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National League Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, October 3rd (All times Eastern)
Atlanta Braves (93-68) at Pittsburgh Pirates (79-82), 12:35 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Atlanta - Ben Sheets (4-4, 3.54) Pittsburgh - A.J. Burnett (16-9, 3.43)
(Sports Network) - The Atlanta Braves already know who their opponent will be for Friday's wild card matchup, but first must try and salvage a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon from PNC Park.
The Braves will host the St. Louis Cardinals Friday in a one-game playoff that will determine which club advances to the NL Division Series. Atlanta won five of six matchups with St. Louis this season.
Atlanta has dropped the first two meetings with Pittsburgh after winning seven of its previous eight games, and is coming off Tuesday's 5-1 setback in which starting pitcher Tommy Hanson was shelled for five runs and nine hits in six innings. He struck out six batters and walked one.
"My command was there at times and then I lost it," Hanson said. "I think that was the biggest thing."
Juan Francisco drove in the lone run and Jose Constanza finished with a team- high two hits for the Braves, who are in the playoffs for only the second time in the previous seven seasons.
Ben Sheets will take the mound Wednesday in what will be the final appearance of his career. Set to retire following this afternoon's start, Sheets is 4-4 with a 3.54 earned run average in eight starts this season and has battled through injury over the course of his career.
Sheets underwent Tommy John surgery during the 2010 campaign and did not pitch the following season. The Braves gave the four-time All-Star a shot this season and hope he can end his career on a positive note. Sheets has lost three straight and four of five starts, and last toed the rubber in a 5-3 setback at San Francisco on Aug. 24.
The right-hander and longtime Brewer allowed four runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. He has given up 14 runs during his three-game slide and is 9-8 with a 3.04 ERA in 23 career starts against the Pirates.
"I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt I'm not playing again," Sheets said on the club's website. "No matter what, there is not enough help or money to pull me out of this one."
Pittsburgh would like to end its season with a three-game sweep even though it hasn't finished with a winning record since 1992.
Kevin Correia earned the win last night by holding the Braves to a run in six innings, while Garrett Jones hit a two-run home run and Starling Marte recorded three hits and a pair of runs scored.
"Relief. You don't want to go into the offseason with a bad one, because you just think about it for weeks and weeks," Correia said when asked about how he felt in his last start of 2012. "So it was nice to end the year with a good start."
Alex Presley, Andrew McCutchen and Clint Barmes added an RBI apiece for the Pirates, who have won three of their last four games. It doesn't appear that McCutchen will win the batting title, but he does lead the National League with 193 hits and is tied for the lead in runs scored with 107.
A.J. Burnett will close out what has been a fine first season with Pittsburgh today and is 16-9 with a 3.43 earned run average in 30 starts. Burnett, who won a career-best 18 games back in 2008 with Toronto, has struggled as of late to the tune of a 1-5 mark in his previous six decisions. He threw eight innings of one-run ball and struck out 11 in a win at Houston on Sept. 23, but yielded one run through eight frames in a 1-0 loss to Cincinnati last Friday.
Burnett lost to the Braves back on April 27 at Turner Field, allowing two runs in six innings of a 6-1 loss, and is 5-10 with a 3.70 ERA in 19 career games (18 starts) against them.
Pittsburgh and Atlanta split a four-game set from April 27-30.
10/03 10:53:40 ET
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