PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates went 21 years between playoff games. The wait will be significantly shorter this time around.
Russell Martin homered twice, Francisco Liriano was dominant for seven innings and the Pirates roared past the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2, in the National League wild-card game Tuesday night.
In front of a black-clad crowd savoring its first postseason game since 1992, Marlon Byrd also homered and Andrew McCutchen had two hits and reached base four times for Pittsburgh.
“We're for real,” McCutchen said. “We're definitely for real.”
Liriano scattered four hits for the Pirates, who will face St. Louis in Game 1 of the NL division series Thursday. Liriano struck out five and walked one as he became the first Pittsburgh left-hander to win a postseason game since John Candelaria in Game 3 of the 1979 World Series
“We didn't talk about one and done, we talked about one and run,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “Win one and run to St. Louis.”
Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto struggled in his third start since coming off the disabled list last month. Cueto gave up four runs in 3 1/3 innings and appeared rattled by a raucous ballpark that taunted him by chanting his name. Cueto had been pressed into service when projected starter Mat Latos discovered bone chips in his right (throwing) elbow.
Byrd, acquired by the Pirates in late August from the New York Mets, celebrated the first postseason at-bat of his 12-year career — 1,250 games — by sending Cueto's fastball into the seats to give the Pirates the lead in the second inning. The shot sent another jolt through an already electric crowd, which began singing “Cue-to, Cue-to” in unison.
“This is 20 years of waiting. You're seeing it all come out in one night,” Martin said. “Hopefully we can keep this atmosphere till late October.”
After Pedro Alvarez lined out, Martin sent a drive into the bleachers in left field, making it 2-0 and giving Liriano all the momentum he would require.
Signed on the cheap in the off-season after a mediocre 2012 split between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox, Liriano has been reborn in Pittsburgh. He went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA during the regular season, his devastating slider nearly unhittable against left-handers.
The Reds proved no match. Joey Votto went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. Jay Bruce produced an RBI single in the fourth but Cincinnati never really threatened.
Shin-Soo Choo homered in the eighth, a drive to right field that was upheld by video review.
Martin also homered off Logan Ondrusek in the seventh, making him the first catcher to homer for three different teams in the postseason. He previously hit playoff homers for the Dodgers in 2008 and the Yankees in 2012.