On Tuesday the Oakland Athletics will play the Kansas City Royals. Then the senior circuit will take the field Wednesday as the San Francisco Giants will play the Pittsburgh Pirates. Yet again, another even year, so it is not surprising that the Giants are back. The Pirates return again looking to improve on last year’s finish. Let’s take a look at the National League Wildcard game. The American League Wildcard game predictions can be found by reading the 2014 MLB American League Wildcard Game Prediction.
National League Wildcard Game
San Francisco Giants vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
1 October, 8:07 PM EST
San Francisco Giants – Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98)
Pittsburgh Pirates –Edinson Volquez (13-7, 3.04)
The San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates are set to face off in a one game battle with the National League Division Series lying in the balance. Both teams finished 2014 at 88-74. The Pirates won the season series against the Giants 4-2 while outscoring the boys from the bay by six runs. A point of note is that these two teams have not faced each other since July 30 which ended in a 7-5 Giants win. If you are superstitious then this is the year for the San Francisco Giants since it is an even year and they won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. Of course this does not have any real bearing other than an interesting point of note.
This game is destined to be a low scoring affair with Madison Bumgarner hurling for the Giants and EdinsonVolquez taking the ball for the Pirates. Bumgarner will be trotting out his 11-4 record that comes with a 2.22 ERA in his 18 road starts. He will be looking to pitch better than his last outing against the Dodgers where he gave up four runs in seven plus innings of work and his lone start against the Pirates this year where he gave up five earned runs in four innings on July 28th.
Meanwhile Volquez, who is on fire as of late, will be bringing his 18 inning scoreless streak and 1.78 ERA in his last 12 starts to the contest. In fact, he has only given up four earned runs in five combined September starts. However, Volquez has not beaten the Giants since 2008. This should be a real battle with two front end starters coming to advance their teams to the National League Division Series.
When you look at the offensive numbers, the Pirates have a slight edge in almost every category that matters. However, they are three and four respectively in team batting average with the Pirates hitting .259 and the Giants coming in at .255. They are also four and five in runs with the Pirates crossing the plate 682 times and the Giants touching home 665 times. The Pirates do have a slight edge in home runs with a gap of 24 long balls (156 to132) and noticeable distance in team speed as represented by their 104 to 56 stolen base gap.
Aside from the obvious starting pitcher matchup, there are few key position battles of note. The first being center field where Angel Pagan of the Giants squares off with former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates. Speed for speed the two players match up with a nod to Pagan when healthy. Both hit .300 but McCutchen was third in the National League this year. McCutchen also has a clear lead in power with 25 home runs and 83 RBI compared to Pagan who has averaged less than 10 homers and 50 RBI throughout his career. Defensively the nod goes to Pagan who has a better range, commits fewer errors and has a stronger arm. This is not to say that McCutchen is a slouch in the field, he is not, but weighing the comparable, Pagan gets the nod.
Update: Angel Pagan will miss the playoffs due to surgery on his back. In his place is Gregor Blanco. The change from Pagan to Blanco is a significant downgrade at the position. He hit .260 with five home runs and 38 RBI during the 2014 campaign in 393 official at-bats. Blanco will also lack the range that Pagan brought to the outfield.
Third base is another position worth looking at while comparing the two teams. The Giants use the panda in the form of Pablo Sandoval and the Pirates employ the services of Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez is injured and will most likely not be in the lineup which drives the change, as of late, to Josh Harrison. Harrison has been more than serviceable hitting .327 in September but with no power. The protection that Alvarez gave in the lineup is gone with Harrison. Meanwhile, Sandoval, who has more power potential, has not been lighting it up in September. He is hitting a measly .218 with only one home run. In a one game scenario, the ability to hit the long ball is still there.
The backstop of the Pirates Russell Martin and the Giants Buster Posey is the final positional battle I will look at. Martin has played well hitting .290 with 11 home runs and 16 RBI in 2014. In September he still hit .280 while serving as the backstop in Pittsburgh handling the pitching staff. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Buster Posey has been having an MVP caliber year. On the season he hit .311 with 22 home runs and 89 RBI. In September he was on fire as he hit .393 with four homers and 18 RBI. He is equally talented, in my opinion, behind the plate if not better than Martin.
In a one game scenario, it is always challenging to pick one team. When you know that any bad bounce, call or incident can end a team’s season. But when looking at some key positions, play down the stretch; the pedigree of the starters and other variables there is only one way to lean. I will predict that on Wednesday night the San Francisco Giants, in an even year, will take down the Pittsburgh Pirates and advance to the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals.
Prediction: San Francisco Giants