San Francisco Giants @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Bumgarner vs. Volquez)
Moneyline – SF (-112) PIT (+105)
Runline – SF -1.5 (+160) PIT +1.5 (-180)
Total – Over 6 (-125) Under 6 (+105)
Side: For the second consecutive season Pittsburgh will play host to the one game Wildcard game in the National League. This time they send red hot Edinson Volquez to the mound while the Giants counter with Madison Bumgarner. The Pirates were hot on the heels of the Cardinals in the NL Central race which almost allowed them to avoid this game, but they hit a road bump down the stretch and are now forced to beat a very good Giants team for a spot in the NLDS. Volquez comes into the game with an 18 inning scoreless streak, has won five straight decisions, and hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in his last 11 starts. The problem is the Pirates offense has been stumbling lately. They’ve scored just 34 runs in their last 11 games and have been held to three or fewer runs in eight of those 11. Last year the Pirates were bolstered in a big way from their fan base that was thrilled to be there, but this year there’s a little more pressure to win. Pittsburgh expected a step forward from this team, and a loss in this game would represent just the opposite. The Pirates have had an excellent season, but their offense production is a major concern and Volquez was terrible in his only career postseason start (1.2 IP, 4 ER in 2010 vs. PHI).
As for the Giants, they will put their faith in their 18 win man, MadBum. Bumgarner has been great this season posting an ERA under three and WHIP just over one, however he isn’t as good historically in the postseason. His ERA jumps to almost four and each of his last two appearances against National League teams were brutal. The Pirates got to Bumgarner in his only start against Pittsburgh as he allowed five runs in four innings back in July. San Francisco has been hitting the baseball recently and should be expected to put a few runs on the board against Volquez and the Pirates. The Giants are pretty good on the road and have been above average away from home in their recent postseason appearances including winning three straight. Volquez’s recent domination is certainly a concern for, but the Giants have the better lineup and the more reliable pitcher, plus a lot more positive playoff experience. Pick: Runline – Giants -1.5 (+160)
Total: Given Volquez’s poor postseason history and the Giants balanced lineup, it’s likely the Giants strike first. If they can find a way to get to Volquez early, it could force Clint Hurdle’s hand as Edinson has a history of blowing up when things aren’t going his way. Also, for some reason the Giants like to score, and score in bundles, when Bumgarner is on the mound. They average 5.03 runs per game in MadBum starts which ranks him tied for second in all of baseball just a hundredth of a point behind Clayton Kershaw. Like the American League Wildcard game you’ll have to lay quite a bit of juice to take the side run total, but it’s more actually quite possible the Giants cover the number themselves. Plus history favors the Pirates scoring a few on Bumgarner as well. Pick: Over 6