Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds
- Whoever wins this weekend series will clinch home field for the NL Wild Card game. The season series is tied 8-8.
- Pittsburgh pitchers have given up just 51 home runs to NL Central opponents this season; by far the fewest that any of the NL Central pitching staffs have allowed in divisional play (Cardinals & Cubs -- 62, Reds -- 80, Brewers -- 82).
- Cincinnati pitchers are 14-9 with a 2.82 ERA so far this month. That ERA is the lowest in the month of September by Reds' pitchers since the 1992 season (2.77).
- A.J. Burnett has 203 strikeouts this season, his most since recording 231 for the Blue Jays in 2008. He also had 203 strikeouts for the Marlins in 2002, making him the only active pitcher to have a 200+ strikeout season for at least three different teams in a career.
- Billy Hamilton finally got caught stealing in Wednesday's game against the Mets, snapping his streak of 13 consecutive successful stolen base attempts to start his career. His 13 SB are the most by any rookie in the month of September since Pittsburgh's Tony Womack had 14 SB in September 1997.
- When Homer Bailey lost to the Pirates in his last outing (September 21), it snapped his streak of nine straight starts without a loss, which was the second-longest such streak by a Cincinnati pitcher this season (Mat Latos was undefeated in his first 14 starts of the year). Bailey is 0-2 against the Pirates this season, but threw a no hitter against them in Pittsburgh on September 28, 2012.
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By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- Before the Pittsburgh Pirates return home to host Cincinnati in their first postseason game in 21 years, they hope to hand the Reds a season-high tying fifth consecutive defeat Sunday.
The Pirates can do so by concluding the regular season with their first three-game road sweep of the Reds in 10 years Sunday.
By outscoring Cincinnati 12-4 in winning the first two of this set, Pittsburgh (93-68) clinched the NL's top wild-card spot and will host Tuesday's playoff game between the teams. Neil Walker hit two of the Pirates' six homers as they won for the fourth time in five games, 8-3 on Saturday.
"Better to be home than on the road," said Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who was 0 for 17 in the previous five games against the Reds (90-71) before recording two hits, including a homer.
"(Saturday) showed how bad we wanted to go home. We answered in a big way."
Pittsburgh's last home playoff game was Game 5 of the NL championship series versus Atlanta in Oct. 11, 1992.
For the moment, the Pirates can record their first three-game series sweep at Cincinnati since March 31-April 2, 2003 - their first trip to Great American Ball Park.
The Reds have batted .185 while scoring six runs during their four-game slide.
"It's disappointing, but you've got to get over it," manager Dusty Baker said. "Teams have won championships with their backs to the wall, like San Francisco last year. If that's what you've got to do, that's what you've got to do."
Jay Bruce drove in two runs Saturday, but is 4 for 33 in his last eight games. Teammate Joey Votto walked three times and is 3 for 6 in the series, but has one home run and three RBIs in his last 11 contests.
Walker, meanwhile, has hit six of his career-high 16 home runs while batting .324 over the last nine games.
Pittsburgh's Pedro Alvarez added to his career-high home-run total with his 36th on Saturday, and has three with nine RBIs while batting .333 in the last nine. He's 8 for 20 during that span against the Reds.
With the finale having no impact on the standings, it's unlikely any of either team's regulars will be in the lineup. Both already scratched their originally scheduled starters.
Pittsburgh Gerrit Cole's was slated to go Sunday, but instead will be saved to come out of the bullpen if needed Tuesday, leaving Brandon Cumpton (1-1, 2.45 ERA) to make his first start since July 20.
In Cumpton's only appearance since he was recalled from the minors earlier this month, he pitched three scoreless innings in last Sunday's 11-3 loss to the Reds. In his second major-league game and start, the right-hander allowed a homer to Bruce and one other run in five innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-3 win at Cincinnati on June 20.
With the Reds deciding to start Johnny Cueto on Tuesday instead of Sunday, they hand the ball to Greg Reynolds (1-2, 5.55) for his fifth start of the season. The right-hander most recently gave up two runs in 3 2-3 innings of a 6-5, 13-inning win at Houston on Sept. 18.
In his only previous appearance against the Pirates, Reynolds allowed two runs and three hits in six innings while not factoring in the decision of a 6-4 victory for Colorado in 2011.
Updated September 28, 2013