A Red Sox fan’s guide to the National League Wild Card Game


Last night, the Kansas City Royals won a wacky, weird, walk-off American League Wild Card game over the Oakland A’s, 9-8 in 12 innings, to advance to a postseason series for the first time since 1985. With Ned Yost‘s kooky in-game decisions, uncommon occurrences (Jon Lester allowing six runs in a postseason start) and desperation moves by both teams, the contest could have been fodder for David After Dentist: “is this real life?”

Well, for Royals fans, at least right now, it’s Heaven.

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Tonight, the Pittsburgh Pirates host the San Francisco Giants at the best ballpark in the Majors, PNC Park, in the National League Wild Card game. Human midway ride Edinson Volquez toes the rubber for the home team with Madison Bumgarner on the bump for the opposition.

On the radar

The big man at the hot corner for San Francisco, “Kung Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval, will be a hot ticket in free agency this winter. Despite a proclivity for binges and busts that mirrors his yo-yo appetite, the 28-year old’s 162-game averages are .294/20/86, playing half his games in a notorious pitcher’s ballpark. A number of teams looking for help at third will get in line for those numbers, including the Red Sox, who may be wise to let Bill James run the Will Middlebrooks Fan Club by himself this winter. James can at least count on Jenny Dell to renew her membership.

The sticky point will undoubtedly be the contract terms. It has been reported that Sandoval is seeking a five-year, $100 million deal, and thought that might sound absurd, in this market, he could get close.

Familiar faces

The Pirates closer is Mark Melancon. Are you serious? If you haven’t completely struck this from memory, Ben Cherington acquired Melancon, coming off two successful seasons in relief for the Houston Astros, in December of 2011 for Jed Lowrie. Melancon fell flat on his face with Boston, posting a 6.20 ERA in 41 appearances. Returning to the National League in the Joel Hanrahan/Brock Holt deal, Melancon usurped Jason Grilli for the Pirates closer job and is once again pitching like a relief ace.

Out in the Giants bullpen, you’ll find old friend Javier Lopez. The sidewinder has been a valuable asset for the Giants (15-5, 2.43 in 301 appearances) over five seasons, pitching for two World Series teams. Lopez posted a 5-3 record and 3.30 ERA over 172 appearances in parts of four seasons with the Red Sox (2006-09).

Did you know?

Despite their recent success (2010 and 2012 World Series champions), the Giants had previously been 48 years without a World Series win (the 1962 team with Mays, McCovey, Cepeda and Alou in their primes). That kind of dry spell is something Boston baseball fans can relate to.

The Pirates, forgiving a lengthy period of futility (21 years without a postseason appearance prior to last year’s club), made three consecutive NLCS appearances in the early 90’s and six postseason appearances in the 70’s, going 2-0 in the World Series for the decade (1971 and ’79 champs).

The Pirates have the seventh-most championships of all MLB teams with five. The Giants have seven trophies, split between New York and San Francisco, which puts them in fifth place all-time, right behind the Red Sox (eight).

Giants outfielder Michael Morse has the best walk-up music in the Majors.