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Pittsburgh’s return to playoffs is successful with victory over Reds in NL wild card game
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates went 21 years between playoff games. The wait will be significantly shorter this time around.
“We’re for real,” McCutchen said. “We’re definitely for real.”
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 throughout by chanting his name.
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. The shot sent another jolt through an already electric crowd, which began singing “Cue-to, Cue-to” in unison when Martin stepped in.
Martin sent a drive into the bleachers in left field. The Reds never recovered, ending a 90-win season with a six-game losing streak.
Three of those losses came against Pittsburgh at Cincinnati in the final series of the season that determined the site of the win-or-die game.
Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker backed Cueto before the game, saying his ace “thrives on this environment.” Maybe, but the right-hander never looked comfortable in front of the largest crowd in PNC Park history, a place where Cueto has dominated.
Cueto, who came in 8-2 at the ballpark by the Allegheny River, even lost his grip on the ball while standing on the mound.
A moment later, he lost his grip on the game.
Signed on the cheap in the offseason 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.
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