By Joel Norman, Originally published on Sports Heaven
The winner of Wednesday night’s Wild Card Game has an unenviable task: take down the Chicago Cubs.
Unlike last night’s American League Wild Card Game, the National League’s version will not feature as many threatening home run hitters. The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles combined for 474 home runs in the 2016 regular season, finishing fourth and first in MLB, respectively.
The Mets 218 home runs put them three behind the Blue Jays for fourth in MLB, but the Giants are ranked 28th with only 130 long balls. The difference between the Mets and the two American League Wild Cards is that while those two both had at least two 35-home run hitters (the Orioles have three). The Mets do not have any.
This game is all about pitching.
History says that Bumgarner will win this game. In 14 postseason games, Bumgarner is 7-3. That includes his remarkable 4-1 2014 postseason where he logged 52.2 innings and posted a 1.03 ERA. Bumgarner’s control was so good that he only walked six batters.
The Giants won the World Series over the Royals in seven games thanks to Bumgarner’s five scoreless innings of relief. He struck out four and only allowed two hits in that championship-clinching effort.
Bumgarner also has experience pitching in Wild Card Games. In 2014, he shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park with a complete game, four hit, 10 strikeout performance
His mound opponent, Syndergaard, does have postseason experience, but not as much.
In his postseason debut in 2015, Syndergaard went 2-1 in four games. His best outing was Game 3 of the World Series when he gave up three runs in six innings to lead the Mets to their first win of the Series.
This year, Syndergaard went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA. He emerged as the team ace and is the Mets’ best starter since Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom are both out for the postseason.
The most alarming stat against Syndergaard is that runners stole 48 bases in 57 attempts against him this regular season.
The Giants, led by outfielder Angel Pagan with 15, stole 79 bases in 2016. If San Francisco can get runners on, they have a chance to win. If the runners can just distract Syndergaard, he’ll lose focus on the batter. Even if the Giants don’t steal a base, they can take Syndergaard off of his game.
These teams will not engage in a slugfest. This game may be determined by a home run, but it would be surprising if the teams combined for more than three. Syndergaard is a rising star, but he won’t be able to defeat the legendary Bumgarner.
It’s an even year and while it’ll take a lot for the Giants to continue their every other year magic, they’ll take down the Mets.
Prediction: 3-1, Giants.