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After long drought, playoffs return to Pittsburgh

After long drought, playoffs return to Pittsburgh

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After long drought, playoffs return to Pittsburgh

CINCINNATI -- The City of Champions will once again be the City of Postseason Baseball.

The Pirates will host the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, a date arranged two-thirds of the way through the regular-season concluding set here dubbed the Dating Games.

As in, "Your place or mine?" The Bucs made sure it would be their place with Saturday's 8-3 homer-fueled win, following Friday night's 4-1 triumph.

"They're gonna be definitely excited to see us, as much as they have been all year," said Andrew McCutchen, who hit one of the Pirates' six home runs, of the fanbase. "Today, we showed how badly we wanted to go home, and were able to answer in a big way.

"It was great to get a big win, for the opportunity to go home and play the playoff game there."

While Tuesday's game will merely represent the starter's block into postseason play for one of these teams, it will be a seminal event in Pittsburgh's sport history.

A total of 611 MLB postseason games have been played between appearances by the Pirates: From Game 7 of the 1992 NL Championship Series to this, the opening game of the 2013 postseason.

PNC Park will become the fourth different Pittsburgh yard to host postseason baseball, following the tradition of Exposition Park, Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium.

"That's a long wait," said Neil Walker, who'd shared a big slice of it while growing up in the 'Burgh. "Our focus is winning games and series, and we play for each other more than anything else. But we also play for the city and the fans.

"We knew how big this series was, for getting that one-game playoff back home."

Marlon Byrd, dealt from the Mets to the Pirates in late August, hasn't known anything but a megawatt PNC Park, and he is looking for more plugged-in excitement.

"It'll be electric," the outfielder said. "This city, its sports fans .... they love their sports. They've had their Steelers and their Penguins, and have been waiting on their Pirates. And here we come.

"We wanted to make sure we're able to bring it back to Pittsburgh. One game. Now it's time to get it done."

The home field will be a nice treat. McCutchen, however, emphasized the location will merely be a convenience, not important to the Pirates' confidence.

Riffing on Cincinnati reliever Sam LeCure's pre-series hope the Reds could "get into the Pirates heads" to raise uncertainty about the Wild Card contest, McCutchen wondered whether his Pirates' two wins might have done the same to the Reds.

"If six home runs didn't, I don't know what will,' McCutchen said. "It shows that we're ready to play, regardless of where we are. We showed that no matter where the game would be played, we'll be ready to go.

"Now that it's at home ... it does make it a little better for us."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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