Last night we were treated to one of the best MLB playoff games in recent memory (sorry Orioles fans) when Edwin Encarnacion sent the Toronto Blue Jays to the ALDS with a three run walk-off homer, giving us the gift of a Rangers-Blue Jays rematch.
Tonight, it’s the National League’s turn.
Giants versus Mets. Even Year Magic versus the Miracle Mets. Don’t Stop Believin’ vs Ya’ Just Gotta Believe. Thor verus Big Country.What a show it will be as the last two National League Champions go head to head in a one game do or die contest, with the first pitch in Queens set for 7:05 p.m. tonight.
The storyline is simple: Two of the best pitchers in all of baseball, Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner, look to continue their dominance and send their team onto a date with the 103-win Chicago Cubs. The Stakes couldn’t get any higher my friends.
So what’s it going to be? Do the Giants continue their inexplicable even year magic with another road wildcard game win tonight, or do the Mets look to get right back at it against a team they’ve swept in four games twice within the last year?
First things first, you could make the argument that neither of these teams should be here. The Mets were two games under .500 on August 19th after losing two straight to the Giants (of course), and only had a 7 percent chance of making the postseason. Then Yoenis Cesepededs and Asdrubal Cabrera happened, and the Mets were propelled by a 20-7 stretch into the wildcard game. Those two straight wins over San Francisco made the difference in them getting home field in this game for that matter, as they won the season series 4-3.
The Giants….well…they looked pretty good in the first half. And by pretty good, I mean owning the best record in baseball, 24 games over .500 and holding a 6.5 lead over the Dodgers in the NL West. Then 0-6 happened out of the break, and that turned into the 30-42. The Giants became the first team in NL history to post the worst record in the second half after posting the best in the first half. With four games left, they only led the Cardinals by one game for the final spot, and St. Louis proceeded to win out. Except the Giants also won out with a sweep of the Dodgers, continuing at least the even year postseason pattern.
And here they are. One game to decide who plays more baseball and who gets to join Mike Trout on the couch (I’m honestly sorry, Angels fans).
The first thing you should know is that Noah Syndergaard has been really good of late. Certainly he was sidelined with an injury mid-summer, but he still posted a 2.60 ERA on the season and led the team with 16 wins. He also shutout the Giants at AT&T Park in August, which only helps his confidence entering this one.
For the New York bats, its been all Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Curtis Granderson in the hot stretch, working that long ball to give the Mets dramatic win after dramatic win. Trade-deadline acquisition Jay Bruce hasn’t been the slugging machine that he was in the first half, but that didn’t stop New York from squeezing into October.
But here’s the concerns for the Mets. Even though he may have caught fire at the right time, Cabrera has only amounted a .280 batting average, and it won’t help that the lefty is going up agains another lefty tonight in Bumgarner. And guess what? That was the best batting average for anyone on the entire team. For New York, it’s going to be all about timely hitting tonight if they want to best Mad Bum.
And then there’s the concern about the schedule. The Mets greatly benifited from playing in a division that had two of the worst teams in the entire National League, and when the Mets did face off against the NL East champion Nationals, things didn’t go so hot. And that 20-7 stretch at the end of the season. Well the Mets got to play the worst two teams in baseball, the Braves and Twins, in succession just two weeks ago before playing the Phillies twice and the Marlins once in the final week. Oh and the Braves swept the Mets at Citi Field. That ain’t good.
Moving along, let’s dissect the Giants.
First things first, Bumgarner was darn good this year, better than his 15-9 record indicates. His 2.74 ERA was the lowest of any full season he has played, and his .64 playoff ERA is just something else. What’s more, Bumgarner has not lost a game ever at Citi Field. The last time he threw in Queens was earlier this year in a 6-1 victory over the Mets. And the loser of that game? Noah Syndergaard, naturally.
And the offense that was so sleepy for the majority of the second half is coming alive too. Buster Posey is hitting homers again. So is Hunter Pence and Angel Pagan. Denard Span has made some noise too, enough to help the Giants outscore the Dodgers 17-4 last weekend. And on the other side of the ball, the Giants have one of the deepest infields in the game when it comes to guys like Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik and Brandon Belt.
But like the Mets, it’s not all fun and games for the even year trolls. The Giants bullpen in particular is what stands out. In case you didn’t know, it’s bad. And by bad, I mean all time bad, like blowing 31 saves on the season, with a five alone in September. All but one of those came in the ninth inning too, and two of them were with mult-run leads ouch. It was bad enough that Santiago Casilla lost his job as closer, replaced by the committee of Sergio Romo and company. If the Giants get a late lead tonight and Mad-Bum can’t go the distance, they’ll have to get the job done in the bullpen, as hard as that could be.
We’ll find out in just an hour who prevails. Does Bruce Bochy out coach Terry Collins and continue even year magic for yet another day, or do the Mets pull off the Miracle? All I can say is enjoy this pitchers dual while you can. Now watch it be an 10-9 ball game because I said that. Hahahaha.