Following the thrilling ending of the American League wild-card game on Tuesday, it’s the National League’s turn on Wednesday night when the Pittsburgh Pirates host the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park.
The Giants will send ace Madison Bumgarner to the mound. The 25-year-old enjoyed another stellar season. He finished with an 18-10 record and a 2.98 earned-run average.
But in his only start against the Pirates, Bumgarner allowed five earned runs in four innings in a home loss on July 28. The lefty is also coming off his worst start in months, after conceding four earned runs, including three home runs, to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 23.
Clint Huddle will go with veteran Edinson Volquez. The 31-year-old had a great September, and has been particularly effective in the second half of the season. Volquez has allowed just 23 earned runs since June 23. In his last two starts he conceded just seven hits, while not allowing a run.
Volquez did not face the Giants in 2014. But in 43 and two-third innings in 2012 and 2013, he had a 4.95 ERA. Volquez boasts a 3.06 ERA at PNC, while Bumgarner has a 2.22 ERA on the road.
The Giants and Pirates each posted solid offensive numbers with a balanced attack. The Pirates finished 10th in runs (682), while the Giants finished 12th (665).
Pittsburgh is led by 2014 Most Valuable Player candidate and 2013 MVP winner Andrew McCutchen. The 27-year-old outfielder had a stronger year in 2014 than 2013, hitting 25 homers in 146 games, with a .952 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS).
Second baseman Neil Walker enjoyed his best season of his career. He finished with 23 homers and a .271 batting average. Walker also committed just five errors on the season, the lowest number of his career.
Buster Posey is the most imposing hitter on the Giants. The 27-year-old had 22 homers in 2014, and committed just five errors in 111 games at catcher. Posey is aided by Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval, but the lineup sorely misses Michael Morse, who was out for nearly all of September and won’t be available against the Pirates.
In their last series, Pittsburgh won two of three in San Francisco in late July.
The Pirates-Giants winner will face the Nationals. The one-game playoff in Pittsburgh can only hope to match the drama of the American League wild-card game. The Kansas Royals came from behind to beat the Oakland A’s in 12 innings, 9-8, to advance to play the Los Angeles Angels.
"I expect to see a great ballgame,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
Start Time: 8:07 pm ET
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Prediction: Pirates over Giants, 5-2
An IB Times staff reporter contributed to this report.