1. Make the San Francisco bullpen work
Madison Bumgarner is the single greatest postseason pitcher of this generation. He is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA and is single-handedly responsible for the Giants’ win in the 2014 World Series. Opponents are batting below .200 against him in the playoffs.
There is very little indication that Bumgarner is going to start allowing runs in October. He pitches like a man possessed in the postseason. The Mets will counter with Noah Syndergaard, an ace in his own right. Syndergaard pitched very well in the NLDS last year. It’s a big ask for the Mets to expect their 24-year-old starter to beat Bumgarner. Syndergaard has carried almost all of the burden for the Mets this year after Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz all slowly succumbed to injuries. Rather than asking Syndergaard to pitch them to victory, the Mets need him to keep the game within one or two runs.
The Giants have a middling bullpen. They haven’t been great, but they haven’t been historically bad like the Cincinnati Reds. Still, the Giants do not have a bullpen that inspires great confidence in October. The relievers took 13 losses in the second half, and seven in September alone when it mattered most. Santiago Casilla lost his job as closer, and blew nine saves on the year. Derek Law and Hunter Strickland are managing the ninth inning now, but neither should inspire great confidence.
The Mets are not known for their ability to work counts and have long, drawn-out at-bats, but that’s what they will need to do against Bumgarner. If the Mets can get Mad-Bum out by the seventh inning with a close score, they should have a chance to plate valuable insurance runs or pull off a come-from-behind victory.