Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60 ERA) gets the ball for the Mets in a crucial Wild Card game with the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night (8 p.m., ESPN) at Citi Field. The winner will advance to the NLDS to face the Chicago Cubs.
Syndergaard’s main weakness this year has been holding runners at first (he allowed a league-high 48 stolen bases), but the Giants don’t appear to have the capacity to take advantage of that (79 stolen bases, eighth in the National League). However, Syndergaard’s propensity to strike out opponents (fourth in the NL with 218 Ks) will be countered by the Giants’ batter discipline, as they have struck out the least of any NL team. Syndergaard’s last start against the Giants was a gem, as he pitched eight scoreless innings in a 2-0 win on Aug. 21.
Syndergaard will have to be careful with Hunter Pence on Wednesday night, as he hit .307 in the last month of the season with five home runs. Pence has already tallied one round-tripper against Syndergaard in his career.
If “Thor” can hand his bullpen a late lead, New York’s chances of advancing will be very strong. The Mets were the NL’s third-best team by bullpen ERA at 3.53, and were anchored by the outstanding Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia all season long.
The Giants will counter with Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA), who has been kryptonite to the Mets in his career. Bumgarner has faced the Mets six times and is 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA. The Mets fought the southpaw twice this year and lost both games, though they were able to push across four runs in their Aug. 18 matchup.
If the Mets can chase Bumgarner early they’ll get a chance to attack the Giants’ vulnerable bullpen, which was ranked ninth in the National League with a 3.65 ERA and recorded a league-high 30 blown saves.
Much has been made of the Giants’ second-half struggles; they posted a 30-42 record after the All-Star game despite going into the break as the best team in baseball. By contrast, the Mets have been one of the hottest teams in the league since they hit their season nadir at 60-62 back on Aug. 19; they closed the year out at 27-13.
Yoenis Cespedes will be a key player in the heart of the Mets’ order; he hit .320 in six games (25 ABs) against Giants pitching this season. Mid-season acquisition Jay Bruce has finally begun to make contact for the Mets as he closed the regular season on an eight-game hitting streak, clubbing three home runs in the process. Speaking of streaking sluggers, Curtis Granderson hit .286 with eight home runs in September. Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera have provided the necessary spark at the top of the order during the Mets’ hot streak, and T.J. Rivera has been a pleasant surprise and may start his first ever playoff game at second base.