Pirates-Reds Preview

The Pittsburgh Pirates are headed to consecutive postseasons for the first time in 22 years, but they still have important playoff positioning at stake in the final regular-season series.

Having closed the gap in the NL Central race, the visiting Pirates will try to continue their pursuit of the club's first division title since 1992 on Friday night against the Cincinnati Reds.

Pittsburgh (87-72), which clinched at least a wild-card berth Tuesday, bounced back from a rare defeat a day earlier by cruising to a 10-1 victory at Atlanta on Thursday.

Josh Harrison had three hits to extend his hitting streak to a career high-tying 13 games. He also moved two percentage points ahead of Colorado's Justin Morneau (.317) in the NL batting race.

An MLB-best 16-4 since Sept. 5, the Pirates seem to be peaking with three games remaining before making their first back-to-back playoff appearances since winning three straight NL East titles from 1990-92.

They also moved within one game of idle St. Louis for the Central lead Thursday and hold the edge over San Francisco for home-field advantage in a potential wild-card matchup. The Cardinals play at Arizona, while the Giants host San Diego.

"We want to keep doing what we're doing, keep fighting," pitcher Edinson Volquez said.

The Pirates, who own a baseball-best 1.95 ERA in their last 20 games, will turn to Vance Worley (8-4, 2.93 ERA) to build on an outstanding performance in his last start.

The right-hander allowed four hits over eight innings in Sunday's 1-0 home win over Milwaukee, leaving him 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts. He started 21 of the 27 batters with first-pitch strikes and retired the final 13 he faced.

Now Worley is hoping to overcome his recent struggles on the road. He's 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA in his last four starts away from home and allowed two runs over two innings of relief in a 6-3 loss at Cincinnati on July 13.

He gave up one earned run over 6 1-3 innings in a 3-2 home win Aug. 30 in his only start against the Reds this season.

Todd Frazier homered off Worley in that contest and has two in three at-bats this season against him and six versus Pittsburgh in 2014.

The Reds (74-85) will try to pick up their fourth win in five games following Thursday's 5-3 victory.

Jay Bruce had three hits and Brandon Phillips homered from the leadoff spot. Rookie Yorman Rodriguez added two hits and an RBI while filling in for injured Billy Hamilton (concussion) in center field.

"I want to show my best when I get the opportunity," Rodriguez said.

Since posting two straight scoreless outings, Mike Leake (11-13, 3.78) is 1-2 with a 7.71 ERA in four this month. He allowed six runs over five innings in an 8-4 loss at St. Louis on Saturday.

The right-hander is 5-0 with a 3.84 ERA in nine career home starts versus Pittsburgh. He'll face the Pirates for a fifth time overall this season, going 1-0 with a 3.71 mark. He gave up six hits over seven shutout innings in a 2-1 road loss Aug. 29.

Harrison is 5 for 12 with a home run lifetime off Leake, while Andrew McCutchen is 5 for 11 in 2014.

The Pirates have dropped 10 of 16 matchups, including four of six in Cincinnati.


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