October baseball is competitive, unpredictable, and compelling. SoSH Baseball spends most of our year looking at the weird, wild, wonderful world of baseball – as well as the intricate and the analytical. With a month of pressure-packed games to cover – the real, and the fictional – we’ll do our best to keep you covered.
Madison Bumgarner versus Noah Syndergaard turned out to be better than we could have been imagined. The Giants ace was looking to continue his playoff dominance while the Mets young superhero was looking to build upon his success in last year’s postseason. San Francisco’s Bumgarner cruised through the first three innings with nary a wasted pitch, and kept the New York Mets’ offense silent. Meanwhile, the Norse God with the blazing fastball didn’t allow a hit until there were two down in the top of the sixth, and held down the Giants offense over seven innings himself.
For a game with only nine total hits and three runs, this was a thrilling matchup that featured two of the top contenders for the NL Cy Young Award matching each other’s intensity, and performance in a pressure-packed win-or-go-home game. Bumgarner’s postseason bonafides are well-known: 52 ⅔ innings of brilliance in 2014 to help deliver a World Series win, along with four victories – Mad Bum rode a streak of 17 consecutive scoreless innings in elimination games into this Wild Card contest, and he added nine more to his resume and legend.
Syndergaard racked up ten strikeouts in the first seven innings, but his pitch count quickly mounted to over 100 and his long-term health – especially in this, the season of every promising Mets pitcher having their arm fall off – took precedence and he was lifted in favor of Addison Reed to start the eighth. The reliever held the Giants in check once again, and we went to the ninth, scoreless.
The Giants finally managed to rally in the top of the ninth, putting two men on with one out. Brandon Crawford scorched a double, and after Angel Pagan struck out, second baseman Joe Panik worked the walk. But with Bumgarner’s spot in the lineup due next, Giants manager Bruce Bochy had a decision to make: pinch hit for fill-in third baseman Conor Gillaspie with someone like Jarrett Parker, or let the journeyman 29-year-old bat against Mets closer Jeurys Familia. Bochy stuck with Gillaspie and instead sent Parker to the on-deck circle, signaling Bumgarner’s night was about to be over.
However, the storybook ending was on order for both the AL and NL Wild Card games: Gillaspie smashed the ball over the right-center field fence to put the Giants up 3-0, and Bumgarner headed back onto the mound – once they located him in the dugout and hustled him into the on-deck circle (replacing the man already camped out there, waiting to pinch hit) before Gillaspie could round the bases. Bumgarner then set the Mets down in order – again – capping off the four-hit shutout, and reinforcing his reputation as Mr. October.
Bumgarner and Syndergaard were both masterful in this game; a true pitcher’s duel between aces. Syndergaard’s fastball regularly exceeded 98 mph and the Giants hitters looked unable to cope. But he racked up 108 pitches in seven innings while blowing away ten batters. By contrast, Bumgarner only had six K’s, but clocked in with a total of 119 pitches in nine innings of work. His early innings of dominance – his fourth inning total exceeded the first three innings of pitches, combined – set the foundation from which he was able to finish what he started. The Giants may have had to scramble to make the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, but now that they are “in” the remainder of the participants should take notice: Madison Bumgarner remains the best postseason pitcher on the planet, and you probably can’t score a single run against him.