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Record: 45-36 Home; 43-38 Road
Manager: Bruce Bochy - Playoff experience: 2 World Series rings with Giants.
Injuries: OF Angel Pagan 15 day DL (back surgery) won’t play again this season. OF Michael Morse is day to day with an oblique injury that has kept him out since 9/19.
The Giants will send Madison Bumgarner to the mound to face the Pirates. He leads the team in most tangible pitching categories and is their unquestioned ace and leader. Unfortunately he faced the Pirates once this season getting roughed up and lasting only 4 innings at home. Bumgarner is much better on the road where he is 11-4 with a 2.22 ERA and holding opponents to a .224 average. Should he get touched up early Bochy would likely turn to Yusmerio Petit, who himself is filling in for Tim Lincecum who had been demoted to the bullpen. If Bumgarner gives them 7 innings Bochy would turn to his trusted set up man Sergio Romo in the 8th and Santiago Castilla in the 9th. Lefty Jeremy Affeldt led the team in holds this season and could be the situational man out of the pen should Bumgarner tire. Overall the team is 3rd in the NL in WHIP and 7th in batting average against.
The Giants are very average when it comes to their lineup with a team average of just .255 and an OBP of .311, which is below average. CF Gregor Blanco leads off with a .336 OBP and 16 stolen bases which tied for the team lead. All year the Giants were nowhere at 2B until Joe Panik came up and promptly has stabilized the position to the tune of .300 average and .345 OBP. Buster Posey will likely catch this game as he often plays 1B to give his knees a rest. Posey hit over .310 with 21 home runs this year and is their best hitter. 3B Pablo Sandoval cleans up and is more of a contact hitter than home run threat as he only struck out 84 times this season. RF Hunter Pence brings another steady bat to the park everyday as he is also a gap hitter with pop (20 home runs). He also led the team in strike outs. Brandon Belt will play 1B but has struggled with the bat since his return from the DL. The team really needs Michael Morse to be healthy enough to play to give them some additional power, because if he can’t go utility man Juan Perez plays and the lineup looks thin. Brandon Crawford has 10 home runs as a shortstop and plays solid defense.
Travis Ishikawa and his .288 average is the first bat off the bench. Defensively the team is 9th in the NL in fielding %, which isn’t good enough to make fans feel comfortable in the late innings.
Record: 51-30 Home; 37-44 Road
Manager: Clint Hurdle - playoff experience: 2007 Lost World Series with Colorado, 2010 Lost World Series as hitting coach for Texas Rangers & 2013 lost in NLDS.
Injuries: SP Charlie Morton 60 day DL.
The team will hand the ball to sudden ace Edinson Volquez who hasn’t lost since July and is 5-1 after the All-Star break. Volquez has started only one playoff game (and lost) in his career. He finished this season with a 1.08 ERA in his last 5 starts in September. He has not faced the Giants this season which will be a decided advantage for he and the Pirates. If he is able to give Hurdle 7 innings, All-Star Tony Watson will work the 8th, and last year’s secret weapon Mark Melancon has stepped into the closer’s role after the team traded former closer Jason Grilli to Anaheim. John Axford could be called on in case Volquez needs help getting out of an inning. Overall the team ERA is 3.45 and the batting average against is .247.
All-Star Josh Harrison leads off for the Bucs and has done a great job of getting on base after replacing Alverez at 3B. He has a .340 OBP along with 17 stolen bases and has been a spark plug for this team. RF Gregory Polonco has the tools and athleticism but not the experience yet. He has been spelled in the late season by Travis Snider who can hit a home run but is not a difference maker at the plate or in the field. All-Star Andrew McCutchen hits 3rd and is again in the conversation for MVP. 2B Neil Walker had a breakout power year for the Bucs, but has cooled over the past month. LF Starling Marte doesn’t hit for much power but led the team in stolen bases and hit .290. Catcher Russell Martin has been a catalyst for this team in their playoff push. He is currently nursing a slight muscle strain but will be good to go. Jordy Mercer plays short and Gaby Sanchez will likely get the start at 1B with a lefty on the mound.
The Pirates are last in the National League in total errors as well as fielding percentage. It helps they have shifted Pedro Alvarez off 3B. Ike Davis would pinch hit for Sanchez should a righty reliever enter the game. If Snider starts in RF Polonco could come in as he has better range.
Bumgarner on the road is really good, the Pirates at home are also really good. The injury to Pagan kills the Giants as his replacement is just a guy and should hit 8th in the shortened lineup. If the Giants are going to win this they need to jump on Volquez early but I don’t see it happening as he is the definition of a manager riding the hot hand (arm).
The numbers say Pittsburgh wins this game 2-1.
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