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Giants' Madison Bumgarner shuts out Pirates

Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants celebrates

Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants celebrates with teammates after the defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Wild Card game at PNC Park on Oct. 1, 2014 in Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Justin K. Aller

PITTSBURGH -- A year ago, from his seat in the Pirates' dugout, Josh Harrison noticed something odd. After 21 seasons of October exile, the fans at PNC Park roared so loudly that at times he couldn't hear the crack of the bat meeting the ball.

"I expect it to be similar to last year,'' Harrison said before the National League wild-card game Wednesday night, when the Giants scoffed at his wishful thinking.

Masterful lefthander Madison Bumgarner tossed a four-hit shutout, and Brandon Crawford needed just one timely swing to send the Giants to a meeting with the Nationals in the Division Series.

By the time Crawford finished rounding the bases -- his reward for the fourth-inning grand slam that powered the Giants' 8-0 victory -- the raucous crowd had fallen into a state of stunned silence. Crawford is the first shortstop ever to homer with the bases loaded during the postseason.

With two strikes, none out and the bases loaded, Edinson Volquez was trying desperately to extricate himself from a mess. Crawford's bat sent a curveball over the rightfield wall, and 40,629 stunned souls simultaneously lost the power of speech.

"I definitely heard it go quiet for a second because it was pretty loud that at-bat,'' Crawford said.

Bumgarner did his best to keep it that way, meeting the jeers by throttling the Pirates. Not until the sixth inning did he permit a runner past first base. Not until the eighth did he allow one to reach third.

Forced to subsist on scraps, the Pirates managed only four singles off Bumgarner, who punctuated his 109-pitch effort with 10 strikeouts.

"Playing at home in front of our fans, it's been sold out since 2010,'' Bumgarner said. "Not every game is a win or go home. But as far as the crowd noise, that's an everyday game for us.''

If any doubt lingered after Crawford's grand slam, any traces were obliterated by Brandon Belt, whose two run-scoring hits led to three tack-on runs.

With that, the Giants' oddball season took its latest twist. They started like a juggernaut, languished in mediocrity for three months, then righted themselves just in time for the postseason. Because of that, the Pirates shuffled away like their fans, forced to accept a bitter ending after a September surge had raised hopes of a magical October.

Pirates fans jammed their picturesque ballpark as if to prove they hadn't been spoiled after taking an active role in last year's playoff run.

That's when the throng wrote its own chapter of postseason lore, goading the Reds' Johnny Cueto, who dropped the ball on the mound during the wild-card game. He was rattled, then chased, and the Pirates reached the Division Series, a five-game loss to the Cardinals.

Around the city, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he sensed a "vibe'' that signaled "buy in'' from a fan base that until last October had gone dormant.

It didn't take long for that energy to spill out.

Kent Tekulve, the ace reliever on the Pirates' 1979 world champions, threw out the first pitch. Then Tekulve whipped the crowd into a frenzy when he waved a black towel, sparking a chant of "Let's go Bucs.''

Bumgarner proved immune to his environment, allowing his postseason pedigree to shine through. A veteran of seven playoff starts, the 18-game winner dominated the Pirates so thoroughly that they didn't get two runners aboard in the same inning until the eighth.

By then, a steady stream of black-clad Pirates fans had found their way to the Roberto Clemente Bridge. They went quietly.

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