cincinnati will win:
The Reds boast one of the best all around teams in every facet of their game. Offense is loaded with speed and guys who get on base with frequency such as Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips. They get power from Phillips, their star Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Todd Frazier. They might have one of the games best top 3 starters in Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, and Homer Bailey. The bullpen is also rock solid and whenever you have Aroldis Chapman on the mound, it is almost a lock for a victory. The Reds have possibly the best secret weapon out of any team in the MLB playoffs. That weapon is the speed demon, electrifying Billy Hamilton. If the game is tied late, expect the Reds to utilize Hamilton on the basepaths, something that could be the difference maker in the game. The other thing the Reds need tomorrow is a good start from their ace, Johnny Cueto. Cueto was on the DL 3 different times this season but managed to make two starts in Pittsburgh, going 1-0 with a 0.73 ERA in 12.1 innings. Cueto will need to keep the Pirates offense cool tomorrow so manager Dusty Baker can utilize his strong back of the bullpen with the likes of Sam LeCure, Sean Marshall, and Chapman.
Reds Key Players tomorrow: Johnny Cueto and Billy Hamilton
Why Pittsburgh will win:
The Pirates are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1992, also when they last hosted a playoff game. No matter what happens tomorrow, this season has been magical for the Bucs and their entire fanbase. They have even won over some supporters from fans of teams not in the post-season. The Pirates have a good offense, lead by their superstar Andrew McCutchen, who can simply impact a game in every aspect. One reason the Pirates are where they are is the emergence of Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez took his game to a whole new level this season and is the most powerful guy on the Pirates roster. They also added veteran Justin Morneau at the trade deadline who could prove big tomorrow. However, the best thing that has happened to the Pirates is the addition and excellent season put forth by Russell Martin. Martin handled the pitching staff extremely well this season and chipped in offensively. The Pirates will send Francisco Liriano to the mound tomorrow night and he was untouchable at PNC Park this season, going 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA. Liriano enjoyed a great season and helped the rotation beautifully. If Liriano goes deep tomorrow, the Pirates will win the game on the strength of Liriano’s arm and McCutchen’s bat.
Pirates key players tomorrow: Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Liriano
Winner: Pittsburgh Pirates
The magical season for the Pirates will continue into St. Louis on Thursday night. The Pirates can use the sell out crowd at PNC Park tomorrow to their advantage and roll into the NLDS and expect some late game heroics from MVP candidate, Andrew McCutchen.