Posted September 28, 2013 on AP on Fox
Hundreds of Pirates fans stood, twirled their towels and chanted "Let's Go Bucs!" as Jay Bruce hit a grounder for the final out, setting up a playoff game in Pittsburgh. Baseball, this time. Neil Walker hit two of Pittsburgh's six homers -- its biggest power surge in six years -- and the Pirates clinched home-field advantage for the NL's wild card playoff game by beating the Cincinnati Reds 8-3 Saturday. Pittsburgh will host the Reds on Tuesday night in the Pirates' first playoff appearance in 21 years. Pittsburgh went 50-31 at PNC Park, the third-best home record in the NL, and wanted to make that long-awaited playoff return at home. They got what they wanted. The postseason will start at PNC Park. "It's going to be a really exciting time," Walker said. "Something a lot of people haven't experienced with Pirate baseball. I imagine it's going to be Steeler-esque on Tuesday." The Reds will go with Johnny Cueto (5-2) in the one-game playoff against left-hander Francisco Liriano (16-8). Mat Latos was on schedule to start for Cincinnati, but manager Dusty Baker said he's developed a sore arm. The Pirates won five of nine games against the Reds at PNC Park this season. "The important thing for me is getting the guys home and playing in a park where we won 50 games and giving our fans a taste of postseason baseball," manager Clint Hurdle said. Pittsburgh hit five homers off Bronson Arroyo (14-12), who had never given up that many in a game in his career. Walker homered twice off the right-hander, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez also hit solo homers, and Marlon Byrd had a two-run shot that ended Arroyo's outing in the fifth and made it 6-3. Latos isn't the only Reds starter who's hurting. Arroyo said his back started bothering him Saturday. "It locked up right before the game," Arroyo said. "I was in the tunnel. It was like I was being stabbed in the ribs and I couldn't swivel from side to side. "I don't think it had much to do with the game. You can't leave balls in up the zone in this ballpark against that lineup and get away with it." Prospect Andrew Lambo hit his first homer off Logan Ondrusek, the first time the Pirates had six in a game since Aug. 22, 2007 at Colorado. Pirates starter Charlie Morton also struggled, leaving with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth. Vin Mazzaro (8-2) fanned Zack Cozart and retired Ryan Hanigan on a fly ball as the slumping Reds left the bases loaded for the second time in the game. Cincinnati stranded 11 runners overall. Both teams already had clinched wild-card berths heading into their weekend series. Whoever took it would host the one-game showdown. Pittsburgh made quick work of it, winning the opener 4-1 on Friday night and then the second game, too. "Better to be home than on the road," McCutchen said. "Today showed how bad we wanted to go home. We answered in a big way." The Ohio River rivals have met five times in the playoffs -- 1970, 1972, 1975, 1979 and 1990, when the Reds won their last World Series title. The Reds are 13-7 against the Pirates in the postseason. Pittsburgh has played the Reds more than any other team in the playoffs. The Reds have gone into a deep slump at a very bad time. They've lost four in a row since clinching a playoff spot with a 3-2 win over the Mets on Monday night, scoring a total of six runs. They were at it again in the first inning on Saturday, leaving the bases loaded when Todd Frazier flied out. Walker and McCutchen hit back-to-back homers in the third for a 2-0 lead. Brandon Phillips had an RBI single and Jay Bruce followed with a two-run double for a 3-2 lead in the third, Cincinnati's first lead since Monday. And it didn't last long. Alvarez led off the fourth inning with a first-pitch homer, tying it at 3. Alvarez's 36th homer gave him 100 RBIs. Walker hit his career-high 16th homer in the fifth inning -- the first multihomer game of his career -- and Byrd's two-run shot ended Arroyo's outing. Walker has seven homers in September. Lambo's pinch-hit homer let the Pirates tie the record for most by a visiting team at Great American Ball Park, which opened in 2003. Notes: Walker has homered in five of his last nine games. ... Alvarez is the first Pirates third baseman to drive in 100 runs since Aramis Ramirez drove in 110 in 2001. His 36 homers are a club record for a third baseman. ... Byrd had three hits for the second straight game. ... Philips fouled a pitch off his left shin in the fifth inning, raising a welt. He singled and left for a runner. X-rays were negative. ... Joey Votto walked three times, moving him ahead of Joe Morgan's previous club record for a season. Votto has walked 135 times.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

A Reason the Pirates are Right Where They Are

The Pirates have done us the favor of getting better gradually. Four years ago, they were absolutely dreadful. The next year, they were fine through July. The next year, they were fine through August. Now they’ve been good through September. We’ve been able to see the Pirates coming, to some extent, and so this 2013 success hasn’t taken us by complete surprise. We were prepared...

Game 162: Pirates 4 Reds 2

In watching Sunday's regular season finale, I couldn't help but think back to March and April and think about how far things have come for this Pirate team in the last six months. In spring training, I was really down on the team because I thought that they were in line to waste another year of Andrew McCutchen's prime, ticking a year closer to 2018 without really competing...

Pittsburgh Pirates: Random thoughts heading into Reds season finale

Some random, non-proofread thoughts as I hurry to churn out an article before heading to my real job, then onto a weekend without internet access during a very critical juncture in the season (opening image credit foxsports). 1.  I bought my playoff tickets for Tuesday’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh, but will I ever get to use them?  The Pittsburgh Pirates have to take 2 of...

Burnett goes eight solid innings in Pirates 4-1 win over Reds

Though nothing ever comes easy in the National League Central Division the Pirates simplified their path to home-field advantage in next week's wild-card game. They did so in multiple fashions. They took advantage of gift-wrapped base runners in the early innings. Later they resorted to power hitting. The diverse offensive approach combined with a solid start from A.J. Burnett...

Pirates beat Reds 4-2 in final game of regular season

For whatever reason the Great American Ball Park stadium crew blared Beatles songs on a loop Sunday morning. Neither team was taking batting practice on the field before the game that didn't matter so perhaps the soundtrack didn't matter either. As Gerrit Cole Tuesday's in-case-of-emergency pitcher took the mound in the right-field bullpen for a side session "Revolution...

Neil Walker treats teammates to special bottle of scotch

Pirates 2nd baseman Neil Walker was 7 years and a month old when Sid Bream of the Braves beat a Barry Bonds throw home in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. As a 28-year-old, he helped his hometown team finally break a 20-year streak of sub-.500 baseball since that game. And it didn't end there, as Walker and the Buccos clinched a playoff spot, showing the improvements made in the 2013...

Game 161 Preview: Pirates vs. Reds

Pirates (92-68) at Reds (90-70) 1:05 PM–Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati MLB.com Gameday TV: FOX With two games to go, the Pirates have finally been eliminated from NL Central contention. Today, they will set out to accomplish the one goal remaining in the regular season: home field on Tuesday night. They can wrap it up with a win today and make Game 162 a meaningless scrimmage...

A truly meaningless game

Today is the last day of Major League Baseball's regular season. It is the end of baseball for the fans and players of at least 19 (and maybe 20) of MLB's 30 teams. It is not the end for the Pittsburgh Pirates. In fact, the Pirates have done everything that they could in this past week, and so they've got home field advantage for Tuesday's wild card game locked up...

Game 160 Preview: Pirates vs. Reds

Pirates (91-68) at Reds (90-69) 7:10 PM–Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati MLB.com Gameday TV: ROOT Here we go. The Bucs are in Cincinnati for the weekend (and only the weekend, hopefully) as they look to secure home field advantage for a playoff game on Tuesday night. As you surely know by now, they need to win 2 of 3 despite the current one game lead in the standings. And I...

Pirates 8, Reds 3

Playoff baseball is coming to PNC Park for the first time ever. Tuesday night, at 8:07 PM, it will happen. The Pirates came up huge in a playoff-type atmosphere in Cincinnati, delivering SIX homers as they dominated their second straight ballgame to take the series and clinch home field in the upcoming Wild Card game. And while home field may not be crucial for a one-game situation...

Pirates 4, Reds 2

The Pirates finished off a sweep in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon, and will carry all the momentum in the world back home to Pittsburgh for Tuesday’s win-or-go-home Wild Card game. Of course, we’ve seen that momentum can shift with one bad inning or one swing of the bat, and almost no starters were a part of Sunday’s entirely meaningless game, but it was still cool to see...

Grilli back in closer role

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle confirmed the team is ready to put right-hander Jason Gilli back into the closer's role. Grilli, 36, missed a little more than six weeks with forearm discomfort. Since being placed back in the closers role Grilli has notched three saves, giving him 33 on the season. PiratesDugout.com's George Von Benko spoke with Grilli recently.

Game 160: Pirates 4 Reds 1

If I'm being perfectly honest with all of you, the main thing that I wanted to see the Pirates do this weekend was play better baseball than the Reds for most of the weekend. As I've been saying for a few days now, I'd love for that playoff game to be at PNC Park on Tuesday, but I also realize that the outcome of that game is much more important than where the game is...

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds – Game 161

Hey, whatta ya know?  The Pirates scored some runs for A.J. Burnett.  One more win and the Pirates are guaranteed their first home playoff game since 1992. I’m gonna leave this right here. It’s an early one so you get a lineup in the preview. Starling Marte 7 Neil Walker 4 Andrew McCutchen 8 Justin…
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.