En route to winning the 2010 World Series, San Francisco Giants play-by-play announcer Duane Kuiper coined a slogan to describe the team's penchant for winning tight games: "Giants Baseball...Torture." In 2012 they went down 0–2 in the NLDS and 1–3 in the NLCS before beating Detroit to win their second World Series in three years. So you'd be forgiven for thinking that Wednesday night's National League wild card play-in game against the Pittsburgh Pirates would be a facsimile of last night's 12-inning nail-biter between the Royals and A's, but you'd be wrong.
Giants starter Madison Bumgarner was dealing immediately, needing only 28 pitches to get through the first three innings while striking out four. The Pirates wouldn't get a baserunner as far as third base until the eighth inning, when a Joaquin Arias error gave them first and third with NL MVP candidate Andrew McClutchen at the plate. But Bumgarner managed to induce a weak groundout, and he finished off the ninth for the 109-pitch, 10-strikeout complete game shutout.
Pirates starter Edinson Volquez had no such luck, though it was debatable as to whether he should have even been pitching in the first place. Manager Clint Hurdle decided to send ace Gerrit Cole to the mound Sunday in an attempt to win the division outright, rather than saving him for the Giants. That move backfired when the Pirates lost, while the Giants skipped Bumgarner's turn in the rotation to give him a few extra days before this elimination game.
Volquez never looked comfortable, as the Giants had two base runners in the second and one in the third before breaking through and loading the bases in the fourth. Volquez got weak-hitting shortstop Brandon Crawford into a 1–2 hole, before floating a breaking ball that Crawford crushed for a grand slam, silencing the Pittsburgh crowd. The Pirates never gave their fans an opportunity to get back into the game, as this FanGraphs win probability chart shows:
The Giants would push across four more runs, but the game was over as soon as the ball met Crawford's bat. Bumgarner was pitching too well to squander the lead, and the Giants eventually won 8–0 to advance to the NLDS against the Washington Nationals.
Despite the agony of getting only one postseason game, Pirates fans still get to root for better teams than they have for over two decades. The last time they made back-to-back playoffs before this season was 1992, when Barry Bonds was patrolling left field. The intervening years weren't just disappointing, they were dreadful. The Pirates had a losing record for 20 straight seasons, and the few times they managed to draft or sign good players (like Aramis Ramirez or Jason Kendall) they were eventually traded away. Now they have one of baseball's best young superstars, an MVP at 27, and a solid core around him.
The Giants are the ones advancing, but Pirates fans have something good to look forward to as well.
Photo via Justin Aller/Getty