Why I like Pittsburgh to win the Commissioner "Bud" Selig Memorial Game (National League Edition), I mean.
Not why I like the actual city; if you don't know, you need to visit sometime. And not why I just flat-out like the Pirates; Grant covered that pretty well already. No, this is about why I think the Pirates are going to beat the Reds in their one-game Wild Card thing.
Yes, to some degree it's a coin-flip game, just like any other game between two well-matched baseball teams. I understand the power of chance in such a baseball game. But if you were going to choose any National League pitcher to face the Cincinnati Reds, whom would it be?
Okay, Clayton Kershaw. But after Kershaw, whom?
It might well be Francisco Liriano, who just happens to actually be facing the Reds in this singular game.
The Reds finished third in the National League in scoring this season. That's impressive. What's surprising, though? They essentially relied on just three hitters. Seriously. Or to be slightly more kind, four hitters. Fourteen Reds batted more than 100 times this season, but only four finished with league- and park-adjusted hitting stats better than average: Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce, and Xavier Paul.
You know what else they have in common? They all bat left-handed.
Francisco Liriano throws left-handed. Francisco Liriano destroyed left-handed hitters this season. Obliterated them. Crushed them. Annihilated them. Choose your own Verb of Destruction, whatever.
Left-handed hitters had two extra-base hits off Francisco Liriano in 2013, both doubles. #Pirates— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) October 1, 2013
He was tough against right-handed hitters, too. But lefties went 17 for 130 against Liriano this season, along with seven walks and those two measly doubles.
Is he really this tough? Nobody's really this tough.
Consider, though ... Liriano's last good season was 2010. That season, Liriano gave up six extra-base hits to left-handed hitters: four doubles, two triples. They batted .218 against him, but none of those hits were home runs. When he's right, he's just really, really, really tough on left-handed hitters. Because of his damned slider.
Dusty Baker doesn't have any counter. He has to play Choo and Votto and Bruce, and his best right-handed hitters are Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier, neither of whom was particularly good this season.
Baseball's really good at making a fool of the odds over the course of just nine innings. But instead of being a 50/50 game, this one's more like 55/45, maybe even a tick or two more lopsided. In baseball, that's ... well, choose your favorite adjective. Just don't bet on the Redlegs.