I figured I'd go over the Wild Card game, even though we aren't in the actual game or will face the opponent. The reason is that this team could come out hot, and in many cases the Wild Card winner has gone on to the NLCS if not the World Series. Plus, I'm bored having nothing else to discuss. So, let's take a look at the matchup:
Wild Card Pitching Matchup - Johnny Cueto (5-2) v. Francisco Liriano (16-8)
Now, right off the bat you may notice that Cueto doesn't even have 10 decisions this year. That's because he was sidelined with an injury for the majority of the season. In fact, Cueto has only pitched two games since he left with that injury in June. I'm frankly shocked they went with this decision on the Reds, because while Johnny dominated the two games he pitched, they were against the Mets and the Astros. Those are cellar dweller rosters with nothing to play for. He's about to put everything on the line against a team that hasn't seen the playoffs in two decades. Were it me, I would have gone with Mike Leake, who was 3-0 against the Pirates in 4 starts with a 3.28 ERA. However, I can understand why they went with Cueto since he was 1-0 against the Pirates in 2 starts with a 0.74 ERA. Still, that was literally months ago. Who knows if he can find that same gear with only two starts under his belt. It's a huge gamble in my mind.
On the Pirates side, there was no doubt who they were going to pitch. Francisco Liriano has been nothing short of electric this season with his 16-8 record, a 3.22 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.22. Liriano's biggest asset this year is that he's kept the ball in the park. Considering that the game is being played in Pittsburgh instead of Great American Smallpark, that's a huge advantage for the Pirates. Curiously, Liriano has a .193 BAA versus the Reds, but his record is 0-3 in 4 starts. Why? Because in those 3 losses he got a combined 4 runs of support. That's the essence of the problem with the Pirates. Their pitching is carrying them, but their scoring is abysmal, especially with RISP.
The Reds are the Pirates aren't playing amazing baseball in the month of September. While teams in the AL race were going 21-6 or 17-12, the Reds and the Pirates have been a rather average 15-12 and 14-12. The Reds are actually on a 5 game losing streak to end the season, and they've lost 6 of their last 10 while the Pirates have won 7 of their last 10. The Pirates actually swept the Reds to end the year. However, none of that matters now. It all comes down to one game because Bud Selig is a big fat cancer on the game of baseball and decided this was a wonderful idea. If I start thinking about the All-Star game deciding home field again I may throw something. Moving on.
The CPA normally doesn't do non-Braves games, but I'll let it out of the box to predict the winner of the Wild Card game. Let's see what it thinks.
CPA Predication Wild Card Game: Pirates 4 - Reds 3
The CPA thinks this game might be tied late, but that home field advantage and the Pirates bullpen pushes this into their favor. The Reds have the advantage in starters, but they have been hitting a paltry .577 OPS as a lineup over the last week, and only .701 in the month of September. Everything about the Reds has been trending the wrong direction, so unless they can flip the switch quickly, they may find themselves eliminated.