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.

Max Scherzer, with broken nose, strikes out 10 Phillies over seven shutout innings

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Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.

Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.

Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.

Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.