September 29, 2014
Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen hits a double to drive in a run in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Friday, Sept. 26, 2014, in Cincinnati. Pittsburgh won 3-1. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Al Behrman

A look at the National League wild-card playoff between the San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates:

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Schedule: Wednesday, at Pittsburgh, 8:07 p.m. EDT (ESPN).

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Season Series: Pirates won 4-2.

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Projected Lineups:

Giants: CF Gregor Blanco (.260, 5 HRs, 38 RBIs), 2B Joe Panik (.305, 1, 18), C Buster Posey (.311, 22, 89), 3B Pablo Sandoval (.279, 16, 73), RF Hunter Pence (.277, 20, 74), 1B Brandon Belt (.243, 12, 27), LF Travis Ishikawa (.252, 3, 18 with Pirates and Giants), SS Brandon Crawford (.246, 10, 69).

Pirates: 3B Josh Harrison (.315, 13, 52, 38 doubles), RF Travis Snider (.264, 13, 38), CF Andrew McCutchen (.314, 25, 83, 38 doubles, 84 walks), 2B Neil Walker (.271, 23, 76), C Russell Martin (.290, 11, 67), LF Starling Marte (.291, 13, 56, 30 SBs), 1B Gaby Sanchez (.229, 7, 33) or Ike Davis (.233, 11, 51 with Mets and Pirates), SS Jordy Mercer (.255, 12, 55).

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Starting Pitchers:

Giants: LH Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA, 219 Ks).

Pirates: RH Edinson Volquez (13-7, 3.04 ERA).

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Relievers:

Giants: RH Santiago Casilla (3-3, 1.70, 19/23 saves), RH Sergio Romo (6-4, 3.72, 23/28 saves), LH Jeremy Affeldt (4-2, 2.28), LH Javier Lopez (1-1, 3.11), RH Jean Machi (7-1, 2.58, 2 saves), RH Tim Lincecum (12-9, 4.74, 1 save), RH George Kontos (4-0, 2.78).

Pirates: RH Mark Melancon (3-5, 1.90, 33/37 saves), LH Tony Watson (10-2, 1.63 in 78 games), RH Jared Hughes (7-5, 1.96 in 63 games), LH Justin Wilson (3-4, 4.20), RH John Axford (2-4, 3.95 in 62 games with Indians and Pirates), RH John Holdzkom (1-0, 2.00 in 9 games), RH Jeanmar Gomez (2-2, 3.19 in 44 games).

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Matchups:

These teams met once before in the postseason, with the Pirates winning the 1971 NLCS 3-1 on the way to a World Series title. ... The franchises are linked by home run king Barry Bonds. They are the only two teams he played for. ... Pirates won two of three at home against Giants in May and two of three in San Francisco in July. Harrison hit a two-run homer in a 5-0 win over Bumgarner on July 28. Harrison is 4 for 5 in his career vs. Bumgarner and hit three HRs vs. the Giants this season. ... Bumgarner is 1-3 with a 3.24 ERA in four starts vs. the Pirates, with the Giants scoring just one run in those games. ... Bumgarner was tied for the major league lead with 11 road wins this season and had a 2.22 ERA in 18 road starts. ... Ishikawa was the Pirates' opening day starter at 1B before being designated for assignment on April 19. ... Pence has the most experience hitting off Volquez, batting .194 with 3 HRs and 16 Ks in 36 ABs. ... Crawford is 3 for 20 with 7 Ks. ... Lopez has allowed two HRs vs left-handed hitters in past five seasons, with one coming against Alvarez in 2012.

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Big Picture:

Giants: After winning the World Series in 2010 and 2012, the Giants (88-74) are hoping to keep up their every-other-year pattern. San Francisco missed the playoffs after each of those championships but is back this season as the second NL wild-card team. ... After relying on stellar pitching during those two title runs, the Giants are more balanced this year, finishing fifth in the NL in runs and seventh in ERA. ... The Giants went 65-18 when scoring first and 22-56 when allowing the first run. ... Workhorse RHP Matt Cain made just 15 starts because of a season-ending elbow injury, and two-time Cy Young Award winner Lincecum was removed from the rotation. ... Bumgarner is 3-2 with a 3.79 ERA in seven postseason appearances. He threw seven shutout innings in a World Series win over Detroit in 2012. ... Panik is batting .345 since Aug. 4 and provided a big spark with his midseason call-up. ... Posey batted .393 in September but was slowed during the final week of the season with a bad back. ... The Giants will likely be without two of their starting outfielders. CF Angel Pagan is out for the season with a back injury, and LF Michael Morse is doubtful with a strained oblique. Morse could be available as a pinch hitter.

Pirates: McCutchen, the reigning NL MVP, put together another stellar season, but the Pirates (88-74) took off once Harrison started playing regularly. They went 77-66 with the former utility player in the lineup. He finished second to Justin Morneau in the NL batting race. Harrison, who made the All-Star team, tied McCutchen with a team-high 38 doubles. ... Volquez signed a $5 million, one-year contract to fill out the back of the rotation and ended up leading the Pirates in starts (32). He went 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA in his final 11 starts. ... Volquez did not face San Francisco this year. He is 2-2 with a 5.72 ERA in 11 career starts against the Giants. ... The Pirates outscored the Giants 29-23 during the season series. ... Pittsburgh's team OBP of .330 was third in MLB and second in the NL behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. ... Watson and Melancon became a potent 1-2 punch after the Pirates traded struggling closer Jason Grilli to the Angels. Melancon was 2-3 with a 1.23 ERA in 28 games after the All-Star break. ... Pittsburgh set an attendance record with more than 2.3 million fans at PNC Park. The Pirates went 51-30 at home, tying St. Louis for the best home record in the NL. ... Martin put together his finest offensive season since 2007. His go-ahead, three-run homer in the eighth inning against Milwaukee on Sept. 19 helped the Pirates win a key series. He was even better defensively, throwing out 37 would-be base stealers, most in the majors.

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Watch For:

- Bumgarner's Bat. Bumgarner is far from an automatic out at the plate. He batted .258 with four homers, 15 RBIs and a .470 slugging percentage this season. The last pitcher to have more RBIs in a season was Mike Hampton with 16 in 2001 for Colorado.

- Backing It Up. The Pirates proved they were more than a one-year wonder, following up last year's 94-win season by going 88-74 even though starting pitchers Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton made multiple trips to the disabled list. They made up for their pitching issues at the plate, hitting .259 and scoring 682 runs, the fourth-highest total in the NL.

- Elimination Experts. The Giants are well-tested in win-or-go-home games, having won six of them on the way to the title in 2012. Many of the players who overcame a 2-0 series deficit in the division series to Cincinnati and a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS to St. Louis are still in San Francisco and won't be overwhelmed by the pressure.

- Sterling Starling. Pittsburgh envisioned Marte as its leadoff man for the rest of the decade, but he struggled early on. He batted .254 in 31 games leading off before being moved down in the order, where he flourished. Marte improved as the season wore on, hitting .344 in August and .364 in September. His go-ahead single against Atlanta last week clinched a playoff spot for the Pirates, a year to the day after his home run against the Chicago Cubs did the same.

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