NL Wild Card – San Francisco vs. Pittsburgh – Preview & Prediction
By Rich Bergeron
bet365 MLB Playoffs betting line:
- Money Line: Giants (M Bumgarner) 10/11 – 1.90, Pirates (E Volquez) 1/1 -2.0
- O/U: 6.5 runs – over 10/11 (1.90), under 10/11 (1.90)
- Run Line: Giants -1.5 at 31/20 (2.55) and -Pirates +1.5 at 4/7 (1.57)
The Giants face the Pirates Wednesday night in a battle of recent champs versus perennial chumps. This year could be a different story for the Pirates, though. They have one of their hottest hands taking the mound for their Wild Card playoff.
Edinson Volquez notched 13 wins to go with seven losses for the Pirates this season, including posting a 5-0 record in his last 11 starts. He comes into this winner-take-all game with a 3.04 ERA, which leads the team. Though his playoff experience is lacking, Volquez could not be more potent and dangerous on the mound right now. His last 18 innings pitched were scoreless, and he posted a phenomenal 1.08 ERA in September.
Madison Bumgarner was slightly better than Volquez on the season in ERA (2.98 ERA) and wins (18), but he lost his only start against the Pirates on July 28th, giving up five runs in just four innings. Bumgarner already has a ring with the Giants from 2012, and he’d like to help lead his team back to that pinnacle again. The team’s run for that last World Series title two years ago featured wins in six elimination games, so those players still with San Francisco will have to tap into that magic again to beat the Pirates on their own home turf. If Bumgarner can get some early run support, he just might have an opportunity to get the win in this one. He’s been hot and cold in the post-season, notching a 3-2 record with a 3.79 ERA in six playoff starts.
Behind the plate, the Pirates are batting .259 as a team with nine players notching double-digit totals in home runs on the season. The Giants are hitting .255 and have just six players who hit double-digit home runs. Both teams have one batter leading most of the hitting categories. For the Giants, Catcher Buster Posey is the biggest bat with a team-best season total in batting average (.311), home runs (22), RBIs (89), and On Base Percentage (.364). The Pirates look to Center Fielder Andrew McCutchen in the clutch, who leads Pittsburgh in home runs (25), RBIs (83), On Base Percentage (.410), and hits (172).
The Pirates are the more desperate team going into this one, with the best chance in a long time to really make their fans look forward to the future. The team’s last World Series Title came in 1979, and they suffered a heartbreaking loss in the Division Series last year against the St. Louis Cardinals. They also made it to that series by winning the wild card game, which they will have to do again Wednesday to get another crack at getting to the World Series again.
Prediction: PNC Park will be rocking and rolling for this game, and the Giants will have an uphill climb ahead of them. The Pirates have a 4-2 edge on the series this season between the two squads, and they will be a step better in this game, too. Volquez will rise to the occasion while Bumgarner will struggle in the middle innings. The Pirates win 7-4 with McCutchen having a career day at the plate and Volquez pitching the game of his life.