CINCINNATI -- Inside the Reds' clubhouse, five different pieces of wood hang on a wall, each showing a different stage in the production of bat.
The piece at the bottom is a chunk of wood with bark still on it. The piece at the top is a game-used bat. The pieces in between show how the bat gets from Point A to Point B.
Many bats reach a final stage: death. That occurs when they splinter into two or more pieces in the infield. Then they're taped back together next to the dugout, authenticated and auctioned off to fans.
Fans will collect almost anything. Still, you wonder how much they would pay for the bats the Reds used in their last series. They scored five runs in three games against a Mets team that's 14 games under .500. They didn't score in the last 13 innings of the series, left 26 men on base in the three games and were 4-for-29 (.138) with runners in scoring position.
The Reds' slim chance to catch the Cardinals disappeared for good, but little changed in relation to the Pirates. The Reds have to win two of three games in the series that begins Friday night at Great American Ball Park if they want to host the Wild Card Game on Tuesday.
Reds manager Dusty Baker wants to host the game as much for the fans as he does for his team.
"You want to play in front of your home fans all the time, especially in big games like that," Baker said. "Last year, it felt like we were all cheated out of more. You want it, but what you want and what you get are two different things sometimes. The bottom line is to win."
Hosting the game isn't as important as it seems. Major League Baseball introduced the Wild Card Game last season. The road team won both games. Baltimore won 5-1 at Texas, and St. Louis won 6-3 at Atlanta.
The Reds are 8-8 against the Pirates this season: 4-3 at Great American Ball Park and 4-5 at PNC Park. That's not a big difference. Of course, in a one-game series, you'll take all the advantages you can get.
First the Reds have to worry about these three games.
"Energy from the fans gives the players energy," left fielder Ryan Ludwick said. "We feed off that. We're looking to it as players. Hopefully, the city's looking forward to it. Hopefully, we can make a run at it."
Time change: The game time Saturday against the Pirates is 1:06 p.m. It was originally scheduled for 4:10 p.m.
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