October 2, 2014 / 3:33 AM / in 3 years

Giants sink Pirates in NL Wild Card playoff

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A four-hit shutout by Madison Bumgarner and a grand slam by Brandon Crawford carried the San Francisco Giants to an 8-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Wild Card playoff on Wednesday.

Oct 1, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) hits a grand slam home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning of the 2014 National League Wild Card playoff baseball game at PNC Park. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Crawford launched a hanging curve from Pirates starter Edinson Volquez into the right field seats in the fourth inning to snap a scoreless tie. It was the first post-season grand slam hit by a shortstop.

With Brandon Belt adding three RBIs with a pair of singles, left-hander Bumgarner sailed through the Pirates lineup giving up four hits, striking out 10 and walking one in a masterful performance.

“Crawford obviously gave us a nice cushion, but it starts with that guy on the mound and what a job he did,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said about ace starter Bumgarner.

“It’s hard to put together a better game than we just had.”

The victory sent the Giants into the best-of-five NL Divisional Series against the top-seeded NL East champion Washington Nationals starting on Friday.

NL West winners the Los Angeles Dodgers host the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals in the other divisional series.

LIGHTS OUT

The standing-room crowd of more than 40,000 that packed PNC Park sent the decibel level soaring from the start and heeded a media call to produce a “blackout” by wearing black to the game.

Yet it was Bumgarner who caused a Pittsburgh power outage with his dominant command and confusing arsenal, giving the Pirates no hope of a comeback after San Francisco’s early barrage.

“He was on tonight,” said Crawford. “When he does that, he’s lights out.”

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle tipped his cap to the Giants left-hander.

“He had it all working tonight. Absolutely a very professional, well pitched game by him,” Hurdle told reporters. “We tried to counterpunch but we just couldn’t muster anything.”

Bumgarner, who was 18-10 during the regular season with a 2.98 earned run average, said Crawford’s stunning blast was a turning point.

“That was huge. To go from a nothing-nothing ball game to 4-0 pretty early on like that was pretty big for us,” the pitcher said.

Crawford said his soaring grand slam, which came after singles by Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and a walk to Brandon Belt, was not his plan.

“I was happy to be able to be in that situation, but the last thing on my mind was probably to hit a home run,” said Crawford.

“I was just trying to hit something good enough to get Pablo home. I figured that would probably be enough for Madison.”

Crawford, who hit 10 home runs this season, was stunned that his slam was a playoff first by a shortstop.

“That’s crazy,” he said. “With all the great shortstops that have played before, it’s pretty special.”

While the Giants carry on in pursuit of their third World Series title in five seasons after winning it in 2010 and 2012, the Pirates must wait in their quest to end a 35-year title drought.

“We finished short but we laid it all out for everybody every night. We emptied the bucket for our fans every night we played, all 163 games,” said manager Hurdle, whose team ended a 21-year postseason absence last year.

“We’ve got more work to do because we all want to play longer. We want to find a way to bring that sixth world championship back to Pittsburgh.”

Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Greg Stutchbury

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