Published October 06, 2016
Nobody takes to October like Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants.
Bumgarner pitched a four-hitter for his latest postseason gem, outlasting Noah Syndergaard in a classic duel between aces, and injury substitute Conor Gillaspie hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning that sent San Francisco to a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets in the NL wild-card game Wednesday night.
Gillaspie connected off All-Star closer Jeurys Familia, who led the majors this year with a club-record 51 saves while allowing only one home run.
With their ninth consecutive victory when facing postseason elimination, manager Bruce Bochy and the Giants advanced to face the NL Central champion Cubs in a best-of-five Division Series. Game 1 is Friday night at venerable Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The good news for the Cubs as they attempt to end a championship drought that dates to 1908 is that Bumgarner probably won't start until Game 3 — and would only be available once on full rest.
That's because the big left-hander has been untouchable under pressure.
The last time Bumgarner was on the mound in the postseason, he saved Game 7 of the 2014 World Series in Kansas City with five scoreless innings on two days' rest to cap one of the greatest playoff performances in baseball history.
Including his four-hit shutout at Pittsburgh in the 2014 wild-card game, he has tossed 23 straight scoreless innings in winner-take-all games.
Now, the Giants have a chance to extend their pattern of even-year championships after winning World Series crowns in 2010, '12 and '14.
In a matchup between the past two NL champions, Syndergaard went seven innings. Brandon Crawford doubled leading off the ninth against Familia. Angel Pagan struck out after failing to get a bunt down, and Joe Panik walked.
Gillaspie, starting at third base for injured All-Star Eduardo Nunez, drove a 1-1 pitch over the fence in right field and pumped his arm as he rounded first.
Bumgarner closed with a 1-2-3 ninth against the 3-4-5 hitters and smacked his glove in triumph when rookie T.J. Rivera flied out to end it.
With his sizzling fastball clocking 99 mph and long, blond locks dangling down his neck, Syndergaard held San Francisco hitless until Denard Span's two-out single in the sixth.
Eager to take advantage of Syndergaard's slow delivery, Span stole second before Brandon Belt sent a long drive to deep center. Curtis Granderson, moved over from right field late in the season because of injuries to two other outfielders, crashed hard with his left shoulder into the padded fence 408 feet from home plate and tumbled to the warning track.
He held onto the ball, however, and was shaken up a bit before getting to his feet and jogging off the field as teammates waited to high-five him and fans chanted "Grandy! Grandy!" Syndergaard raised his arm, while Belt tossed his helmet in frustration between first and second.
Syndergaard struck out 10 in seven innings of two-hit ball and fired 42 pitches at least 98 mph — more than the Phillies (41) and Indians (35) threw all year, according to a tweet from Inside Edge.
And while Syndergaard simply overpowered the Giants at times, Bumgarner kept the Mets off balance by mixing pinpoint pitches and changing speeds from around 93-77 mph.
New York came out swinging after manager Terry Collins said before the game his hitters had seen enough video of Bumgarner over the past two days to know he would challenge them. But the aggressive approach played right into the hands of Bumgarner and the Giants, with a bullpen that struggled badly down the stretch.
The big lefty was able to get quick outs early and easily went deep into the game. He needed only seven pitches to get through each of the first three innings, with the help of a double play.
Still, he was visibly aggravated at times by Mike Winters' strike zone — so was Mets reliever Addison Reed, it appeared — and had a quick chat with the plate umpire between batters in the sixth.
Giants: Nunez (strained right hamstring) was left off the wild-card roster, costing San Francisco a base-stealing threat against Syndergaard. Nunez, an AL All-Star this season with Minnesota, was acquired in a July 28 trade but hasn't played since Sept. 25. He planned to test his leg during Tuesday's workout at Citi Field but was unable to sprint, Bochy said.
Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (wrist) was missed, particularly because of his prodigious numbers against left-handed pitching. Flores has been sidelined since Sept. 10 after getting hurt in a home-plate collision. Surgery is planned this week to remove the hamate bone in his right wrist, and Flores is expected to be healthy for spring training next year. ... 1B Lucas Duda did not make the wild-card roster after he was sidelined from May 20 to Sept. 18 by a stress fracture in his lower back. Duda hit 57 home runs from 2014-15. ... Injured captain David Wright, looking very thin in his uniform, lined up with teammates during pregame introductions and received a warm hand. Wright had surgery in June to repair a herniated disk in his neck and has been rehabbing in California.
Wearing a Mets jacket, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning violinist Itzhak Perlman performed the national anthem.
Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto figures to start the Division Series opener against LHP Jon Lester.
Mets: Open next season April 3 at home against Atlanta.