Pitching Matchup Was Key to Giants Easy Win over Pirates

As they regular season wore down to the end, the San Francisco Giants had a better chance of catching the Dodgers for the National League West Division lead than of failing to secure a wild card playoff spot. So, while the Cardinals, Pirates and Brewers were fighting to the end for the Central lead and the second wild card, using their best starters down the stretch, Bruce Bochy had the luxury of starting the likes of Ryan Vogelsong and Chris Heston to end the regular season, saving their ace, Madison Bumgarner, likely baseball’s second best lefty starter, for last night’s wild card one-and-out playoff game.

Pirates' manager Clint Hurdle needing wins had to use his best starters, Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole, in the final two games, leaving little choice for last night. He picked Edinson Volquez, but couldn't he have used Vance Worley? Granted, Volquez had a strong second half, and did win some key games over the last couple of months, but the journeyman Volquez is not a top of the rotation starter, evidenced by the fact that over his prior nine major league season he had a grand total of one really good season, in 2008 which is
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now six years ago, and after a lackluster few weeks in a Dodgers’ uniform in late 2013, despite their need for starting depth they had no interest in resigning him.

Worley, who came up with the Phillies and had some great early success, such as an 11-3 record in 2011, also finished 2014 strong, winning his last three decisions and giving up only a single run in 14-1/3 innings over his final two starts against Milwaukee and Cincinnati.

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Last night, Bumgarner was brilliant, throwing a four-hit, complete game shutout, striking out ten. Volquez gave up five runs in five innings, and the fourth inning grand slam hit by Brandon Crawford, the first ever in Major League Baseball playoff history by a shortstop, for all intents and purposes ended the game and the season for the Pirates at that early point. Leaving Volquez in the game
to face the left-handed Crawford was certainly another mistake, and Hurdle chose to leave him in even after the grand slam, eventually being charged with a fifth run that scored in the sixth inning.

When the Pirates got off to a slow start, I still thought they were a playoff-caliber team, and their strong second half showed that. But, they will need to strengthen their starting pitching if they are to continue to compete with the top teams in the NL and move beyond that one wild card playoff game.

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