While there is understandable excitement among Mets fans for their trip to the 2016 postseason, few of them can be excited about the Giants pitcher they have to face in their do-or-die game on Wednesday night: Madison Bumgarner.
It’s Bumgarner’s first postseason appearance since his astonishing run in 2014 that helped carry the Giants to a World Series title.
Bumgarner’s first two postseasons, in the Giants’ 2010 and 2012 World Series winning campaigns, were a mixed bag. He pitched well in 2010, at age 21, going 2-0 with a 2.18 E.R.A. in three starts. But he was shaky in 2012: 1-2 with a 6.00 E.R.A. (His best work in those years came in the World Series: two starts, two wins, 15 innings, no runs surrendered.)
That set him up for 2014, surely one of the most dominant postseason performances in history.
It started, like this year, with a make-or-break wild-card game. With the season on the line, Bumgarner fired a complete game, 10-strikeout shutout to foil the Pirates.
In his one division series appearance, he gave up just two earned runs, but Doug Fister of the Nationals was a little bit better, handing Bumgarner the loss. He would not lose again.
He grabbed two more wins in the National League Championship Series, against the Cardinals, but he topped himself in the World Series against the Royals.
Starting Game 1, he gave up a solo shot to Salvador Perez when his team was already ahead, 7-0. It was the last run he would surrender. In Game 5, he fired a complete game, four-hit shutout to give his team a three-games-to-two series lead. In Game 7, with four innings gone and the Giants up, 3-2, Bumgarner was given the ball on two days’ rest and promptly threw a rare five-inning save, giving up just two hits.
Bumgarner wound up throwing 52 2/3 innings in the 2014 postseason, a record. He gave up just six earned runs, for an E.R.A. of 1.03. He was chosen as the most valuable player of both the N.L.C.S. and the World Series.
“You know what?” Bumgarner said after the triumph, “I can’t lie to you anymore. I’m a little tired now.”
Bumgarner’s performance is often mentioned in the same breath as the postseason pitching effort by a fellow Giant that is generally considered to be the best of all time: Christy Mathewson’s in 1905. Pitching in an era in which the World Series was the entire postseason, Mathewson started Games 1, 3 and 5 against the Philadelphia Athletics. He pitched three complete games. They were all shutouts. The Giants won the series in five games, but if they had not, you would have expected Mathewson to come out for Game 7 and spin another shutout.
“And be it recorded right here that New York possesses the pitching marvel of the century,” The Times enthused. “Christie Mathewson, the giant slabman, who made the world’s championship possible for New York, may be legitimately designated as the premier pitching wonder of all baseball records.”
(Yes, we spelled his name “Christie.” And yes, pitchers were once colloquially referred to as “slabmen.”)
About the only thing Bumgarner has not done in the postseason is hit a home run. Bumgarner has 14 in his career, the most of any active pitcher, with 12 of them coming in the last three seasons.
Bumgarner is coming off another crackerjack year in which he set career highs in starts, innings, E.R.A. and strikeouts and was among the league leaders in all those categories and more.
The Mets will roll out an ace of their own, Noah Syndergaard, and have home-field advantage on Wednesday night. But they can’t feel too confident against a slabman like Bumgarner.