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Hal: Reds suffer playoff shutdown

The federal government and the Cincinnati Reds both shut down Tuesday and the Reds won’t be back until next April.

In actuality, Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano shut down the Reds in the National League wild card game, holding them to four hits in a 6-2 win at PNC Park.

On the other side, the Johnny Cueto Comeback Story was a bust. He couldn’t keep his pitches below the belt, so both Marlon Byrd and Russell Martin belted second-inning home runs.

That launched the Pirates onward and upward and Cueto survived only 3 1/3 innings, giving up four runs, seven hits and a walk. Significantly, he didn’t strike anybody out.

So while the Pirates fly to St. Louis to play the National League Division Series, the Reds scatter hither and yon for deep sea fishing, deer hunting, golf outings and backyard barbecues.

Liriano came into the game with an 8-1 record at home with a 1.46 ERA and it was quickly evident he was going to make this one a keeper, too. He retired the first nine Reds in three innings and not one ball reached the outfield. For his seven innings, he retired 14 batters on ground balls and five on strikeouts. Only two outs reached the outfield of the 21 batters he retired.

The Reds finished with six hits, two by heavily criticized Ryan Ludwick.

“This hurts and hurts a lot,” said Ludwick. “You can’t sugar coat it, though. We got totally outplayed in all facets of the game. How many opportunities do you get (to make the playoffs) and we may not get that opportunity again. We’re going home, which is unfortunate. But it’s all over now.”

Their one big opportunity to put multiple runs on the board came in the fourth inning when they trailed, 3-0. Shin-Soo Choo was hit by a pitch and Ludwick singled. But Joey Votto (0 for 4, two strikeouts) struck out and Brandon Phillips (0 for 4) grounded out, putting two on with two out.

Jay Bruce, 0 for 12 with seven strikeouts against Liriano, jabbed a single into left field for a run but Todd Frazier struck out.

“They played well, they beat us with no tricks. They just played better — that was obvious and apparent,” said Bruce. “We just have to play better, beginning next year.”

After Byrd and Martin hit home runs in the second inning for a 3-0 lead (Martin would later hit another home run), the highly amped crowd was in a frenzy.

“They were solo home runs and we weren’t dead in the water, but we were never able to get anything going,” Bruce added. “It goes back to no big innings, no big hits. We have to find a way to get better.”

Votto had three hits and three walks in the four straight losses to the Pirates and failed to get on base Tuesday.

“One of those games, just one of those games,” said Votto. As to the Reds play in their final four games against the Pirates, Votto said, “I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for that. I can’t imagine many teams like the Pirates going on streaks where they hit multiple home runs every game, like they did to us — three and four home runs a game (six in one), game-changing home runs.

“And their pitching kept us down, low-scoring games by their pitchers,” Votto added. “It’s important to give credit to your competition and Pittsburgh pitched fantastically, played solid defense and they hit. Marlon Byrd was a fantastic late-season addition for them and kudos to their front office for coming up with him because he beat us up pretty good.”

The Reds send out their uniforms for a final cleaning after losing their last six games, four straight to the Pirates. In those six losses they scored 10 total runs.

And the season died quietly in the ninth — Bruce struck out, Frazier popped out and Zack Cozart grounded out.

“Making the playoffs is a good accomplishment,” said Frazier. “I understand everybody is looking for more, but we won 90 games and that’s a feat in itself. We played hard, we played hard tonight, but things didn’t bounce our way.”

The only thing that bounced was the Reds, right out of the postseason and into oblivion.

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