Reds need home-field advantage

There are 162 games in a major league season, spread out over six months, and the mantra you hear from managers and players is almost always the same: Take it one game at a time.

That's almost always good advice, serving to shepherd an ever-changing group of 25 players through the highs and lows of a long season, but in certain situations that kind of calming effect is no longer appropriate. With more than 98 percent of the season in the books, the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in exactly that position, entering a series that's more than just about adding to the season-long win total -- it's a face-to-face battle to see who hosts the one-game NL wild-card matchup between the same two teams Tuesday.

(The Pirates are technically still alive for the NL Central title as well, which may give them added motivation, but it's beyond unlikely; not only would Pittsburgh have to sweep the Reds in Cincinnati, but St. Louis would have to drop three games at home to the last-place Cubs. Don't hold your breath on that.)

Even though the Pirates have a one-game edge, the Reds would own the tiebreaker if they win two of three this weekend in Cincinnati. So whichever team wins the series gets to host the wild-card game Tuesday. And while both teams would obviously love to host, the Reds have a bit more to gain playing on their own turf.