The Pittsburgh Pirates are one victory away from bringing postseason baseball back to the Steel City for the first time in 21 years.
After grabbing the early edge in their three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds on Friday, the Pirates can lock up the NL's first wild card position with one victory over the final two contests of the set. That would give Pittsburgh home-field advantage for Tuesday's one-game wild card playoff versus Cincinnati.
The two clubs will definitely meet next week to see who advances in the postseason. The St. Louis Cardinals officially clinched the NL Central on Friday.
The Pirates and Reds have already clinched playoff spots and Pittsburgh moved two games up on Cincinnati in the standings by winning Friday's opener 4-1. A.J. Burnett hurled eight stellar innings of one-run ball, scattering five hits while striking out six.
The lone blemish was a Todd Frazier solo homer in the fourth.
Burnett got plenty of support from Pedro Alvarez and Marlon Byrd. Alvarez hit his 35th homer of the season, a two-run shot, while Byrd contributed a two-run single.
"It was huge to get separation," Alvarez said. "You can never have too much breathing room against these guys."
Pittsburgh has won three of its last four, while the Reds have dropped three in a row and now trail in the season series with the Pirates 9-8.
Homer Bailey was tagged for four runs on four hits and four walks in five-plus innings of work to suffer the loss.
"This team knows how to come back," Reds manager Dusty Baker said of his bunch. "We just have to get these last two in the series."
Joey Votto did provide one highlight in the loss, with his single in the ninth marking the 312th time he has reached base this season. That surpassed the previous club mark set by Pete Rose in 1969.
Charlie Morton will start today's game for the Pirates, opposed by veteran Bronson Arroyo.
Morton is 7-4 with a 3.14 earned run average in 19 starts this season and has allowed two runs or fewer in eight of his last 10 outings. He has not picked up a decision in three starts since lasting just 1 2/3 innings in a loss to St. Louis on Sept. 8.
The right-hander faced the Chicago Cubs last time out and hurled seven scoreless innings. Morton worked around three hits and one walk while fanning five in a game the Pirates eventually won 2-1.
Morton, 29, faced the Reds in Cincinnati on June 18 and logged 5 1/3 scoreless innings to get the win, moving to 5-6 with a 3.97 ERA against them in his career.
Arroyo, meanwhile, won for the first time in five starts this past Sunday when he pitched five innings of an 11-3 decision over the Pirates. He yielded three runs on five hits and two walks.
The 36-year-old righty is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two starts versus Pittsburgh this season and 7-7 lifetime with a 3.78 ERA in 17 meetings.
Arroyo is aiming to reach 15 wins in a season for the fourth time in his career and for the first time since a career-best 17 in 2010. He is 14-11 with a 3.60 ERA in 31 starts this season.