Signed on the cheap in the offseason after a mediocre 2012 split between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox, Liriano has been reborn in Pittsburgh. He went 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA during the regular season, his devastating slider nearly unhittable against left-handers.
The Reds proved no match. Joey Votto went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. Jay Bruce produced an RBI single in the fourth but Cincinnati never really threatened on a night baseball officially returned to Pittsburgh after a 20-year trek through purgatory.
Shin-Soo Choo homered in the eighth, a drive to right field that was upheld by video review. Ryan Ludwick followed with a double off reliever Tony Watson but Votto and Brandon Phillips grounded out quietly to first.
Pittsburgh closer Jason Grilli retired the Reds in order in the ninth, and Cincinnati slumped off the field while the Pirates released decades of frustration.
The same kind of frustration that is starting to mount for the Reds.
Cueto, who made three different trips to the disabled list this season with a strained lat, was pressed into service when projected starter Mat Latos discovered bone chips in his right (throwing) elbow.
At the time, it seemed like an upgrade. It wasn't. The Pirates made it 3-0 on sacrifice fly in the third by Pedro Alvarez and Cueto was pulled when Starling Marte doubled with one out in the fourth. Marte sprinted home on local boy Neil Walker's double off reliever Sean Marshall and Walker scored on a fielder's choice by Byrd to make it 5-1.
"They outpitched us and they outhit us," Baker said. "Usually that's something that we do. It's very difficult to come down to one game, especially the way we played. We got outplayed big time."
NOTES: The Reds have lost four straight playoff games and 11 of their last 13 ... Martin is the first catcher to homer for three different teams in the postseason. He previously hit playoff homers for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 and the New York Yankees in 2012 ... Liriano is the first Pittsburgh left-hander to win a playoff game since John Candelaria in Game 3 of the 1979 World Series ... Byrd is the oldest player to homer in his first postseason at-bat, according to STATS.
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