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Reds face must-win for home playoff game

CINCINNATI (Nicolino Dibenedetto/STATS Writer/ AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates need to beat the Cincinnati Reds one more time in order to host the most important meeting of the year.

Giving the ball to Charlie Morton should improve those chances Saturday.

Morton looks to continue his road dominance of the Reds and help the Pirates clinch home-field advantage for their upcoming wild-card matchup.

With two games remaining, Pittsburgh (92-68) and Cincinnati (90-70) are still vying for the right to host Tuesday's wild-card game.

The Pirates, playoff qualifiers for the first time since 1992, gained the advantage in the race after opening this season-ending, three-game set with a 4-1 victory Friday. They lead the Reds by two games with two to play.

"It's huge," said right fielder Marlon Byrd, who had three hits and two RBIs. "We want to get that one-game playoff in Pittsburgh."

Having Morton (7-4, 3.14) take the mound at Great American Ball Park seems to be an ideal way to avoid any drama heading into the regular-season finale.

The right-hander has a 0.39 ERA in winning his last three starts in Cincinnati, which include two of his three career complete games. He's tossed 14 1-3 scoreless innings over his last two appearances at Great American Ball Park.

Morton earned a 4-0 win in Cincinnati on June 18, allowing three hits before leaving with one out in the sixth.

He has been sharp in his last two starts, yielding one run and five hits over 15 innings, but has been backed by three runs while the bullpen has given up just as many, leaving him without a win.

He may be in for another dominant outing since the Reds have scored three runs while batting .196 - 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position - during a three-game slide.

"We haven't been hitting the last two games," manager Dusty Baker said.

Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips are among the culprits. Bruce is mired in a 3-for-29 slump over the past seven games, while Phillips is 1 for 11 during the losing streak.

Bruce, however, may be looking forward to facing Morton since he's 3 for 7 with two doubles off him over the past two years. Phillips is 1 for 6 against him in the same span, while Todd Frazier, who hit his 19th homer Friday, is 5 for 7 with a home run and two doubles.

The Reds are expected to turn to Bronson Arroyo (14-11, 3.60), who is seeking back-to-back wins over the Pirates. He got a lot of help to earn an 11-3 victory in Pittsburgh on Sunday, surrendering three runs and two homers in five innings.

The veteran right-hander was terrific against his former team at home June 19, allowing one run in seven innings of a 2-1, 13-inning win.

Arroyo, who is 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA over his last five overall games in Cincinnati, has struggled greatly versus Byrd and Pedro Alvarez. Byrd is 8 for 24 (.333) with a homer and two doubles off Arroyo, while Alvarez is 6 for 12 with a home run and three doubles.

Andrew McCutchen, however, is 1 for 26 all-time versus Arroyo, and 3 for 27 in his last eight games. The NL MVP candidate is also 0 for 17 in his last five contests versus the Reds.

PHOTO:

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 27: Joey Votto #19 and Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds talk in the dugout during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on September 27, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Pirates won 4-1. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
 

 

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