On the third Sunday of October in 1971, Pirates right-hander Steve Blass stood on the mound in Baltimore in the ninth inning with Boog Powell, Frank Robinson and Merv Rettenmund due up.
Eying that threesome -- who had combined for a .472 slugging percentage that season (the American League as a whole had slugged .364 in 1971) -- and holding a slim, 2-1 lead, Blass got Powell to ground out to second, kept Robinson in the yard with a pop fly to the shortstop, and then he closed it out with ground ball that resulted in a 6-3 putout and the Pirates' fourth World Series championship. In the interests of history, Blass -- with his Game 7 gem -- had become just the second Pirates starter to record a winner-take-all victory, following Babe Adams in 1909.
But now, as the 2013 Pirates pursue additional October conquests, Adams and Blass have welcomed Francisco Liriano into their small but distinguished club.
2013 National League Wild Card Game: Reds at Pirates
The Pirates defeated the Reds, 6-2, on Tuesday to capture the NL Wild Card Game. It was the Bucs' first postseason victory since they defeated the Braves, 13-4, in Game 6 of the 1992 NL Championship Series. With the win, Pittsburgh will take on St. Louis in the NL Division Series.
• Liriano, making his third career postseason appearance (and second start), worked seven innings of four-hit, one-run ball. The southpaw struck out five and walked one.
Liriano was the fourth Pirates left-handed starter to record a postseason win. His Game Score (an equation used to measure a pitcher's dominance) of 69 was tied with Zane Smith's 7 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 5 of the 1991 NLCS for the highest among the four.
Combining the regular season with this Wild Card start, Liriano improved to 9-1 with a 1.45 ERA in 12 home starts this season. During the regular season, his ERA at home (1.47) was the lowest for a Pirates pitcher at home (with a minimum of 10 starts) since Adams produced a 1.31 in 15 home games in 1920.
• The Pirates became the first home team to win the one-game Wild Card contest. In the inaugural year in 2012, the Cardinals went into Atlanta and defeated the Braves, 6-3, while the Orioles invaded Texas and emerged with a 5-1 victory.
• Pirates catcher Russell Martin, playing in his 34th postseason game, hit a pair of solo home runs -- one in the second inning and another in the seventh.
Martin was the eighth catcher to hit a pair of home runs in a postseason game, with all eight doing it in a winning effort. He joined Yogi Berra (Game 7 of the 1956 World Series), Gene Tenace (Game 1 of the '72 World Series), Johnny Bench (Game 4 of the '76 World Series), Gary Carter (Game 4 of the '86 World Series), A.J. Pierzynski (Game 1 of the 2005 American League Division Series), Mike Napoli (Game 3 of the '08 ALDS) and Kelly Shoppach (Game 1 of the '11 ALDS).
Martin was the second Pirates player with a multihomer game in the postseason. In Game 2 of the 1971 NLCS, first baseman Bob Robertson hit three home runs in a 9-4 victory over the Giants.
Martin's home run in the second was the second of that inning, following Marlon Byrd's longball to lead off the frame. Byrd's home run came in his first postseason plate appearance. The right fielder was the second Pirates player to homer in his first trip to the plate in the playoffs, and one of seven Pirates to hit a home run in their postseason debut.
Starting off with a bang
|Jimmy Sebring||1903 WS, G1||4th|
|Pie Traynor||1925 WS, G1||2nd|
|Bill Mazeroski||1960 WS, G1||2nd|
|Gene Clines||1971 NLCS, G2||3rd|
|Sid Bream||1990 NLCS, G1||2nd|
|Orlando Merced||1991 NLCS, G3||1st (leading off game)|
|Marlon Byrd||2013 NLWC||1st|
Before Byrd and Martin went deep in the second inning, the Pirates had most recently hit two home runs in the same frame in the playoffs in Game 6 of the 1992 NLCS. In the second inning of that contest, Barry Bonds led off with a home run against the Braves' Tom Glavine. Seven batters later, Jay Bell connected for a three-run home run against Glavine.
The Pirates' three home runs Tuesday marked the fourth time in the club's postseason history it hit at least three in a game. In Game 2 of the 1971 NLCS -- led by Robertson's three -- the team hit four total. The Bucs also had three home runs in Game 7 of the '60 World Series and in Game 6 of the '92 NLCS.
The Pirates finished the 2013 regular season with 161 home runs -- tied for third in the NL. In the season's final month, the team led the league with 32 homers.
• The Pirates retired Reds first baseman Joey Votto all four times he came to the plate, and Liriano fanned him twice. Votto, who reached safely 316 times during the regular season for the 16th-highest total in NL history, had suffered through seven games during the regular season (he played in all 162) in which he didn't reach base safely and also struck out at least twice. None of the seven were against the Pirates.
• Before this Wild Card Game, the Pirates and Reds had met in five previous postseason series, with the Reds winning four (1970 NLCS, '72 NLCS, '75 NLCS and '90 NLCS) and the Pirates winning one ('79 NLCS).
• Batting out of the two-hole, Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick doubled twice in a three-hit game. The only other Cincinnati No. 2 hitter to produce a postseason three-hit game with at least two extra-base hits was Billy Hatcher, who did it in the first two games of the 1990 World Series.
• Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen reached safely four times in his postseason debut, becoming the 33rd player in history to accomplish that feat.
McCutchen, who singled twice and drew a pair of walks, was the second Pirates player to reach safely four times in his first postseason game, following third baseman Tommy Leach in Game 1 of the 1903 World Series. McCutchen was also the fifth center fielder to reach safely four times in a postseason debut, following the Cubs' Andy Pafko ('45 World Series), the Athletics' Johnny Damon (2001 ALDS), the Astros' Carlos Beltran ('04 NLDS) and the Cardinals' Skip Schumaker ('09 NLDS).
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.