Playoff Reset: The NL Wild Card Game

Getty Images

The Game: San Francisco Giants @ New York Mets, NL Wild Card game
The Time: 8:00 PM EDT
The Place: Citi Field, New York
The Channel: ESPN
The Starters: Madison Bumgarner (Giants) vs. Noah Syndergaard (Mets)

The Upshot:

  • This one is all about the starting pitching. You may not much like one-and-done baseball, but Madison Bumgarner vs. Noah Syndergaard is as good as it comes.  Bumgarner needs no postseason introduction. And, it should be noted, he has had his greatest postseason moments on the road. Think about his 10K, complete game shutout of the Pirates in the 2014 Wild Card Game. Think about his performance against Kansas City in the World Series that year in which he won Games 1 and 5 and then came back on two days rest, on the road, to throw five innings in relief for the save in Game 7. There is not much pressure like Wild Card Game pressure, but Bumgarner has been there and he has done that.
  • If Bumgarner can’t go the distance, or at least most of it, Giants fans are gonna be nervous: the Giants blew nine ninth-inning leads in the second half, including five in September. The once-reliable San Francisco bullpen has been a liability for months. The Mets bullpen, meanwhile, has been much more steady, possessing the sixth-best bullpen ERA in baseball this season.
  • Syndergaard is, by default, the Mets ace. But he may have nonetheless been their best pitcher anyway, even if Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom didn’t go down to injuries. Syndergaard led the league in FIP and was the stingiest starter in the National League when it came to allowing home runs. The Mets have all sorts of injuries and concerns when it comes to playing a five or seven game series, but in one game, with Thor on the mound, they match up with anyone. And while Syndergaard may not yet be a postseason legend like Bumgarner, he came out of the bullpen to pitch a scoreless seventh inning in the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers last year and won Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs and Game 3 of the World Series against the Royals. He’s got the chops to handle the pressure.
  • The offenses are a study in contrasts. The Mets hit more home runs than the Giants (218 to 130) yet the Giants scored more runs than the Mets (671 to 715). The Mets don’t strike out as much as a lot of power-dependent teams do, though, so it’s not like it’s all-or-nothing for them. The biggest concern for New York: their best power threat, Yoenis Cespedes, enters the postseason on a bit of a cold streak. The Giants’ offense is more varied and their defense is superior. But again, this whole game is going to come down to Bumgarner vs. Syndergaard. The first team to have their starter knocked out is probably gonna lose this one.
  • These teams enter the postseason on distinctly different trajectories. The Giants owned baseball’s best record at the All-Star break but stumbled badly in the second half, losing a large division lead to the Dodgers and then just barely winning the Wild Card on the final day of the season. The Mets, in contrast, were nearly six games out of the Wild Card in late August, and were under .500 as late as August 20. They caught fire after that, however, going 26-13 in the final 39 games of the season.  Late season momentum has been shown to be a poor predictor of playoff success in the past, but that’s how things ended for them.

This is a really even matchup and predictions are probably beside the point. I’ll say, however, that if you’ve made a habit of betting against Madison Bumgarner in the postseason, you’ve probably lost a lot of money.

Nationals blow 6-run lead, rebound to beat Phillies 8-7

Getty Images

WASHINGTON (AP) Lane Thomas singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fifth straight loss, winning 8-7 after blowing a six-run lead.

The defending NL champion Phillies have just five victories in their last 18 games and are tied with the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East at 25-32.

“We’ve got to overcome it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to play better, get consistent in all phases and keep moving forward.”

Alex Call drew a two-out walk against Connor Brogdon (2-1) in the eighth, stole second on a low pitch that catcher JT Realmuto couldn’t make a throw on and scored on Thomas’ single to right center.

“The way Lane’s swinging the bat, if you can get on second base, we can win the game,” Call said. “I look over and the ball’s in the dirt, he doesn’t catch it. Now I’m saying: ‘All right, Lane. Come on!’”

Kyle Finnegan (3-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.

Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, doubled and drove in five runs for Philadelphia, which had scored just three runs in its past three games.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives as a group,” Castellanos said. “Showing some fight. It would have been really, really easy to lay down and allow the way the game started to be the way that it finished.”

Down 7-1 after four innings, Philadelphia tied it at 7 in the eighth. Brandon Marsh worked a nine-pitch walk against Mason Thompson leading off, and Drew Ellis singled with one out. Finnegan came on to face Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ground ball up the middle. Shortstop CJ Abrams fielded it behind it behind second base, touched second for one out, but threw wildly to first and Marsh came home with the tying run.

Castellanos’s second homer, a two-run shot to center in the sixth, pulled the Phillies to 7-3 and Marsh added an RBI single in the inning.

In the seventh, Schwarber doubled with one out and Bryson Scott reached on an infield single. Hunter Harvey came on and walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Castellanos singled to center scoring two runs to make it 7-6.

Luis Garcia homered and Jeimer Candelario doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Nationals, who have won seven of 12.

Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler, coming off eight shutout innings against Atlanta, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“This one’s on me really,” Wheeler said. “Guys battled back. Just couldn’t finish it out. We know who we have in this room and what we’ve got to do.”

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Washington.

Candelario doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Schwarber to drive in the first of Washington’s two runs in the first.

In the second, Abrams hit a one-out drive to deep center that Marsh misplayed into a double. With two outs and two on, Candelario doubled off the wall in right center to make it 5-0.

Garcia ended Wheeler’s night with a solo homer in the fourth.

“When you come out the way we did, you’ve got to tack on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but we got one more than the other guys.”


Candelario is 9 for 26 (.346) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored in his last seven games.


Phillies: Thomson said RHP Taijuan Walker played catch Friday and there are “no worries about his next start.” In a four-inning outing against the Mets on Thursday, Walker’s sinker velocity averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 mph for the season. His fastball, splitter and curveball velocity also dropped.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles (back spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the injured list. … LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) gave up a run on two hits and struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning working his second straight night for Class A Fredericksburg.


Phillies: LHP Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20) will start a bullpen game on Saturday.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57) went seven innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in his previous outing – a no decision against the Royals.

AP MLB: and