Reds host Pirates with NL wild card spot still within grasp

National Sports

The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates have different goals for the final two weeks of the regular season, but they’ll share the same objective on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series in Cincinnati.

Both really want a victory.

The Reds are three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second wild-card spot from the National League.

Cincinnati (77-73) doesn’t play St. Louis down the stretch, but the Reds have a more favorable schedule with 10 of their final 12 games against the Pirates and Washington Nationals, both last in their respective divisions.

Pittsburgh (56-93) is playing much better in recent weeks, however.

The Pirates took two out of three at the Miami Marlins last weekend for their fourth straight series win, a streak they hadn’t accomplished since July of 2018.

Pittsburgh was one out from their first series sweep of the season on Sunday, but lost to the Marlins 6-5 on a walk-off two-run home run in the 10th inning, keeping them as the lone team in the majors without a series sweep this season.

Pittsburgh third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes told reporters over the weekend that the Pirates aren’t paying much attention to their won-loss record or their current place in the standings.

“We’re just trying to continue to play good baseball,” Hayes said. “Continue to get better at the things that we’re working on every day.”

The Pirates are playing well despite some injuries to their pitching staff.

“So, it’s the next guy up,” Hayes said. “We’re just going out there every day with a brand-new record, a brand-new average, a brand-new ERA, all that type of stuff, and just trying to play the best we can that day.”

The Pirates plan to send left-hander Dillon Peters to the mound for the series opener.

Peters (1-2, 2.66 ERA) was sharp against the Reds on Tuesday, tossing five shutout innings for his first MLB win since Sept. 24, 2019, when he played for the Los Angeles Angels.

Peters allowed five hits, struck out five and walked one in the 6-5 win against the Reds, the first time facing them in his career.

“I know that I’m ready to take the ball whenever I’m asked,” Peters said. “I’m going to go out there and compete, and go after guys, and if that’s for three innings or six innings, you’re going to get everything I’ve got.”

Cincinnati rookie right-hander Vladimir Gutierrez is scheduled to make a second straight start against the Pirates.

Gutierrez (9-6, 4.25 ERA) surrendered four runs and five hits in 3 2/3 innings on Wednesday in Pittsburgh and was long gone by the time the Pirates won 5-4 with a walk-off run in the ninth.

“We’re definitely managing his workload at this point,” Reds manager David Bell said. “We’re nearing the end and we hope to be able to support him through that, keep him strong and hope he can find that again.”

Gutierrez also faced the Pirates on Aug. 7 in Cincinnati and gave up one run and six hits in six innings, earning the win in the 11-3 victory.

— Field Level Media

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