PITTSBURGH — The Pirates went 21 years between playoff games. The wait will be significantly shorter this time around.
Russell Martin homered twice, Francisco Liriano was dominant for seven innings and Pittsburgh roared past the Reds for a 6-2 victory in the NL wild-card game Tuesday night.
In front of a black-clad crowd savoring its first postseason game since 1992, Marlon Byrd also connected and Andrew McCutchen had two hits and reached base four times for Pittsburgh.
"We're for real," McCutchen said. "We're definitely for real."
Liriano scattered four hits and earned his first career playoff victory for the Pirates, who face the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Thursday.
"We didn't talk about one and done, we talked about one and run," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Win one and run to St. Louis."
Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto struggled in his third start since coming off the disabled list last month. He gave up four runs in 31/3 innings and appeared rattled by a raucous ballpark that taunted him by chanting his name.
Byrd, 36, acquired by the Pirates in late August from the Mets, celebrated the first postseason at-bat of his 12-year career — 1,250 games — by sending Cueto's fastball into the seats in the second inning 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.
"This is 20 years of waiting. You're seeing it all come out in one night," Martin said. "Hopefully we can keep this atmosphere till late October."
Martin sent a drive into the bleachers in leftfield. 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.
Reds 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 crowd of 40,487, largest ever at PNC Park, a place where Cueto had dominated.
Cueto, who went 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.
Martin's 405-foot shot to left-center gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead and all the help Liriano would require.
Signed on the cheap in the offseason after a mediocre 2012 split between the Twins and the 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.