If you haven't enjoyed these two wild-card games, I don't know what to tell you. Let's hope these games foretell a postseason for the ages.
1. That Bumgarner guy is pretty good. The pitching matchup between Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard lived up to its hype, giving us the first scoreless duel through seven innings in a sudden-death playoff game since John Smoltz and Jack Morris faced off in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Bumgarner threw his second shutout in a wild-card game after blanking the Pirates in 2014, making him the first to pitcher to throw a shutout in two sudden-death games (and that doesn't even include his five scoreless innings in relief in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series). He threw 119 pitches and gave up only four hits in lowering his career postseason ERA on the road to 0.50 -- three earned runs in 53⅔ innings. He took a nap on the ride over to the park from the hotel. Been here, done that.
His overall postseason record improved to 8-3 with a 1.94 ERA and three shutouts -- only Christy Mathewson, who pitched back when they would use like one ball the entire game, has more, with four. Koufax, Gibson, Smoltz, Rivera, Schilling. It seems we can add Bumgarner to the short list of the best postseason pitchers of all time. In case you had some doubts.
Death, taxes and Bumgarner in October.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 6, 2016
Here's another fun stat: Bumgarner has six scoreless starts in the postseason, tied for most ever. Obviously, pitchers in the pre-wild card era didn't have the same number of opportunities, but Bumgarner has done this in only 13 career starts. Tom Glavine had six scoreless starts -- in 35 outings. Roger Clemens had five -- in 34 starts. "Bum did his thing," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
/Romo stirs in the bullpen— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) October 6, 2016
/sits back down
/folds legs to chest
/disappears into a single point of light
2. The unknown hero. Who is Conor Gillaspie? A new Giants legend. Or maybe this year's Daniel Murphy. He's playing only because Eduardo Nunez has a hamstring problem. Gillaspie was actually a first-round pick of the Giants back in 2008, appeared in eight major league games that season, eventually drifted to the White Sox and then the Angels, and re-signed with the Giants this past offseason after the Angels dumped him.
Mets closer Jeurys Familia was clearly laboring, not having the usual good bite on his hard two-seam sinker. Gillaspie turned on a 1-1, 96-mph fastball and crushed it to right-center for the three-run homer, becoming the sixth player in postseason history to break a scoreless tie with a home run in the ninth inning or later. "Trying to get something elevated, that's pretty much your only chance against him," Gillaspie would say.
Never been so proud, he deserves this. Hardest working, most respectful guy I know. Hats off to you Conor. I am proud to be your brother.— Casey Gillaspie (@BigCaseDawg16) October 6, 2016
3. Walks are important. Before Gillaspie's heroics, however, Joe Panik had a key plate appearance. After Brandon Crawford led off with a double in the left-center gap and Angel Pagan struck out after failing to get a bunt down, Panik worked a walk, fouling off three pitches and then taking a 3-2 fastball off the plate. If Panik makes the second out, the Mets intentionally walk Gillaspie, which would have forced Bochy's hand with Bumgarner up. Sergio Romo had started warming up, so it's likely Bochy goes to a pinch hitter there, even though Bumgarner is a good-hitting pitcher.
4. Thunderbolts from Thor. Syndergaard was absolutely dominant, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and firing rockets past helpless Giants hitters. Here's a stat to blow your mind: He threw 42 pitches of 98 mph or faster -- more than the Phillies or Indians threw all season. One inning that hurt him: He threw 23 pitches in the fourth, when he walked two batters. If he'd been a little more efficient, maybe he goes one more inning, maybe something else happens. Instead, he was out after 108 pitches and seven innings. Compare that to Bumgarner: One reason he lasted all nine innings was he threw only 14 pitches in the first two innings. The Mets' game plan, at least at first, was to try to attack Bumgarner early in the count. I can see the reasoning: Batters hit .233/.302/.433 off his fastball, much better than they'd done in recent seasons. It wasn't the wrong strategy, necessarily; but in the end, it helped Bumgarner go the distance.
When I go see a good HS pitcher throwing in the mid 90s, I see swings like the Giants have taken so far tonight vs Thor— keithlaw (@keithlaw) October 6, 2016
5. The new Armando Benitez? Maybe this comparison is a little unfair, because Familia was great against the Dodgers and Cubs last year before blowing a save in Game 1 of the World Series when Alex Gordon hit a tying home run. He'd blow two other saves, although to be fair those were situations where he inherited runners. Still, this is two enormous home runs he has served up. Benitez, the former Mets closer, had a checkered playoff history with the Orioles and then the Mets, with six blown saves in his career (against only four saves). Most memorably, he blew the save in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series against the Yankees. Hey, there's only one Mariano Rivera. Trevor Hoffman will make the Hall of Fame one day, but he had three blown saves in six chances in a playoff or tiebreaker game. Billy Wagner allowed 13 runs in 11⅔ innings in his postseason career.
(I apologize for that, but ... watch out, Cubs.)