PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Pirates fans waited 21 years to see a postseason game, and the home team didn’t disappoint Tuesday.
Russell Martin became the second player in Pirates history to have a multi-homer game in the postseason, Francisco Liriano pitched seven strong innings, and Pittsburgh rolled to a 6-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds before a raucous crowd at PNC Park.
The Pirates will face the Cardinals on Thursday afternoon in the opener of a best-of-five National League Division Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Martin hit solo home runs in the second and seventh innings and went 3-for-4 to power the Pirates’ 13-hit attack. The only other Pirates player with a multi-homer game in the postseason was Bob Robertson, who homered three times in Game 2 of the 1971 National League Championship Series against the San Francisco Giants.
Liriano allowed one run and four hits for his first career postseason victory. He struck out five and walked one.
Starling Marte, Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen had two hits each for the Pirates. Marlon Byrd homered and drove in two runs.
Reds starter Johnny Cueto took the loss after lasting just 3 1/3 innings. He gave up four runs (three earned) on seven hits and one walk while failing to record a strikeout.
Ryan Ludwick had three of the Reds’ six hits. Shin-Soo Choo hit a solo home run that was upheld by umpire review in the eighth inning to conclude the scoring.
The Pirates used the home run ball for two runs off Cueto in the second inning that opened the scoring.
With one out, Byrd hammered a pitch into the left field bleachers in the first postseason plate appearance of the 12-year veteran’s career. One out later, Russell Martin connected for the third postseason homer of his career.
The raucous crowd, clad almost exclusively in black, chanted Cueto’s name throughout the inning and appeared to rattle the right-hander. He even dropped the ball at one point while looking in at catcher Ryan Hanigan for the sign.
A third-inning sacrifice fly by Pedro Alvarez increased the lead to 3-0.
The Reds scored in the fourth on Jay Bruce’s two-out RBI single, but the Pirates countered with two runs in the bottom of the inning to make it 5-1. Marte and Walker hit back-to-back doubles, and Walker scored when second baseman Brandon Phillips bobbled Byrd’s potential double-play grounder and could only get a forceout at second base.
NOTES: Setting their rosters for the game, the Pirates and Reds loaded up on position players at the expense of starting pitchers. OF Billy Hamilton was added to the Reds’ bench after stealing 13 bases in 14 attempts and scoring nine runs in a September call-up. The Pirates’ roster included three catchers and eight infielders. … Petrina McCutchen, mother of Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen, belted out a rousing version of the national anthem. … Doug Drabek, who won the 1990 NL Cy Young Award while pitching for the Pirates, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.