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Bucs walk off, inch closer to home-field in WC

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates had to come from behind to stay ahead. They did that in dramatic fashion Friday night, when Starling Marte's two-run homer in the 12th inning gave them a 6-4 win over the Reds at PNC Park, after the Bucs trailed, 4-0, into the bottom of the third.

Pittsburgh's 11th walk-off win trimmed to one its magic number over the Cubs to clinch the home field for Wednesday night's National League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser. Another win by the Pirates or loss by Chicago will make PNC Park the Wild Card site for the third straight October. However, the Cubs own the tiebreaker over the Pirates so the game will be at Wrigley Field if the teams end up with the same record. Saturday's game at 7:05 p.m. ET is available to stream free out of market on MLB.TV, presented by AT&T. Blackout restrictions apply.

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Marte followed a one-out walk by Gregory Polanco off Collin Balester with his 19th homer of the season, an opposite-field drive into the right-field seats.

"I was just ready for the fastball away," Marte said of his third career walk-off home run, the second this season.

The loss was the Reds' 13th straight, their longest losing streak since 13 consecutive losses in August 1945.

"You just want to pull out a victory here," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "In that situation, you just want to do whatever you can to get a victory and have something to come in and feel good about at the end of the day. It's been a long time."

Right-hander Keyvius Sampson, in the Reds' 62nd consecutive start by a rookie pitcher, one-hit the Pirates through five innings (Andrew McCutchen's fourth-inning homer), but departed in the sixth with the bases loaded and none out. All three scored as the Bucs drew even at 4.

Video: [email protected]: Cutch hammers opposite-field solo homer

Jordy Mercer delivered the game-tying single off reliever Jumbo Diaz.

"At that point, we knew we had a chance. We knew we had the relievers to keep them down and give us a chance to win," Mercer said of the Pirates' bullpen, as six relievers combined to pitch seven scoreless innings behind starter Francisco Liriano. Video: [email protected]: Mercer hits RBI single to center to tie game

48 straight: In the top of the third inning, Reds first baseman Joey Votto bounced a one-out grounder to the left side against the shift. Pirates third baseman Aramis Ramirez made a backhanded stop but threw offline as Votto reached the bag for a single. It was the 48th consecutive game that Votto reached safely, tying Pete Rose's 1978 club record. Votto later scored on Jay Bruce's RBI double to make it a 3-0 game for Cincinnati. More >

Video: [email protected]: Votto reaches safely for 48th straight game

Polanco does 9-3 again: For the second time in 17 games, Pirates right fielder Polanco nailed a runner at first on a "hit" to right field -- and this time the 9-3 putout saved a run. With Adam Duvall on third and two outs in the second, Sampson -- still seeking his first big league hit -- whistled a liner to right field on one hop to Polanco, who got the pitcher at first for his 13th assist of the season. More >

Video: Must C Cannon: Polanco robs Sampson for 9-3 putout

"He was playing kind of shallow, they said. I thought I had my first hit and first RBI," said Sampson, who is 0-for-13 with 11 strikeouts as a hitter. "He took a little wind out of me with that one. Hopefully there are plenty more AB's and plenty more times to get more hits and more RBIs."

Sampson starts out strong: Sampson's line of four runs and three hits over five-plus innings doesn't show how well he began the game. He didn't allow a hit for three innings until McCutchen led off the fourth with a homer. The sixth got away after Marte's leadoff bunt single, followed by a McCutchen single and Ramirez walk. After Sampson was lifted, Tony Cingrani walked in a run before Pittsburgh went on to tie it up.

"I felt all right. I wasn't trying to overdo it," Sampson said. "I tried to go out there and attack the zone. It felt good. I wished we could have gotten the 'W'"

"We have the most aggressive bullpen in the league. We're able to get ahead, and put people away. That's a good recipe." -- Reliever Jared Hughes, who chipped in one of the seven scoreless innings totaled by the Pittsburgh bullpen

Video: [email protected]: Soria whiffs Bruce to end the frame

"I'm kind of at a loss for words right now. A hard-played game, we had to exploit most of the bullpen. A lot of guys down there are on fumes and are just trying to find a way to get through it and put ourselves in a position to win a game." -- Price

The Pirates will break their 128-year-old franchise's attendance record for a second straight season. Friday night's crowd of 31,442 pushed the 2015 total to 2,429,054 -- 13,511 shy of topping last season's record gate of 2,442,564.

Following his single in the seventh inning, Brandon Phillips was lifted for pinch-runner Ivan De Jesus Jr. Phillips did not appear to be moving too well after the hit.

"He's banged up," Price said. "He banged one off of his shin. He was getting treatment on his right ankle earlier today. It may be one of those things where I can't write out a lineup until tomorrow, I would guess, before I know if he can be in it or not."

Reds: Brandon Finnegan will make his fourth Major League start when the series continues on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Finnegan's first three starts each totaled five innings, and he's allowed 10 earned runs and 18 hits over those 15 innings.

Pirates: It could be all about A.J. Burnett, as he makes the final regular-season start of his career on Saturday, facing the Reds in PNC Park. He will be looking for win No. 165, and with 2,504 strikeouts is four shy of passing the legendary Christy Mathewson for 31st place on the all-time list.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast.
Read More: Starling Marte, Francisco Liriano, Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, Jordy Mercer, Keyvius Sampson