No one knows how the 2016 MLB playoffs will end, but we know how they’ll begin: with a clash of titans.

Technically, the first postseason game will be Tuesday’s American League wild-card tussle between the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. That should be a solid matchup between powerful AL East foes.

But the main opening event will take place in Queens on Wednesday, where the New York Mets and flame-throwing ace Noah Syndergaard will host decorated October hero Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants.

Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal summed things up succinctly: 

Baseball is littered with elite pitchers. This won’t be the only marquee mound bout we witness before the World Series confetti falls.  

But it’s tough to conjure a more enticing showdown. Here are the stats:

Bumgarner has the edge in innings and strikeouts, as he set career highs in both categories. Syndergaard, meanwhile, cracked the 200-strikeout threshold in his sophomore season and paced the pitching field in wins above replacement by FanGraphs’ measure.

Numbers, though, don’t tell the whole story.

Each of these men boasts a certain mystiquea magnetic, intangible quality that turns every start into a must-watch event.

For the 24-year-old Syndergaard, it’s his flowing golden locks, imposing 6’6″ frame and bolt-throwing power arm. It’s the Norse god (or Marvel superhero, depending on your perspective) nickname. 

“It’s like every little kid’s dream come true to pitch in a high-stakes game,” Syndergaard said, per Maria Guardado of NJ Advance Media. “I’ll embrace it. I look forward to it. It should be a lot of fun.”   

Bumgarner is only 27 years old himself, but he’s a grizzled playoff veteran.

The 2014 postseason was his magnum opus, as he tossed an MLB-record 52.2 innings, including 21 in the Fall Classic alone. Overall, Bumgarner owns a 2.14 ERA in 88.1 playoff frames. 

He has experience in the Wild Card Game, too. In 2014, he threw a complete-game shutout with 10 strikeouts against the Pittsburgh Pirates to send San Francisco to the division series. 

Bumgarner has already cemented his status as one of the greatest postseason performers of all time. There is no stage too big…no lights too bright.

Win or go home in New York City? Bring it on.

On the other hand, Syndergaard is no October newbie. His resume is thinner than Bumgarner’s, but he cut his teeth as a rookie during the Mets’ pennant-winning run in 2015, logging a 3.32 ERA with an impressive 26 strikeouts in 19 innings.

Syndergaard has held current Giants hitters to a .176/.250/.235 slash line over his career, per, while Mets hitters own a .261/.316/.382 line against Bumgarner. If you’re a Mets fan searching for some optimism, that could help.

Then again, Bumgarner is 4-0 with a 0.62 ERA in 29 career innings at Citi Field. So there’s that.

“I don’t have an answer for you,” Mets skipper Terry Collins said of besting the Giants lefty, per Ryan Hatch of NJ Advance Media. “He’s a great pitcher. Lately I know he’s pitched a lot of innings, but you can’t let him be on top of you … if you let him get ahead of you, you’re in trouble.”

It’d be foolish to expect anything less than Bumgarner flipping his autumn switch. Syndergaard should be pumping his triple-digit stuff with the full-throated Mets faithful behind him.

This will almost surely be a pitchers’ duel, with runs at a premium. If it goes to the bullpens, New York has an edge. Don’t count on that, though.

These are two thoroughbreds lining up at the starting gate. This is about as good as it gets.

If we’re picking a winner, it has to be Bumgarner, based on his track record and the fact San Francisco is rolling in hot after a season-ending sweep of the archrival Dodgers. That’s far from a lock, however. 

It’s a clash of titans. It’s Bumgarner-Syndergaard. It’s playoff baseball. 

Buckle up.


All statistics current as of Sunday and courtesy of and unless otherwise noted.

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