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.

Aaron Judge returns to the Yankees lineup

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The lineups for the Red Sox-Yankees game for this evening were just released and, lo and behold, Aaron Judge is back in it for the Yankees. He’ll be batting second and playing right field.

Judge was activated four days ago but had been limited to defense and base running. As of yesterday signs pointed to him not hitting today, but he took swings in a simulated game for the second straight day today — taking advantage of the previously-scheduled day game being moved to this evening — and things must’ve gone well.

Judge has been out since late July due to a fractured wrist suffered when he was hit by a fastball from Royals pitcher Jakob Junis. He has taken longer than expected to recover from the injury and the Yankees have felt his absence as he was hitting .285/.398/.548 with 26 home runs and 61 RBI in 447 plate appearances when he went down and no one has, obviously, been able to replace his production.

Now he’s back to help the Yankees fend off the A’s for the top Wild Card spot.