I’m largely fine with MLB’s play-in game, but there remains something almost cosmically unfair about having to win a one-game series when the opposing team can start Madison Bumgarner.
For as well as Noah Syndergaard pitched, keeping things scoreless doesn’t really even matter if you can’t score yourself. So here’s a thought exercise. Imagine if Conor Gillaspie didn’t hit that home run. Would you have been confident the Mets could have scratched a run against Bumgarner in the bottom of the ninth? How long could he have stayed out there, and stayed dominant? Do you think the Mets could have gotten to him in the tenth? The eleventh? How many theoretical extra innings do you have to reel off before your idealized Madison Bumgarner—who is not far off from actual Madison Bumgarner—either becomes tired or becomes mortal?
That’s the thing here, it’s getting difficult to separate the myth Bumgarner is building from the actual pitching performances. His name is now a byword for playoff preeminence, so his actual line seems secondary to the dominant streak it’s a part of.
“He just went out there and did what everybody expected,” Brandon Belt said. “It’s almost boring.”
Some numbers for Bumgarner in his last nine playoff appearances, dating back to the 2012 World Series: 68 and 2/3 IP, six earned runs, 34 hits, 10 walks, 59 strikeouts.
Some more numbers: Bumgarner has neglected to allow a run in nearly half (six of 13) of his career playoff starts. He has now pitched 23 innings in double-elimination games, and has yet to allow a single run.
So, last night was of a piece, you’d say. It was dominant enough on its own—he faced just three batters all night with a runner in scoring position—but the Bumgarner legend is longitudinal. Replace the Mets uniforms in this video and it’s timeless.
Even-year magic and all that, yes, but these Giants are not a great team. The lineup is wanting for power, and the rotation is shallow and the bullpen is suspect. They get the Cubs in the NLDS now, and the Cubs are built for a short series, and a World Series. This is probably the last triumph for San Francisco. I say probably because we have direct evidence from not too long ago that Madison Bumgarner can win a series as singlehandedly as is possible in baseball.