1. Rays

Giants blank Pirates in NL wild-card game

Brandon Crawford, right, high-fives Travis Ishikawa after hitting a grand slam in the fourth inning that puts the Giants ahead 4-0.
Brandon Crawford, right, high-fives Travis Ishikawa after hitting a grand slam in the fourth inning that puts the Giants ahead 4-0.
Published Oct. 2, 2014

PITTSBURGH — The Giants know what it takes to win this time of year. The Pirates are still learning.

Madison Bumgarner and Brandon Crawford provided a powerful lesson on the difference in the National League wild-card game.

Bumgarner pitched a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts and Crawford hit the first grand slam by a shortstop in postseason history as San Francisco routed Pittsburgh 8-0 Wednesday night.

After silencing a black-clad crowd hoping for another Pittsburgh playoff run, San Francisco faces the NL East champion Nationals in the Division Series beginning Friday.

Crawford's shot over the rightfield wall in the fourth inning off Edinson Volquez put the Giants ahead. Bumgarner did the rest as San Francisco won its eighth consecutive postseason game and seventh in a row when facing elimination.

Overpowering one of the NL's best lineups, Bumgarner walked one and threw 79 of 109 pitches for strikes in his latest stellar postseason performance. The left-hander, who allowed four singles, has thrown 15 scoreless innings in two World Series starts.

Volquez was trying to cap his remarkable comeback season by sending Pittsburgh to the NLDS for the second straight year, but he couldn't match Bumgarner.

The right-hander cruised until the fourth, when two singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. Crawford followed with a drive that kept carrying to the seats above the 21-foot high Roberto Clemente wall to silence the crowd of 40,629, largest in the 13-year history of PNC Park.

That was more than enough for Bumgarner, who mixed his fastball with a slider the Pirates couldn't seem to figure out. Pittsburgh, which was fourth in the majors in extra-base hits this season, rarely hit the ball hard.

The defense behind Bumgarner had its sloppy moments, including two errors and two near collisions when rightfielder Hunter Pence wouldn't clear the way for a teammate on a fly ball. But it also had Bumgarner's back when necessary.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval — all 245 pounds of him — flipped over the railing in front of the Pittsburgh dugout to track down a foul popup off the bat of Russell Martin in the seventh.

Sandoval landed on his feet, a perfect symbol of San Francisco's seemingly endless resiliency when the calendar flips to October.

Dominant in the spring, the Giants hobbled to the finish, losing the race for the NL West title to the Dodgers and ceding homefield advantage in the win-or-go-home game to the Pirates, who went 17-9 in September while taking the Cardinals to the final day of the season in an attempt to win the Central Division.

The chase included a decision to start budding ace Gerrit Cole in the regular-season finale in the hopes of catching the Cardinals and avoiding the wild-card game. Cole struck out 12 in a brilliant performance, but the Pirates lost, putting Pittsburgh's hopes for extending its season on Volquez's excitable shoulders.

The former All-Star blossomed this summer after flaming out with the Padres in 2013, posting a 3.04 ERA, 1.64 in his final 11 starts. He navigated three innings in the biggest start of his career before it unraveled.

Sandoval led off with a single and Pence followed by squeaking a hit between third base and shortstop. Brandon Belt walked on a full count to set up Crawford, who swung at a 1-and-2 breaking ball that didn't break much and sent it soaring to right. Pittsburgh's Travis Snider drifted back and turned, expecting it to carom off the wall.

It didn't, instead landing a couple of rows deep to immediately turn a frenzied atmosphere into a stunned silence save for the whoops coming from the San Francisco dugout, a familiar sound when its season is on the line. The grand slam was the fourth in Giants postseason history.

Shortstop had been the only position — including pitcher — never to hit a slam in postseason play.

San Francisco added on against Pittsburgh's normally reliable bullpen, the "Black Out" crowd fading to black, some heading to the exits long before the final out.