The San Francisco Giants’ even-year magic continued Wednesday with a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets in the National League Wild Card Game.

Madison Bumgarner thwarted the Mets lineup with a complete-game shutout, and Conor Gillaspie shared the glory with a three-run homer in the ninth inning against New York’s closer, Jeurys Familia. San Francisco is attempting to add another World Series title to its resume after championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and the win in Citi Field was the first step.

Next up is a showdown with the Chicago Cubs in the Division Series.

Bumgarner already has a World Series MVP trophy to his name, and he added to his postseason legacy by outdueling Noah Syndergaard in a showdown between aces. Syndergaard went seven innings and didn’t allow a single run, but his 10 strikeouts drove up his pitch count to 108. He was forced to turn the ball over to the bullpen, and it didn’t deliver in the pressure-packed moment.

The Giants star finished what he started and allowed just four hits and two walks while striking out six. Trey Wingo of ESPN noted how incredible he has been in the playoffs:

ESPN Stats & Info highlighted the fact the Giants are nearly unstoppable with their backs against the wall:

Even though Bumgarner was brilliant, he needed some run support. Gillaspie had just six home runs all season, but Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball said unheralded players who come through in the clutch are nothing new for this team:

The game was billed as a pitcher’s duel, and that is exactly how it started. Bumgarner and Syndergaard combined to retire the first 12 batters through two innings, but Jon Tayler of Sports Illustrated noted the Mets were failing in their early aggression: 

According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was a career start for the San Francisco southpaw:

Bumgarner lost his perfect game when Rene Rivera singled to lead off the third, but he induced a double play from James Loney in the next at-bat. Syndergaard’s perfect bid ended in the fourth when he walked Denard Span, but Span was thrown out stealing during the next San Francisco at-bat.

While it appeared as if Span beat the throw, the out stood even after replay review. Ryan Baker of CBS Chicago reacted to the questionable call:

New York went scoreless in the bottom half of the frame, but it at least made Bumgarner work with 28 pitches after he threw 21 pitches in the first three innings combined.

The Mets again rallied in the fifth, but it was to no avail. T.J. Rivera doubled to lead things off, but Bumgarner escaped the jam with two strikeouts and a groundout. Syndergaard had the chance to help himself with two runners on and two outs, but he struck out to end the inning.

He helped himself on the mound with another scoreless frame in the sixth, but he lost his no-hitter when Span singled with two outs. He nearly lost the shutout on a towering drive from Brandon Belt after Span stole second, but Curtis Granderson made a spectacular catch as he ran into the center-field wall.

Anthony DiComo of underscored the play’s importance:

San Francisco threatened again in the seventh and put two runners on with a Brandon Crawford walk and infield single from Angel Pagan. However, Syndergaard induced a groundout from Joe Panik to escape trouble and maintain the scoreless tie.

As unhittable as he was, Syndergaard was lifted for Addison Reed to start the eighth. Inside Edge pointed out just how overpowering the fireballer was before exiting:

The first bullpen inning was filled with drama, as San Francisco loaded the bases with a Gillaspie single and walks from Belt and Buster Posey. Belt’s walk included a handful of borderline pitches that left Dallas Braden of ESPN suggesting there were four or five strikes in the at-bat, but Reed emerged unscathed with a strikeout of Hunter Pence.

Bumgarner threw another shutout inning in the eighth, and the Giants finally did some offensive damage in the ninth. Crawford doubled off Familia to start things off, and Panik drew a walk. That’s when Gillaspie drilled his home run and sent the Citi Field crowd into stunned silence. 

Jon Morosi of MLB Network pointed out how unlikely a journey it was for Gillaspie:

Bumgarner finished it from there and sent the Giants to the Division Series.


What’s Next?

Next up for the Giants is a clash with the 103-58 Cubs, who finished with the best record in all of baseball. 

Chicago does have something of a leg up in the starting pitching matchups because Bumgarner threw a complete game Wednesday. Cy Young candidates Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester anchor the staff alongside last year’s Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta, and will prove a formidable foe for San Francisco.

The Giants will also have to deal with a powerful lineup that includes potential NL MVP Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. If they do so successfully, they will be on track to win yet another World Series title in an even year.

As for the Mets, they will begin a long offseason after failing to live up to expectations following their 2015 National League pennant. Injuries were an issue, as they lost Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz for the season, so returning to health will be a priority. So will bringing back Yoenis Cespedes, who has a player opt-out clause in his contract, per Spotrac


Postgame Reaction

Syndergaard said, “Right now, it kind of stings,” when talking about the loss, per Marc Carig of Newsday.

Mets outfielder Jay Bruce put things in perspective despite the narrow defeat, per Carig: “That epitomized playoff baseball.”

The Giants shared footage of the team greeting Gillaspie in celebratory fashion:

Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area noted Span “said [the] game plan against Syndergaard became to get his pitch count up because he was ‘literally unhittable.’”

That plan worked, and Bumgarner delivered on the mound. Journalist Andrew Baggarly noted pitcher Jake Peavy “said [Bumgarner] was calm in a crazy dugout after [the] Gillaspie HR. [Bumgarner] simply walked up and said, ‘Conor, I appreciate the hell out of that.’”

Posey described his pitcher’s outing, per SportsCenter: “He’s got a focus that is hard to describe. To me, this ranks right up there with his postseason performances.”

The Giants will need that focus as they prepare for the Cubs, but they earned the right to celebrate Wednesday.

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