The Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park will host a party that’ll be tough to crash Tuesday when the Cincinnati Reds come to town for the National League Wild Card Game.
But if the Cincinnati Reds want to survive, they will have to take the adrenaline out of a fan base that has watched the Pirates reach the postseason for the first time in 21 years.
The Pirates should expect a warm welcome from their home crowd, as they’re riding the momentum of a three-game sweep of the Reds to close out the regular season. The Pirates won the teams’ season series 11-8 and secured home field advantage for the play-in game with their late-season push over their division rival.
The teams appeared to be heading in opposite directions during the last week of the season, with the Pirates’ pitching staff steamrolling opponents while the Reds’ offense sputtered through its current five-game losing streak.
The Reds have not lost six games in a row since May 2011, while the Pirates have not won four straight against the Reds since July 1991.
The pitching matchup pits two Dominican Republic natives against each other, with Francisco Liriano (16-8) going to the hill for Pittsburgh and Johnny Cueto (5-2) leading the charge for Cincinnati. Liriano has dominated at home this season, going 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA. He’s had his struggles against Cincinnati, however, with a rather pedestrian 3.70 ERA against the Reds in four starts this season. The Pirates lost all four of those games.
Cueto is currently in the middle of what has been an impressive return from a 10-week stint on the disabled list. In two starts, he has allowed just one earned run on eight hits in 12 innings. His last start against the Pirates was arguably the best outing of his career, as he threw eight innings of one-hit shutout baseball against Pittsburgh on May 31 of this season. His career line at PNC Park is about as impressive as Liriano’s, with a record of 8-2 and an ERA of 1.90.
Cueto gets the ball in a game that Mat Latos was slated to start before an elbow injury caused him to be scratched. The Reds are hopeful that Latos may be able to return in the next playoff series if the Reds advance.
This is the sixth time these teams have met in the postseason — the first since 1990. The Reds have won four of the teams’ five previous meetings, each time going on to play in the World Series.
Winning the play-in game sparks a certain amount of momentum going forward in the postseason that the rest of the playoff teams may not have. Whatever team comes out of this game alive will be a formidable force in the next series.
Tony Wolfe is a reporter for The Post and a freshman studying journalism. Will you be watching the National League Wild Card play-in game? Let him know at email@example.com or @_TonyWolfe_.