Pirates homer twice in second inning to take early lead in National League Wild Card Game

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Pirates starter Francisco Liriano struck out Reds leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo on four pitches to open the game and then induced groundouts from Ryan Ludwick and Joey Votto for a quick, nine-pitch first inning. That set the early tone in this NL Wild Card Game at a fired-up and blacked-out PNC Park.

Liriano was even more dominant in the top of the second and the Pirates’ offense came alive against Reds starter Johnny Cueto in the bottom half of that frame with solo home runs from Marlon Byrd and Russell Martin. Near-constant chants of “Cue-to, Cue-to” are ringing through the PNC Park stands and the Reds righty sure looks rattled.

It’s a 2-0 lead for host Pittsburgh as we move to the top of the third inning.

Mets invite Tim Tebow to spring training

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Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.

Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.

Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.