NL WILDCARD GAME
PIRATES 6 – REDS 2
Win: Francisco Liriano
Loss: Johnny Cueto
Bring on the St. Louis Cardinals. Buctober was in full swing as Francisco Liriano pitched seven strong innings, and Russell Martin homered twice, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wildcard playoff game, advancing to the NLDS to face the St. Louis Cardinals.
Game 1 of the NLDS is 5:00 p.m. on Thursday.
THE TONE SETTER
Francisco Liriano continued his dominance at home and set the tone for the Pirates. Five of his first seven pitches were misses by Reds hitters and through two innings it was six up and six down for Liriano before the Pirates broke the game open with solo homers from Marlon Byrd and Russell Martin in the second inning.
Liriano lost perfection in the fourth inning and how unhittable he was through the first three innings had the Pirates and the crowd of 40,487, who were like a 10th man, just feeding off him. Liriano needed just 28 pitches to get through three innings. That’s how good he was tonight.
Liriano also continued his dominance against lefties as Shin-Soo-Choo, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce went a combined 1-8 with 4 strikeouts against Liriano. Votto went 0-4 in the game and the Reds went 1-10 with RISP. Liriano’s fastball/slider combination is just too good for even some of the games top left handed hitters when he is on.
Overall, Liriano went seven innings, allowing 4 hits, 1 run, striking out 5 and walking 1. He had 14 groundball outs and threw 64 strikes on 90 pitches.
PIRATES GET TO CUETO
It didn’t take long for the Pirates and the crowd to get to Johnny Cueto. Marlon Byrd entered the game a career .538 hitter vs Cueto and in his first at-bat, took Cueto deep for a solo shot and the Pirates never looked back. Two batters later, Russell Martin goes deep and the Pirates take a commanding 2-0 lead.
Cueto who has been dealing with an oblique injury, never found his footing and even seemed to get rattled by the crowd’s chants of “Cue-to, Cue-to.” It was an unreal atmosphere and the crowd really had an impact on tonight’s game.
Pedro Alvarez made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly, scoring Andrew McCutchen in the third inning and Cueto’s night came to an end in the 4th inning after 60 pitches and was pulled after giving up a double to Starling Marte with one out.
Reds manager Dusty Baker goes to lefty Sean Marshall who had been perfect in his career vs Walker. Marshall gets in immediate trouble down 3-0 in the count, then regroups and it’s a 3-2 count.
Walker who has become a clutch player down the stretch, drills a 3-2 pitch to deep left center off the wall, scoring Starling Marte and it’s 4-1. Just a huge at-bat for Walker and the Pirates added another run in the inning on Marlon Byrd’s fielder choice that made it 5-1 and it was pretty much game over with how Liriano was pitching.
What was very impressive with the Pirates tonight is how once they went up 2-0 in the second inning, they never let momentum switch to the Reds. Cincinnati never had it at anypoint in the game.