National League Preview from The Sports Network
Sunday, August 31 (All times Eastern)
Cincinnati Reds (65-71) at Pittsburgh Pirates (71-64) 1:35 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Cincinnati - Johnny Cueto (15-8, 2.26) Pittsburgh - Francisco Liriano (3-10, 3.98)
(SportsNetwork.com) - A sweep is one thing. A sweep of Johnny Cueto is quite another.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will go for a fifth straight win and a three-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park, but they'll have to contend with a pitcher who's bedeviled them in four previous meetings this season.
Pittsburgh enters the finale just a game off the pace of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second National League wild card spot after picking up their second straight win against the Reds, 3-2, on Saturday.
"It's a testament to our pitching," Pittsburgh's Neil Walker said. "We only scored three runs today and Vance (Worley) and the bullpen made it stand up. That's what won it for us."
Cueto, however, is 3-0 with a stingy 1.80 earned run average in four meetings with the Pirates in 2014 while allowing just six runs and 18 hits in 30 innings, and striking out 25 batters.
He'll again face Francisco Liriano, whom he's beaten twice this season.
Cueto has 16 career wins against the Pirates, his most against any team. The Reds have scored 19 runs for him in this year's four starts against Pittsburgh, including six in a July 13 victory in which he allowed three runs on five hits over six innings of work.
In his last two starts, however, Cincinnati has scored no runs. Cueto hasn't lost three straight starts since 2012. He was beaten, 3-0, on Tuesday by the Chicago Cubs after waiting through a 50-minute rain delay in the first inning after the game had begun.
"I was upset," he said. "They knew it was going to rain. They should've called timeout and not started the game. I was afraid I was going to hit him with a pitch. I couldn't grip the ball."
Liriano has not won in his last five starts, including a six-inning stint on Monday against St. Louis in which he allowed no runs, but got a no-decision when the Pirates ultimately lost, 3-2.
Pittsburgh has scored four runs in the winless drought, and Liriano has a 2.81 earned run average in his last eight outings, during which he's allowed two or fewer runs seven times.
On Saturday, Worley (6-4) snapped a three-start losing streak after giving up two runs -- one earned -- on three hits in 6 1/3 innings for the Pirates.
Todd Frazier hit a solo home run and Alfredo Simon (13-9) took the loss after giving up three runs on four hits in seven innings for the Reds.
The Reds entered this series with a 9-4 mark against the Pirates.
08/31 10:22:33 ET