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Worth the wait: Pirates advance to NLDS to take on familiar Cardinals

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates manager Clint Hurdle celebrates in the clubhouse following the Pirates' National League wild-card win Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates manager Clint Hurdle celebrates in the clubhouse following the Pirates' National League wild-card win Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates closer Jason Grilli and catcher Russell Martin celebrate after the final out in the ninth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates closer Jason Grilli and catcher Russell Martin celebrate after the final out in the ninth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates starter Francisco Liriano pitches during the first inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates starter Francisco Liriano pitches during the first inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Reds third baseman Todd Frazier climbs over a railing after a catching a foul popup during the second inning of the National League wild-card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Reds third baseman Todd Frazier climbs over a railing after a catching a foul popup during the second inning of the National League wild-card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates catcher Russell Martin hits a home run during the second inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates catcher Russell Martin hits a home run during the second inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates outfielder Marlon Byrd celebrates with third baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) after Byrd's home run in the second inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates outfielder Marlon Byrd celebrates with third baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) after Byrd's home run in the second inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates catcher Russell Martin celebrates with teammates after his home run during the second inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates catcher Russell Martin celebrates with teammates after his home run during the second inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano pitches during the first inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano pitches during the first inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates catcher Russell Martin crosses home plate after hitting a home run during the second inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates catcher Russell Martin crosses home plate after hitting a home run during the second inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto pitches during the first inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto pitches during the first inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) meets with a member of the Reds coaching staff and catcher Ryan Hanigan during the second inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (47) meets with a member of the Reds coaching staff and catcher Ryan Hanigan during the second inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen scores in the third inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen scores in the third inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates fans cheer as Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick watches Neil Walkers double hit the wall in the first inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates fans cheer as Reds outfielder Ryan Ludwick watches Neil Walkers double hit the wall in the first inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates second baseman Neil Walker hits an RBI double in the fourth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates second baseman Neil Walker hits an RBI double in the fourth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates second baseman Neil Walker reacts after his RBI double during the fourth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates second baseman Neil Walker reacts after his RBI double during the fourth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Reds first baseman Joey Votto strikes out swingin during the fourth inning of the National League Wild Card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Reds first baseman Joey Votto strikes out swingin during the fourth inning of the National League Wild Card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review - Pirates catcher Russell Martin celebrates his homerun with shortstop Clint Barmes in the second inning of the National League Wild Card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates catcher Russell Martin celebrates his homerun with shortstop Clint Barmes in the second inning of the National League Wild Card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 at PNC Park.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review - Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen hits an infield single in the third inning of the National League Wild Card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen hits an infield single in the third inning of the National League Wild Card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Second baseman Neil Walker was one of seven arbitration-eligible players tendered by the Pirates late Monday. Those players will head to abitration if they do not agree to contract terms by February.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Second baseman Neil Walker was one of seven arbitration-eligible players tendered by the Pirates late Monday. Those players will head to abitration if they do not agree to contract terms by February.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates catcher Russell Martin hits a home run during the seventh inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates catcher Russell Martin hits a home run during the seventh inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates pitcher Jason Grilli celebrates the final out of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates pitcher Jason Grilli celebrates the final out of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates pitcher Jason Grilli celebrates the final out of the National League wild-card game with catcher Russell Martin on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates pitcher Jason Grilli celebrates the final out of the National League wild-card game with catcher Russell Martin on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates fans cheer as Jason Grilli records the first out in the ninth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates fans cheer as Jason Grilli records the first out in the ninth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano tosses a ball to Justin Morneau for an out in the sixth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano tosses a ball to Justin Morneau for an out in the sixth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates manager Clint Hurdle celebrates in the clubhouse following the Pirates' National League wild-card win over the Reds on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates manager Clint Hurdle celebrates in the clubhouse following the Pirates' National League wild-card win over the Reds on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review - Pirates fans celebrate a win in the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates fans celebrate a win in the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen hits a single during the sixth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen hits a single during the sixth inning of the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates fans stand and cheer as the teams are introduced prior to the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates fans stand and cheer as the teams are introduced prior to the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - A young Pirates fan waves a towel prior to the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>A young Pirates fan waves a towel prior to the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez (59) meets former Pirates pitcher Doug Drabek prior to the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez (59) meets former Pirates pitcher Doug Drabek prior to the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review - Pirates fans celebrate an out in the seventh-inning National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates fans celebrate an out in the seventh-inning National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Fans perched on the railing at the Roberto Clemente Bridge cheer after the Pirates scored their second run against the Reds during the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Fans perched on the railing at the Roberto Clemente Bridge cheer after the Pirates scored their second run against the Reds during the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Boats dot the Allegheny River while the Pirates play in the National League wild-card game against the Reds at PNC Park on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Boats dot the Allegheny River while the Pirates play in the National League wild-card game against the Reds at PNC Park on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review - The Pirates and Reds line the field for the national anthem prior to the National League Wild Card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates and Reds line the field for the national anthem prior to the National League Wild Card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen hugs his mother, Petrina, prior to the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen hugs his mother, Petrina, prior to the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Pirates line the field during the national anthem prior to the National League Wild Card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Pirates line the field during the national anthem prior to the National League Wild Card playoff game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 at PNC Park.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review - Pirates fans line the left-field rotunda prior to the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates fans line the left-field rotunda prior to the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Former Pirates pitcher Doug Drabek acknowledges the crowd prior to throwing out the first pitch at the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Former Pirates pitcher Doug Drabek acknowledges the crowd prior to throwing out the first pitch at the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review - Charlie Petredis, 54, of Wexford, stands in line dressed as a pirate before Tuesday's playoff game outside PNC Park, Tuesday. Petredis was vendor for the Pirates from 1975 to 1979.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Andrew Russell  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Charlie Petredis, 54, of Wexford, stands in line dressed as a pirate before Tuesday's playoff game outside PNC Park, Tuesday. Petredis was vendor for the Pirates from 1975 to 1979.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Pirates fans congregate in front of the Roberto Clemente statue before the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pirates fans congregate in front of the Roberto Clemente statue before the National League wild-card game Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, at PNC Park.

Pirates/MLB Videos

Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, 9:12 p.m.
 

Two decades of frustration for the Pirates and their long-suffering fans evaporated over the course of 3 12 hours Tuesday night at PNC Park.

The Pirates hammered the Cincinnati Reds, 6-2, in the National League wild-card game. They advance to face the St. Louis Cardinals at 5 p.m. Thursday in Game 1 of the NL Division Series at Busch Stadium.

“They're a tough team, but we're about to really get it going,” right fielder Marlon Byrd said.

“It's a new season right now,” said closer Jason Grilli, who got the final three outs, then gave catcher Russell Martin a bear hug. “Keep winning, that's what we do.”

It had been 20 years, 11 months and 20 days since the Pirates hosted a playoff game. That was when the Good Ship Lollipop, not a four-story duck, was the wackiest thing afloat on the Allegheny River and nine years before PNC Park opened.

Pittsburgh always has loved its Pirates. It just forgot how much.

Tuesday's game reawakened those memories.

The atmosphere was electric. The overflow crowd of 40,487 — the largest in PNC Park history — honored pitcher A.J. Burnett's call for a “blackout” and came dressed in black T-shirts and jerseys. Fans sang along in loud unison as outfielder Andrew McCutchen's mom, Petrina, belted the national anthem.

“It's fun to play in front of a crowd like that,” Reds shortstop Zack Cozart said. “They were hungry, which they should be. It's the first time the Pirates have been there in I don't know how long. So hats off to the Pirates and good luck to 'em.”

Last weekend the Pirates swept three games from the Reds in Cincinnati and earned home-field advantage for the wild-card game. They are only the fourth pair of teams in major league history to begin a postseason against each other after clashing in the final game of the regular season.

Building a four-game winning streak is tough. Doing it against the same opponent takes outstanding pitching and opportunistic offense. The Pirates got both Tuesday.

Making his third career playoff appearance, starter Francisco Liriano was brilliant and got his first playoff win. The left-hander worked seven innings and allowed one run on four hits. He walked one, struck out five and got 14 of his 21 outs on ground balls.

“When we signed him (over the winter), we wanted somebody who could solidify our rotation,” pitching coach Ray Searage said. “Frankie did it beyond our expectations.”

Martin, who hobbled through the final weeks of the season on a sore knee, mashed two solo home runs. He's just the second Pirates player to have a multihomer game in the playoffs. Bob Robertson homered three times in Game 2 of the 1971 NL Championship Series.

“It's definitely a special game, and I'm going to remember it for a long time,” Martin said. “Probably couldn't have written a better script.”

Reds starter Johnny Cueto threw 23 pitches in the second inning, when Martin and Byrd shifted momentum the Pirates' way by homering into the left-field bleachers.

That set off the crowd, which began chanting Cueto's name with every pitch. It seemed to get inside Cueto's head.

As Martin came to bat, Cueto stepped onto the rubber — and dropped the ball. He had to jog off the mound to retrieve it. The crowd laughed and chanted louder.

“You might think I was scared when the ball was dropped, but I was not,” Cueto said. “The ball just dropped.”

The next pitch was a 95 mph fastball, and Martin whacked it 396 feet for another solo homer.

“Two pitches, two home runs, and I lost the game,” Cueto said.

Liriano cruised through the first three innings. But he started the fourth by plunking Shin-Soo Choo on the shoulder. Ryan Ludwick singled.

With two outs, Jay Bruce shot an RBI single to left. Frazier hit a towering shot down the left-field line — high enough, long enough … but foul by a couple of feet. Liriano regrouped and struck out Frazier to end the inning.

Cueto was lifted after serving up Starling Marte's one-out double in the fourth. Walker doubled off lefty reliever Sean Marshall to make it 4-1. Walker later scored.

Martin went deep again in the seventh, marking the first time the Pirates hit three homers in a playoff game at home since Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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