Playoff Reset: The National League Wild Card Game

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The Game: San Francisco Giants vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, National League Wild Card Game
The Time: 8:00 PM Eastern
The Place: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Channel: ESPN
The Starters: Madison Bumgarner vs. Edinson Volquez

The Upshot:

  • I’d say something snarky about how throwing Edinson Volquez out there in a win-or-go-home game is a fool’s errand, but after watching a Jon Lester-James Shields matchup turn into a crazy, bullpen-heavy game in which 17 runs were scored, we should probably know now that you can’t predict anything about this crazy game. Other than it’s amazing and wonderful and no amount of pre-game analysis matters when randomness rules the baseball universe. That said: if you told me that a team had Edinson Volquez on the hill when it’s fighting for its continued playoff life, I’d say you’re smart to have money on the other team.
  • Of course, this is not exactly the same Edinson Volquez we’ve seen for the past few years. He went from someone getting shelled on a regular basis during his stints with the Padres, Dodgers and Reds to a fairly reliable guy in 2014, posting a 3.04 ERA in 32 games. The Giants have historically hit him well, but that history all came before this year. More recently, Volquez is 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA in his last 11 starts. For him, it all seems to be about his mechanics, which in the past have been erratic. Whether it’s the Pirates’ coaching staff or Russell Martin’s steady hand behind the plate, Volquez has been a different guy this year.
  • There’s way less uncertainty on the other side of the matchup. Madison Bumgarner is the Giants’ ace, and he’s a good one at that. He was 18-10 this year with a 2.98 ERA and he strikes out a batter an inning. He has pitched in two World Series before, so the moment is not going to rattle him. Pirates’ lefties Ike Davis and Gregory Polanco should finalize their will. Starling Marte, on the other hand, has destroyed lefties and the two most important bats for Pittsburgh — Andrew McCutchen and Martin — bat from the right, so it’s not the worst possible matchup for the Pirates.
  • The crowd is going to be crazy. We saw this last year when the Pirates faced the Reds in the Wild Card Game and again in the NLDS against the Cardinals. The Giants are a veteran team who has been there and done that, but it should be a pretty electric atmosphere. It’s probably no accident that the Pirates are one of the best teams at home in all of baseball. Of course, Bumgarner is a good road pitcher.
  • I have a hard time seeing Volquez not be overly-amped at the start of this game and so I feel the pitching matches up way better for San Francisco. But it’s also the fact that the best players on offense are on the Pirates’ side of the ledger with McCutchen and Marte and that, after Buster Posey, the Giants’ offensive weapons have been a lot more erratic this year, especially in the second half.

This is a true pick ’em game, maybe even more than the Royals-A’s game was. But if we learned anything from that game, it’s that pickin’ ’em in a one-game playoff is a sucker’s game.

Padres fire Andy Green

Andy Green
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The Padres fired manager Andy Green on Saturday, per an official team release. Bench coach Rod Barajas will step into the position for the remaining eight games of the 2019 season.

Executive Vice President and GM A.J. Preller gave a statement in the wake of Green’s dismissal:

I want to thank Andy for his tireless work and dedication to the Padres over the last four seasons. This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one we felt was necessary at this time to take our organization to the next level and expedite the process of bringing a championship to San Diego. Our search for a new manager will begin immediately.

In additional comments made to reporters, Preller added that the decision had not been made based on the Padres’ current win-loss record (a fourth-place 69-85 in the NL West), but rather on the lack of response coming from the team.

“Looking at the performance, looking at it from an improvement standing, we haven’t seen the team respond in the last few months,” Preller said. “When you get to the point where you’re questioning where things are headed … we have to make that call.”

Since his hiring in October 2015, Green has faced considerable challenges on the Padres’ long and winding path to postseason contention. He shepherded San Diego through four consecutive losing seasons, drawing a career 274-366 record as the club extended their streak to 13 seasons without a playoff appearance. And, despite some definite strides in the right direction — including an eight-year, $144 million pact with Eric Hosmer, a 10-year, $300 million pact with superstar Manny Machado, and the development of top prospect Fernando Tatís Jr. — lingering injuries and inexplicable slumps from key players stalled the rebuild longer than the Padres would have liked.

For now, they’ll prepare to roll the dice with a new skipper in 2020, though any potential candidates have yet to be identified for the role. It won’t come cheap, either, as Green inked a four-year extension back in 2017 — one that should have seen him through the team’s 2021 campaign.