The Pittsburgh Pirates don't want to see any of the "Nasty Boys" tonight.

If they do, they could see themselves slipping behindthe Cincinnati Reds at the outset of the National League Championship series.

The Pirates were 0-6 this season when they had to bat against either Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble or Randy Myers. They were 6-0 in games when the "Nasty Boys" stayed on the bench.

No wonder the Reds' bullpen feels it could play the pivotal role in the playoffs that begin tonight at Riverfront Stadium.

"I think we have a better bullpen than they do," Dibble said. "If we have the lead in the sixth or seventh inning, we'll be in there. We look to the offense to get us a couple of runs. Three or four is all we need."

Four has been their lucky number.

"A funny thing about the Reds-Pittsburgh series: when we scored four runs, we beat them," Reds manager Lou Piniella said. "When we didn't score four runs, they beat us."

The Reds-Pirates series this year is a good example of what the bullpen means to Cincinnati.

The Pirates swept a four-game series at Riverfront Stadium in mid-August by pounding the Reds' starters and middle relievers. The closing trio never got into a game as the Pirates outscored the Reds 20-8.

"It was a big weekend for us because we avoided Myers and Dibble," Pittsburgh's Andy Van Slyke said.

The Reds went to Pittsburgh the next weekend for four games. They lost the first, when the "Nasty Boys" were quiet again. The closers appeared in the next three, and the Reds won all three.

The bullpen is perhaps the Reds' biggest advantage as they open the series tonight with Jose Rijo (14-8) facing Bob Walk (7-5). Otherwise, the teams are comparable - leading players to expect a long series.

"We're pretty much evenly matched," Reds' Danny Jackson said. "I don't think either team is going to sweep or win it in five games. I think it's going to be six or seven.