Do or Die

After 162 games it all comes down to one more showdown between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to determine who will advance into the division playoffs as the wild card winner. The Pirates have had their way recently, sweeping a three game series at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati is hopeful that oft-injured Johnny Cueto will be ready for a strong performance to keep their season alive.

After 162 games the Reds and the Pirates will face each other on Tuesday to determine who will continue into the playoffs and who will get an early vacation. It's not such a bad deal because twenty of the thirty MLB teams would gladly trade spots with either of them. They are entering under different circumstances: The Reds finished third in the NL Central while vying for their third division championship in the last four years while the Pirates will have their first taste of postseason play since 1992.

Of course the Sword of Damocles hanging over the Reds head is ending a five game losing streak that finished their regular season, the final three against wild card foe Pittsburgh. That was definitely a sour note, but one win on Tuesday will make it all forgotten. They've had a whole year to ponder their 2012 postseason outcome after taking a 2-0 lead over the Giants home for three games at Great American Ball Park. Should they come out flat on Tuesday that disappointment one year ago will actually turn out to be a better finish than a potential one-and-done in 2013.

The Reds will hand the ball to Johnny Cueto with their season on the line and he's a good man to take it should be healthy; which he has not been for most of the season. In his two starts since coming off the DL recently he's appeared fine and Saturday's loss may turn out to be a mixed blessing. Had the Reds won they would have likely used him to go for home field advantage in Sunday's contest. As it is, they're using him to let workhorse Mat Latos rest a sore arm for a couple of days. Home field advantage is nice, but it's a lower priority than survival and an effective Cueto may be their best chance to stay alive.

There doesn't appear to be a clear cut favorite and this year the World Series crown may be awaiting the team that gets hot at the right time. Right now does not appear to be the right time for the Reds as their offense has struggled to score only eleven runs over their last six games. They do have the bats to get the job done and it just takes one game to get them back on track….or on to planning for next year.

If this season is any indication the pitching will be there. Now they just have to win a game so they will have more opportunity to use them. Cincinnati is taking its time announcing a post season roster. Perhaps manager Dusty Baker will take a cue from the Pirates and keep some extra hitters for the one-game series in lieu of a full contingent of pitchers which would provide room for both top prospect Billy Hamilton and normal backup outfielder Xavier Paul.

The two teams are certainly familiar with each other. Now the baseball world will see what will prevail, playoff experience or the hunger of a newcomer. For the Pirates, beating a 90-win team four consecutive times is a tall task, but it gets easier when the first three wins are in the bank. Whoever advances will remain in the division to play St. Louis who earned the top NL seed and awaits the winner.


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