Despite his youth, New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard is no stranger to taking the mound under tremendous pressure in October.
Integral to the Mets’ 2015 postseason drive to the World Series, the 6-foot-6 right-hander also knows who he is up against in the 2016 NL Wild Card Game.
Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60 ERA), 24, will be tasked with going toe-to-toe with starter Madison Bumgarner and keeping at bay the bats of the San Francisco Giants (87-75), who clinched their place in the one-game playoff at Citi Field this Wednesday by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 7-1 on Sunday.
San Francisco finished one game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals (86-76) in the race for the National League’s final postseason spot.
As the Mets starting pitcher prepares for the Wild Card Game, his stats against San Francisco will be scrutinized.
Over the course of his young career, Syndergaard is 1-2 with a 3.66 ERA against the Giants.
The second-year Mets starter lost his only start against San Francisco last season, yielding four runs on 10 hits and one walk in six innings. This year, he went 1-1 in two starts against the Giants, holding them to a total of seven hits, four walks, and four runs through 13.2 innings (2.63 ERA).
In his first 2016 start against the Giants on May 1 at Citi Field, Noah Syndergaard got knocked around for four runs — two coming on Hunter Pence’s two-run home run in the fourth inning — and walked four batters in 5.2 innings. The Mets (87-75) lost that game 6-1.
The right-hander dominated the Giants at AT&T Park on Aug. 21, hurling eight scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory. He allowed two hits, just as many walks, and struck out six batters.
The Mets choosing to start pitcher Noah Syndergaard Wednesday is a no-brainer.
“He’s not afraid,” Mets manager Terry Collins said of his pitcher. “He’s not intimidated. He’s the right guy.”
Syndergaard is the New York Mets’ last pitcher standing among the franchise’s vaunted stable of 20-something-year-old starters coming into the 2016 campaign, so it goes without saying that he, as well as reliable 19-year veteran Bartolo Colon (15-8, 3.43 ERA), will have to be in top form for a repeat of last year’s postseason success to even be feasible after season-ending injuries to Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz.
Rookie starters Seth Lugo (5-2, 2.67 ERA) and Robert Gsellman (4-2, 2.42 ERA) performed well for New York down the stretch, but it’s unknown how either would hold up in a postseason environment.
En route to the 2015 World Series against the Kansas City Royals, Syndergaard went 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA in four postseason contests, three of which were starts.
His best outing came at the expense of the Chicago Cubs in Game 2 of last year’s National League Championship Series, when he fanned nine hitters while holding Chicago’s mighty offense to three hits, one run, and one walk in 5.2 innings.
Far more seasoned than Noah Syndergaard in postseason competition is San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA), a four-time NL All-Star who is undoubtedly one of the biggest big-game pitchers of the decade.
The 6-foot-5 Bumgarner, two years removed from a World Series Most Valuable Player award, is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA in 12 starts (14 appearances overall) in the playoffs. As stated, his postseason magnum opus was the 2014 Fall Classic, when he went 2-0 with a 0.42 ERA in three games (two starts) against the Kansas City Royals.
With one slight exception, the three-time World Series champion has had his way with the Mets since debuting in 2009, sporting a 5-0 mark and 1.80 ERA in six games (all starts).
This season, Bumgarner, 27, went 2-0 in a pair of starts against New York, allowing four runs in 11 innings (3.27 ERA) on 12 hits and six walks. The Mets scored all four of those runs when the Giants starter served up a fourth-inning grand slam to Justin Ruggiano on Aug. 18 in San Francisco.
Bumgarner would improve to 12-7 that day, but he yielded three walks, six hits overall, and was out of the game after five innings.
In terms of sheer talent, Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndegaard is arguably the closest thing that the Mets have sent to a Major League Baseball mound since the Dwight Gooden of the mid-1980s. That says a lot when taking into the account the respective upsides of Harvey, DeGrom, Matz, and Zack Wheeler.
New York’s survival in the 2016 MLB Postseason will heavily depend on Syndergaard’s pitching arm.
On Wednesday night, we’ll find out whether that priceless limb helps the Mets survive the battle-tested Bumgarner and his Giants.
[Featured Image by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images]