Starters will bring heat, ex­cite­ment

Bum­gar­ner has play­off ex­pe­ri­ence; Syn­der­gaard, just 24, ‘not in­tim­i­dated’

Baltimore Sun - - ORIOLES & MLB - By Mike Fitz­patrick

NEW YORK — Bright lights, big city, ol’ coun­try hard­ball.

Madi­son Bum­gar­ner against Noah Syn­der­gaard with the sea­son on the line. A pair of tow­er­ing tough guys you prob­a­bly don’t want to mess with.

Play­off pitch­ing matchups don’t get much bet­ter.

Tot­ing his out­stand­ing Oc­to­ber re­sume to the mound, Bum­gar­ner will start for the San Fran­cisco Giants against Syn­der­gaard and the New York Mets in the Na­tional League wild-card game tonight.

The win­ner moves on to face the ma­jor league-best Chicago Cubs (103-58) in a best-of-five Di­vi­sion Series. The loser heads home for the win­ter.

“It’s go­ing to be an ex­cit­ing game,” Giants man­ager Bruce Bochy said Tues­day, when both teams worked out at Citi Field. “I mean, this is the fun thing about post­sea­son, is you’re go­ing to get great matchups like this.” It took 162 games to set it up. San Fran­cisco, the top team in the ma­jors at the All-Star break, strug­gled badly through­out the sec­ond half be­fore fin­ish­ing with a four-game win­ning streak. That was enough to hold off the St. Louis Car­di­nals by one game and se­cure the last NL play­off spot on the fi­nal day of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

New York, the de­fend­ing NL cham­pion, was two games un­der .500 on Aug. 19 af­ter los­ing con­sec­u­tive games in San Fran­cisco. But with slug­ger Yoe­nis Ce­s­pedes and short­stop As­drubal Cabr­era back from the dis­abled list, the Mets posted the top mark in the ma­jors (27-13) from that point on and jumped over four teams in the pen­nant race, book­ing their post­sea­son trip Satur­day with one game to spare.

Both teams fin­ished 87-75, and New York earned home-field ad­van­tage by win­ning the sea­son series 4-3.

“Good ma­jor league play­ers, when it comes crunch time, they turn it on,” Mets man­ager Terry Collins said. “So I’m not re­ally sure that mo­men­tum go­ing in means a whole lot. Both of us have had to play good at the end — we did.”

Citi Field should be rock­ing tonight, but Bum­gar­ner, Bochy and the Giants know all about ex­celling in elim­i­na­tion games and thriv­ing un­der post­sea­son pres­sure. Af­ter win­ning World Series ti­tles in 2010, ’12 and ’14, they want to ex­tend their pat­tern of even-year cham­pi­onships with an­other run through Oc­to­ber. Madi­son Bum­gar­ner was 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA and 251 strike­outs this sea­son.

The last time Bum­gar­ner pitched in the post­sea­son, he saved Game 7 of the 2014 World Series in Kansas City with five score­less in­nings on two days’ rest to cap one of the great­est post­sea­son per­for­mances in base­ball his­tory. His 0.25 ERA in five ca­reer out­ings is the low­est for any pitcher with at least 25 in­nings in the Fall Clas­sic.

He was 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA and 251 strike­outs this sea­son.

“With us fin­ish­ing up the way we did, I feel re­ally, re­ally good about our chances,” Bum­gar­ner said.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound left-han­der, born in Hick­ory, N.C., started San Fran­cisco’s play­off surge in the 2014 wild-card game by strik­ing out 10 in a four-hit shutout at Pitts­burgh — a sim­i­lar as­sign­ment to tonight’s.

“We have been through this be­fore. We’ve been down this road. I like this wild-card thing,” Bochy said. “I love it. I Noah Syn­der­gaard went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and 218 strike­outs this year. have to. We have a ring be­cause of this wild card and have a chance now.”

Syn­der­gaard, 24, with long blond locks and the nick­name Thor, is no in­ex­pe­ri­enced sopho­more.

The 6-foot-6, 242-pound right-han­der from Mans­field, Texas, joined Bum­gar­ner on the All-Star ros­ter this sum­mer and went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and 218 strike­outs over 1832⁄ in­nings. Fea­tur­ing a 100-mph fast­ball, sharp slider and im­pres­sive con­trol of sev­eral sec­ondary pitches, he won a pair of post­sea­son starts last year — in­clud­ing Game 3 of the World Series against the Roy­als.

In that one, Syn­der­gaard caught ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion with his first pitch: a siz­zling fast­ball above the head of Kansas City lead­off man Al­cides Es­co­bar, who had been on a roll swing­ing at the ini­tial of­fer­ing.

“He’s not in­tim­i­dated by any­thing,” Collins said about Syn­der­gaard. “He’s not afraid.”

ALEX BRAN­DON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

JULIE JA­COB­SON/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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