Can we top the American League wild-card game? Unlikely, but PNC Park promises to be one of the best atmospheres you'll see all postseason, just like last year when the Pirates beat the Reds in the wild-card game.
2B Joe Panik
RF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
The late-season injuries to Angel Pagan (back) and Mike Morse (oblique) have weakened the San Francisco outfield to the point where Bruce Bochy will start Travis Ishikawa in left field -- where he's started three games in his major league career, the first time in Game 159. He has played some outfield in the minors (25 games in left, 50 in right) but his lack of experience out there could be a big factor as the Pirates load their lineup with right-handed batters against Bumgarner.
While Panik has hit .305, it's a soft .305 with one home run in 269 at-bats. The Giants would have been better off leaving Hunter Pence in the No. 2 hole, where he's more likely to get an extra at-bat late in the game. Expect the Pirates to pitch carefully to Posey, who hit .354/.403/.575 in the second half. And don't forget that Bumgarner is a threat at the plate after mashing four home runs and hitting .258. He actually had a higher OPS than Blanco, Panik, Sandoval, Crawford or Ishikawa and the same as Belt.
On the bench
The Giants elected to go with 10 pitchers. Maybe they watched last night's game. That's a pretty weak bench, a reflection of the injuries to Pagan and Morse. The top pinch-hitting options are probably Duffy and Susac, thus the need to carry a third catcher in Quiroz. Brown is a pinch-running option while Perez would be a defensive replacement in the outfield for Ishikawa. The lack of pinch-hitting options should allow the Pirates to match up as desired, as Bochy is unlikely to hit for any of the top seven guys in the order.
Peavy started on Saturday, so he could be the long man if Bumgarner gets hurt early or knocked out, although that role could fall to either Petit or Lincecum. Lincecum threw just eight innings in September and he's probably more of an emergency guy, although remember that he pitched well out of the bullpen in the 2012 postseason. Bochy will mix and match with the rest of his relievers. Lopez is more of a true LOOGY while Affeldt can pitch to righties if needed. Romo lost his closer job to Casilla, who converted 19 of 20 save opportunities after taking over. Keep an eye on Strickland, the rookie with a 97-99 mph fastball who threw seven scoreless innings down the stretch with nine K's and no walks. Will Bochy trust him in a big situation?
SS Jordy Mercer
2B Neil Walker
1B Gaby Sanchez
Clint Hurdle lines up right-handed batters in his first five spots to counter Bumgarner, moving Walker and Snider down in the lineup. Martin has been battling a hamstring injury and missed the final two games of the regular season. Volquez is coming off back-to-back scoreless outings and had generally better results down the stretch than in the first half. But he's still prone to control issues, so it will be interesting to see how long of a leash he's given.
On the bench
The Pirates went with nine pitches, with starters Worley and Locke backing up Volquez. Worley is on full rest so is probably the long man ahead of Locke. In the bullpen, Hurdle would love to bridge the gap to Watson and Melancon, as there has to be some concerns with the rest of the group. Holdzkom is a hard-throwing rookie who began the year begging for a job in independent ball and rose to pitching important innings in September.
Davis platoons at first base with Gaby Sanchez, so expect to see him if the Giants have a right-hander pitching with Sanchez up (although Bochy has Affeldt and Lopez in the pen to counteract if necessary). Polanco has the best wheels off the bench and Tony Sanchez gives the club a third catcher if Martin's hammy proves problematic.
After last night's results, predictions are a foolish thing, but I'll go Giants 4, Pirates 3, as Volquez gives up some runs early and Bumgarner pitches deep into the game and maybe even delivers and a crucial RBI hit.