It’s win or die for Giants in Pittsburgh

One game: That’s the only shot the Giants get at advancing in this year’s postseason.

As 2012 proved, the wall is a familiar place for the backs of the Giants. The Giants faced elimination six times in 16 2012-postseason games. Each was staved off and the Giants earned their second championship in three years.

With that in mind, and a strong record (43-38) on the road, The Giants will jet to Pittsburgh to play a one-game Wild Card against the Pirates Wednesday.

Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA) and Edinson Volquez (13-7, 3.04 ERA) will square off in the National League duel.

Volquez has been virtually unhittable in his last 17 starts. Manager Bruce Bochy has been inundated with the Pirates all week — and vocal about Volquez:

“He’s throwing the ball very well. He’s been really locked in how he’s pitching. … We’re facing a tough pitcher. I expect to see a great ball game. We’ll do all we can to get back here.”

Since June 23, Volquez has gone 9-1 with a 1.85 ERA. The righty hurler leads the Pirates in wins, ERA and innings pitched (192-2/3).

Volquez has pitched one other postseason game in his career against the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010. He lasted just 1-2/3 innings and allowed four runs. The opposing pitcher that night, Roy Halladay, threw a no-hitter.

Bumgarner’s last postseason stint wasn’t too memorable either.

In 2012, he started three games, going 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA (10 ER, 15 IP). Bumgarner’s maturation over the past two seasons, though, make him a no-brainer to start Wednesday.

2014 has been Bumgarner’s best season in a Giants uniform, increasing his total inning and strikeouts while lowering his walks amid an increase to his ERA of only 0.21.

And he’s only 25 years old.

Bumgarner says he knows the Pirates a “decent” amount:

“It’s not really about that. You just gotta go out there and make pitches. We’re going to play to our strengths. They’re going to play to there strengths and we’ll see what happens.”

One of the Pirates’ strengths has been their play in Pittsburgh.

They’ve been tough inside PNC Park this season. They’re tied for a National League-best 51-30 home record, but the Giants’ road prowess has a chance to void that completely.

Giants vs. Pirates graphicDan Nelson
They own a formidable 43-38 away record, third among National League teams, and Bumgarner has been more dominant on the road than home.

His 11-4 record put him first in road wins with Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright in the Majors this season. The 2.22 ERA might have something to do with that.

The Giants will need to bring their bats on the road as well.

Buster Posey leads the team in batting average (.311), home runs (22), RBIs (89) and a handful of offensive sabermetrics.

He’s had a plethora of nagging injuries pile up toward to end September, from back stiffness to concussion symptoms.

Posey’s home run in the regular season finale comforted Bochy heading into the postseason:

“I was, to be honest, a little concerned if he was healthy, but he showed it with that first swing. … Buster felt fine. It’s encouraging that it seems like he’s over his issue.”

Speaking of former National League MVPs, the reigning MVP resides in center field for the Pirates. Andrew McCutchen has been every bit as good, if not better, than he was a year ago.

He maintained a Major League-best .410 on-base percentage to accompany 25 home runs, 38 doubles, 83 RBIs and 18 stolen bases this season. All of those led the team, except for steals, where he finished second to Starling Marte‘s 30.

With all the focus on the starters and top position players, the bullpens will play a pivotal role in Wednesday’s Wild Card.

The Giants go into the game with one of the league’s top relieving corps. They’re third in the National League in ERA (3.01).

Santiago Casilla has been superb after he was thrust into the closer’s role halfway through the season. He’s shut the door 19 times this season and fashioned a 1.70 ERA in the process.

Even Sergio Romo has turned a corner since becoming San Francisco’s primary eighth-inning guy. He’s notched a 2.10 ERA in 30 appearances since losing his ninth-inning job in late June.

Even though the Giants have one of the preeminent ‘pens in the league, the Bucs boast a menacing bullpen of their own.

Pirates pitcher Mark Melancon too was shoved into a new summer position in early May when then closer Jason Grilli couldn’t hack it in the ninth.

Melancon has racked up 33 saves in current duties and sports a 1.90 ERA. He’s only allowed four runs in PNC Park this year.

You know who else’s only given up four in PNC Park? Pirates’ setup man Tony Watson. Watson has a minuscule 0.93 ERA at home to go along with an impressive 10 wins overall.

Time will tell what makes the difference in Wednesday’s do-or-die contest, but recently, the even years have been kind to the Giants.

Game time will be 5 p.m. on ESPN. Fans can catch the game for free on the scoreboard at AT&T Park. Its doors will open at 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.


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