Late Heroics Lift Giants Over Mets in NL Wild-Card Game | NBC Bay Area
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Late Heroics Lift Giants Over Mets in NL Wild-Card Game

Conor Gillaspie smacks three-run homer in ninth to back Madison Bumgarner's shutout

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    NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05: Conor Gillaspie #21 of the San Francisco Giants runs the bases as he celebrates his three-run homerun in the ninth inning against the New York Mets during their National League Wild Card game at Citi Field on October 5, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK — Back on the biggest stage, Madison Bumgarner did it again.

    Bumgarner threw a second shutout in a Wild Card Game and Conor Gillaspie came through with his Travis Ishikawa moment in the ninth, hitting a three-run shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia that silenced Citi Field and finally put a lead in Bumgarner’s hands. On this night, as on most of his postseason nights, Bumgarner just needed one run.

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    The 27-year-old came back out for the ninth and retired the side for a 3-0 victory. He gave up just four hits and struck out six while throwing 119 pitches. In two wild card games, Bumgarner has given up eight hits over 18 sparkling innings. He will take a 23-inning postseason scoreless streak into his NLDS start.

    The Giants advanced to play the 103-win Cubs. Johnny Cueto will face Jon Lester on Friday at Wrigley Field. Lester was one of three players to finish ahead of Bumgarner in ERA. To get to the next round, the Giants had to survive a stunning performance from one of the other two.

    Noah Syndergaard was brilliant, but he couldn’t quite keep up with Bumgarner, one of the best big-game pitchers the game has ever seen. The duel between two of the game’s best arms exceeded sky-high expectations.

    Syndergaard, the 6-foot-6 right-hander nicknamed “Thor,” strolled to the mound and warmed up to a thundering track from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. His first pitch was a 97 mph sinker to Denard Span. The Giants would see 14 more in the inning, including 10 fastballs, all at 97-99 mph. Brandon Belt and Buster Posey grounded out.

    Bumgarner entered the night with a 0.60 ERA in postseason road appearances, an MLB record. It’s a number built not on high octane, but on hitting spots and inducing weak contact. Bumgarner’s first pitch was 92 mph, slower than a slider Syndergaard threw Posey minutes before, but he retired the side on seven pitches.

    Terry Collins insisted that his team would be aggressive against Bumgarner, and the lefty was all too happy to take advantage. He followed the first seven-pitch inning with two more, erasing the only hit of the first three innings with a double play. Through three, Bumgarner was on pace for a 63-pitch shutout. Syndergaard, who struck out four straight between the second and third, was on track for a 111-pitch perfect game.

    Span finally put a Giant on base with a leadoff walk in the fourth, and he quickly took off against Syndergaard, who allowed 48 stolen bases in the regular season. Span was called out on the field but the Giants challenged, and replays appeared to show he was safe. The dugout exploded when the call on the field stood.

    The Mets raised their level a couple of notches the second time through the order and Bumgarner needed 28 pitches to get through the fourth. He threw 20 more in the fifth, stranding a leadoff double. T.J. Rivera got the Mets going, but he was caught in a rundown when Rene Rivera hit a grounder right at Brandon Crawford. The older Rivera took the younger Rivera’s place at second, but he didn’t do any better. Bumgarner intentionally walked James Loney to face Syndergaard, and then he struck his counterpart out.

    The Giants didn’t have a hit through five, and Syndergaard carried his dominance deep into the sixth before the first sign of trouble. He struck out Conor Gillaspie and Bumgarner, becoming the youngest pitcher (24) to whiff 10 in a winner-take-all game. Span put an end to the no-hit bid with a single to left, and he stole second on another bang-bang play. A moment later, the Giants looked to have the lead.

    Belt launched a fastball to deep center and Span raced home, but Curtis Granderson hauled the ball in as he smacked face-first into the wall, 408 feet from the plate. Belt slammed his helmet off the dirt in disgust.

    Syndergaard started to tire in the seventh, but he stranded two before handing the ball over to the bullpen. Over 108 pitches, Syndergaard allowed just two hits, walked three, and struck out 10. He threw 48 times at 98 mph or above.

    Bumgarner kept cruising on the other side, and it looked like the lineup would reward him in the top of the eighth. Gillaspie hit a leadoff single off Addison Reed and Bumgarner bunted him to second. After a razor-thin walk of Belt and a passed ball, Posey was intentionally walked to load the bases. Pence swung through a fastball to end the inning.

    The Mets put a runner on second with two down in the bottom of the inning, but Bumgarner snagged a liner back to the mound. He pumped his fist and screamed as he walked off the mound with a streak of 22 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason.

    Brandon Crawford doubled off Familia to lead off the ninth and Joe Panik walked two batters later. Gillaspie, playing only because of a hamstring injury to Eduardo Nuñez, crushed a sinker over the wall in right. In an instant, just as in Pittsburgh two years ago, the only sound that could be heard was the cheering from the visiting dugout. Just as in Pittsburgh, Bumgarner came out and finished it off.

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