Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates rode home field advantage to a Wild Card win to advance to the National League Divisional Series to face the St. Louis Cardinals. They weren’t nearly as fortunate in Wednesday night’s Wild Card contest against the San Francisco Giants.
Behind a dominant pitching performance from starter Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco won on the road in convincing fashion, 8-0. Bumgarner went the distance, striking out ten and walking only one on his way to a four-hit shutout.
After three innings, the game looked destined to be a pitchers’ duel with each team scoreless. San Francisco opened things up a bit in the fourth, however, loading the bases before Brandon Crawford hit a grand slam. According to ESPN, it was the first slam by a shortstop in postseason history. Crawford spoke of the historic feat afterwards.
“That’s crazy,” Crawford said. “With all the great shortstops that have played before, that’s pretty special. I’m happy to be able to do it.”
Even though that was all the Giants needed, San Francisco would go on to add four more runs to knock the home team out of the postseason in front of a sellout crowd.
The Pirates’ had home field advantage, but after the Crawford slam, it was difficult to tell that. After being so vocal in last season’s Wild Card game, Pittsburgh’s fans were eerily silent for most of the way after that opening blow.
While Pittsburgh’s bats were cold, everyone was contributing offensively for the Giants. Six of San Francisco’s eight starting position players recorded hits and all eight reached base at least once with a hit or walk. In addition to the big hit by Crawford, four other Giants each had multi-hit games, led by Joe Panik‘s three.
For the Pirates, things were considerably different the last time they faced the Giants’ ace. Pittsburgh squared off against Bumgarner back on July 28 and tagged him for five earned runs in only four innings. This time, however, Bumgarner had far less trouble with the Bucs. Only one Pirate reached third base the entire game – and that wasn’t until the eighth inning when a throwing error allowed Jose Tabata to get to third. Overall, Bumgarner was on cruise control after the grand slam.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle will be second-guessed to death after starting pitcher Edinson Volquez instead of saving Gerrit Cole for the big game. Volquez wasn’t sharp, giving up five earned runs in his five innings of work. In hindsight, the move wasn’t the right one since Volquez didn’t pitch well. However, it’s difficult to pin this one on Hurdle, who started Cole in the team’s finale in hopes of winning the Division.
Winning the National League Central would have meant the team avoided the one-game playoff altogether and Volquez was also unquestionably the team’s hottest pitcher down the stretch. In addition, the Pirates failed to score even a single run tonight. While pitching was a problem, the offense was even worse.
San Francisco now advances to face the Washington Nationals. Game 1 of the NLDS takes place on Friday.
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