For those contributions large in size, though, the Giants also did all the little things necessary to become the first team to win multiple winner-take-all wild card games.
Their willingness to work deep into counts against a tough starter in Noah Syndergaard, even at risk of striking out, assured them at-bats against the Met bullpen. Their defense played flawlessly, helping keep their ace Madison Bumgarner — who finished the game having thrown 119 pitches — in the game.
It wasn’t all good news, however, as the offense looked more like the group that averaged 3.75 runs per game in July, rather than the one that scored 6.83 runs per game over the final week of the regular season.
Fastball (team strength): The little things
A patient approach at the plate caused Syndergaard’s pitch count to climb, forcing him from the fray after just 7 innings. A fantastic defensive evening was highlighted with a very difficult double play turned the Joe Panik–Brandon Crawford combination that made it look ho-hum. An aggressive approach on the base paths may very well have led to a Panik ninth-inning walk and a mistake sinker up to Conor Gillaspie, who deposited a three-run home run into the right-filed bullpen.
Gillaspie’s shot was also aided by the Giants’ patience, as closer Jeurys Familia had thrown 17 pitches before the night’s offensive hero stepped to the plate in the final frame.
The biggest key, though, was the defense played behind “Mad Bum.” While there wasn’t any stand-out plays — lest the third-inning twin-killing — the defense’s ability to make routine plays look routine fueled Bumgarner’s confidence to pitch to contact.
Changeup (top individual performance): Bumgarner
What will undoubtedly be added to postseason highlight reels for decades to come, Gillaspie’s game-winning home run decidedly played second-fiddle to what was nothing more than expected from the Giant ace.
With his complete-game, four-hit shutout, Bumgarner pushed his current postseason scoreless streak to 23 innings. He also lowered his career playoff ERA to 1.94 and raised his inning total to 97-1/3.
Most impressively, the 27 year-old has appeared in three win-or-go-home games, logging two wins and a save in 23 scoreless frames.
In this particular outing, the four-time All-Star made an offense that was second in the National League in runs scored (141, 5.22 per game) over the season’s final month look lost. It was truly one of the top postseason performances from a guy whose career is teeming with them.
Curveball (biggest surprise): Pitch count rules all
Mets manager Terry Collins pulled Syndergaard, who had struck out 10 over 7 scoreless two-hit innings, due to a pitch count that had risen to 108.
Obviously, the long-term health of the players is among the key focuses of every franchise, especially a franchise that has lost so many stars to injury. But, when is a good time to extend your stud starter? When does the pursuit of a World Series trophy trump the pitch count?
Baseball does not appear to have answers for those queries. San Francisco fans are thankful, though, that manager Bruce Bochy and the Giants are willing to push their horse.
Slider (team weakness): Bats silenced
The Giants offense scored just 291 runs — third-fewest in the NL — after the All-Star break, leading to an epic fall from grace. While scoring just 4.04 runs per game, the team with baseball’s best record in the first half (4.66 runs per game, fourth-most) notably finished the second half 12 games below .500.
In the Wild Card game, the offense looked far too much like the one that won just five series’ after recess. If they are to continue their run of even-year success, the Giants must find the offense that secured a 5-1 record in the final week of the regular season.
Pitch out (up next): NL Division Series, Chicago Cubs (103-58)
Moving on to face the Cubbies in the NLDS, the black and orange will need a continued reliance on their trio of aces, as well as clutch at-bats. But, more importantly, they will to continue playing rock solid defense, run bases aggressively remain steadfast in their offensive approach.
That offensive approach must yield more runs, though, as Chicago’s offense — third-highest scoring in MLB notching 4.99 runs per game — will not go as quietly as the Mets.
In seven games between the two teams this season, the Cubs claimed a 4-3 season-series victory. The Giants, though, can take solace in the fact that all three of those losses came in a four-game set in Chicago during the depths of their second-half dip.