Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 11/17/14
That. Was. Incredible. The Pirates are moving on to the NLDS after defeating the Reds in the wildest, most emotional, powerful sports environment you will ever witness. After being a part of it, I’m confident that is not hyperbole. This was an absolutely epic evening that no Pirate fan will ever forget. The blackout – which was a tremendous success. The countless rousing ovations, from warmups to player intros to all the big moments in the game. The sea of jolly rogers and black towels. The party on Federal Street, the Clemente Bridge (including this guy, who partied a little too hard), and on streets surrounding the park. The crowd rising and going nuts on numerous two-strike, two out situations. And of course…. CUEEEETTTTOOOOOOOO…..CUUUUEEEEETTTTTOOOOOOO!!!! (Cueto drops ball) [Crowd goes insane] RUSSELL MARTIN CRUSHES A HOMER AHHHHHHH!!!!! That’s the tenth man at work right there. You hear countless pundits and fans boast about how an atmosphere can make an impact on a player’s performance or a game itself. Most of it is probably nonsense. But that was the crowd influencing the game before your very eyes (and ears). Johnny Cueto and the Reds wilted under the pressure of 40,000 crazy people dressed in black, and the Pirates took full advantage, making everyone delirious. Francisco Liriano was a big part of it as well, as he got the crowd right into it with a quick strikeout, a 1-2-3 inning, and another simply excellent start in a huge spot. He followed the plan of completely shutting down the Reds’ left handers, dominating Choo, Votto, and Bruce – who combined for one hit and a HBP against Frankie (Choo homered off Tony Watson). Getting the Pirates off to a clean start was enormous, and after that Liriano mostly cruised. Seven strong innings while allowing just one run, four hits, and a walk…and almost no stress whatsoever – only the fourth inning was a tad messy. Absolutely wonderful work by the Pirate ace, and he reaffirmed why he was the clear-cut choice to start this game. And then there was Cueto, former owner of the Pirates. Not anymore. He was off all night, leaving balls up and out over the zone and paying for it. Even when the Pirates didn’t score in the first, things were looking good because they hit the ball HARD. Marlon Byrd took him deep in the second – Byrd’s first postseason AB despite his long career. Awesome. (Byrd’s good career numbers vs Cueto were a big talking point before the game…and remember how the Reds could have blocked the Pirates from trading for him? Oops.) Two batters later, Martin followed after the crowd jumped on Cueto. The Pirates did not let up. I was a bit surprised Dusty Baker stuck with Cueto so long, and the Bucs were able to take advantage with two more runs. Cueto wasn’t the only Red who appeared rattled – Zack Cozart and Brandon Phillips helped the cause with some shaky defense up the middle. A Pedro sac fly added a third run after Cozart’s error, and once Baker went to the lefty Sean Marshall to turn around Neil Walker, Walker delivered a booming 2-run double anyway to bring home a fourth. Byrd added a fifth run when Phillips botched an easy DP ball and got just one out. The rest of the game went perfectly smoothly. Liriano got through seven, Martin homered again, Watson tossed the eighth (he allowed a solo homer, but no big deal up 6-1), and Jason Grilli finished it off. Listen to Greg Brown call the end. It was a totally thorough, brilliant performance by the Pirates to eliminate their rivals, knocking them off for the fourth straight game to finish their season. Just surreal. The Pirates are going to St. Louis. There will be more playoff baseball at PNC Park on Sunday. I cannot WAIT, and neither can the rest of this city. Buctober is happening. Pirates 6, Reds 2 / Box / Pirates advance to NLDS / Next: Thursday, at Cardinals, 5:00 Source: FanGraphs
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