It’s been difficult for us to imagine just how the Pittsburgh Pirates will play the one-game winner take all National League Wild-Card Game. It appears Francisco Liriano will get the start despite not being sharp in the Pirates back-breaking loss to a non-interested Chicago Cubs ballclub.
I am dying to see what the roster will look like for the game, oh to be a keyboard on Dan Fox’s computer….
Don’t get confused by this article. Hurdle is going to do it like he always does. Just like he should have pulled Frank Liriano today before the crushing homer, he’s still not the in-game manager that he needs to be. It’s our struggle.
But anyway, here is what I would do.
1. Follow the Golden Rule. Pitching wins championships.
2. All of the best pitchers make the roster even though it could very well be the last game of the season. Screw saving arms for a five-game series. There is no NLDS if the Bucs don’t win Tuesday.
3. The pitchers never bat if the game is played in Cincy. If the decision is Liriano gets the start, the pitchers are matched accordingly after Frank’s spot in the lineup comes up. Of course, this will have to include a healthy dose of the best of the bullpen early and then carefully playing the matchups the rest of the way with Charlie Morton being used in the backend of the bullpen as the groundball specialist.
The bottom of the Reds order sucks against Burnett’s curveball? Go get him for an inning A.J. It”s win or die. I realize it’s strange, but I want A.J. on the mound in the sixth inning, not Bryan Morris. The best arms are what I ride into the Wednesday sunset.
4. Well, maybe pitchers bat if it’s in PNC Park. But regardless, scoring runs is going to be so damn vital for a Buccos team that has struggled of late. The absolute most we would pitch Liriano is three innings.
[Last year FanGraphs suggested the Braves use Kimbrell to start the game--similar strategy to what we have laid out here, but come on. It ain't happening. How cool would it be to see Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli pitch early in the game though? Well wait maybe not.]
5. Speed kills. Felix Pie is on the roster.
6. Find a way to kill the Reds speed by controlling Billy Hamilton. I would match up my pitchers with the best ability to contain the Reds speedster.
7. This game MUST be played at PNC Park. The thought of playing in Cincy makes me cringe, so my fingers are crossed for the Bucs to win the first two games, making Sunday irrelevant. Auction off the starter spot to the highest bidder on ROOT Sports after the game Saturday afternoon–use the cash toward signing the Cuban first baseman. I bid $5,000.
8. Shifts might bite the Bucs in the ass. Leaving a wide open third base could be lethal as the real power move in a must win-or die game will be base runners and a well placed bunt against the shift. The team must be very aware of this.
9. It’s hard to imagine having Jose Tabata on the bench. Damn, he’s hitting the ball well.
10. By all means, I trust the Pirates play it desperately. Often times, it seems that Dusty Baker dictates the moves. We would love to see that change Tuesday.
The Braves plan last year was the traditional one and they were one and done. Eff that. And oh yeh, be wary of the infield fly rule.
So what’s your strategy?