Neck-and-neck, Reds and Pirates open series

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It’s hard not to focus on the first-place Cardinals, but the Reds start an important four-game home series with the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight at GABP. Those are the same Pittsburgh Pirates that are but a half-game behind the second-place Reds in the NL Central. Those are the same Pirates that are 41-28 overall.

If the season ended today, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati would be in the one-game NL Wild Card Playoff. The team with the best record would host that playoff and right now the two clubs are tied in the loss column.

Pittsburgh just went 4-2 on a homestand that included San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Pirates took two of three from each club.

Mike Leake will be on the mound tonight for Cincinnati. He’s 6-3 with a 2.76 ERA. Leake has given up five earned runs in 40 innings over his last six starts for a sparking 1.12 ERA. Francisco Liriano will be the starter for Pittsburgh. He’s 5-2 with a 2.36 ERA overall and has a 2.36 ERA over his last three starts (19 innings with five earned runs).

Liriano lost to the Reds 2-0 on June 1 when he gave up one earned run over six innings. Leake was the winning pitcher that night, blanking the Pirates over six innings. Back on May 12 in Pittsburgh, Leake allowed five earned runs over six innings in a 6-5 loss to the Pirates. J.J. Hoover took the loss that game.

Looks like the Reds will start Mat Latos on Tuesday, Bronson Arroyo on Wednesday and Homer Bailey on Thursday.

Pittsburgh will counter with Charlie Morton on Tuesday, Jeff Locke on Wednesday and Brandon Cumpton on Thursday. Cumpton has replaced the injured A.J. Burnett in the Pirates’ rotation.

Looks like the Reds will miss Gerrit Cole, the 22-year-old rookie who was the No. 1 player selected in the 2011 draft out of UCLA. Cole is 2-0 with a 3.75 ERA after two career starts with the Pirates.

By the way, the Reds enter the series with a 24-12 record at home. Pittsburgh is 16-15 on the road.

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