So keep your defibrillator close at hand (we prefer a cold beer in its stead) and enjoy some meaningful September baseball. The series-deciding clash begins at 1:35, and will be aired by Root Sports and 93.7 The Fan.
Pirate lineup: Jose Tabata LF, Neil Walker 2b, Andrew McCutchen CF, Justin Morneau 1b, Marlon Byrd RF, Pedro Alvarez 3b, Russ Martin C, Clint Barmes SS and Jeff Locke P.
Looks like LF is JT's to lose during crunch time. Starling Marte doesn't look like he's going to be one of the walking wounded to return full-time.
Reds lineup: Billy Hamilton CF, Chris Heisey LF, Joey Votto 1b, Brandon Phillips 2b, Jay Bruce RF, Todd Frazier 3b, Zack Cozart SS, Ryan Hanigan C and Bronson Arroyo P.
Billy Hamilton gets the start with Choo banged up; the Human Bullet would be a good guy for Locke to throw strikes at. Her is 10-for10 in stolen bases and has scored seven times in nine games with only one start.
- The big news is the return of the bullpen to its original shape. Jason Grilli is closing, Mark the Shark is back in his set up role, and Justin Wilson has joined Tony Watson to provide some more back end glue. The two storylines: Clint looks like he's going to give the guys extra recovery time, and yesterday he mixed and matched pitchers, a strategy he hasn't shown before.
- The Pittsburgh writers voted Cutch as the team MVP and Francisco Liriano as the Most Outstanding Pitcher.
- Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs notes the correlation between Starling Marte getting plunked and two strike counts. Even with the bad premise of him missing time due to HBP, since the injury was caused by a slide, it's still an interesting read.
- Pittsburgh's magic number is three and Cincinnati's is four. Washington plays a DH today, so it's conceivable, though unlikely, that the Bucs could clinch a playoff spot at home.
- Scott Miller of CBS Sports writes "...the past couple of seasons, the Pirates wilted. Now, they're resilient. They've grown up. They wear big boy pants now."
- Travis Sawchik of the Tribune Review features the Bucs' data analysis mystic, Dan Fox.
- If you're heading to the North Shore today, keep calm because it will be a zoo between the Pirates big home finale and the Steeler's Sunday night game.
- Here's how the MLB playoff race shapes up, going into today.