Think about how big a two-game deficit feels in the division right now. It feels almost insurmountable with seven games left. If the Pirates win today, they can have the exact same lead on the Reds for the right to host the wild card game, except with only six games left instead of seven. This is the last regular season game at PNC Park, and it is, of course, the biggest game in the 13-year history of the park.
That's what's important today. When this series started, I said that the Pirates needed to get two out of three and they can do that today. The details of how they got there are unimportant. Seriously. They are. For most of this series the Pirates have been the better team on the field, and so that needs to continue today.
Jeff Locke will get the start for the Pirates, which of course gives me the howling fantods. He's looked a little better since his brief minor league hiatus, but really, only one of the three starts he's made since then has looked all that good. Presumably, Jeanmar Gomez or Kris Johnson or Brian Cumpton will be chained to him with an incredibly short leash today. Anything else is not OK. Bronson Arroyo starts for the Reds. The Rockies beat him up at the end of August, but he's turned in three good September starts since then. He's only faced the Pirates once this year, on June 19th. He also faced Locke that day and he gave up one run in seven innings, but left with a 1-0 deficit that held until Jay Bruce homered off of Jason Grilli for Grilli's first blown save of the season.
First pitch today is at 1:35. You may commence holding your breath … NOW.