Pirates beat Reds for wildcard home-field advantage
By JOE KAY
AP Baseball Writer
CINCINNATI — 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.
ST. LOUIS — Adam Wainwright earned his 19th victory in a tuneup for the NL division series opener and St. Louis showed no letup after clinching the NL Central, beating Chicago for its fifth straight win.
Matt Holliday homered for the second day in a row and Yadier Molina drove in two runs for St. Louis (96-65).
Wainwright (19-9) allowed two hits in shutout 5 1-3 innings and tied for the league lead in victories with Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann, who lost his last scheduled start Wednesday in St. Louis.
Seth Maness earned his first career save by getting Darwin Barney on a double-play ball.
Edwin Jackson (8-18) allowed six runs and eight hits in 2 2-3 innings before leaving with mild side discomfort. He leads the majors in losses.
METS 2 (10)
NEW YORK — Carlos Gomez homered and had four hits, including a tiebreaking single in the 10th inning that sent Milwaukee over New York.
Yuniesky Betancourt drove in two runs to help the Brewers (74-87) win their fourth straight as they put together a strong finish to a disappointing season.
Pinch-hitter Caleb Gindl drew a four-pitch walk from Scott Atchison (3-3) to start the 10th and went to third on Jonathan Lucroy’s broken-bat single. Gomez followed with a flare to right-center to put Milwaukee ahead. Betancourt added an RBI single that made it 4-2.
Donovan Hand (1-5) initially tried for a six-out save and instead wound up with his first major league win. With the Brewers resting closer Jim Henderson, Alfredo Figaro got three straight outs for his first career save.
SAN FRANCISCO — Jesus Guzman, Chris Denorfia and Jedd Gyorko each homered and drove in two runs and San Diego beat San Francisco.
Hunter Pence, who reached a tentative agreement on a $90 million, five-year contract before the game, hit a two-run homer for the Giants.
Eric Stults (11-13) pitched seven effective innings to win his third straight start after going 0-6 in his previous 10 starts. He also helped himself with an RBI single during a four-run fourth.
Stults allowed three runs and seven hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out three.
Yusmeiro Petit (4-1) lasted a season-low 3 2-3 innings, giving up five runs and seven hits.
Luke Gregerson pitched the eighth and Huston Street worked the ninth.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Cleveland Indians won their ninth straight game and took sole possession of the AL wild-card lead on the next-to-last scheduled day of the regular season, beating Minnesota 5-1 Saturday behind Scott Kazmir’s 11 strikeouts.
Seeking their first postseason appearance since 2007, the Indians (91-70) hold a one-game lead over Tampa Bay and Texas (both 90-71).
Cleveland is assured of at least a tie for the AL wild card. With three teams seeking the two wild cards, Sunday’s results could decide the matter or lead to one or two tiebreaker games at the start of next week.
After a rain delay of 2 hours, 26 minutes at the start, Kazmir (10-9) allowed one run and six hits in six innings.
Cole De Vries (0-2) allowed five runs in five innings.
HOUSTON — Andy Pettitte completed his career in a most fitting fashion.
The 41-year-old left-hander pitched a five-hitter for his first complete game since 2006, leading the New York Yankees over his hometown Houston Astros.
“It couldn’t end any better,” Pettitte said, trying to hold back tears.
Houston extended its team-record losing streak to 14 with its 110th loss of the season.
Pettitte (11-11) never had a losing record in 18 major league seasons. He was 256-153 with a 3.85 ERA and excelled in October, where he compiled a record 19 postseason wins.
He struck out five and walked two in a 115-pitch effort.
Paul Clemens (4-7) took the loss.
BLUE JAYS 7
TORONTO — The Tampa Bay Rays dropped into a tie with Texas for the second AL wild-card berth, losing to Toronto as Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar hit two-run homers.
The Rays and Rangers are even, one game behind Cleveland.
A.J,. Happ (5-7) got the win. Alex Torres (4-2) lost in relief.
On Sunday, Matt Moore (16-4) starts for the Rays against Blue Jays rookie right-hander Todd Redmond.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Craig Gentry doubled, scored and bunted home a run, helping the Texas Rangers beat the sloppy Los Angeles Angels for its sixth straight win.
The Rangers, trying to make the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, and Tampa Bay are tied for the second AL wild-card spot, a game behind Cleveland.
The Angels made five errors for a game for the first time since Sept. 16, 2006, also at Texas. Garrett Richards (7-8) threw two wild pitches and made an error.
Joakim Soria (1-0) got his first major league victory since July 23, 2011, and Joe Nathan got his 43rd save in 46 chances.
The 11:07 a.m. start was the earliest home game in the 42 seasons the Rangers have played in Texas — the game was moved up eight hours because of the threat of bad weather. Nathan closed it out in heavy rain.
RED SOX 5
BALTIMORE — Steve Pearce drove in the go-ahead runs with a double in the eighth inning and the Baltimore Orioles rallied to a 6-5 win over the Boston Red Sox, who clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason earlier in the day.
The victory brought a measure of consolation for the Orioles, making them the only AL East team to win the season series against the Red Sox.
Boston was assured of the best record in the American League when Oakland lost to Seattle with one day to spare in the regular season. The Red Sox will open their division series at Fenway Park on Friday against the winner of the wild-card playoff — either Cleveland, Tampa Bay or Texas.
Kevin Gausman (3-5) pitched 1 1-3 innings to get the win, and Jim Johnson pitched the ninth for his 49th save. Junichi Tazawa (5-4) took the loss.
SEATTLE — Brad Miller hit a pair of home runs, including his first grand slam, and the Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics in a game that decided division-series matchups in the American League.
The AL West champion A’s will host their playoff opener next Friday against Central winner Detroit.
Brandon Maurer (5-8) got the win and Danny Farquhar got his 16th save in 20 chances.
Jarrod Parker (12-8) allowed seven runs and seven hits — including three homers — in 4 1-3 innings.
WHITE SOX 6
CHICAGO — Adam Dunn and Conor Gillaspie each hit two-run homers and the Chicago White Sox topped the Kansas City Royals.
After the game, the Chicago White Sox announced they had fired hitting coach Jeff Manto.
Marcus Semien and Jordan Danks added solo homers for the White Sox. Mike Moustakas, Billy Butler and Salvador Perez homered for the Royals. All 11 runs in the game came on homers.
Erik Johnson (3-2) won and Addison Reed got his 40th save. Yordano Ventura (0-1) took the loss.
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