It would seem that 21 years of no playoffs had Pittsburgh Pirates fans more than excited on Tuesday night, as the Bucs defeated the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 at PNC Park to advance to the NLDS for the first time since 1992.
Reds starter Johnny Cueto was hit early, by both the bats and the fans. The PNC faithful was as loud as you could imagine for this game, and it was visible that Cueto was distracted. Every single pitch from the Cincy starter was met by fans screaming his name at the top of their lungs to throw him off. And it worked, as he was tagged for four runs on eight hits in just 3 and 1/3 innings. He was also responsible for two home runs, from Marlon Byrd and Russell Martin in the second inning.
Jay Bruce quieted the Pittsburgh crowd in the top of the fourth, with an RBI single that scored Shin-Soo Choo. It was the first time in nearly two hours the crowd had been overly silenced, but it wouldn't be a lasting effect.
Starling Marte doubled in the bottom of the fourth, which would spell the end of the night for Cueto. Sean Marshall took the mound, and immediately gave up an RBI single to Neil Walker. Marlon Byrd then added another run, when Neil Walker scored on a ground out. It would increase the lead to 5-1. Martin would strike again in the seventh, with another solo home run to make it 6-1 in favor of the Pirates.
Cincinnati tried one last time to get something going, as Choo hit a solo shot to right field to close the gap to 5-2. But it would not be near enough, as they just couldn't get anything really started.
It was a night where everything went right for the Pirates. Starter Francisco Liriano tossed seven solid innings, giving up just one run on four hits and striking out five. He handed the ball over to the bullpen and let them take care of the final two innings, as he picked up the win in front of an absolutely electric home crowd. Manager Clint Hurdle was very pleased with Liriano's performance:
From the first inning...nine straight retired, and he stayed in a good rhythm even when he had to pitch out of a stretch. He also maintained his pace. He threw all of his pitches and never got into too big of a jam.
Reds manager Dusty Baker commented on the crowd, downplaying the loudness:
I mean, that was quiet compared to the Dominican Republic where Cueto is from. We had hoped to take the crowd of it by scoring first. But when they scored first, the place erupted.
The loss sends Cincinnati home to get ready for the offseason and prepare for next year. Pittsburgh will now head to St. Louis, as they square off against the Cardinals in one of two NLDS matches.