Shutout: Pirates unable to stop Giants' Bumgarner in 8-0 loss
October 2, 2014 12:46 AM
Pirates starting pitcher Edinson Volquez reacts after walking the Giants' Brandon Belt in the second inning Wednesday night at PNC Park.
Pirates' starting pitcher Edinson Volquez reacts in the dugout after being pulled out of the 2014 National League Wild Card game.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Brandon Crawford hit more than a home run. He hit a mute button.
Travis Snider ran toward PNC Park’s Clemente Wall to track down the ball, then retreated to play the carom. He couldn’t do either. Crawford’s fourth-inning grand slam landed in the first few rows of seats in right field.
The Pirates never recovered. Had Crawford not hushed the crowd in a split second, Madison Bumgarner would have gradually turned down the volume. The Pirates pitched poorly, hit poorly and lost to the San Francisco Giants, 8-0, in Wednesday’s wild-card playoff game.
Pirates react to 8-0 loss to Giants
Pirates' Edinson Volquez, Andrew McCutchen and Russell Martin discuss their team's wild card loss to the Giants. (Video by Matt Freed; 10/1/2014)
The Giants eliminated the Pirates, who played in the wild-card game at PNC Park for the second consecutive year, from the postseason. San Francisco advanced to face the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series. The game turned on one poor pitch from Edinson Volquez, then spiraled farther south with shaky bullpen production and an inability to square up anything Bumgarner threw.
“Losing in that fashion is something we didn’t have planned,” Andrew McCutchen said.
The Giants extended their postseason winning streak to eight and won their seventh consecutive elimination game. They swept the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series and took the final three games of that year’s National League Championship Series after falling behind the St. Louis Cardinals, three games to one.
Bumgarner was already cruising when Crawford hit the grand slam. Given a lead, he continued to deal and threw a complete-game shutout. He struck out 10 while allowing four hits and one walk.
“Bumgarner went out there, he did what he wanted to,” Neil Walker said. “He filled up the strike zone.”
Volquez (0-1) allowed two singles and a walk in the first three innings, but no runs. Pablo Sandoval singled for the second time to lead off the fourth. Hunter Pence also singled. Volquez barely missed a called strike three on a 2-2 curveball to Brandon Belt. He walked Belt, loading the bases with no outs.
“I was supposed to get the guy before bases loaded,” Volquez said.
Crawford took a changeup for a ball, then a fastball for a called strike. He fouled away one curveball. Volquez tried to bounce the next one, but left it up, and Crawford drove the next one into the seats in right to clear the bases. The record crowd of 40,629, boisterous with two strikes and at times egging on their starter with chants of “ED-DIE, ED-DIE,” was struck dumb.
“Just one pitch that changed the whole game,” Volquez said.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Crawford became the first shortstop to hit a grand slam in postseason history.
“With [Bumgarner] on the mound, I only really wanted to get one,” Crawford said. “Fortunately, I got enough of it to give him four.”
Volquez’s performance in recent months painted him as a viable candidate to start the wild-card game. His 1.85 ERA since June 23 ranked behind only Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber and Jon Lester in the major leagues. He had a 1.08 ERA in September and took an 18-inning scoreless streak into Wednesday’s game.
The Pirates had enough faith in Volquez to start Gerrit Cole in the final game of the regular season. They did so despite the fact that the Pirates had to beat Johnny Cueto and the Cincinnati Reds, then hope the Arizona Diamondbacks beat Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals. Even that would have earned them only a tiebreaker for the division title, but they rolled the dice, not content to punt a chance at a National League Central title.
After Volquez walked Pence to start the sixth, manager Clint Hurdle removed him. Volquez allowed five runs, five hits and three walks in five-plus innings. Justin Wilson entered and threw a wild pitch, putting Pence in scoring position. Belt’s single extended the Giants’ lead to 5-0.
Bumgarner, 25, had 352/3 innings of postseason baseball to his name before he even took the mound Wednesday. Eight of those innings were of the scoreless variety, in Game 4 of the 2010 World Series, when he was 21. Even the loudest of stadiums have not phased him.
Despite pitching his home games in AT&T Park, whose fences keep the ball playable and runs hard to come by, Bumgarner (1-0) had a better road ERA – 2.22 – than at home, when he posted a 4.03 ERA. The Giants went 13-5 in road games he started.
Through three innings, Bumgarner threw 28 pitches, 23 of them strikes. He did not throw more than one ball to a batter until Josh Harrison’s at-bat with two outs in the third.
“He was throwing strikes early,” McCutchen said. “When you get thrown strikes early, you got to be ready to hit or you’ll be 0-2, 1-2 every single time.”
Fans eventually began looking ahead. They chanted “Re-sign Russ” when free agent-to-be Russell Martin came to bat in the ninth inning, then gave him a loud ovation after he flied out. He tipped his helmet to the crowed when he entered the dugout.
“That was pretty special,” Martin said. “Just to get that type of reaction from a crowd, especially, when you’re losing a big game, that was definitely one of the coolest moments I think I’ve had in baseball.”
The Pirates’ offseason begins today. It will include the competition to retain Martin, to strengthen a rotation that currently consists of two free agents and one player coming off of surgery, and to sort out its first-base situation. This year, the Pirates’ offseason will be longer.
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