After a long 162 game season, the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets will play a win or go home Wild Card game on Wednesday to determine which team will face the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series.
The San Francisco Giants have been in this situation before. In 2014, the Giants were in the Wild Card game and beat the Pirates in Pittsburgh. The Giants would go on to win the World Series that same year.
This will be the Mets first Wild Card playoff game since it started in 2012.
In a game with everything on the line for both teams, here are three things to pay attention to in the National League Wild Card game:
1. Will Bumgarner Continue His Postseason Dominance?
In 14 postseason games, Bumgarner is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA. In fact, the best game he has pitched in the playoffs was the last time the Giants were in the Wild Card game against the Pirates.
In that game, Bumgarner threw a complete game shut-out and only allowed four hits while striking out ten. The big left-handed pitcher shut down a Pirates team with All-Stars such as Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Josh Harrison.
It should be a tougher match-up for Bumgarner this year taking on the defending National League Champion Mets.
Last season, the Mets offense, led by Yoenis Cespedes, heated up in the playoffs. With the Mets’ ace, Noah Syndergaard pitching, runs for the Giants will be at a premium.
The Giants will need a typical postseason performance from Bumgarner to move on to the NLDS.
2. Which Syndergaard Will Show Up?
The Mets’ all-star faced San Francisco twice this season and had drastically different outcomes in those games.
The first time he started against the Giants was early during the season in New York. It was actually a Bumgarner vs. Syndergaard match-up, just like we will see on Wednesday.
“Thor” didn’t fare well lasting only 5.2 innings and gave up four runs. The Giants went on to win that 6-1.
In the second match-up against the Giants back in August, Syndergaard had his way with San Francisco’s lineup. He threw eight shut out innings and only gave up two hits.
If the Mets are going to have any chance of beating the Giants, Syndergaard will need to shut down the offense, much like he did in his second start against San Francisco.
3. Who Will Come Out Of Each Bullpen?
Of course, both teams are hoping the starting pitchers can go nine and they won’t have to make a call to the bullpen.
In the event the starters come out early, who comes out of the pen will have a major consequence in the game and the rest of the postseason.
Bullpen strategy in an elimination game is always crucial. Will each team bring in starters from the bullpen? How soon will a team go to its closer?
In the Giants’ circumstance, there is little faith in the bullpen. If Bumgarner comes out of the game after five innings, who does Bruce Bochy put in the game? The Giants could bring in Jeff Samardzija out of the bullpen because they wouldn’t need him to start, at minimum, until game two of the NLDS.
Relief pitching will be the most important thing for both teams in the one-game Wild Card playoff.