MLB Picks: Reds vs. Pirates NL Wild Card Betting Preview

Willie Bee

Monday, September 30, 2013 1:22 PM GMT

Playoff baseball is here, and SBR has a free MLB pick and preview for Tuesday's NL Wild Card contest in Pittsburgh between the Pirates and Cincinnati Reds.

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It's usually a case for a team ending a long playoff drought like the Pittsburgh Pirates to have a "We're just glad to be here" attitude. That's not the case for these Pirates, however, who believe they can win it all this October. Their fans are certainly hoping the postseason lasts more than just the National League Wild Card play-in game Tuesday night at PNC Park. After all, there's certainly nothing to cheer for over at Heinz Field these days.

Pittsburgh is indeed back in the playoffs for the first time since 1993, 20 seasons of losing baseball between then and now. The Pirates will host the Cincinnati Reds, in their second straight postseason and third in four years, in the NL single elimination match, and it's the Bucs who opened thebaseball betting proceedings in the -120 to -125 range on the moneyline. What little movement to the MLB odds we've seen so far has been towards the Reds.

Taking the mound for the first pitch a little past 8 p.m. (ET) Tuesday is Francisco Liriano who will be opposed by Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto. The total opened at 6.5 and split evenly high/low; initial action on the scoreboard number has been a slight lean to the ‘Under’.

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Familiar Opponents Meet After Battling Final Weekend

A lot has been made about how important it was to have home-field advantage for these Wild Card games, but playing at home hasn't made much difference in recent years between a couple of teams that first met in the old American Association back in 1887 as the Red Stockings and Alleghenys. The Reds are 55-51 at PNC Park since it opened in 2001, and 48-45 in Cincinnati since Great American Ball Park came into play in 2003.

It certainly didn't bother the Pirates to be in Cincinnati last weekend where they swept the Reds to get this game on their own diamond. The broom job gave the Bucs an 11-8 advantage in the season series, 5-4 at PNC Park where they were 50-31 overall in the regular season.

It also didn't bother the Reds to open the 2012 playoffs away from home, taking the first two NLDS games in San Francisco against the eventual champion Giants. What does matter more than the location of a 1-game playoff is pitching and defense, something both clubs possess.

Cueto Gets Nod After Injury-Plagued Season

Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker initially set his rotation up to have Mat Latos pitch the wild card game, but a sore arm changed those plans. Instead, Baker turns to Cueto who made two trips the this DL this season and has made only two starts since late-June. Those two outings were good ones this month, but came against feeble Astros and Mets lineups.

He did make two starts in Pittsburgh this season, and they were good efforts though he left one of the games early with a back injury. Cueto owns a 2.32 career ERA in 21 starts at PNC Park, the Reds winning 14 of those assignments.

Liriano has been nothing short of outstanding at home for the Pirates in 2013, posting a 1.47 ERA in 11 outings while limiting hitters to a .174 average. Pittsburgh was 9-2 in those starts, but both losses came to the Reds who beat the Pirates all four times Liriano faced them this year. The southpaw pitched well enough to beat Cincy on this mound less than two weeks ago (8 IP, 2 ER), but his bullpen coughed it up to allow the Reds to win in 10.

A little more than 24 hours before game time, the weather forecast looks great for Pittsburgh. It should be in the upper-60s around first pitch under mostly clear skies, a light SE breeze blowing from the right-field corner to the left-field foul pole.

There are a lot of reasons to like the Pirates in this game. Start with a strong home record compared to Cincinnati's 41-41 mark on the road. Liriano's home stats are a big reason for Pittsburgh's play at PNC Park, and he will be backed by one of the better bullpens in the majors. The Reds also closed the regular season slate with five straight losses, three of those to the Bucs who won six of their last eight, four of those dubyas against Cincinnati.

But I don't like how Liriano finished up 2013, possibly due to wearing down with 161 IP the second-most in his career. Liriano has been very tough on Cincy's three big left-handed bats -- Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto a combined 8-for-52 with no extra base hits -- but that still wasn't enough for him to beat the Reds this season. I'm going to play the underdog Reds to quickly end the Pirates' first playoff appearance in 20 years. Take Cincinnati for my free sports pick.

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MLB pick: Bet the Reds money line, +112 available at Bet365

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