San Francisco Giants’ Brandon & Brandon show beats Pirates


Brandon Crawford hit the first grand slam by a shortstop in MLB postseason history, Madison Bumgarner pitched a complete-game shutout, and the San Francisco Giants soundly defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, 8-0, Wednesday night, as the visiting Giants earned the right to confront the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series, beginning Friday in the nation’s capital.

Madison Bumgarner started for the Giants and pitched the complete game, giving up no runs on four singles, with a walk and ten strike outs, on 105 pitches. He was nothing short of brilliant in single-handedly keeping the crowd at bay until Brandon Crawford gave him a huge assist with his fourth inning fireworks, which effectively completed the job of stifling the crowd. 

Madison has had some problems in the first inning of games this season, posting an ERA over five in the opening frame, but not so tonight. It took him eight pitches to dispose of Josh Harrison (fly ball to Hunter Pence in right field that sent him racing to the foul wall to snag it), Jody Mercer (routine grounder to Brandon Crawford at short), and Andrew McCutchen (check-swing K).

Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen was limited to a base on balls for the game. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Bumgarner limited Josh Harrison to two singles, one of them an infield hit, and Andrew McCutchen managed to draw the only walk of the night off of Bumgarner. With the exception of an error by Crawford to allow Jose Tabata on base in the eighth, and a second error by Joaquin Arias a moment later to allow Tabata to get to third, no other Pirate got past first, except for McCutchen, who advanced to second after he was walked, and died there when Starling Marte flied out to left field to end the inning.

The performance by the Giants’ road warrior (11-4, 2.21 ERA on the road this season) was as dominating an outing as could be imagined, and sets the stage for the next step in the playoff chase against the Nationals. Pablo Sandoval added his own performance, by snagging a foul pop and vaulting over the railing and ending up standing in the Pittsburgh dugout. Hunter Pence added his own two fine catches, one while reaching into the right field foul seats.

Both the Giants and the Pirates ended the season with identical 88-74 records, Pittsburgh having earned home-field advantage by virtue of having won four of the six meetings between the two clubs this season. The Pirates had the advantage of having won this same wild card contest a year ago against the Cincinnati Reds, and the Giants had the benefit of having survived six consecutive winner-take-all games in the 2012 Playoffs.

It’s no secret that the Giants have been playing “small ball” all September, with both Hunter Pence (.165 in September with 2 HR’s and no other extra base hits) and Pablo Sandoval (.218 in September with 1 HR, 2 2B’s, and 10 RBI’s) struggling. Buster Posey (.393, 4 HR’s) and Brandon Crawford (.365, 2 HR’s, 69 RBI’s) have had the hot bats in September, with Joe Panik weighing in with a .301 batting average.

Pablo Sandoval led off the second and the fourth innings with base hits.Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Contrast their weak hitting with some of these same Giants’ averages off of Edinson Volquez coming into the game: Posey was 4 for 9; Sandoval was 6 for 13; Belt was 8 for 18 and Pence had only seven hits off of Volquez, but three of them were home runs. All of these players had hits off of Volquez in tonight’s game.

The Giants had eleven hits in all, with Joe Panik’s three for five leading the pack. Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt each had two singles, as Belt was credited with three RBI’s. If not for the grand slam by Crawford, Belt would have been the big hero. Posey knocked in the eighth run with his eighth-inning single, driving in Gregor Blanco with the final run of the game.

Edinson Volquez started and pitched into the sixth inning, his one blemish a huge one in Crawford’s grand slam. He gave up a total of five runs on four hits while walking five and striking out five. 

When Volquez walked Hunter Pence to lead off the sixth inning, Clint Hurdle was quick to give Volquez the hook and bring in Justin Wilson, who promptly wild-pitched Pence to second. Brandon Belt followed with an RBI-single to right field, scoring Pence, and Crawford struck out. After Wilson walked Ishikawa, Jared Hughes replaced Wilson and finished the inning by striking out Bumgarner and getting Blanco to ground out to short.

Hughes gave up leadoff singles to Panik and Posey, who both scored, to lead off the seventh inning, and that was it for him. John Holdzkom came in and got out of the inning, primarily with the help of a double-play ball hit by Crawford. Bobby LaFromboise and Mark Melancon finished out the game for the Pirates, Holdzkom responsible for the eighth and final run of the game in the eighth inning.

Madison Bumgarner and Hunter Pence celebrate. Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

With Bumgarner going the distance, the Giants did not need their bullpen. When I wrote earlier about the three keys to the game, I said the Giants had to keep the crowd quiet, minimize 90-feet mistakes, and keep the chemistry brewing.

Having accomplished all three, San Francisco now travels to Washington DC to face the Nationals on Friday. The upcoming series will be challenging, especially when we remember that the Nationals swept the Giants the last time they played each other.

But, hey, after the Giants’ convincing win tonight in Pittsburgh, I sense that old swagger coming back, and it will bode them well to wield it going into DC. They were underdogs in Pittsburgh and they will be underdogs in Washington. That’s OK, say the Giants, because in their world, the underdog frequently ends up on top.

It’s possible that Michael Morse will be back in time for the series against the Nationals. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports