Let me start this by saying the one-game Wild Card playoff game is a ridiculous way for a team to have its season ended.
It runs contra to baseball’s ethos of proving through exhaustion who has the best team.
But then again, baseball needs fun and excitement. And these nine-inning coin flips that were introduced in 2012 sure are fun.
It’s a perfect bit of nonsense to complement another unlikely San Francisco Giants run — which, if the last three Even Years are any indication, are built mostly on nonsense.
“It’s a wild ride, that’s why they call it the wild card,” outfielder Hunter Pence told reporters on Tuesday.
In 2014, Madison Bumgarner started for the Giants in their win-or-go-home match against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The ace will get the call again tonight against the New York Mets. He’ll face righty Noah Syndergaard, who finished the regular season in the lead for fWAR of qualified starting pitchers and could be named the National League Cy Young in a couple weeks.
The matchup would be exciting in May. Add the circumstances and the environment of playoff baseball and you get a situation rife for anxiety — followed by elation for the winning side and deflation for the losers.
In other words, it’s the perfect setup for an organization that wins in October, but not before putting its fans through torture.
“The fact this is here has done a lot for baseball,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It did a lot for our city. Our fans were into the past week. Every game was like a playoff game. I’m sure it was the same in New York and St. Louis and the American League.
“It’s created so much interest in the game. It’s been good for baseball.”
And on this day, it was a no-brainer for Bochy who he’d throw. The Mets have never beaten Bumgarner, who owns a 1.80 career ERA over 40 innings against New York. He also won’t be scared of the middle of their order, as trade deadline acquisition Jay Bruce is a career 3-for-21 against Bum. (Yoenis Cespedes has fared a little better, hitting .300/.462/.400 over 13 plate appearances.)
“You’ve got to get up there and you’ve got to have your stuff that day,” Bumgarner said. “You’ve got to have your command. You’ve got to be on. And that’s it. You have to.”
The Giants have ticked off nearly every Even Year prerequisite so far: A solid regular season that was largely defined by a swoon; a dominating sweep of the division-winning Los Angeles Dodgers to extend the season; and the re-emergence of Sergio Romo to settle a longstanding debate of who should fill which role in the bullpen.
Now they just need an impassioned speech from Pence, a virtuoso performance from Bumgarner and some ticky-tack hits that manage to keep the dream alive.
All the pieces are in place, and the league has ratcheted up the excitement. It’s time to watch Bochy’s boys chase some Even Year bullshit again.
The Toronto Blue Jays won the wild AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday, advancing to the American League Divisional Series against the Texas Rangers. Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter confusingly kept Zach Britton, the team’s best pitcher, in the bullpen as Edwin Encarnacion launched a game-winning three-run home run off of Ubaldo Jimenez in the bottom of the 11th inning to give Toronto a 5-2 win.