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Raucous crowd roars as Pirates rip Reds

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Pirates fans waited 21 years to see a postseason game, and the home team didn't disappoint Tuesday.

Russell Martin became the second player in Pirates history to have a multi-homer game in the postseason, Francisco Liriano pitched seven strong innings, and Pittsburgh rolled to a 6-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds before a raucous crowd at PNC Park.

The Pirates will face the Cardinals on Thursday afternoon in the opener of a best-of-five National League Division Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

"When we took the field for the announcements, the opening announcements, they let it rip," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the 40,487 fans in attendance. "The park showed up tonight. Our fan base showed up tonight. That rotunda was jammed. And they kept it going all night long."

"If our city ever thinks they don't make a difference, all they got to do is watch the tape from tonight's game. We felt confident going in. They pushed it forward even more from start to finish of that game. Very special evening personally, obviously for everybody involved and tied to this."

Martin hit solo home runs in the second and seventh innings and went 3-for-4 to power the Pirates' 13-hit attack. The only other Pirates player with a multi-homer game in the postseason was Bob Robertson, who homered three times in Game 2 of the 1971 National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants.

"People have been waiting 20 years for this opportunity," Martin said. "You can definitely feel the energy was special tonight. I don't know if it's because of the long wait, but I know the guys inside that clubhouse are pretty excited right now. They're pretty stoked to have this opportunity. We got a good squad. We're going to keep going out there, keep grinding, keep fighting, and hopefully we can play deep into this postseason."

Liriano allowed one run and four hits for his first career postseason victory. He struck out five and walked one.

"You talk about a guy pitching a big game for a franchise, for his buddies in there, excellent from Francisco," Hurdle said.

Starling Marte, Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen had two hits each for the Pirates. Marlon Byrd homered and drove in two runs.

Reds starter Johnny Cueto took the loss after lasting just 3 1/3 innings. He gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits and one walk while failing to record a strikeout.

Ryan Ludwick had three of the Reds' six hits. Shin-Soo Choo hit a solo home run that was upheld by umpire review in the eighth inning to conclude the scoring.

The Reds ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak and then made it six in a row Tuesday night.

"We choked," said Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, who went 0-for-4. "I choked. I didn't do anything. It's on my back."

The Pirates used the home run ball for two runs off Cueto in the second inning to open the scoring.

With one out, Byrd hammered a pitch into the left field bleachers in the first postseason plate appearance of the 12-year veteran's career. One out later, Martin connected for the third postseason homer of his career.

The raucous crowd, clad almost exclusively in black, chanted Cueto's name throughout the inning and appeared to rattle the right-hander. He even dropped the ball at one point while looking in at catcher Ryan Hanigan for the sign.

Reds manager Dusty Baker insisted the crowd did not get to Cueto.

"If you've ever been to winter ball, I mean, that was quiet compared to the Dominican (Republic) where he's from," Baker said. "I don't think it impacted him at all. If anything, it inspired them. "

Martin, though, felt the crowd made a difference in getting the Pirates to an early lead.

"They were shouting 'Cueto' for a little bit, then he dropped the ball on the mound; the next pitch, threw a fastball high. I hit a home run," Martin said. "I don't know what was going on in his mind, in his head at that point. Definitely felt like the crowd had an impact on his psyche a little bit. Kind of lost rhythm for a little bit."

A third-inning sacrifice fly by Pedro Alvarez increased the lead to 3-0.

The Reds scored in the fourth on Jay Bruce's two-out RBI single, but the Pirates countered with two runs in the bottom of the inning to make it 5-1. Marte and Walker hit back-to-back doubles, and Walker scored when second baseman Brandon Phillips bobbled Byrd's potential double-play grounder and could only get a forceout at second base.

NOTES: Setting their rosters for the game, the Pirates and Reds loaded up on position players at the expense of starting pitchers. OF Billy Hamilton was added to the Reds' bench after stealing 13 bases in 14 attempts and scoring nine runs in a September call-up. The Pirates' roster included three catchers and eight infielders. ... Petrina McCutchen, mother of Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen, belted out a rousing version of the national anthem. ... Doug Drabek, who won the 1990 NL Cy Young Award while pitching for the Pirates, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
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