Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Offseason Next Important Stretch

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Offseason Next Important Stretch

Article excerpt

As Brandon Crawford's grand slam sailed over the Clemente Wall Wednesday night in the fourth inning, it seemed to take an hour to leave the park.

It certainly ended a season.

The San Francisco Giants moved on to the NLDS with their 8-0 victory, as the Pirates departed PNC Park without dancing in the sweet spray of Champagne.

If there was any silver lining for the club that clawed their way into the postseason in consecutive years -- with the lowest payroll of all 10 playoff teams -- it was hard to make out Wednesday night.

"We said it the end of last year we weren't satisfied where we finished. We were proud what we'd accomplished, but we needed to continue to grow and improve and stretch. I couldn't have been more proud of what we've gotten done," owner Bob Nutting said in an interview before the first pitch. "There is more coming up, not only sustainability, but I think improvement in the future."

These 2014 Pirates were the Pirates who had been there before. The club that broke down 21 years of baseball frustration by beating the Cincinnati Reds in a wild, wild-card game a year ago at PNC Park.

The Pirates who, to dismay of legions of fans, did not re-sign A.J. Burnett, but instead took a gamble on Edinson Volquez at the winter meetings, then Vance Worley as spring training was winding down. They plucked John Holdzkom out of the Independent Leagues for a September call-up, and put him on their postseason roster.

Volquez won a team-high 13 games this season, but didn't win his final one, serving up a bases-loaded curveball to Crawford on a 1-2 pitch that made it 4-0.

With his counterpart Madison Bumgarner dealing for the Giants, the Pirates never mounted a real threat.

The blackout crowd got quieter as the night wore on, but did come alive in spurts.

Because these were the Pirates who defied the odds all season. …

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