It is an even year for the San Francisco Giants and of course that means success and another World Series championship. First the runner-up team to the New York Mets in the National League wildcard game at Citi Field Wednesday night has to take care of business to keep that even streak going. Noah Syndergaard has his own plan, and so do the Meets to advance and take on the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS
And there is that respect the Giants are granting the Mets. They know Syndergaard is one of the best right handers in the game and has that postseason experience of last year. But the Giants have Madison Bumgarner, their righthander, successful in the postseason and 4-0 in four career starts at Citi Field.
“This is a great matchup tomorrow, it really is,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy before his team took the field for a workout after the Mets had their turn. “And I look forward to it. It’s going to be an exciting game.. They’ve got their guy going. Bum’s going. I mean this is the fun thing about postseason, is you’re going to get great matchups like this.”
There is that conception the Giants will this one-game elimination game. They have that success as a wildcard team that went all the way to a World Series win two years ago. That was 2014, then there was 2012, so the even year is definitely a theme with many on those rosters looking for that repeat type of situation in 2016.
Bochy knows that pitching can win this all hands on deck type of game. Bumgarner was asked if the wildcard game should be best two-of-three? What would he ask MLB commissioner Manfred about a new format if he had the opportunity?
“I’m going to need more than five seconds to think that one over,” be said.
“But I really think it’s up to the guy on the mound,” Bochy said about winning a game like this. “He sets the tone. Both sides they usually dictate what happens. We have a ring because of this Wild Card and have a chance now. It does allow a team like us, as good as we were in the first half, and those games were very important in the first half because it helped us get here despite our struggles in the second half.”
Yes, the Giants had a struggle in the second half. The Mets, they had the best record in baseball 27-13, from August 20th until the season finale against Philadelphia on Sunday. And if there was no wildcard in baseball, both teams would be home and watching from the outside, but it now comes down to who plays better baseball down the stretch.
Both the Mets and Giants, despite their mediocrity at times were the better teams down the stretch. Pitching will get you there and they have their best on the mound that will attempt to continue playing against the Central division champion Cubs.
“I mean, that’s playoff baseball,” said Hunter Pence. “It’s the best versus the best. It’s two Goliaths going at it, two big guys and that makes for some good drama, some good excitement and you know, that’s the fun of playoff baseball is getting out there and competing against the best.”
Syndergaard will offer the Giants that test, and is the best for the moment. Bumgarner has that 7-0 postseason streak in his favor, and it can be unfair that one game will decide who moves on. But two of the best in the game will be on the mound to accept the challenge,
Of course the momentum of late September, that is also a factor. Both the Mets and Giants feel that and with the right chemistry on the mound. And who gets the early lead can also make a difference as the Mets have the better bullpen and a closer, Jeurys Familia the saves leader in baseball with 51, and Jerry Blevins led the league in holds.
It could very well come down to the bullpens. If not, that means Syndergaard and Bumgarner have done the job and a few runs will do.
“We have to find a way to score more runs than they do tomorrow,” Bumgardner said. “And we’ll be alright if we do that.” The Mets have the same strategy and for them an even year is another game for them on the postseason calendar.