Pittsburgh Pirates (85-71) at Atlanta Braves (76-80)
Tuesday, September 23 - 7:10 PM EST
Turner Field, Atlanta, Georgia
The Pittsburgh Pirates have every reason to focus on this week, while the Atlanta Braves already are looking toward 2015. The Pirates play the second of a four-game set at Atlanta on Tuesday with a magic number of two to clinch their second straight postseason appearance and are 2 1/2 games behind first-place St. Louis in the National League Central after a 1-0 victory Monday. Pittsburgh third baseman Josh Harrison (.318) is just behind Colorado’s Justin Morneau (.320) in the NL batting race and Andrew McCutchen paces the league in on-base percentage (.404) as the center fielder makes a push for his second consecutive NL MVP award.
Atlanta wasted little time transitioning into next season after the Braves were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday, dismissing general manager Frank Wren early Monday. “It is our goal to find that ‘Braves Way’ again and invigorate it,” team president John Schuerholz told reporters during a press conference; Schuerholz, interim general manager John Hart, and former manager and Hall of Famer Bobby Cox will lead the search for Wren’s replacement. Atlanta is 4-15 in September and has lost nine of its past 10.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), SportSouth (Atlanta)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates RH Gerrit Cole (10-5, 3.85 ERA) vs. Braves LH Alex Wood (11-10, 2.78)
Cole has helped fuel Pittsburgh’s playoff push, winning his last three starts and going 3-1 in six starts since returning from the disabled list in mid-August. He gave up two runs on five hits over seven innings in a no-decision against the Braves on Aug. 20 in his first start after missing six weeks with right lat soreness. Cole gave up two runs on six hits in seven innings to beat Boston on Thursday.
Wood’s record has suffered from Atlanta’s anemic run support, going 4-2 with four no-decisions in his past 10 starts despite allowing two or fewer earned runs nine times. He beat Washington on Wednesday, giving up one run on five hits with one walk and eight strikeouts in six innings. Wood got a no-decision Aug. 20 against Cole in Pittsburgh, allowing only two runs on four hits in seven innings.
1. Four of Pittsburgh’s past five outings have been decided by one run and the Pirates are 3-1 in those contests while going 30-29 overall in one-run games this season.
2. Atlanta has scored two runs or fewer in 14 of its past 21 games and is 5-16 in that span.
3. The Pirates are 75-53 since May 2, one-half game behind the Nationals for the best record in the NL in that span.
PREDICTION: Braves 3, Pirates 2