NEW YORK -- Were it not all verifiably true, Madison Bumgarner's postseason credentials might seem fake, fabricated, the stuff of legend. Bumgarner has been that spectacular throughout his October career, adding to his lore on Wednesday night with one of his most remarkable efforts yet.
In a win-or-go-home National League Wild Card Game, Bumgarner delivered a shutout in a 3-0 blanking of the Mets at Citi Field. Delivering his second consecutive NL Wild Card Game shutout while extending his postseason scoreless-innings streak to 23, Bumgarner sent the Giants to the NL Division Series, where they will face the Cubs beginning Friday in Chicago at 9 p.m. ET on FS1.
Bumgarner was dominant from the start, retiring the first nine Mets he faced on 21 pitches. But Bumgarner found himself locked in a classic pitchers' duel with Noah Syndergaard, who finished with 10 strikeouts in seven shutout innings. It was not until Conor Gillaspie hit a three-run homer off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in the ninth that the Giants went ahead, roughing up a closer who had allowed one home run the entire regular season.
A vibrant sellout crowd of 44,747 went mostly silent at that point, watching as Bumgarner completed his shutout in the bottom of the inning.
"It's tough in an environment like this," Mets infielder T.J. Rivera said. "You want to do so much. You want to be a guy to help win the game. I thought we battled real well, unfortunately we just couldn't get to him."
Billed as a duel between two of the game's best and most intimidating starting pitchers, the night descended into exactly that from an early hour. Syndergaard did not allow a baserunner until the fourth inning or a hit until the sixth. He allowed just two hits in total, walking three.
"I've got to rank this one tonight as good as any, under the circumstances," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Syndergaard. "Great command. I mean, focused like he always is. I tell you, he stepped up when we needed him. He stepped up last year when we needed him.
"He's grown so much, even though he's still very, very young. He's grown so much and matured so much as a pitcher. He's going to be really, really good."
But while the Mets turned to Addison Reed and then Familia in the late innings, the Giants stuck with Bumgarner, who also pitched a shutout in Pittsburgh in the 2014 NL Wild Card Game and now has three postseason shutouts in his career.
"It's hard to have any more confidence than what we have in Bum," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, "especially in a game like this."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Gillaspie goes deep: Familia, who blew three saves in the 2015 World Series in large part due to defensive issues behind him, found trouble in the ninth inning when Brandon Crawford hit a leadoff double. A strikeout and a base on balls followed, bringing up Gillaspie, who began this season in the Minors. After taking a strike and a ball, Gillaspie hammered a hard sinker from Familia into the bullpen area in right-center field, giving Bumgarner the only lead he needed.
"I was trying to get something elevated, that was pretty much my only chance against him," Gillaspie said. "Pretty much the whole game I was spinning off balls, so I was telling myself to stay in there as much as I could, and trust I could get there."
According to Statcast™, Gillaspie's homer was hit off the highest of the 18 sinkers Familia threw all night, and the highest sinker he allowed a hit on all season (3 feet off the ground). It also was the hardest pitch (96.4 mph) Gillaspie had homered on since 2013.
Crawford's big hit: The Giants' winning surge in the ninth began with Crawford's double off Familia, who's obviously a premier reliever. But after facing Syndergaard's sinking darts all night, Crawford was ready to face somebody else, even somebody as formidable as Familia.
"My approach was a little bit different," Crawford said.
Familia elevated a fastball that was "beltish-high," in Crawford's description, and he was ready to pounce on it. Crawford thus sustained his success in Wild Card Games. He socked a grand slam in 2014 at Pittsburgh to propel Bumgarner and the Giants to victory.
Grandy saves the Mets: The Giants were threatening in a two-out rally in the sixth inning, when Denard Span singled and promptly stole second base. That brought up Brandon Belt, who ripped a 97.9-mph pitch and hit a screaming fly to center field that Statcast™ clocked off the bat at 106 mph. Batted balls with similar characteristics go for a hit 97.1 percent of the time, but not this time; Granderson covered 102 feet and grabbed it as he crashed into the fence, after topping out at 18.2 mph, saving an extra-base hit and the game's first run.
"It's kind of all over again like in 2006, when Endy Chavez made that play," Mets third baseman Jose Reyes said. "You kind of felt the same way, like, 'Oh, man, we're going to win this game.' But we weren't able to do anything."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The winning pitcher in each of the past three NL Wild Card Games has thrown a shutout on the road. In addition to Bumgarner's efforts Wednesday and in 2014, Jake Arrieta threw a shutout for the Cubs in the Wild Card Game in Pittsburgh last year.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Having waited three innings before they had a baserunner, the Giants wasted no time trying to get the most out of him, as Span attempted to steal second base following a fourth-inning leadoff walk. The Giants requested a replay review of the close play. The review determined that the out ruling made on the field stands.
WHAT'S NEXT Giants: The Giants will advance to play the Cubs in a best-of-five Division Series beginning Friday at Wrigley Field.
Mets: Their season over, the Mets will scatter to their various homes across the country and the world. This was just the second time in team history they made the postseason in consecutive seasons.