Tha Sports Junkies 101

Aces of Spades: Thor vs. MadBum Won’t Disappoint

Wild Card Via


As Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner get set to face off, Wednesday night’s Wild Card Game will feel more like a mythical battle than a baseball game.

If you’ve got plans for Wednesday evening, particularly at 8 PM, cancel them.  In the final weekend of the season, the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants both became locks to play in the National League Wild Card game.  The one-game playoff will take place at Citi Field, home of the Mets.  The pitching matchup for the contest is simply salivating for baseball fans.  Madison Bumgarner will take the hill for San Francisco, and Noah Syndergaard is on the bump for the reigning National League Champions.  This may be more than just a do-or-die game; it might be one of the greatest postseason duels in years.

Major League Baseball has plenty of aces around the league that dominate opposing lineups on a weekly basis, but the two pitchers in this game are in a different class.  Bumgarner and Syndergaard have an aura of greatness surrounding them.  They both look like knights in a joust, not baseball players.  In their relatively short careers, they have displayed a proclivity for greatness, especially under the spotlight.  The fact that both pitchers have been at the top of their game throughout 2016 only makes this intense pitching showdown more palpable.

Madison Bumgarner‘s extensive repertoire goes all the way back to 2010, when he won his first ring as a member of the San Francisco Giants.  Many people forget how well Bumgarner pitched in that postseason.  As a rookie, he made three starts that October and recorded a quality start in each one.  His most striking performance came in the World Series against the Texas Rangers when he threw eight shutout innings in a critical Game 4.  Despite struggling in his first two starts during the 2012 postseason, Bumgarner turned in another terrific outing in the Fall Classic as he shutout the Detroit Tigers over seven dominant innings.

“MadBum” really made his mark on the baseball landscape in 2014.  To kick off the playoffs, he tossed a complete game shutout to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card game.  Then, in the NLCS, Bumgarner posted a measly 1.72 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals.  His performances in the League Championship Series look like a warm-up compared to what he did during the World Series.  Over 21 innings against the Kansas City Royals, he allowed just one earned run while striking out 17 batters.  In an epic Game 7, Madison Bumgarner pitched five innings out of the bullpen on just three days rest to maintain a one-run lead and guide the Giants to their third championship of the decade.  After his mind-blowing performance in the World Series, the three-time champion developed a reputation as baseball’s most clutch performer.  His utter dominance in the series is regarded as one of the best postseason pitching performances in the history of baseball.

Although he has much less experience than Bumgarner, Noah Syndergaard has already flashed his ability to dominate in October.  “Thor” has a solid 3.32 earned run average over 19 innings in the postseason.  In Game 2 of the 2015 NLCS, Syndergaard faced off against 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta.  Unphased by his counterpart’s impressive season, the rookie out-pitched Arrieta to give the Mets a 2-0 series lead.  Syndergaard struck out 9 Cubs batters in 5 and 1/3 innings while allowing just one run.  In 2016, Syndergaard established himself as one of baseball’s brightest young stars, ranking third in ERA and fourth in strikeouts among National League starting pitchers.  Most hurlers would dread the idea of facing a pitcher like Madison Bumgarner in such a high-stakes game, but you can bet that Syndergaard is chomping at the bit to square up against such a worthy opponent.

Wednesday night may be the ultimate showdown for these two workhorses, but it isn’t the first time that either man has faced the opposing team this year.  Bumgarner and Syndergaard both pitched in a series where the Mets played the Giants in San Francisco back in August.  In his start, Bumgarner defeated New York, but it wasn’t smooth sailing for the seven-year veteran.  He allowed four runs in just five innings pitched.  Syndergaard’s outing was quite better.  The 24 year-old tossed eight innings of shutout ball as the Mets beat the Giants on August 21.  Bumgarner dominated the Mets earlier in the season though, so who knows how the one-game playoff will turn out.

While both offenses may have a tough task facing off against the two aces, there are clear ways to achieve victory.  In 2016, Noah Syndergaard‘s only true weakness was exposed.  His inability to contain baserunners was a glaring flaw.  Opposing players stole 48 bases in 57 tries against “Thor”.  In games where the Mets offense struggled to score, Syndergaard’s lack of prowess to hold runners on would cost New York.  On the flip side, the one way to beat the Giants is to get to the bullpen as quickly as possible.  Madison Bumgarner can stifle hitters when he’s on his game, but the relief pitching in San Francisco has been the worst in Major League Baseball down the stretch.  As long as Syndergaard keeps the game close and the Mets’ hitters can get Bumgarner out of the game before the 7th inning, then New York has a good chance to advance.

Both Bumgarner and Syndergaard instill fear in the opposing lineup.  They are among baseball’s most intimidating pitchers, making this matchup even more must-see.  Two of baseball’s best pitchers.  The last two National League Champions.  New York.  Win or go home.  No matter who comes out on top in this battle, the game itself promises to be an epic classic.