On the eve of the 2014 National League Wild Card Game, Edinson Volquez was cool, calm and collected as he progressed through his press conference. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ right-hander was upbeat about his opportunity to toe the rubber Wednesday in what will be the team’s second consecutive wild-card appearance.
“I’m really excited about tomorrow. I think Frankie [Francisco Liriano] is a little nervous. I think I’m ready to pitch this game. I think I deserve it,” he said Tuesday.
One thing is for sure: The 31-year-old definitely has the credentials for the task at hand.
During the final two months of the season, Volquez posted a 5-0 record with a stellar 1.64 ERA in 71.2 innings. His year-end ERA of 3.04 was 15th in the NL—one spot behind his opposite number on Wednesday, Madison Bumgarner (2.98).
Volquez will be facing a Giants lineup that finished fourth in the NL in average (.255), which was one spot behind the Pirates (.259).
Catcher Buster Posey led most major offensive categories for San Francisco this season, hitting .311 with 22 home runs and 89 RBI. But Volquez will also need to maneuver through the middle of the order and deal with other veterans, such as Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence, who have been struggling lately.
The Giants averaged 4.2 runs per game on the road this year, so the Pirates offense will need to support Volquez.
While Pirates manager Clint Hurdle announced during his press conference that the roster would be announced at 10 a.m. Wednesday, catcher Russell Martin declared himself fit to play, via Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. That addition will be a boon to the team in all aspects.
The Pirates lineup will be up against a formidable foe in the 25-year-old Bumgarner, who has only made one career start at PNC Park.
If there was one telling statistic regarding Bumgarner in 2014, it would be his performance splits at home versus on the road. His ERA at home (4.03) was significantly higher than away from AT&T Park. While away from home, the left-hander went 11-4 with a 2.22 ERA, while holding opposing hitters to a .224 average.
“He’s a pro, he’s a no-nonsense guy, it seems to me. On the mound, he knows his strengths, doesn’t rattle easily,” Hurdle said.
That resolve will be tested Wednesday with another raucous environment expected.
“I love the fact that our city is going to have another opportunity to show up,” Hurdle said. “With the ‘Blackout’ mentality, with the noise, with the fervor, with the passion, it was a hunger that was sincere, and it had taken over 20 years, so the hunger I think will still be there. But this one was more of an organizational victory I think for us as a team, as a city. To get back in it in a different way, with a different group, We had to dig this one out of the dirt, and it actually speaks very much of a microcosm of what the city is all about.”