2014 MLB playoffs: Why Giants and Pirates look evenly matched
National League wildcard game: San Francisco has enjoyed postseason success by winning both the 2010 and 2012 World Series. After a long drought, Pittsburgh is back in the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
Despite injuries and ineffective play during the regular season, the San Francisco Giants managed to creep into the National League playoffs. After finishing second to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, the Giants will now face the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday night in the winner-takes-all wildcard playoff game in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates, as well, had an up-and-down year but won 17 of their last 23 games to finish second to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.
During the regular season, Pittsburgh defeated San Francisco four times in six games, therefore earning the right to host the wildcard playoff game at PNC Park.
This will also be the first time the two clubs have faced each other in the postseason since 1971, when the Pirates beat the Giants, three games to one, in the National League Championship Series. Pittsburgh went on to beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.
Pitching for the Pirates Wednesday night will be Edinson Volquez, who was 13-7 in the regular season with a 3.04 earned run average. Five of those victories came within his last ten starts of the season. Volquez's only other postseason pitching effort took place in 2010 for the Cincinnati Reds.
The Giants' starting pitcher will be Madison Bumgarner, who finished the 2014 regular season with an 18-10 mark and 2.98 ERA. He struck out 219 batters in just over 217 innings pitched. Bumgarner has a 3-2 postseason record, pitching on both the 2010 and 2012 World Series champion squads. Bumgarner is also productive as a batter. He hit .258 in 2014, with four home runs and 15 runs batted in.
Not only do these two teams have the exact same record (88 wins and 74 losses), they're very close when it comes to team offensive categories. For example, the Pirates batted .259 as a team during the regular season; the Giants batted .255.
The Pirates are led by two players - one is an All-Star, the other perhaps a future star. Four-time All-Star centerfielder Andrew McCutchen hit .314 with 25 HR and 83 RBI. Josh Harrison became a valuable player for the Bucs this season, filling in at a variety of positions before ending up at third base. He hit .315 with 13 HR and 52 RBI.
You can watch the Giants play the Pirates on ESPN, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday.