Righty poses challenge, but San Francisco has succeeded in tough situations before
By Justin Wise
SAN FRANCISCO -- Noah Syndergaard's last start against the Giants represented a turning point.
After lasting past the sixth inning only once in his previous 10 starts, the forceful right-hander said he stopped thinking so much and just pitched against San Francisco on Aug. 21. That simplified approach was unstoppable, as Syndergaard allowed two hits and struck out six through eight innings in a 2-0 Mets victory.
In every sense of the word, Syndergaard dominated that night. Mixing a fastball that hovered around 100 mph with a slider that approached similar velocities, he induced nine groundouts and never let a runner reach scoring position. The Giants could not capitalize on Syndergaard's recurring issue with holding baserunners, going 0-for-2 on attempted steals.
It was the type of performance that gets noticed.
"You're not going to see better stuff than what we faced tonight," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said at the time.
But Giants batters shouldn't be completely vulnerable when they meet Syndergaard again in the National League Wild Card Game on Wednesday night in New York (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET/5 PT). The club can draw from the success they experienced against him in New York on May 1.
Hunter Pence hit a two-run homer, and the Giants jumped on the second-year Met for four runs and five hits in a 6-1 victory. San Francisco experienced similar results when it faced him for the first time in 2015, amassing four runs and 10 hits off him in six innings. The club is 2-1 against the 24-year-old.
Buster Posey has experienced the most success among the Giants against Syndergaard, having recorded a .500 batting average (3-for-6). Posey received the day off when the right-hander blanked the Giants in August.
Brandon Belt, who ranked fifth in the NL with a .394 on-base percentage, hasn't registered a hit against Syndergaard, but he has drawn three walks in nine career plate appearances. Pence is 1-for-5 with a home run and a 1.000 OPS.
Still, the Giants' success against Syndergaard has been limited. Most of San Francisco's projected lineup will enter this matchup hitless against Syndergaard. The right-hander has a commanding 0.805 WHIP against the Giants in 13 2/3 innings this season. He also averages 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings against them.
"He's obviously got really good stuff, probably the best stuff for a starter in all of baseball," said Madison Bumgarner, who will oppose Syndergaard.
Facing seemingly unshakable starting pitchers in the postseason is nothing new to the Giants, though. After San Francisco clinched the second NL Wild Card spot Sunday, Bochy pointed to the three runs the club generated against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw one day earlier.
"When you get into the postseason, you're going to face great pitching," Bochy said. "You got to find a way to beat them. We're a team that has a way of finding ways to score runs off them. We did off Kershaw. That was a huge game."
Syndergaard clearly poses a stiff challenge for the Giants. He finished the regular season ranked third in the NL with a 2.60 ERA and allowed more than two runs in a start just once in his final seven outings.
But many Giants have faced a situation like this before. And behind Bumgarner, they like their chances.
"They have a good feeling about their pitcher. We do, too," Giants left fielder Angel Pagan said. "I got my money on my guys. This is where we really come through and execute."
Justin Wise is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.