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    Pirates 6, Reds 2

    Russell Martin powers Pirates in NL wild-card victory

    The Pirates’ Russell Martin celebrates his solo home run in the second inning against the Reds’ Johnny Cueto.
    The Pirates’ Russell Martin celebrates his solo home run in the second inning against the Reds’ Johnny Cueto.

    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 the Pittsburgh Pirates roared past Cincinnati 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.’’

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    Liriano scattered four hits for the Pirates, who will face St. Louis in Game 1 of the NL 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 3 innings and appeared rattled by a raucous ballpark that taunted him throughout by chanting his name.

    Byrd, acquired 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 to give the Pirates the lead.


    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 righty 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, even lost his grip on the ball while standing on the mound.

    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 Twins and the White Sox, Liriano has been reborn in Pittsburgh. He went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA in the regular season, his slider nearly unhittable against lefthanders.

    The Reds’ Joey Votto went 0 for 4 with two Ks. Jay Bruce had an RBI single in the fourth.

    Pittsburgh’s 94-win regular season reignited a relationship sullied by years of mismanagement and miserable play. When the gates opened two hours before the first pitch, fans sprinted to their seats in anticipation of the club’s first postseason game since Atlanta’s Sid Bream slid into home ahead of Barry Bonds’s throw in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS.

    The win sent the Braves to the World Series and the Pirates into an abyss it took an entire generation to escape.

    ‘‘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.’’