It had been a long time coming for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans. They hadn’t experienced a playoff game since 1992, and after second half collapses the previous two seasons, the Bucs had finally earned the right to play in the postseason.
Tonight, the Pirates looked like a team that had plenty of playoff experience, jumping on top of the Cincinnati Reds early and never letting up on their way to a 6-2 victory.
Francisco Liriano pitched a solid game, holding the Reds’ hitters in check, while Russell Martin led the offense with two homeruns, controlling the game throughout the evening in front of an incredibly raucous crowd at PNC Park.
Liriano gave up one run on four hits with one walk and five strikeouts through seven innings, while Tony Watson and Jason Grilli pitched the eighth and ninth innings respectively. The Reds, meanwhile, had turned to Johnny Cueto, who previously had success against the Bucs…especially at PNC Park. But tonight, he was ineffective, thanks in part to the PNC Park crowd, as he gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits through 3.1 innings.
Marlon Byrd and Martin each hit solo homeruns in the second inning to get the Bucs on the board. Pedro Alvarez’s sacrifice fly in the third scored Andrew McCutchen, and the Bucs had a 3-0 lead after a few frames.
Jay Bruce’s RBI single in the fourth got the Reds within a pair of runs, but the Pirates responded immediately with a pair of runs in the bottom half. Martin added his second homer of the game in the seventh inning for good measure.
This was the ideal situation for Liriano, for the Pirates, and for the fans. They controlled the game from the very first pitch. Liriano got off to a great start, with one-two-three innings in the first three. They got on top early and never looked back. This team is playing with a lot of confidence right now, and the Reds looked defeated from the very beginning.
Clint Hurdle and company can enjoy the victory tonight, but they’ll have to get back to work tomorrow in preparation for Game One of the N.L. Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Thursday.
Let’s Go Bucs!