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.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.