NEW YORK -- It's win or go home. There's no third chance.
The Mets and Giants overcame some inconsistent moments along the way to the postseason, and now they get a second chance to make postseason memories. It is a one-game matchup of National League Wild Cards at Citi Field on Wednesday (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) to decide who will advance to the NL Division Series against the Cubs, which begins on Friday night.
"I love it," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We have a ring because of this Wild Card [in 2014] and have a chance now."
So do the Mets.
"It provides teams that have perhaps had a bad month to get back in it," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "It keeps their fan base electric with the excitement that they're playing for a postseason berth.
"I told our players on September 1st, we were nine games back of the Nationals, that we were in a pennant race. By gosh, we came out every night and played like that."
The defending NL champion Mets were 57-58 on Aug. 12, all but written off in the NL East, and trailing the Dodgers, Cardinals, Marlins and Pirates in a bid for one of two Wild Card spots.
The Mets, however, won 30 of their final 47 games, and here they are, hosting the NL's one-and-done, postseason appetizer.
The opposition, the Giants, had the best record in the Majors at the All-Star break, and the worst record in the Majors in the second half until a season-ending surge saw them win five of their final six games to beat out the Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card.
Get the picture? The participants do.
"It allows a team like us, as good as we were in the first half, and those games were very important because it helped us get here despite our struggles in the second half," Bochy said. "It gives you a chance. That's all you want, just a chance. Sure, you want to win our division to make life easier."
It does keep fan interest alive until the season's end.
Think of how boring the final weeks of the regular season could have been. The Cubs clinched the NL Central on Sept. 15, and by the time the final week of the regular season rolled around, the Rangers, Dodgers and Nationals had locked up the American League West, NL West and NL East, respectively. The Indians made their AL Central title official on Sept. 27, and three days later, on the eve of the final weekend of the regular season, the Red Sox clinched the AL East.
There, however, was still plenty to keep the attention of the fans.
Heading into the final week of the season, only two games separated the Mets, Giants and Cardinals in the battle for the two NL Wild Card spots, and five teams within four games of each other in the AL Wild Card battle -- the Blue Jays, Orioles, Tigers, Astros and Mariners. It wasn't until the season-ending Sunday that the final Wild Card matchups were set.
"The fact this is here has done a lot for baseball," 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."
But then it was the Giants who actually forced the issue on the Wild Card. They compiled 103 wins in 1993, but they finished second to the Braves in the NL West. The Giants won six more games than any of the other 26 teams but spent October watching the postseason on television.
The Wild Card was voted into place for 1994, but the postseason was canceled that year because of a players' strike, so didn't debut until 1995.
The first step for credibility for the Wild Card came in 1997, when the Marlins captured the first of what is now six World Series by a Wild Card. The D-backs (2001), Angels ('02), Marlins ('03), Red Sox ('04), Cardinals ('11) and Giants ('14) are the five other teams.
Six other Wild Cards have advanced to the World Series and lost, and 10 Wild Cards have fallen in the Championship Series. That means 22 of the 42 Wild-Card entries in the Division Series have advanced.
On Wednesday night, either the Giants or the Mets will earn the right to try and add to the legend of Wild Card success.
Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.