|2005||Wild Card||Bengals||Steelers||Steelers 31-17|
Along with the Reds and Bengals, Cincinnati has only had two other teams in the four major professional sports. The Rochester Royals moved to Cincy in 1957 and stayed for 15 seasons before becoming the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in 1972. This era was marked by the brilliant Oscar Robertson, who averaged 29.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 10.3 assists from 1960-70 in Cincinnati. The other team was the Stingers of the World Hockey Association. They took the ice from 1975-79, but the team folded when the WHA merged with the NHL and there hasn't been major-league hockey in Cincy since.
The Reds and Pirates renew a postseason rivalry that featured four NLCS meetings in the 1970s. The Big Red Machine swept the Pittsburgh Lumber Company in three games in 1970. In Game One, Gary Nolan and Dock Ellis took dueling shutouts into extra innings, but the Reds finally broke out off Ellis with three runs in the tenth to win it. After a 3-1 win in the second game, the Reds took the pennant the next day when Bobby Tolan's eighth-inning single gave Cincy a 3-2 victory.
The Bucs bounced back in 1971 and won the World Series. The two teams squared off again in 1972 and Pittsburgh took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the ninth of the decisive fifth game. But Johnny Bench led off with a game-tying home run against Dave Giusti. Tony Perez and Dennis Menke followed with singles that knocked Giusti out of the game. New pitcher Bob Moose retired the first two batters, but still needed one more out to strand pinch-runner George Foster at third base. With a 1-1 count on Hal McRae, Moose bounced a wild pitch that sent Foster to the plate and the Reds to the World Series. This game was the last for the great Roberto Clemente, who was killed in a plane crash less than three months later.
The Reds dynasty reached its pinnacle in 1975, winning 108 games as one of the best teams of all time. They steamrolled the Pirates in an NLCS sweep. They won the first two games at home by a combined score of 14-4, but the clincher at Three Rivers Stadium was much tighter. Down 1-0 in the sixth inning, Al Oliver put the Buccos ahead with a two-run homer, but Pete Rose hit a two-run shot of his own in the eighth to push the visitors in front again. Rawly Eastwick held that 3-2 lead with two outs in the ninth, but he walked Bob Robertson to load the bases, then walked pinch-hitter Duffy Dyer to force in the tying run. In the top of the tenth, Ken Griffey Sr. led off with an infield single. He moved up on a balk and a groundout before coming home on Ed Armbrister's sacrifice fly. Joe Morgan tacked on an insurance run to make it 5-3 and Pedro Borbon pitched a 1-2-3 bottom half to wrap up the series.
The fourth time was the charm for the Pirates, who finally got past Cincinnati in the 1979 NLCS. They took the first two games on the road with Willie Stargell's tenth-inning three-run blast in Game One and Dave Parker's RBI single in the tenth frame of Game Two. Back home for Game Three, the "We Are Family" Bucs cruised to a 7-1 win behind Bert Blyleven's complete game.
Neither team made the postseason during the 1980s, but they both won their respective divisions in 1990 to set up a fifth NLCS showdown.
Pittsburgh took the opener 4-3, but the Reds charged back to win the next three. The Pirates stayed alive with a Game Five win to push the series back to Cincy. The sixth game was a 1-1 affair until the bottom of the seventh when Luis Quinones stroked a pinch-hit RBI single to give the Reds the lead. It was still 2-1 in the top of the ninth, when Carlos Martinez belted a fly ball to right field off Randy Myers that looked like it would tie the game. But Glenn Braggs made a leaping catch to rob a home run and record the second out.
The next batter was Don Slaught and Myers struck him out swinging to lock down the pennant.
With the Pirates finally ending their postseason drought, it's fitting that their opponent is Cincinnati, the team that they have faced the most in the playoffs.
There was one other Pittsburgh-Cincinnati playoff matchup and it came on the gridiron. The 2005 Bengals won the AFC North for their first playoff berth in 15 years and hosted the longtime division-rival Steelers in the Wild Card round.
Things turned ugly in a hurry for Cincinnati. On their second offensive play, Carson Palmer connected with Chris Henry on a 66-yard pass; but Steelers lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen hit Palmer's left knee and knocked the quarterback out of the game. Jon Kitna filled in admirably and even built leads of 10-0 and 17-7. But the Steelers racked up 24 unanswered points to win 31-17 en route to their fifth Super Bowl victory.
With the Steel City-Queen City rivalry, it makes sense that tonight's postseason game combines the Reds-Pirates history with a football-esque sudden-death twist.