Do you remember who got the game winning hit in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series? It is one thing that is not often discussed because Jack Morris pitched a game so great that people cannot shake the idea that he should be a Hall of Famer. In the other dugout was a young right-hander named John Smoltz who matched Morris pitch for pitch. There were pivotal plays in that game you can point to as to why the Twins ultimately won. However, the biggest reason was Morris was able to go the distance and the young Smoltz was only able to go 7.1 innings.
Last night wasn’t the World Series. However, it was a winner-take-all game featuring just a tremendous pitching match-up. The Giants had the grizzled veteran, Madison Bumgarner, who has laid claim to the best active postseason pitcher, if not all time. The Mets were sending out Noah Syndergaard, who throws harder than anyone in baseball and is coming off a Cy Young caliber award season. Simply put, you do not get better than this.
Bumgarner and Syndergaard were even more dominant than you would’ve thought they could be. Combined, the two aces threw 227 pitches. Only six of those pitches would result in base hits. The two would combine for 16 strikeouts with just five walks. No one would reach third base against them let alone score a run. In July, this is a game that is game you would call an instant classic. In the postseason, this is a game for the ages.
In the end, what did the Mets in was the fact Syndergaard was only able to go seven, and the Mets didn’t take advantage of their chances to score off Bumgarner.
The best chance came in the fifth when T.J. Rivera hit a leadoff double. After a Jay Bruce strikeout, T.J. was quickly erased when Rene Rivera hit a grounder to the shortstop Brandon Crawford. Being the Gold Glover and smart baseball player he was, Crawford caught T.J. straying just a little too far off second. T.J. did alleviate some of the gaffe by forcing a run down that allowed Rene to get to second. Ultimately, it didn’t matter as James Loney was intentionally walked, and then Syndergaard struck out to end not just the inning, but also the Mets only real threat of the game.
It was important to cash in there as no one was scoring off these pitchers today. Syndergaard had a no-hitter going for 5.2 innings until Denard Span hit a single up the middle. Span would try to turn this into a rally by stealing second (he was caught by Rivera earlier in the game), but it didn’t matter as Curtis Granderson turned into Endy Chavez for one play:
As we would find out later in the game, Endy Chavez was the right analogy.
Overall, the Giants could do nothing against Syndergaard. He would pitch seven innings allowing just two hits while walking three. He just dominated the Giants lineup. Perhaps the best evidence of this is his 10 strikeouts on the night.
The turning point in the game was Syndergaard getting lifted. It was completely the right move, and there should be no one second guessing it. By that point, he had thrown 108 pitches, and he started to look gassed as he put the Giants to rest.
With Syndergaard out of the game, the Giants bats seemed to awaken. Conor Gillaspie (more on him in a minute) greeted Addison Reed with a leadoff single. After a Bumgarner sacrifice bunt, the Giants had a runner in scoring position with the top of their lineup coming up. Reed would get Span to pop out for the second out setting the stage for a battle with Brandon Belt. Reed really got squeezed in this at-bat with him throwing two or three clear strikes that were just not called. Not only was Reed a bit flummoxed, but Rene seemed as if he was as well. On the very next pitch, Reed got one over that Rene just missed (by the way the home plate umpire missed it too as it should have been called a strike).
This sent runners to second and third. The Mets made the obvious choice there to intentionally walk Buster Posey to get to Hunter Pence. There was an ominous tone to the inning with the umpire missing strike calls, and the Giants seemingly gaining confidence with Syndergaard out of the game. Reed then showed the world why he was the best relief pitcher in the National League this season by striking out Pence to keep the game tied up at 0-0.
After another feckless turn at the plate, the Mets brought in Jeurys Familia.
He was in trouble immediately. Crawford lined an opposite field double. On the play, Yoenis Cespedes didn’t run hard after it. If he was completely healthy, he has the speed to cut that ball off and keep Crawford at first. What we don’t know is how healthy that leg is or whether or not he has that extra gear to cut that ball off. What we do know if that he didn’t even try to do it. With Crawford on second, the Giants had the exact situation the Mets squandered in the fifth inning.
Despite Angel Pagan trying to give himself up, Familia was having issues throwing strikes to him. Many of his pitches landed short of home plate. Still, Familia battled back into the at-bat, and after Pagan was unable to get the bunt down, Familia struck him out. Familia then had similar issues with Joe Panik eventually walking him despite being 2-2 on him. This set the stage for Gillaspie to have his Gene Larkin moment:
For what it’s worth, it was Alejandro Pena that gave up the walk-off hit to Larkin. The Braves had obtained Pena from the Mets and made him the closer in the stretch drive.
This was a crushing blow, not just because it gave the Giants a 3-0 lead, but also because it allowed Bruce Bochy to keep Bumgarner in the game instead of going to a bullpen the Mets were desperate to get into all game long. Bumgarner came out in the ninth and made quick work of Cespedes, Granderson, and T.J.
This would be Bumgarner’s second complete game shutout on the road in the Wild Card Game. He showed the Mets and the entire world why he is the best big game pitcher in all of baseball. Oddly enough, he had been bested by the Mets young ace, Syndergaard. While Syndergaard might’ve bested him, Bumgarner outlasted him. Ultimately, that is why the Giants are going to Chicago and why the Mets season is over.
If you’re not a Mets fan, this has to be one of the best baseball games you have ever seen in your life. If you are a Mets fan, you walk away taking stock in the fact that Syndergaard had the game of his life at a time when the Mets needed him most. This year, Syndergaard didn’t just establish himself as the Mets ace; he established himself as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Last night, he took that a step further by announcing he’s a big game pitcher that’s every bit as good as Bumgarner. In what has been a tough end to the season, Syndergaard gives you hope for the future.