Pirates fans started filing down behind the Pittsburgh dugout in the final innings Saturday as Reds fans made their escape from Great American Ball Park.
A Cincinnati fanbase accustomed to dealing with throngs of Steelers fans every fall had to put up with countless chants of, “Lets go Bucs! Let’s go Bucs!” Instead of the Terrible Towel, there was the Jolly Roger flag. The Pirate on that flag, the one with the red bandanna and the eye patch who didn’t look quite so menacing in the past two decades, was one of the few not to homer against Cincinnati pitching.
This was a Bucco beat-down of epic proportions, not because of the run margin. The Reds lost 8-3 — thanks to a season-high six home runs, five against Bronson Arroyo — and they’ve lost worse than that this season.
The timing of it added to the disappointment. The 15th sellout crowd of the season, the second of the series, watched its team secure a third-place finish in a season that began with World Series dreams.
Oddly, though, those dreams remain intact. Saturday’s loss didn’t change much. Only now the road begins in Pittsburgh. The Pirates will host the Reds in the Wild Card Game on Tuesday. The winner would advance to face the Braves or Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
“Right now, we’re all looking forward to Tuesday,” second baseman Brandon Phillips said, “and we’re going to get ourselves out of this predicament we got ourselves into. I know we’re going to do it. I hope the fans and the city are behind us. We love those guys.”
Phillips fouled a ball off his shin in the fifth inning. He stayed in the game after a visit by trainer Paul Lessard and manager Dusty Baker and then singled to right before being removed for a pinch runner.
Phillips’ shin swelled up like a baseball, he said. Pirates catcher Russell Martin told him he’d never seen anything like that. X-rays were negative, though, and Phillips expects to play Tuesday.
By that point in the game, that was adding injury to insult. The Pirates homered in three straight innings off Arroyo (14-12, 3.79) and then added a parting shot in the sixth against Logan Ondrusek.
The Reds’ only response was a three-run third, highlighted by Jay Bruce’s two-run double. The Reds had a brief 3-2 lead. They had other chances but left 11 men on base, a season-long trend they hope ends Tuesday.
“I think with one game I’m not sure there is an advantage one way or another,” first baseman Joey Votto said. “I really think it’s a flip of the coin sort of thing. Maybe because they’re at home, they might have a 51 percent chance, but they proved here and we proved in Pittsburgh that home field can be overrated.”
Pirates at Reds, 1:10 p.m., FS Ohio, 700, 1410