Pirates roll to 6-2 defeat of Reds in NL Wild Card Game

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The Pirates are heading to their first-ever NLDS.

Francisco Liriano allowed just one run on four hits in seven innings and Russell Martin homered twice as the Bucs cruised to a 6-2 victory over the visiting Reds in the National League Wild Card Game on Tuesday night at a sold-out and rowdy PNC Park.

Liriano had everything working — especially his changeup and slider — and used an aggressive approach to carve his way through the Reds’ lefty-heavy lineup. Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo and Jay Bruce — all left-handed hitters — went a combined 1-for-8 with four strikeouts against Pittsburgh’s ace southpaw. Liriano needed only 90 pitches, 64 of which went for strikes.

Martin was the big offensive star, but the Pirates got contributions from players up and down their starting lineup. Andrew McCutchen reached base in four of his five plate appearances and Neil Walker, Marlon Byrd and Pedro Alvarez all produced RBI. Jason Grilli closed it out with a perfect top-of-the-ninth.

The Pirates — who last reached the postseason in 1992, when the Division Series did not exist — will open their best-of-five showdown with the Cardinals in St. Louis on Thursday evening. The Cardinals will want to take both of those first two home games because the crowd at PNC Park can be a real difference-maker.

There were 40,487 fans there Tuesday — a park record — and countless others draped across the Roberto Clemente Bridge. The all-black outfits, the chants and the constant noise clearly rattled the Reds’ pitchers. It’s a perfect environment for postseason baseball as anyone tuning in on Tuesday night could see.

Who are the candidates for the Cardinals managerial job?

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If you logged off over the weekend, you may not have heard that Mike Matheny was sacked as the Cardinals manager late Saturday night. I wrote about the reasons for this yesterday morning. Mike Shildt was named the interim manager and he will keep the job through the rest of the season. Between now and then the Cardinals’ brain trust is going to figure out who they want for the job full time.

Today Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch goes over a list of potential candidates. No, the Cardinals have not identified any officially, but Goold is a smart cookie and hears stuff and what wasn’t heard is informed speculation. At the very least, expect to hear many of the names he lists several times as the process goes on.

You gotta read his article to get the list, but there are a couple on there I want to talk about for a second.

The first one is Joe Girardi, who makes it because (a) he is the most prominent marquee manager who doesn’t have a job at the moment; (b) he played 16 games with the Cardinals in his final season; and (c) far more important than that is that he is tight with John Mozeliak. But while Girardi seems like a perfect candidate for a club in win-now mode, I question whether he’s truly the right guy given that he left New York for many of the same reasons Matheny left St. Louis (i.e. not relating well with young players). We can’t overstate that, however, because Girardi is, by every other measure, a superior manager to Matheny, primarily when it comes to managing a bullpen, so his rapport with the kids is not the be-all, end-all.

Goold also mentions Mark McGwire. He’s obviously a legend in St. Louis and, unlike a lot of former players who talk about wanting to get into managing these days, McGwire has been putting in his time as a coach for a long, long time. He’s currently the Padres’ bench coach. I’d like to see McGwire get the job for petty, personal reasons: a lot of people would get really, really mad about a PED guy getting the gig, they’d say and write a lot of dumb stuff and that, for me, is the key to a lot of content. Not gonna lie about that.

A lot of other interesting names on that list too. And there will likely be a lot of people, beyond those who the Cardinals initially identify, who express interest in the job too. It’s a sweet gig with historic job security for a marquee franchise in a baseball city, so what’s not to like?