8:05 PM EST, ESPN – Money Line: Mets -106, Run Line: 6
While the Wild Card matchup in the American League will likely feature more than their fair share of runs, the National League Wild Card is the premier pitching duel that only the postseason can provide, as the New York Mets host the San Francisco Giants for the right to play the Chicago Cubs on Friday. Much was said about them coming into the season, particularly given their track record in evenly numbered years, but the Giants (87-75, 2nd in NL West) appeared to do everything in their power to spoil a sterling 57-33 start, with one of the worst second half offerings in the majors. Bruce Bochy’s charges struggled mightily after the All-Star Break (30-42), but managed to salvage a postseason birth by winning five out of their final seven outings. So with the marathon-esque Regular Season now in the rearview mirror, who in the hell wants to see this team in the Playoffs? After all, San Fran won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and most recently 2014, when they were also a Wild Card. And wouldn’t you know it, who else but Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA) would make the start in this oh-so-important do-or-die affair? The towering Lefthander is arguably the most clutch Starting Pitcher in the league these days, given his untouchable postseason resume’; Bumgarner is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA in twelve career postseason starts, dealing a pair of complete games and shutouts, a tantalizing 0.883 WHIP, all the while racking up seventy-seven strikeouts in comparison to just fifteen walks. The twenty-six year old led the Giants’ Rotation with 251 strikeouts and a quartet of complete games, and spent the final month of the Regular Season rounding into Playoff form, fanning a ridiculous forty-four batters while walking a scant five. He has faced the Mets twice this season, earning a 2-0 record with a 3.27 ERA, despite pitching just eleven innings in said meetings; Bumgarner struck out thirteen and walked six, yielding a dozen hits and four earned runs in those games. While Bumgarner is a given, the question remains as to whether or not the Giants will be able to manufacture enough offense to advance to Wrigley Field. “Just enough” is a phrase often used to describe Bochy’s bats, particularly when they’ve won those three championships, but there were plenty of times in 2016 where “not enough” would have been far more appropriate. The problem is that San Francisco just doesn’t possess much power in their lineup, evidenced by their 130 home runs, which was the third-fewest in the National League. Hell, they didn’t have a single player in their lineup hit more than seventeen homers. However, they do manage to get on base, logging 1,437 hits (4th in NL), fifty-four triples (2nd in NL), and drawing 572 bases on balls (3rd in NL), all the while striking out 1,107 times, the fewest in the league. Add a solid .258 batting average and it’s no wonder they’ve registered an On-Base Percentage of .324 (4th in NL). In seven meetings with the Mets this season, they’ve hit well, batting .296, with sixty-nine hits, ten doubles, six homers, and thirty-three walks. Right Fielder Hunter Pence (.289 BA, 23 2B, 13 HR, 57 RBI) enjoyed the most success of their number, batting .366 with seven hits, a double, a homer, and seven RBIs in those contests.
Meanwhile, though their opponent scares plenty because of their postseason track record, the Mets (87-75, 2nd in NL East) own the distinction of being the National League’s last representative in the World Series, where they came up short in five games to the Kansas City Royals. Also like San Francisco, New York spent a good portion of the 2016 campaign in virtual limbo, but got hot down the stretch winning seven of their final ten contests. Much of that has had to do with their offense finally awakening from their near season-long slumber. During the first half of the campaign, Terry Collins’ charges went 47-41, outscoring the opposition by just twenty runs, but post All-Star Break they went 40-34, outscoring opponents by thirty-four runs. While they’re far from efficient at the plate (.246 BA, fourth-worst in NL), they possess the power that their counterpart lacks; as far as National League teams go, the Metropolitans can rake, pelting 218 home runs, second only to the Cubs. The triumvirate of Asdrubal Cabrera (.280 BA, 30 2B, 23 HR, 62 RBI), Yoenis Cespedes (.280 BA, 25 2B, 31 HR, 86 RBI), and Curtis Granderson (.237 BA, 24 2B, 30 HR, 59 RBI) have keyed their power surge, with all three finding success against in their seven meetings with the Giants this season. Of them, Cesepedes proved most lethal, batting .346 with eight hits, four homers, and eleven RBIs. Of course, it’s impossible to talk about the Mets without referencing their pitching, particularly their stellar Rotation led by tonight’s starter Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60 ERA). The towering 6′-6″ Righthander was a huge part of their run to the World Series a year ago, and established himself as the unquestioned ace of this Staff. Few starters have the stuff to trade blows with Bumgarner in the Playoffs, but this kid certainly up to the task; the 23-year old struck out 218 opponents this season, registering 1.149 WHIP, while averaging 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a healthy 5.07 K/BB Ratio. Though he doesn’t quite have the postseason experience his opposite number has, he’s done pretty well for himself; Syndergaard was 2-1 during last year’s Playoff Run, posting a 3.23 ERA with twenty-six strikeouts to eight walks, averaging a blistering 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s also quite familiar with the Giants, whom he went 1-1 against in two starts this season, yielding seven hits, four earned runs, with a dozen strikeouts to four walks in 13.2 innings of work. Not to be overlooked though, is the fact that while San Francisco needs Bumgarner to go the distance, New York does not require the same stamina from their ace. And that’s because of the presence of one Jeurys Familia, the 26-year old Closer, who lead the National League with fifty-one saves this year. Earning his first All-Star selection, the Righthander averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings in sixty-seven appearances. In three games against the Giants in 2016, he recorded a pair of saves with a pair of strikeouts and no walks.
Predicted Outcome: Giants 2, Mets 1