The San Francisco Giants are headed to the NLDS once again, after Madison Bumgarner shut down the Mets and the offense managed a lone moment of competence tonight to get the team a 3-0 win. The Even Year Gods have smiled down on the Giants once again, and they’re headed to Chicago just a few short weeks after they were in the midst of a horrendous meltdown.
Conor Gillaspie’s ninth-inning dinger was the game’s best play, obviously, since it was the only swing of the game that drove in runs, but Madison Bumgarner was the best player on the field tonight. He went all nine innings, only giving up four hits and a pair of walks. Noah Syndergaard looked better over the first two thirds of the game because he was striking out dudes with ease, but Bumgarner was incredibly efficient. It only took him 21 pitches to get through the first three innings of the game, thanks to the Mets swinging on a ton of first pitches. After a 28-pitch fourth, he stabilized, got his curve to level out, and only allowed three baserunners to reach second all game.
This was the sort of performance from Bumgarner that fans saw throughout the 2014 playoffs, where he won three games more or less all by himself in the World Series. He kept his fastball right up in the zone, and hit the corners when he needed to. Bruce Bochy had Sergio Romo warm up during the ninth inning when Bumgarner’s spot was up, and he even had a pinch hitter on deck. But once Gillaspie clobbered his dinger, Bumgarner trotted out and casually closed the game out. He only gets better in the playoffs, and he’s now pitched 23 consecutive scoreless innings in elimination games. When Asdrubal Cabrera had a rare chance to hit with a runner in scoring position, Bumgarner himself snagged the line out.
But none of Bumgarner’s mastery would have mattered if the Giants couldn’t get a run, something that proved rather difficult for most of the game. When Syndergaard was pulled after the seventh inning, he had allowed two hits and struck out 10. It was Bumgarner of all people who had made the best contact off Syndergaard until Brandon Belt sent Curtis Granderson scrambling on a deep fly out in the sixth inning. Young Thor was on tonight, but it took him 108 pitches to get through seven innings unscathed, and once he dipped, the bullpen ran into trouble.
Addison Reed managed to get into trouble in the eighth, then work himself out of it. Jeurys Familia managed to get into trouble in the ninth, then give up a big dong.
The Giants have Chicago next, who present a much stiffer challenge (like an actual offense, for starters). Madison Bumgarner is a rock, but he’s only one man. That said, the playoffs are where he shines. The Giants will need him to.