PITTSBURGH — They were loud, boisterous and clad in black throughout PNC Park on Wednesday night.
For a little bit of time, at least.
Not even the largest crowd in stadium history (40,629) could stop the San Francisco Giants from advancing to the National League division series against NL East champion Washington, starting Friday at Nationals Park.
The Giants won 8-0 and turned a blackout into a funeral.
But the 25 players in Giants uniforms did a pretty spot-up job of silencing a fan base that had taken over last year’s National League wild card game against Cincinnati.
OK, maybe just two of the Giants can get a majority of the credit, but their efforts in noise cancellation were also key elements in ending the Pirates’ season.
If the Pirates had any sort of answer for Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner, the volume and the Pirates fortunes could have soared in a completely different direction.
The left-hander, who was 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA during the regular season, stymied the Pirates lineup throughout the evening, allowing just six baserunners and four hits over a complete-game effort.
Getting six of his 10 strikeouts on swings with pitches in the dirt was a prime example of the balance that Pittsburgh was never able to achieve against Bumgarner.
It took two errors and an infield single to ever stagger Bumgarner. That came in the eighth, a fielder’s choice grounder by Andrew McCutchen ended that threat and kept Bumgarner in line for a shutout.
There’s also the matter of Brandon Crawford making a bit of history.
What did the Giants shortstop do?
The .246-hitting shortstop with 10 home runs during the regular season.
Just the first grand slam by a shortstop in major-league postseason history. While Bumgarner’s early performance made Pirates fans second-guess their team’s fortunes on Wednesday, Crawford’s fourth-inning grand slam dropped a brick on the PNC Park mute button.
San Francisco picked up another run in the sixth. That run by itself would have been enough to subdue the Pirates on a night that strictly belonged to Bumgarner.
Then came the kill shot in the seventh, Brandon Belt’s bases-loaded single. Any hopes of a redux from Tuesday night’s American League wild card game fell as Belt’s single located outfield grass.
The crowd was so dead that even Cheese Chester’s victory in the “Great Pittsburgh Pierogy Race n’at” brought no joy to the fans in the stadium.
While the end result drew a somber tone, the appreciation for the Pirates didn’t dwindle. Faint chants did emerge throughout the remainder of the night. As much as fan frustration and negativity had clouded over the franchise during a run of futility that spanned two decades, support for the club has reached a peak that generated a “We Are Fam-a-Lee” feel at playoff games that some Generation-X fans thought they’d never see, let alone two years in a row.
After the ninth, when hope had expired, those remaining stood up. Not to leave, but to applaud a group that seemingly had little chance at a playoff berth until well after the All-Star break.
There were cheers during the ninth, as well. Especially for Russell Martin, who may not be in Pittsburgh following this offseason.
Maybe Pittsburgh is a baseball town, after all. Just a town that’ll have to wait until April to see the Pirates again.
SHAWN CURTIS is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @shawncurtis430.