Analyzing Tonight’s Pitching Matchup
The Pittsburgh Pirates host their first playoff game in 21 years and what a scene it’s going to be. PNC Park will be rockin and what a special night it’s going to be if the Pirates get past the Reds tonight and advance to the NLDS to face the Cardinals.
In a one game playoff like this, you can really flip a coin. The Reds have been a team in the Pirates head for a few years now and the sense is Cincinnati doesn’t fear them one bit. This past weekend, though, was huge for the Pirates taking the first two games of the series to claim home field for tonight’s game.
All eyes are on the pitching matchup between Francisco Liriano and Johnny Cueto.
We all know about Liriano’s success at home this season where he’s been lights out. Liriano is 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 11 home starts. He has also been unhittable by lefties who are hitting .131/.175/.146 against Liriano.
The concern with Liriano of late has been a rocky September where he’s 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA.
Liriano is 0-3 against the Reds this season (4 starts) with a 3.70 ERA but he’s been a bit snake bitten as the Reds are hitting just .193 against Liriano this season.
What made Liriano the ideal candidate to start tonight’s game isn’t just his success at PNC Park. It’s the Reds being top heavy with left handed hitters in Shin-Soo-Choo, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
Choo is batting .194 (6-31) in his career vs Liriano with 2 RBIs and 1 walk. Votto is 2-10 (.200) in his career vs Liriano. Bruce is 0-11 in his career vs Liriano. Right handed hitter Brandon Phillips is 3-11 (.273) against Liriano. Among the Reds core hitters, Liriano has been very effective against them.
Notable players who have hit Liriano well is Ryan Ludwick, a career .444 hitter against Liriano, and Todd Frazier who is 3-9 (.333) in his career vs Liriano with 2 home runs.
When it comes to tonight’s pitching matchup, the Pirates didn’t get a break with Matt Latos dealing with a sore arm and the Reds turning to Johnny Cueto.
Cueto has been dominant his career vs the Pirates going 13-4 with a 2.37 ERA all-time vs the Pirates and 8-2, 1.90 ERA at PNC Park. He has made just 11 starts this season, dealing with back and oblique issues but he has allowed just 1 run in 12 innings since returning from the DL.
Cueto in two starts vs the Pirates this season has been his usual self, going 1-0 with an 0.73 ERA. In 12.1 IP vs the Bucs this year, Cueto has allowed just 3 hits, struck out 9 and walked 3.
Here’s a rundown of how notable Pirate hitters have fared against Cueto in their careers:
*Starling Marte, 0-5 (.000)
*Neil Walker, 6-28 (.214) with 0 HR – 3 RBI
*Andrew McCutchen, 9-39 (.231) with 0 HR – 3 RBI
*Pedro Alvarez, 5-18 (.278) with 0 HR – 1 RBI
*Russell Martin, 1-11 (.091) with 0 HR – 1 RBI
*Jordy Mercer, 1-4 (.250)
*Jose Tabata, 0-8 (.000)
The key player to watch is Marlon Byrd who is a career .583 hitter vs Cueto with 1 home run and 3 RBIs. Byrd who has been such a great fit since being acquired, hitting .318 as a Pirate, could be the X-factor tonight for the Bucs.
Justin Morneau has never faced Cueto in his career and it’s interesting that Garrett Jones who homered this past weekend, has had some success against Cueto in his career, going 11-39 (.282) with 1 home run, 3 RBIs, 4 doubles and 1 triple.
Jones could be an option off the bench late in the game if Cueto is rolling and the Pirates are looking for a spark against him.