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Pirates

The Proof Will Be In The Tweets For The Wild Card Game

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

dunlap-head-shot Colin Dunlap
Weeknights, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Colin grew up in Sharpsburg and...
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PITTSBURGH (937 The Fan) – As the Pirates play in their first playoff game since 1992 on Tuesday, matching up against the Cincinnati Reds just after 8 p.m. inside PNC Park in the National League Wild Card Game, certainly so many of us will be fused to our televisions.

Also going on simultaneously — because it’s what sports fans do now during a game — will be instant reaction, by millions, on Twitter.

We can’t watch a game now without Twitter complementing the action.

Twitter is an easy way to see the ebb and flow, the immediate up and down of the fan experience.

On Tuesday night during this playoff game, here is a sampling of three tweets that you might see that could wholly impact whether the Pirates advance past the Reds and, conversely, three that could make their playoff appearance one-and-done …

Tweet:
Good for #Pirates mgr Hurdle for having a quick hook on Liriano

- This could end up saving the Pirates. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has been, at times, loathe to go out there and take the ball from a pitcher while, other times, quizzically yanking a guy from the game who appears to be cruising. In this Wild Card game, there is little margin for error and it will be incumbent upon Hurdle to make sure to do everything he can to ensure he has the right pitcher throwing each and every pitch. That said, it would be better to err on the side of removing Liriano too soon than leaving him one pitch too long.

Tweet:
Why did Leyva just send him home? OMG!!!! #WastedChance

- As this season winds into the most important game the Pirates have played, this club cannot afford third base coach Nick Leyva to have a windmill act going. A few times this season, in crucial situations, Leyva has clearly made the wrong decision and it cost this team a run or an opportunity. Who can forget Justin Morneau getting cut down at the plate in Milwaukee in early-September when this team was on the cusp of their 82nd win? A gaffe of this magnitude by Leyva — who has been iffy at best this year — would be perilous to the Pirates’ chances.

Tweet:
That’s it Frankie! Gotta get ahead of #Reds leadoff guy Choo

-There isn’t a whole lot of a secret here with Cincinnati leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo — if you can get ahead of him, the more defensive he becomes. However, if you fall behind him, he can really hurt. The proof is in the numbers and that is why it’s imperative for Liriano to throw first-pitch strikes to Choo. Try this one on for size: In 0-1 counts, Choo is hitting .310 this season with one home run. When he gets ahead in the count 1-0, and then takes a rip at the next pitch, he is hitting .514 with five home runs.

Tweet:
The Pirates look a little nervous out there #FirstTimeJitters

- The stadium will be swaying, the city will be electric, the run-up to the game will be unforgettable. There is just one thing — most of these Pirates haven’t been in this situation before, whereas most of the Reds have. With the Reds playing in the postseason now for the third time in the past four season, they are accustomed to October baseball. Once you’ve trudged through 162 games — and the thrill of a pennant chase — one would hope all the anxieties are gone, but you never know. An early-game, mental flub exhibiting obvious nervousness could be doom for the Pirates.

Tweet:
Lineup note: Justin Morneau in cleanup spot and #ElToro hitting sixth

- This is a huge game and the man who is producing most —- right now — deserves the chance to get as many opportunities as possible. As it stands now, Pedro Alvarez is a better cleanup hitter than Morneau. If Hurdle doesn’t shuffle the lineup (he has had Morneau in the cleanup spot and Alvarez hitting sixth) it could cost Alvarez an at-bat in a critical, end-of-game situation. Alvarez has hit two home runs, is 4 for 9 and has driven in three runs while striking out just one time over the last three games. He has also hit safely in eight of his last 10 games. On the other hand, Morneau has yet to hit a home run as a Pirate and has just one extra base hit in the past 10 days. It is time for a change or it could cost this club on Tuesday. Alvarez should be hitting fourth.

Tweet:
Safe, Safe, Safe — keep running Starling #MarteParrrtay #DoItForSmerling

- It is key that the Pirates remain aggressive — without being overly-antagonistic — in this Wild Card game. That is to say, they need to take control of the game when given the chance, but be smart about it. In my estimation, the best way to do it is to take control of the running game and, when he is on base, get Starling Marte in motion. Marte is coming off a game in Chicago last week where he stole three bases and he stole another against the Reds on Friday. Since he’s been back from the hand injury, Marte has stolen six bases. Certainly, he’s a guy who can thrust the pace into the Pirates’ favor and, perhaps, steal a run. What better time to do so than the Wild Card game?

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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