For the entirety of Edinson Volquez’s career, he’s walked the tightrope, teeter-totterring between success and failure. For the majority of it, he’s fallen under the former category, a trend he broke this season. Today, he reverted back to his old self, serving up a fatal grand slam to Brandon Crawford in the 4th, as the San Francisco Giants shutout the Pirates 8-0, eliminating them from the playoffs.
After setting the Giants down in order in the 1st, things got tenuous in the succeeding innings for Volquez. In the 2nd, Pablo Sandoval singled and Brandon Belt walked, putting the Giants at 1st and 2nd with one out. Volquez worked out of the jam, though, setting down Brandon Crawford and Travis Ishikawa with a line out and strike out. It was clear, however, that Volquez didn’t have his best control, continuously missing high, low, outside, and inside.
It was typical Volquez: Working himself into jams, than perhaps unexpectedly getting out of them.
“I think for the first three we’ve seen what we’ve seen from him in the past. The ability you know, maybe let guys on base and the ability to make pitches and work through it,” Clint Hurdle said.
In the 4th, Volquez’s control came back to bite him. Sandoval hit a line drive single to right, Hunter Pence singled on a ground ball to left, Brandon Belt walked, and the bases were loaded. On a 1-2 count Volquez served up a hanging curveball and Crawford hit it in the right field bleachers, putting the score to 4-0. The plan was to load Crawford up with breaking pitches, Martin said.
“Crawford’s a fastball hitter, he likes the fastball. We went with the curveball and he took a good swing,” Martin said. “You’ve got to give him credit. He doesn’t typically hit breaking balls for homers.”
Volquez got out of the 4th and 5th without allowing anymore runs, though was taken out in the 6th after walking the leadoff batter, Pence. After the homer, though, the completion of the game was changed.
“I made a mistake. That changed the whole game. I tip my hat, he put a good swing on the ball,” Volquez said.
The Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy added that Crawford’s homer was a big turning point, especially given Volquez previous three scoreless innings.
“Huge,” he said. “We’re facing a guy that’s been throwing the ball very well. You’re looking for a timely hit, and we couldn’t have gotten a bigger one there.
Hurdle had similar sentiments.
“Big swipe. Four-run swipe right there,” he said. “We haven’t run one of those with Edinson on the mound second half of the season. That one put us in the hole that eventually just got bigger.”
Justin Wilson relieved him, allowing a Belt RBI single to score Pence, who advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. With that, the book was closed for Volquez. On the night, he pitched five innings, allowing five hits, five runs, three walks, and striking out three. He totaled 83 pitches, 55 for strikes. Volquez had a particularly difficult time locating his four seam fastball, throwing only seven of fifteen for strikes.
On the other end of the spectrum, Madison Bumgarner pitched sensationally for the Giants, using pinpoint control to pick through the Pirates lineup. Bumgarner threw a complete game shutout, allowing four hits, walking one, and striking out ten. He threw 109 pitches, 79 of them strikes.
“He’s deceptive, he’s throwing strikes, especially on the inner half of righties. It opens up a lot of different options for him on the other side of the plate and down and out. He was hitting every quadrant tonight,” Neil Walker said.
Bumgarner’s main focus came in pounding the strike zone with a heavy dose of fastballs and cutters, throwing 60 fastballs, 44 for strikes and 31 cutters, 21 for strikes. Besides that, he threw 12 curveballs, an effective pitch for him that generated seven whiffs.
“He used all of his pitches,” Hurdle said.” “He was able to get his fastball in tight with the right handers. He was able to spin the ball late, dump it late for chase. Used some change-ups early after guys he’d showed the fastball to during it. He also knew how to elevate. I mean, he had it working tonight.”
Andrew McCutchen applauded Bumgarner’s performance, though he felt he and his teammates could have batted more effectively.
“He was giving us pitches to hit, but we were just missing a lot of them,” McCutchen said.
McCutchen finished hitless on the night, while Josh Harrison collected two hits, Martin one, and Starling Marte one.
It was a disappointing and abrupt end to the Pirates’ season. Still, despite the loss, Hurdle echoed that he and his players should feel no shame in their season.
“I told them tonight feel what you need to feel. We all feel disappointment. There should not be any shame. You walk out of this clubhouse head held high. You look people in the eye. We created something here that’s becoming special.”