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Big League Stew

NL wild card: Pirates hit three homers against Reds in 6-2 victory to advance

David Brown
Big League Stew

Enjoying their first playoff game in 21 seasons — if you hadn't heard — the Pittsburgh Pirates hit three homers and beat the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 on Tuesday night in the National League wild card game. With the crowd at PNC Park psyched up well before the first pitch, the Pirates seemed in command all along. It's their first playoff victory since Oct. 13, 1992, when they beat the Atlanta Braves 13-4 at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in Game 6 of the NLCS. Game 7, never mind about that.

Russell Martin, a free-agent signee in the offseason, hit a pair of home runs after delivering 15 in the regular season.

Marlon Byrd, a major league journeyman coming off a PED suspension in 2012 and playing in his first postseason, hit a solo home run leading off the second inning to put the Pirates on the board. At 36, Byrd is the oldest player to homer in his first postseason at-bat. Two batters later, Martin went deep for a 2-0 lead.

The offense would have set the tone if left-hander Francisco Liriano hadn't been doing it already. He was getting the Reds to miss 90 mph sliders early on, and needed only 28 pitches to zip through the first three innings perfect. Overall, he allowed a run and four hits and five strikeouts over seven innings — typical of his regular-season performances.

The PNC fans, dressed mostly in black for team solidarity, put on a show all night. From the constant pregame noise to the mocking of Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto, the fans were ready for the playoffs.

Cueto, making just his third start since missing about three months because of a muscle injury in his back, was hit hard from the beginning. He allowed four runs — three earned — and seven hits over 3 1/3 innings. At least it was longer than his previous playoff start — eight pitches — a year ago. The fans let him know it wasn't his night.

Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips went a combined 0 for 8, with Votto striking out twice and looking completely helpless against Liriano. Phillips also botched a double-play grounder that cost the Reds a run.

Collectively, the Reds finished the season in a 5-for-42 rut with runners in scoring position.

It might have been the national anthem sung by Andrew McCutchen's mom, Petrina, stirring up the crowd before the game. They never seemed to let up.

It was all but over as soon as the Bucs scored their fourth run. They're 70-17 when that happens.

Pittsburgh baseball getting the night it had been longing for — and earning at least one more home playoff game.

How much money Shin-Soo Choo will get this winter.

Those stars on the caps on some Pirates players, reminiscent of the 1979-era Bucs.

The Pirates proceed to St. Louis for Game 1 of the NLDS, which starts Thursday. Right-hander A.J. Burnett is likely to pitch against Adam Wainwright in the opener.

Are you ready for some playoffs?!
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