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PIT@CHC: Morton fans five over seven shutout innings

The math that has been part of the thrilling three-way battle in the National League Central all year suddenly becomes pretty simple heading into Saturday's second game of a season-ending series between the Pirates and Reds.

If the Pirates win, it's see you in Pittsburgh on Tuesday in the NL Wild Card Game. If the Reds win, it's see you Sunday to determine that playoff home site.

Already, the division crown was claimed outright by the Cardinals on Friday, so Saturday's Pirates-Reds finale really is about whether Pittsburgh will be the site for the Pirates' first playoff game since 1992, or if it'll be Cincinnati.

It will be Charlie Morton of the Pirates and Bronson Arroyo of the Reds on the mound in a battle of right-handers under the afternoon sky at Great American Ball Park.

"I know they're hungry, I know that city over there is hungry. And I know we're hungry and our city is hungry," Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick said.

And Pirates star Andrew McCutchen said earlier this week, "I'm happy just to have the opportunity. It's awesome. I remember at the beginning of the season, no one gave us a chance, and now look where we are. I'm just happy we can be there."

As Morton heads into the crucial start, he's coming off seven shutout innings in a 2-1 win over the Cubs that clinched the Pirates' first postseason spot in two decades, allowing just three hits while striking out five in a no-decision.

The Reds have won both of Arroyo's starts against the Pirates this season. Most recently, he went five innings and allowed three runs on five hits and two walks in an 11-3 win last Sunday against the Pirates.

In his last 14 starts at Great American Ball Park, Arroyo has 13 quality starts, posting a 7-3 mark with a 2.97 ERA.

"There's nothing better than October baseball," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It's what my guys train for in the winter. This is what we talk about all the time in Spring Training. The road looks very foggy and long when you starting out on this championship season, but now we're here."

Pirates: Alvarez first at third
With his blast to dead center in the fourth inning Friday night, Pedro Alvarez notched his 35th homer of the season, the most hit in a single season by a Pirates third baseman. The previous mark was 34 by Aramis Ramirez in 2001.

The two RBIs put Alvarez on the cusp on the century mark, at 99. That's the most RBIs for a Pirates hitter since Jason Bay went for 109 in 2006, and his 35 homers match Bay that year as well.

Reds: Votto reaches Rose
When Joey Votto singled in the ninth inning of Friday's game vs. the Pirates, it marked the 312th time he reached base this season, passing Pete Rose's club record set in 1969.

Votto is primed to lead the league in walks (132) for a third straight year and on-base percentage (.434) for a fourth. He'd be the ninth player to lead three straight years in walks, and the sixth to lead four straight years in OBP.

Worth noting
• The Pirates are now 44-31 vs. the NL Central, while the Reds are 40-35.

• Pittsburgh has allowed the second-fewest runs in the Majors, with 572. The last time a Pirates team allowed fewer than 600 was in '92, with 595.

• The NL Central has three 90-win teams for the first time since it started in 1994. The last time a division had three 90-win teams was in 2002 -- the NL West (D-backs, Giants, Dodgers). Comments