The New York Mets have overcome countless obstacles on their way towards Wednesday's 2016 National League Wild-Card Game against the San Francisco Giants. Season-ending injuries to four of their starting pitchers and their captain haven’t stopped the team from reaching the MLB playoffs.
Now, all the Mets have to do is defeat the player that’s coming off maybe the best individual performance in postseason history.
Madison Bumgarner will take the hill for the Giants at Citi Field, pitching in the playoffs for the first time since he closed out the 2014 World Series. The left-hander threw five scoreless innings in Game 7 against the Kansas City Royals to deliver San Francisco their third championship in five years, completing the most dominant playoff pitching performance of all time.
Bumgarner’s final stat line for the 2014 playoffs was incredible. In 52.2 innings, he struck out 45 batters, posting an ERA of 1.03 and a 0.65 WHIP. Bumgarner nearly had a 9-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and he averaged close to eight innings in six starts.
Some players raise their level of play in the playoffs, and Bumgarner is certainly a part of that elite group. But Bumgarner isn’t just an average pitcher that had one great postseason. His 2016 regular season was better than that of most NL starters, and he’s been dominant against the Mets in his career.
Bumgarner is 5-0 against New York with a 1.80 ERA. He’s been especially unhittable at Citi Field, where he’s pitched to a 0.62 ERA in 29 innings, allowing just 15 hits and striking out 31 batters. He faced the Mets twice this year, allowing no runs in six innings at Citi Field on May 1, and he surrendered four runs in five innings when San Francisco hosted New York on Aug. 18.
Some of the Mets’ hitters have had a measure of success when facing Bumgarner. Yoenis Cespedes, the team’s best position player, has three hits in 10 at-bats, and Kelly Johnson is seven-of-20. Justin Ruggiano has five hits in 11 at-bats against Bumgarner, including a Grand Slam in August, but the outfielder can’t play because of an injury.
New York will likely have to win a low-scoring game if they hope to reach the NLDS and take on the Chicago Cubs. Noah Syndergaard gives them a chance to do just that, making the start for the Mets after a phenomenal regular season.
During a year in which almost all of the Mets’ young starting pitchers had their seasons ended by injuries, Syndergaard has been the one constant for New York.
Syndergaard leads the Mets with 218 strikeouts, and his 2.60 ERA is the third-best among all starters in MLB. He’s given up 15 fewer home runs than Bumgarner and his 10.68 strikeouts per nine innings also rank higher than that of San Francisco’s starter. Syndergaard was the losing pitcher when he faced off against Bumgarner on May 1, but he was nearly unhittable against the Giants when he pitched eight shutout innings on Aug. 21.
None of San Francisco’s hitters have had any kind of sustained success against Syndergaard. The team as a whole has a .167 average against him in 51 total at-bats. Buster Posey has three hits in six tries, and Hunter Pence has a home run, though he made outs in his four other at-bats.
If Syndergaard can match zeros with Bumbgarner and the game is decided by the bullpens, New York will have a distinct advantage. The Giants have the most blown saves in MLB, and Mets closer Jeurys Familia is the league-leader with 51 saves.
With the teams so evenly matched, they both have -105 betting odds at Las Vegas and online sportsbooks, via OddsShark. The Mets opened as slight favorites, but the public appears to be leaning towards the Giants and Bumgarner, whom it makes little sense to bet against in the playoffs.
Prediction: San Francisco over New York, 2-1