The Cincinnati Reds appear to have the right pitcher in the right ballpark as they start their final road trip of the year.
Homer Bailey has never lost at PNC Park, where Pittsburgh Pirates 16-game winner A.J. Burnett has dropped his last three outings heading into Friday night's opener of a three-game set.
The NL Central champion Reds (94-62) remain in a tight race with Washington for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and have yet to clinch a better record than San Francisco for home field in the division series.
This six-game trip begins with Cincinnati looking to improve to 6-0 in Bailey's starts at Pittsburgh (76-80). Bailey (12-10, 3.92 ERA) is 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA in the first five.
The right-hander is 2-2 with a 4.56 ERA in four overall starts against the Pirates this year.
This will be the fourth time this year that Bailey will oppose Burnett (16-8, 3.53). Bailey went 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in the first three outings, with Burnett going 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA - all in Cincinnati.
PNC Park, meanwhile, hasn't been kind to Burnett lately. He began 8-1 with a 2.81 ERA in his first 12 home outings before posting a 4.32 ERA in dropping his last three.
Pittsburgh had dropped six straight overall starts by Burnett before he struck out 11 and limited Houston to one run over eight innings Sunday in an 8-1 victory. He's the first Pirate to win at least 16 games since 1991.
Bailey's seven wins over Pittsburgh are his most against any opponent. He posted a 1.55 ERA in his first four September outings before giving up five runs over 6 2-3 innings Sunday in a 5-3 home defeat to the Dodgers.
The Pirates must win five of their last six games - against playoff-bound Cincinnati and Atlanta - to avoid their 20th consecutive losing season. The streak of futility already is a record for North American major professional leagues.
The Reds will finalize the playoff roster during the last series in St. Louis. But acting manager Chris Speier says don't expect any shockers.
"A lot of it is you want to have the best roster you can," Speier said before Thursday's 2-1 win over the Brewers. "But you take into consideration the contribution people have made throughout the year. I'm sure the final roster won't have too many surprises."
The Reds went with 14 position players and 11 pitchers in 2010. If that's the case this year, the toughest decision will be with pitching.
Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey are set as starters. Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo and Sam LeCure are locks as relievers.
That would leave two spots for Tony Cingrani, J.J. Hoover, Logan Ondrusek, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon.
Hoover has allowed one run in 10 2/3 innings since his return from Triple-A, so he's likely to get one.
Jay Bruce, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Heisey, Ryan Ludwick, Dioner Navarro, Xavier Paul, Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, Drew Stubbs, Wilson Valdez and Joey Votto will likely get 13 of the 14 spots.
Miguel Cairo has struggled -- .179 average -- but he'll probably get the last spot.
C Dioner Navarro ended a nine-pitch at-bat with an RBI walk-off triple. "That was a big, big at-bat," acting manager Chris Speier said. "To have that kind of outcome after hitting two home run balls foul, I couldn't be happier for him."
3B Todd Frazier tied the game with a two-out home run in the ninth. He was hitting .197 in September and hadn't hit a home run since Aug. 21. "What are you going to do?" he said in his New Jersey way. "I try to swing as hard as I can most of the time, try to square balls up. I felt comfortable every at-bat I've had this week. I just couldn't get anything going. I was getting hits here and there, but I wasn't stinging the ball like I usually do. Until that last at-bat."
RHP Mat Latos went seven innings and allowed one run on three hits. He struck out three and walked one (intentionally). "I was really proud of Mat today," acting manager Chris Speier said. "He didn't have his good stuff. But he pitched. He gave up run and that was it."
SS Zack Cozart has had a hit in all four games since returning from a strained oblique. He's 6-for-15 in that span.
LF Ryan Ludwick felt fine after Wednesday's session, in which he did the full array of baseball activities. But it will be at least a day or two before Ludwick plays. Thursday's game was the seventh he has missed because of tightness in his left groin.
By The Numbers:
50-31—Reds' final record at home this year, setting the record for wins at Great American Ball Park.
Quote To Note:
"It was a tough at-bat. (Todd) Frazier set the tone. I was trying to put the ball in play and make something happen. When it got to 3-2, I definitely didn't want to strike out. Fortunately, the ball found the gap."
—C Dioner Navarro on his nine-pitch, game-winning at-bat in the ninth