The Pittsburgh 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 the Pirates roared past Cincinnati for a 6-2 victory in the National League wild-card game Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.
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 for the Pirates, who will face St. Louis in Game 1 of the N.L. division series Thursday. Liriano struck out five and walked one to win the first playoff game of his career.
"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. Cueto gave up four runs in 31/3 innings and appeared rattled by a raucous ballpark that taunted him by chanting his name.
The 36-year-old 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.
"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 left field. The Reds never recovered, ending a 90-win season with a six-game losing streak.
Martin's 405-foot shot to left-center gave Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead and all the momentum Liriano would require.
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.
The Reds proved no match. Joey Votto went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. Jay Bruce produced an RBI single in the fourth, but Cincinnati never really threatened on a night baseball officially returned to Pittsburgh after a 20-year trek through purgatory.
Cardinals: Lance Lynn's strong finish has earned him the start in Game 2 of the N.L. division series for St. Louis.
Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94) pitches the opener Thursday against Pittsburgh and could also go in Game 5, if necessary.
Lynn (15-10, 3.97) worked six scoreless innings in the Central clincher Friday night against the Cubs. He was 2-0 with a 1.09 ERA his last four starts to end a skid in which he was 0-5 with a 5.44 ERA in eight outings and in danger of getting bumped from the rotation.
Manager Mike Matheny chose Lynn ahead of rookies Shelby Miller (15-9, 3.06) and Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69), who had stronger overall seasons and Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78).
Dodgers: Andre Ethier might be limited to pinch-hitting duties in the N.L. division series because of a left ankle injury, leaving the Los Angeles Dodgers undecided on whether to include the outfielder on the playoff roster.
Ethier threw and hit but didn't run during Tuesday's workout at Dodger Stadium before the team departed for Atlanta, where it will face the Braves in Game 1 on Thursday.
He hasn't played in the field since Sept. 13 because of an issue similar to shin splints.
Ethier said he feels great when he wakes up, but as he begins moving around, he experiences pain a few inches above his ankle bone.
"We're just trying to figure out a way for me to contribute any way I can this first series," he said. "We're hoping it's a hitting role right now."
Ethier was 1 for 8 as a pinch hitter this season, hitting a home run against the Mets on Aug. 14. Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp (ankle) already has been ruled out for the postseason.
Royals: Manager Ned Yost agreed to a two-year contract extension after an 86-76 season, the best finish for the franchise in 24 years.