The National League wild-card game will take place on Wednesday, October 5. Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets will face off against Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. Anything can happen in a wild-care game, which is a huge part of what makes it exciting. Going back to 2012, six out of the eight wild-card games were won by the road team, which means even the home-field advantage doesn’t make much of a difference. So who will win? We think it’ll be the Giants.
For the first reason, you could easily just say “Madison Bumgarner” and walk away from the conversation — and that might be good enough. Bumgarner has an excellent postseason career, with 88 1/3 innings pitched and a 2.14 ERA. The Giants are also 10-3 in postseason games that he starts in; they are 4-0 in games they can clinch (he only allowed three runs in 24 innings in those).
However, with these two teams, there is so much more to it than just Bumgarner dominating on the biggest stage. The second reason the Giants will win involves the Mets’ success against Bumgarner, or lack thereof. The key to the Mets’ achievements thus far: a lot of left-handed hitters, including Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, and James Loney, who combine for 5-for-39 against Bumgarner in their careers. New York didn’t have the best offense in the game this season anyway, averaging just 4.1 runs per game. It’s hard to envision the Mets scoring a ton of runs off of Bumgarner.
On the other side of the field, there’s Syndergaard. He recently experienced a good start against the Giants, going eight shutout innings in San Francisco. In his career against the Giants, he has a 3.66 ERA in three starts with 19 2/3 innings, 14 strikeouts, and five walks allowed. However, none of this really matters in the postseason; things are a bit different than the regular season.
This leads us to the third reason why the Giants will win. Sometimes Syndergaard builds up high pitch counts early, which could be a problem if Bumgarner is ripping through the Mets lineup. For example, there was a six-game stretch this year where Syndergaard averaged less than six innings per start on an average of 107 pitches. He only went over 110 pitches four times this year, with three of those occasions only going six innings.
It’s fair to wonder whether or not the Mets’ bullpen will give them a few innings. This probably isn’t a big problem; the backend of the Mets’ bullpen is excellent this season with Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia. But it adds more uncertainty, given that Syndergaard has never thrown a complete game in his major-league career.
As for the Giants’ lineup, Syndergaard doesn’t face a ton of experience. Brandon Crawford went up against Syndergaard eight times — the most a player has gone up against the pitcher. Crawford, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Hunter Pence are a combined 6-for-25 with a home run against him.
However, there is one thing this group has going for them, and that’s experience — the fourth reason the Giants will end up victorious. The core of this Giants team won a few World Series rings over the last several years, so Posey, Belt, Ángel Pagán, and the rest won’t crumble under the pressure.
Of course, the Mets went to the World Series last year too. While the team’s core has dealt with the pressure just fine down the stretch this season, it’s difficult not to let our minds wander back to Games 1 and 5 of the 2015 World Series; Familia entered the ninth inning with the lead, and the Mets ended up losing both games.
There are a lot of factors to consider, and there is no great way to predict exactly what will happen. The only thing we can do is look at the facts and make the best educated guess we can. Bumgarner comes into games like this with ice in his veins. The Mets’ lineup features several important lefties and many players who have struggled against the Giants’ left-hander. Syndergaard is excellent, but there’s a decent chance the Mets’ bullpen must come in at some point. The Giants have the experience and the advantage.