Pirates bounce Reds in first playoff game since '92

Pittsburgh, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The standing-room crowd bathed in a sea of black and yellow serenaded Johnny Cueto with jeers and went into a frenzy when Marlon Byrd and Russell Martin smacked home runs in the second inning.

What a way to let out 21 years of frustration.

Postseason baseball is back in the Steel City.

Francisco Liriano fired seven innings of one-run ball and Martin cracked a pair of solo shots as the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 6- 2, in the National League wild-card game.

The Pirates will move on to the NLDS where they will face the top-seeded St. Louis Cardinals. Game 1 of that series is set for Thursday at Busch Stadium.

"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."

After teasing its fans with a pair of second-half collapses, Pittsburgh put it all together in 2013 to finish above .500 (94-68) for the first time 1992.

It was the first playoff game at PNC Park and the first in Pittsburgh since Game 5 of the 1992 NLCS.

The Pirates, who were one game ahead of the Reds heading into the season's final three-game set, swept their NL Central foes in Cincinnati to secure home-field advantage for the wild-card game.

It wasn't just any home-field edge.

After the 36-year-old Byrd clobbered a solo blast into the left-field seats in his first ever postseason at-bat to lead off the second, the Pittsburgh faithful burst into chants of "Cueto" "Cueto" "Cueto" during Martin's trip to the plate two batters later.

When Cueto proceeded to lose grip of the ball from his glove, it only urged the fans further as the deafening chant reverberated across PNC Park.

One pitch later, Martin crushed a fastball that hovered over the heart of the plate into the left-field seats to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.

"Hopefully we can keep this atmosphere till late October," Martin said.

It was plenty of help for Liriano (1-0), who fanned five and surrendered just four hits and a walk to pick up his first career playoff win.

The left-hander from the Dominican Republic was allowed to walk in free agency following disappointing 2012 between the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox. He signed a two-year deal with the Pirates during the winter.

It was one of the best bargains in baseball.

Liriano rediscovered his slider and form that made him an All-Star in 2006 and posted a 16-8 mark with a 3.02 ERA during the regular season, which included a 8-1 record with a minuscule 1.47 ERA at home.

Cueto (0-1) yielded four runs -- three earned -- on seven hits and a walk over just 3 1/3 frames for Cincinnati, which had been waiting a year to wipe away the memories of last season's postseason when the Reds lost an 0-2 NLDS lead to the eventual World Series-champion San Francisco Giants.

Cueto, who made three different trips to the disabled list due to a lat strain, was given the ball after it was found that projected starter Mat Latos had bone chips in his right elbow.

After Pedro Alvarez's sacrifice fly in the third gave the hosts a 3-0 margin, the Reds finally got to Liriano in the fourth.

Liriano, who had retired the first nine Cincinnati batters in order on just 28 pitches -- 23 strikes --, hit Shin-Soo Choo with a pitch and allowed a single to Ryan Ludwick. Jay Bruce singled home Choo two batters later to get Cincinnati on the board.

Todd Frazier stepped next and cracked a towering shot that just curved foul down the left field line. He struck out a pitch later to keep it a two-run game.

"It's a totally different ballgame if that ball stays fair," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Pittsburgh responded with a pair of runs in the home half.

Starling Marte's one-out double off the wall in left knocked Cueto out of the game. Sean Marshall came on and served up a two-bagger to Neil Walker, which plated Marte. Marshall then intentionally walked Andrew McCutchen and Justin Morneau worked a nine-pitch walk to load the bases.

Byrd then bounced a possible double-play ball to the sure-handed Brandon Phillips at second base, but the Gold-Glove second baseman bobbled the ball and settled for the out at second and Walker scampered home to make it 5-1.

Martin belted his second homer of the night over the wall in left in the seventh before Choo lifted a leadoff shot just over the 21-foot high wall in right in the eighth to cut the Cincinnati deficit to 6-2.

Jason Grilli picked up the final three outs in the ninth to give Pittsburgh its first playoff win since Game 6 of the 1992 NLCS.

Game Notes

At 36 years old, Byrd is the oldest player to homer in his first postseason at-bat ... Martin joined Bob Robertson as the only two Pirates with multi homer postseason games. Robertson had two in Game 2 of the 1971 NLCS against the San Francisco Giants ... The Pirates were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, while the Reds finished 1-for-10 with RISP.