Pirates' Series Against Reds Biggest So Far This Year

CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 5: Shortstop Zack Cozart #2 of the Cincinnati Reds tags Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates out at second during the game at Great American Ball Park on June 5, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)

Here's a catchall thread for the Reds series, which I'm sure people will want to talk about today. This is the most important, or at least the most momentous, series the Pirates have played so far this year. The Bucs are currently 3.5 games back of the Reds, so with a great performance this weekend, they could almost pull even for the N.L. Central lead. A terrible performance by the Pirates would give the Reds a huge cushion.

The bad news is that the Pirates will be on the road, and the Reds have won 17 or their last 20 games. The good news is that they won't be facing Johnny Cueto (whose turn won't come up), Joey Votto (knee), or Devin Mesoraco (concussion), and they might not have to deal with Brandon Phillips (calf), either, at least not as a starter. The Reds are starting Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Homer Bailey, respectively. One doesn't want to overlook anyone (Latos is a good pitcher, and Bailey was on a real roll until his last start, against the Padres), but that's not a terrible draw for the Pirates.

The Pirates, meanwhile, have altered their own rotation, bumping Erik Bedard in order to get him some extra rest, so they'll have their three most talented starters on the mound for this series. Wandy Rodriguez pitches Friday, then James McDonald Saturday, and then A.J. Burnett. McDonald, of course, has been terrible recently, and Rodriguez vs. Latos shouldn't necessarily be the easiest game for the Bucs, but Burnett vs. Bailey should be very winnable.

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