Pirates Win NL Wild Card Game, Advance to NLDS

The first playoff game since 1992 played by the Pittsburgh Pirates did not disappoint a hungry fan-base at PNC Park.

The Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2, behind Russell Martin, who hit 2 homers, Marlon Byrd, who hit one, and starter Francisco Liriano, who allowed just 1 run and 4 hits in 7 innings of work.

Martin had 115 previous at-bats in postseason play, and had homered twice.  Tonight, he hit 2 HR in 4 at-bats.  The first, in the 2nd inning, followed Byrd’s shot, and gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead.  The second was in the 7th, and extended the lead to 6-1.  Playing his 34th postseason game, which was far more than anyone else on the Pirates roster, he became the first National League catcher with 2 HR in a postseason game since Gary Carter of the Mets in Game 4 of the 1986 World Series.

Byrd became the oldest player to homer in his first postseason at-bat.  Byrd had played 1,250 regular season games and had 4,367 regular season at-bats.  He had played for the Phillies, Nationals, Rangers, Cubs, and Red Sox before this year, and began the year with the Mets before being traded to the Pirates.

Liriano’s 21 outs throughout his 7 innings broke down like this:  14 ground balls, 5 strikeouts, 1 fly ball, 1 pop-up.  He clearly kept the ball down, relying on contact for outs instead of reverting to the strikeout.  This was Liriano’s third career postseason start, and his first postseason win.

The Pirates remaining runs scored on a Pedro Alvarez sacrifice fly in the 3rd, an RBI 2B by Pittsburgh native Neil Walker in the 4th, and a Marlon Byrd RBI groundout, also in the 4th.  The Reds runs came from a Jay Bruce RBI single in the 4th and a controversial HR by Shin-Soo Choo in the 8th.  That HR was reviewed by umpires, but the call on the field stood, although it appeared a fan reached out to catch the ball and may have prevented it from hitting the wall, for what would have likely been a double.

The Pirates now advance to the NLDS for the first time (the last time they were in the playoffs, the NLDS didn’t exist; it was established in 1995), where they will face the St. Louis Cardinals, beginning Thursday at 5:07 PM ET. Game 2 in St. Louis will be at 1:00 PM ET on Friday.  Pittsburgh will host Games 3 and (if necessary) 4 on Sunday and Monday, before (if necessary) a return trip to St. Louis for Game 5.

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