MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants

The People of New York v. Madison Bumgarner

The month of October is upon us during an even year, and that can only mean one thing: There’s a madman on the loose. He goes by the name of Madison Bumgarner, and he’s standing in the way of the New York Mets.

It’s been quite the second half ride for the Metropolitans, who looked dead in the water in mid-August after losing two straight to these same San Francisco Giants and falling to 60-62 on the year, five-and-a-half games out of the second National League Wild Card spot.

With a roster that continued to get battered by injuries and occupied by more Triple-A players by the day, the Mets stunningly roared to a 27-13 finish, surpassing both the Cardinals and the Giants to claim to top Wild Card seed in the regular season’s final weekend.

Despite their easy schedule, what this Mets team did was nothing short of remarkable considering the players they were leaning on in key games down the stretch such as Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and T.J. Rivera. It’s a feat that these players should be proud of, and yet this magical ride over a month in the making could come to a crashing halt after just one game.

Last year the Mets went through “the gauntlet,” as manager Terry Collins has described, facing off against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto during their 2015 postseason run. But they’ve never come up against the likes of Postseason Superstar Madison Bumgarner.

At age 27, the left-handed hurler has already claimed three World Series championships, an NLCS MVP, World Series MVP and is widely considered as one of the greatest postseason pitchers the sport has ever seen.

In 14 career postseason appearances (12 starts), Bumgarner has dominated with a minuscule 2.14 ERA. When the stakes are higher, MadBum gets even better: an 0.25 ERA in five career World Series appearances. Over his last eight postseason appearances, he’s been even better as he’s gone 5-1 with a 1.06 ERA over 59.7 innings pitched.

Sure, his past postseason success doesn’t necessarily indicate that he will continue to tear through his October opponents like they’re tissue paper, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have three dominant postseason runs in your back pocket.

While the Mets did prevail in a winner-take-all game against the Dodgers in the NLDS last season, the one-game elimination Wild Card Game is one situation New York has not been in before. Bumgarner, however, pitched one of the greatest games of his career in the 2014 Wild Card Game on the road in Pittsburgh as he threw a four-hit shutout, striking out 10 batters while walking none.

Overall in his career, Bumgarner has fared extremely well against the Mets, as he’s gone 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA in six career regular season starts against New York. At Citi Field, where he’ll be taking the mound on Wednesday night, he’s been even better as he’s 4-0 with a microscopic 0.62 ERA in four career starts.

The bad news is, yeah, that’s a lot of history going against the Mets in Bumgarner’s favor. And the Mets are poorly equipped to handle a southpaw, especially one as good as this guy. Their .755 OPS against left-handers this season was fine, but two of the team’s best performers against lefties–Wilmer Flores (1.093 OPS) and Neil Walker (1.001 OPS)–won’t be available in this do-or-die game.

The good news? Anything can happen over one game. Also they’ve got a long-haired hurler of their own in Noah Syndergaard who, of course, who threw eight innings of shutout ball the last time he saw the Giants this season.

While the Mets struggled against Bumgarner this season, they did manage to do one thing well and that’s force him to throw a lot of pitches. In his first start against them at Citi Field this past May, Bumgarner shut New York out, but they did manage to get him out of the game after six innings and 112 pitches. In his second start, another win in San Francisco, the Mets did significantly more damage as they scored four runs against the Giants ace—all coming off the bat of Unexpected Met No. 7 Justin Ruggiano, whose shoulder injury has kept him out of the playoffs—and once again forced him out of the game early after throwing 89 pitches over five innings.

“He’s real good, but like all great pitchers, he throws strikes,” Terry Collins said at the Mets team workout on Tuesday. “So the one thing you’ve got to go up with a little bit of a plan, try to get something you can handle, and don’t miss it. Don’t foul it off, put it in play … He goes after everybody he ever faces, and therefore you better be ready, because you’re going to get something to hit, and you better do some damage with it.”

The Mets will have to do what few have done over the last seven years, and that’s get to Madison Bumgarner when it matters most. If they can lay off balls out of the zone, hit the few mistakes he does make and force his pitch count to rise early, at the very least they’ll have a shot.

Photo Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

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