The Big Apple will be “lit” as the young kids say these days, on Wednesday night as the New York Mets host the San Francisco Giants in the National League wild card game.
New York is back in the playoffs after losing in the World Series a season ago to the Kansas City Royals. The Giants are returning for the first time since 2014 after missing the playoffs a season ago.
Luck could be on the side of the Giants as it is an even year on the calendar. Since 2010, San Francisco has won the World Series in all the even years. Now, in 2016, they have a chance to keep that streak alive. In fact, when the Giants won in 2014, they were the road team in the winner-take-all wild card game where they were victorious 8-0 over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The pitching matchup will be the biggest key in this game. The Giants will send their 27-year old ace Madison Bumgarner to the mound while the Mets counter with flame-throwing, 24-year old Noah Syndergaard.
Bumgarner finished the 2016 regular season with a 15-9 record and a 2.74 ERA, which ranked fourth in the MLB. He had a K/BB ratio of 251/54, with a WHIP of 1.02 in 226.2 innings pitched. In his career, he is 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA in six starts against the Mets. Experience is key for Bumgarner as he is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 14 career postseason appearances, 12 being starts. He was the World Series MVP back in 2014 and has been a member of all three Giants World Series since 2010.
Syndergaard, who is in his second MLB season, finished with a 14-9 record to go along with a 2.60 ERA (third in Majors) while striking out 218 in 183.2 innings pitched. His average speed on his fastball was 98 MPH. He went 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 19 innings of work in last year’s playoffs.
In two games against San Francisco this season, Syndergaard went 1-1. In his first meeting against the Giants, he allowed four runs in 5.2 innings pitched at Citi Field back in May. HE rebounded nicely in the return series in August, tossing eight scoreless innings.
Bumgarner outdueled Syndergaard in that May meeting at Citi Field, as he pitched six scoreless frames. In the August series, he gave up four runs – all on a grand slam – in five innings pitched in a no-decision.
That August series is what turned everything around for the Mets. Sitting at 60-62, with the playoff hopes seemingly fading away, New York split the four-game series with the Giants. Since August 20, (game three of the series) the Metropolitans posted the best record in the league at 27-13.
Meanwhile, that series further plummeted the Giants from the NL West crown. Entering the All-Star Break, San Francisco was an MLB-best 57-33. After the break, however, the Giants struggled, going 30-42 and nearly missing the playoffs altogether. The bullpen was a complete mess, losing nine times after trailing after the eighth inning, which was a franchise record they did not want to achieve.
The Mets belted a franchise-record 218 home runs (5th in MLB) and are 77-40 when homering. They also set a franchise-record for pinch-hit home runs with 13, something that could prove to be vital against the Giants.
Not only is Bumgarner good on the hill, he has a good defense behind him, making him look even better. San Francisco finished the regular season with a league-low 72 errors.
Whichever starting pitcher that makes a mistake could be kicking himself all offseason. This has the makings of being a pitching duel for the ages, which only adds to the drama of the one-game playoff game. The winner will advance to face the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS. The Cubbies finished with the best record in baseball at 103-58.