National League Wild Card Game: Reds-Pirates lineups

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Here are the lineups for tonight’s National League Wild Card Game between the Reds and Pirates, in Pittsburgh:

Reds:
CF Shin-Soo Choo
LF Ryan Ludwick
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
3B Todd Frazier
SS Zack Cozart
C Ryan Hanigan
SP Johnny Cueto

Ryan Ludwick only drew three starts as the No. 2 hitter all season, but they were in the final three games of the year and with left-hander Francisco Liriano on the mound manager Dusty Baker no doubt wanted a right-handed bat with some pop between lefties Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto. Zack Cozart, who was the primary No. 2 hitter for the Reds this season despite a ghastly .284 on-base percentage, is now hitting seventh.

Pirates:
LF Starling Marte
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
1B Justin Morneau
RF Marlon Byrd
3B Pedro Alvarez
C Russell Martin
SS Clint Barmes
SP Francisco Liriano

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is going with his standard late-season lineup, which includes Starling Marte starting in left field and leading off and trade pickups Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd in the 4-5 spots. Overall this season the Pirates’ most-used cleanup hitters were Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez, but Jones is on the bench in favor of Morneau and Alvarez is down in the sixth spot.

Zach Britton receives stem cell injection, likely done for the season

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Orioles closer Zach Britton is likely done for the remainder of the 2017 season after receiving a stem cell injection in his left knee, Peter Schmuck and Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun report. Britton has been battling knee problems for most of the season.

The Orioles are still technically in the AL Wild Card race, entering play Thursday 5.5 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card slot. With only nine games remaining, however, the 73-80 Orioles are likely being realistic about their chances and not taking any unnecessary risks with Britton.

Britton, 29, put up a 2.89 ERA with 15 saves and a 29/18 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings this season. He will be eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time this offseason.

Dodgers can clinch NL West on Friday

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The Dodgers staved off a four-game series sweep at the hands of the Phillies, winning 5-4 on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. The win reduced their magic number in the NL West to one, meaning that a win against the Giants at home or a Diamondbacks loss to the Marlins on Friday will result in clinching the division.

Of course, the Dodgers winning and the Diamondbacks losing hasn’t exactly been a sure thing lately. The D-Backs rattled off a 13-game winning streak from August 24 through September 6. The Dodgers lost 11 games in a row from September 2-11 and were on a four-game slide before Thursday’s win.

The Dodgers will send Rich Hill to the mound to start opposite Jeff Samardzija. The Diamondbacks have Zack Greinke opposing Adam Conley.