The second Wild Card game of the 2014 MLB postseason has San Francisco headed to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates in our final one-game playoff scenario before the Division Series take place.
On Wednesday night (8:07 first pitch), Madison Bumgarner (18-10) will face Edinson Volquez (13-7) to determine who will get to face the NL East-champion Washington Nationals.
Once again, I will attempt to breakdown the matchups and pick an eventual winner.
Starting Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner vs. Edinson Volquez
With Gerrit Cole pitching on Sunday (kind of perplexing considering the Pirates had already clinched a playoff-birth- albeit, were still in contention for the Central title), the Pirates are left without their ace and will hand the ball to Volquez. Meanwhile, the Giants get their ace on the mound who sported an ERA and WHIP of 2.98 and 1.09 this season. Volquez was certainly a pleasant surprise this season, showing off a 3.08 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. He was also phenomenal in the season’s final month, coming into this start with a September ERA of 1.08. This pitching matchup is certainly much closer that one would think on first look, but Bumgarner’s postseason experience and a better track record give him the slightest of edges.
Edge: San Francisco
Catcher: Buster Posey vs. Russell Martin
You could literally pick any catcher in the majors and he would lose a head-to-head matchup against Buster Posey. The Giants’ MVP candidate was fantastic again this season, seen in his split of .311/22/89. He’s also been a major force for the Giants in two World Series runs. Russel Martin is certainly a serviceable Major League catcher (and also made some key contributions during the Pirates’ playoff drive) but there is no comparison here.
Edge San Francisco
Fist Base: Brandon Belt vs. Ike Davis
This positional matchup, as in the American League Wild Card game, is quite underwhelming. Belt batted .243 with 12 HR this season, while Davis went .233 and 11. The tie-breaker here is the fact that Belt was injured for much of the season, missing 101 games. The career .268 hitter still showed some power this season and has the potential to be a contributing member to another Giants World Series run.
Edge: San Francisco
Second Base: Joe Panik vs. Neil Walker
Full disclosure- I’ve never actually heard of Joe Panik. A quick search shows a .305 average in 269 ABs. Not too shabby. I have, however, heard of Neil Walker and am quite aware of his top-tier power for a second basemen. His .273 average, 23 HR, 76 RBI support my claim that he is among one of the most underrated players in baseball.
Third Base: Pablo Sandoval vs. Josh Harrison
The casual fan would quickly give the edge to the “Kung-Fu Panda” here but not so fast. Harrison served as an extremely valuable utility player in Pittsburgh this season and was deservedly named an All-Star. His slash of .315/13/52, to go with 18 SB is also (arguably) better than Sandoval’s .273/16/73. Although Sandoval has shown a pedigree for the postseason, Harrison has flat-out been the better player this season.
Shortstop: Brandon Crawford vs. Jordy Mercer
Like we saw at first, this is another mediocre infield matchup. Mercer is probably unknown to many fans but .255/12/55 is very respectable for a shortstop. Meanwhile, Crawford went .246/10.69. Mercer gets the edge here but it’s really nothing to write home about.
Outfield: Gregor Blanco, Juan Perez, Hunter Pence vs. Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Travis Snider
Really based on McCutchen alone, Pittsburgh boasts the superior OF. The star outfielder followed up an MVP season with another stellar year, with a line of .314/25/83, as well as 18/21 on stolen base attempts. If the MVP award was strictly meant for position players, Cutch would probably be bringing home his second-straight MVP award but it looks like that honour has been reserved for Clayton Kershaw. Starling Marte is also certainly worth noting after hitting .291 this season to go along with 13 HR. In San Fran, Pence is definitely a solid outfielder, as well as a clubhouse leader for the Giants, but their OF is tremendously weak to the left of the vet. Who knew that Gregor Blanco was still in the bigs?
Bullpen: Santiago Casilla (C), Jean Machi, Jeremy Affeldt vs. Mark Melancon (C), Tony Watson, John Axford
With Sergio Romo losing the closing job, the Giants went to Santiago Casilla who finished the year with 19 saves and a 1.90 ERA. Like SF, Pittsburgh finished the season with a different closer than the one from opening right. Mark Melancon took over for Jason Grilli and finished the season with 33 saves and a identical 1.90 ERA. Both closers have strong supporting casts in the bullpen, but San Francisco gets an edge based on their postseason experiences and closing out big games (something Pittsburgh has seen very little of, at least in the fall).
Edge: San Francisco
Especially in a sudden-death scenario, the pitching matchup means so much. Bumgarner has shown that he shows up in big games and has flat-out been a more consistent pitcher than Volquez this season, even with Volquez surpassing all expectations. McCutchen could certainly steal this game on his own for Pittsburgh, who have the home-field advantage, but the group of Posey, Pence, Sandoval, and Belt should power the Giants to the Wild Card victory. Postseason experience should also come into play in this one. San Francisco has played as much fall ball as anyone over the last few years, while Pittsburgh has played as few as anyone.
Winner: San Francisco Giants