Something special appeared to be brewing in Queens this season. Despite losing Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and Steven Matz for the season at varying points, the Mets kept plugging away, finishing the season on a 27-13 run following Yoenis Cespedes’ return from the disabled list on August 19th to earn the first wild-card spot in the national league.
Things were looking bright, until it was learned Madison Bumgarner would be rolling into Citi Field to pitch the winner-take-all wild-card game with a gaudy career resume in elimination games.
Entering the wild-card game against the Mets, Bumgarner had never allowed a run in an elimination game in his career, and not even a “as good as they could have possibly hoped for” performance from Noah Syndergaard was going to get in Bumgarner’s way.
Bumgarner put the Mets’ offense on lockdown, never allowing a runner to advance past second base, surrendering just four hits and striking out six in another masterful 119-pitch complete-game shutout that only adds to Bumgarner’s legendary, all-time postseason greatness.
As painful a loss as this was for the Mets, at some point you have to tip your cap and realize you lost to arguably the greatest clutch pitcher the sport has ever seen. The Mets just became another notch on Bumgarner’s belt.
Bumgarner has now pitched 23 innings in winner-take-all games in his career, a complete game shutout against the Pirates in the 2014 NL wild-card game, five shutout innings out of the bullpen in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series and now a complete game shutout against the Mets in the 2016 NL wild-card game.
His 23 scoreless innings in winner-take-all postseason games are an MLB record and he’s the only pitcher ever to record multiple complete-game shutouts in winner-take-all postseason games. Bumgarner is now 8-0 on the road in his postseason career and he lowered his road postseason ERA to a mind-blowing 0.50.
In the history of baseball, if you needed to win one game, there may not be a pitcher you would rather have on the mound than Bumgarner, and that includes the likes of Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and Mariano Rivera, just to name a few.
Bumgarner was once again really good during the 2016 regular season sporting a 15-9 record with a 2.74 ERA (fourth best in the NL), but that pales into comparison to the pitcher he becomes come playoff time. He’s probably going to make it to the Hall of Fame based on his postseason stats alone. Not many athletes can say that.
Much like Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter before him, Bumgarner is able to take his game to an unprecedented level when the games really start to matter. It’s something that can’t be explained. It just happens.