National League wild card preview: Giants vs. Pirates

Giants Vs. Pirates Wild Card Game Preview


By LARRY FLEISHER
XN Sports

The last time the Giants and Pirates faced each other in a postseason game, it was a four-game NLCS in 1971. Roberto Clemente sparkled for the Pirates while Willie McCovey dazzled for the Giants. The last time these teams played in an elimination game was Game Four when the Giants blew a 5-2 lead in a 9-5 loss.

So even if all of their players were not born when this game happened, many Giants fans still remember and even with two World Championships in the last five years, it's still a bad memory. The Pirates had 20 years of bad memories before ending their postseason drought last year.

After going the distance against the Cardinals after beating the Reds in the wild card game, the Pirates are looking for more.

That begins Wednesday night when the Pirates host the Giants in the National League wild card game.

The Giants were unable to use Juan Marichal until Game Three in '71 but have no problems with being unable to use their ace in this game. Madison Bumgarner and his sterling postseason track record take the mound in Wednesday night and he is coming off a career-high season with 18 wins and 219 strikeouts.

Bumgarner has gone 11-4 with a 2.22 ERA in 18 road starts and that adds to a resume that includes a pair of World Series victories.

"When the guy takes the ball, there's that feeling that we're going to win," right-hander Ryan Vogelsong told reporters. "As a pitcher, that's one of the best feelings you can have. I've had it here in the past where you can tell when you walk in the room that the guys are excited that you're on the mound that day."

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National League wild card preview: Giants vs. Pirates

2016 San Francisco Giants: Lost Division Series to Chicago Cubs

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

2016 Toronto Blue Jays: TBD

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

2015 Houston Astros: Lost Division Series to Kansas City Royals

Luke Gregerson #44 of the Houston Astros celebrates defeating the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game at Yankee Stadium on October 6, 2015 in New York City. The Astros defeated the Yankees with a score of 3 to 0. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

2014 San Francisco Giants: Won World Series over Kansas City Royals

The San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford (35), Buster Posey, right, and Pablo Sandoval celebrate at home after Gregor Blanco bunted Crawford home in the tenth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. The Giants won, 5-4, for a 2-1 series lead. (Paul Kitagaki Jr./Sacramento Bee/MCT via Getty Images)

2014 Kansas City Royals: Lost World Series to San Francisco Giants

The Kansas City Royals celebrate their 2 to 1 win over the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the series in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 15, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

2006 Detroit Tigers: Lost World Series to St. Louis Cardinals

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 27: Infielder Brandon Inge #15 of the Detroit Tigers looks back for the baseball after an errant throw from Justin Verlander during the fourth inning of Game Five of the 2006 World Series on October 27, 2006 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

2006 Los Angeles Dodgers: Lost Division Series to New York Mets

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 07: Shortstop Rafael Furcal #15 of the Los Angeles Dodgers turns a double play as Endy Chavez #10 of the New York Mets slides into second in the eighth inning during Game Three of the National League Division Series on October 7, 2006 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

2005 Houston Astros: Lost World Series to Chicago White Sox

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 25: Scott Podsednik of the Chicago White Sox steals second base as Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros applies a late tag during the eleventh inning of Game Three of the Major League Baseball World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 25, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by John Grieshop/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

2005 Boston Red Sox: Lost Division Series to Chicago White Sox

BOSTON - OCTOBER 7: Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek can't handle the throw home as Chicago's A.J. Pierzynski scores in the ninth inning on a Juan Uribe squeeze bunt at Fenway Park. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

2004 Houston Astros: Lost Championship Series to St. Louis Cardinals

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 18: Carlos Beltran #15 of the Houston Astros shows that his has the ball in his glove after a diving catch in game five of National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals during the 2004 Major League Baseball Playoffs on October 18, 2004 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. The Astros defeated the Cardinals 3-0 to take a 3-2 game lead. (Photo By Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

2003 Florida Marlins: Won World Series over New York Yankees

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 25: Ecstatic Florida Marlins celebrate after shutting out the New York Yankees, 2-0, in Game 6 at Yankee Stadium to win the World Series. (Photo by James Keivom/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

2001 St. Louis Cardinals: Lost Division Series to Arizona Diamondbacks

PHOENIX, UNITED STATES: St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols (L) is calmed down by manager Tony La Russa after striking out against Arizona Diamondbacks starter Randy Johnson in the sixth inning during game two of the National League western division playoffs 10 October 2001 in Phoenix. The Cardinals won 4-1. AFP Photo/Scott ROVAK (Photo credit should read SCOTT ROVAK/AFP/Getty Images)

2000 New York Mets: Lost World Series to New York Yankees

FLUSHING, NY - OCTOBER 24: Mike Piazza of the New York Mets stands on second base during Game Three of the World Series against the New York Yankees on October 24, 2000 at Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)

1999 Boston Red Sox: Lost Championship Series to New York Yankees

BOSTON, : Boston Red Sox manager Jimy Williams (L), first base coach Dave Jauss and Jose Offerman argue a call with second base umpire Tim Scchida (R) 17 October, 1999, in the 8th inning of game four of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park in Boston, MA. Offerman was called out at second and was apparently not tagged. The Yankees lead 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/JEFF HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

1998 Boston Red Sox: Lost Division Series to Cleveland Indians

BOSTON, : Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek (C) celebrates with team members after beating Tampa Bay 4-3 in the first game of a double-header 21 September at Fenway Park in Boston, MA. AFP PHOTO/John MOTTERN (Photo credit should read JOHN MOTTERN/AFP/Getty Images)

1997 New York Yankees: Lost Division Series to Cleveland Indians

4 Oct 1997: Infielders Charlie Hayes and Tino Martinez of the New York Yankees celebrate during a game against the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Ohio. The Yankees won the game, 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Stockman /Allsport

1997 Florida Marlins: Won World Series over Cleveland Indians

MIAMI, : Florida Marlins player Edgar Renteria (C) celebrates his game-winning hit against the Cleveland Indians with teammates Antionio Alfoseca (L) and Jeff Conine 26 October after game seven of the World Series at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, FL. The Marlins beat the Indians 3-2 in 11 innings to win the World Series. AFP PHOTO/Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

1996 Baltimore Orioles: Lost Championship Series to New York Yankees

BALTIMORE, : Baltimore Orioles Brady Anderson (R) congratulates teammate Todd Zeile at home plate after Zeile's two-run homer in the 1st inning of Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards 11 October. The series is tied 1-1. AFP PHOTO Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

1996 Los Angeles Dodgers: Lost Division Series to Atlanta Braves

ATLANTA, UNITED STATES: Atlanta Braves Javy Lopez(R) tags out Los Angeles Dodgers Tod Hollandsworth(C) homeplate umpire Andree Demuth(L) waits to make the call during the National League Divisional Playoff game 05 October in Atlanta, Ga. The Braves won 5-2, sweeping the Dodgers and winning their division. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

1995 Colorado Rockies: Lost Division Series to Atlanta Braves

ATLANTA, UNITED STATES: Colorado Rockies Eric Young is congratulated by his teammates after hitting a two run home-run in the third inning against the Atlanta Braves 06 October during their National League Divisional Playoff game at Fulton County Stadium, in Atlanta, Georgia. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

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It's a sentiment shared by many and Bumgarner has the numbers this year and in two championship runs to make it stand.

Bumgarner is not the only experienced Giant. Besides Jake Peavy's experience with the 2013 World Champion Red Sox and Tim Hudson's time with playoff teams in Atlanta, six regular position players return from the last championship team including the trio of Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval.

That trio combined for a .288 average, 58 home runs, and 236 RBI.

While the Giants had a winning record all season, the Pirates were under .500 as recently as June 26. Pittsburgh also was 71-68 after opening September with three losses in St. Louis but went 17-6 down the stretch with big help from Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte.

McCutchen batted .378 with four home runs, 13 RBI, and 17 runs scored. Marte batted .366 with three home runs and 10 RBI, ending the season with a 13-game hitting streak.

The Pirates will look for those outfielders to continue their hot stretch as well as the continued steady play of Russell Martin and Josh Harrison, both of whom can be included in a top 10 of NL MVP candidates. It was a breakout year for Harrison, who narrowly lost the batting title and batted .342 in the final two months while Martin has been among the best catchers in the game on both sides.

Martin will help guide Edinson Volquez through the game. Volquez was 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA over his last four starts and had a 1.78 ERA over his last 12 starts. Volquez has extensive experience facing the Giants from his time in San Diego and it is not good as he is winless in his last nine starts against them, which were all made before coming to Pittsburgh.

A year ago and as recently as May, Volquez did not seem to be a likely candidate to start this game.

He was last among all Major League starters last year with a 5.71 ERA and led the NL with 105 walks two years ago. This year those numbers were lowered to 3.04 and 71.

In May, he gave up four home runs at Yankee Stadium and had allowed nine homers in 49 2/3 innings. Since that point, Volquez has given up eight in 143 innings.

This time he has a better supporting group in the lineup and home field where the Pirates led the National League in wins.

"I'd be very proud to get the ball," Volquez said to reporters before finding out he would be starting. "It's what I've been talking about since early in Spring Training, hoping to get this kind of opportunity."

It's a match-up of proven playoff talent against a team that had its first taste and wants more. These are teams that have found the mix in the lineup, rotation, and bullpen and all of that figures to factor into Wednesday.

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