Pirates beat Reds, will host them in wild card

Jeff Wallner, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- When the Pittsburgh Pirates arrived at the dugout following the final out of Saturday's victory at Great American Ball Park, they were greeted by a raucous contingent of fans clad in black and gold. It was nothing compared to what will greet them at PNC Park on Tuesday.
"The important part is getting these guys back home where they've won 50 games," manager Clint Hurdle said. "And giving the fans in Pittsburgh a taste of postseason baseball."
The Pirates hit six home runs, including two by Neil Walker, lifting them to an 8-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds before 40,707 fans. Following the season finale Sunday, the Bucs will head home.
The victory Saturday assured Pittsburgh (93-68) will host the Reds in Tuesday's National League wild-card game at PNC Park, the first postseason game in the Steel City since 1992.
"It's a city that loves its sports," Pirates outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "The Steelers have been winning. The Penguins have been winning. They've been waiting on the Pirates. Here we come."
Walker teamed up with Andrew McCutchen for back-to-back homers in the third. Andrew Lambo hit his first major league home run in the sixth.
Marlon Byrd continued his hot hitting, going 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs.
Vin Mazzaro (8-2) worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth to earn the victory.
"That was a big by Mazzaro. He's been really good with inherited runners," Hurdle said of Mazzaro, who has allowed just four of 32 inherited runners to score.
Pirates starter Charlie Morton allowed three runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. He walked five and struck out three.
"Could've been better, could've been worse," Morton said. "But it's a good day. The guys really picked me up."
Cincinnati (90-71) is limping down the stretch, having lost four straight games.
"It's disappointing, but you've got to get over it," manager Dusty Baker said. "Teams have won championships with their backs to the wall, like San Francisco last year. If that's what you've got to do, that's what you've got to do."
The first inning epitomized the Reds' recent offensive struggles. Five batters reached base, but Todd Frazier flew out to left with the bases loaded to end the inning without a run scoring.
"You've just got to keep plugging," Baker said. "If you could solve it, we would've solved it a long time ago. It's a game of inches."
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo was one strike away from getting through the third inning when things unraveled.
Walker hit a line-drive home run to right-center on a 3-2 pitch. Two pitches later, McCutchen hit a 405-foot home run to center, putting Pittsburgh ahead 2-0.
Arroyo (14-12) allowed six earned runs, including a career-high five homers, in 4 2/3 innings.
"It was a rough day. He was throwing the ball over the heart of the plate," Baker said. "Missing, and missing over the heart of the plate."
Cincinnati got on the board in the third when Shin-Soo Choo was hit by a pitch and later scored on Brandon Phillips' RBI single.
Jay Bruce doubled high off the left-center field wall, driving in two runs to put the Reds ahead 3-2.
But Pedro Alvarez tied the score 3-3 with a solo home run on Arroyo's first pitch in the fourth inning.
Walker's second home run off Arroyo put the Pirates ahead 4-3 in the fifth. It was his first career multi-home run game.
Both the Pirates and Reds agreed that the slate will be wiped clean Tuesday.
"I think we proved last weekend that we can win in Pittsburgh," Votto said of the Reds, who took two of three at PNC Park on Sept. 20-22. "Home-field advantage can be overrated. I have studied this enough to know that no team gets to the World Series or wins a championship without having to overcome something."
Said Byrd: "You start all over."
NOTES: On the Pirates' surge into the postseason after 20 straight losing seasons, Hurdle said, "Sometimes you have to believe what other people can't see". ... Phillips left the game in the fifth inning after fouling a pitch off his left shin. X-rays were negative. ... Prior to scoring three runs in the third inning Saturday, Cincinnati had scored just one run in its previous 24 innings. "It's not easy to sit over there and watch your team struggle," Baker said. ... Arroyo reached 200 innings for the eighth time in the past nine seasons. ... Votto's first-inning walk was his 133rd this season, a club record. He has reached base 316 times, eclipsing Pete Rose's franchise mark of 311 from 1969. ... The series finale Sunday will pit Pirates RHP Brandon Cumpton vs. Reds RHP Greg Reynolds.

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