Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Mets take on Bumgarner in Wild Card challenge

The New York Mets will host a one-game playoff tonight against the San Francisco Giants in a match-up that will be all about pitching.

Noah Syndergaard will get the ball tonight for the Mets against Giants ace, Madison Bumgarner. Both of these starters have their fair share of playoff experience, but it is the Giants' Bumgarner that comes into this matchup the heavy favorite.

Bumgarner is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA in 14 postseason games. Two years ago he put together one of the most historic postseason's in baseball history, pitching to a 1.02 ERA in 52.2 innings of work. That year in the World Series he absolutely dominated the Kansas City Royals en route to a World Series MVP and a second ring with the Giants.

Some have said that he took a step back this season, but he still struck out a career high 251 batters. He is the ultimate intimidator. He will spend much of his time in the low 90s on his hard stuff, and will mix and match a 75-78 mph curveball just to keep hitters honest. But it is his delivery that is so deceptive. Bumgarner will come out of his motion with the baseball pointed toward first base, and then drop his arm across his body, fooling hitters. He's done it throughout his career --- and has been real good at it.

Syndergaard is no slouch. A winner of 14 games and a 2.60 ERA, Syndergaard is the Mets most consistent pitcher, and even lone survivor. Considering all the injuries to the Mets pitching staff this year, Syndergaard, along with Bartolo Colon are left standing. What's more remarkable about Syndergaard's performance this year is he has spent a big chunk of this season pitching with bone spurs in his elbow. He will have surgery once the season ends. The injury a tell-tale sign that pitching in a long postseason run last season certainly took its tole on the Mets flamethrower.

Yet, it still hasn't stopped him from dishing out heat in the upper 90s. That is the one advantage he has coming into this game, his arm. He will try to zip that 99 mph fastball and 96 mph changeup past a Giants team that hit .258 as a team and .218 with runners in scoring position and two out.

If the Mets have an advantage in this game against Bumgarner it is their unpredictability. That can be their undoing as well. The Mets feature a lineup with a redeemed Jose Reyes, a streaky Jay Bruce, and a once forgotten James Loney. Throw in T.J. Rivera, who has played a decent second base in the absence of Neil Walker, and Rene Rivera who is the best of a poor catching corp, and you have these 2016 Mets.  Plus, the team has gotten tremendous and surprising power from Asdrubal Cabrera (23 HR) and Curtis Granderson (30 HR).

Yoenis Cespedes, of course is the straw that stirs the drink. He hit 31 homers this season, and must have a great night against Bumgarner if the Mets are to have a chance. Against Bumgarner, Cespedes is hitting .300 with only 1 RBI in 2016.

At the same time this is a Mets that is incredibly streaky. They hit only .246 as a team, and .225 with runners in scoring position. There have been times this year that they just didn't get enough offense (much like the Giants) to make up the difference.

At the end of the day this game will be determined by one thing and one thing only, whether or not these two starters dominate as many expect. This game has the earmarks of a low scoring 1-run ball game. The team that flinches first will win.

REMEMBER to listen to the Mets-Giants postgame wrap up on Open Mike via blogtalk radio tonight at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT. Michael Cohen and Michael Saltzman will break it down. LISTEN LIVE!

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