September 28, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle waves to the crowd as he leaves the dugout after the Pirates defeated the Atlanta Braves 3-2 in a baseball game to clinch a playoff berth Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
John Bazemore

CINCINNATI (AP) Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is staying with his starting pitching alignment for the playoffs, which meant using right-hander Gerrit Cole on Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds because the game had bearing on the NL Central title.

Cole has been Pittsburgh best pitcher lately, winning his last four starts. Hurdle had to decide whether to use Cole on Sunday as planned or to save him for the first playoff game.

Pittsburgh opened the day a game behind St. Louis for the division title. If the Pirates won and the Cardinals lost in Arizona later Sunday, they'd finished tied and would have a one-game playoff in St. Louis on Monday.

Pittsburgh is guaranteed of at least a wild-card game, which it would host on Wednesday. Hurdle indicated that Jeff Locke would start a tiebreaker game in St. Louis if it came to that, and Edinson Volquez would start a wild-card game.

Hurdle considered saving Cole for the playoffs but decided the chance to win a division title was the overriding concern.

''There's no way we're going to walk away from an opportunity to win our division,'' Hurdle said on Sunday morning. ''After 161 games of grit and fight and battle, we're trying to make history here.''

Hurdle talked with Pirates officials, his coaching staff and some of the players about the pitching plans on Saturday.

''First of all, I gave them the options first,'' Hurdle said of his players. ''I didn't try to lead the witness. I wanted to read the crowd.

''To a man unequivocally, there's no pause, there's no doubt, there's no, `Well, let me figure this out, let me see what's best, how are we best suited.' Let's win the game. We've got a chance to win the division.''

The Pirates beat the Reds in the wild card game at PNC Park last season, their first playoff appearance in 21 years. They lost to the Cardinals in the next round.

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