Instant Replay: Bumgarner, Gillaspie lead Giants past Mets, into NLDS


Instant Replay: Bumgarner, Gillaspie lead Giants past Mets, into NLDS


NEW YORK — Back on the biggest stage, Madison Bumgarner did it again. 

Bumgarner threw a second shutout in a Wild Card Game and Conor Gillaspie came through with his Travis Ishikawa moment in the ninth, hitting a three-run shot off Mets closer Jeurys Familia that silenced Citi Field and finally put a lead in Bumgarner’s hands. On this night, as on most of his postseason nights, Bumgarner just needed one run. 

The 27-year-old came back out for the ninth and retired the side for a 3-0 victory. He gave up just four hits and struck out six while throwing 119 pitches. In two wild card games, Bumgarner has given up eight hits over 18 sparkling innings. He will take a 23-inning postseason scoreless streak into his NLDS start. 

The Giants advanced to play the 103-win Cubs. Johnny Cueto will face Jon Lester on Friday at Wrigley Field. Lester was one of three players to finish ahead of Bumgarner in ERA. To get to the next round, the Giants had to survive a stunning performance from one of the other two. 

Noah Syndergaard was brilliant, but he couldn’t quite keep up with Bumgarner, one of the best big-game pitchers the game has ever seen. The duel between two of the game’s best arms exceeded sky-high expectations. 

Syndergaard, the 6-foot-6 right-hander nicknamed “Thor,” strolled to the mound and warmed up to a thundering track from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. His first pitch was a 97 mph sinker to Denard Span. The Giants would see 14 more in the inning, including 10 fastballs, all at 97-99 mph. Brandon Belt and Buster Posey grounded out. 

Bumgarner entered the night with a 0.60 ERA in postseason road appearances, an MLB record. It’s a number built not on high octane, but on hitting spots and inducing weak contact. Bumgarner’s first pitch was 92 mph, slower than a slider Syndergaard threw Posey minutes before, but he retired the side on seven pitches. 

Terry Collins insisted that his team would be aggressive against Bumgarner, and the lefty was all too happy to take advantage. He followed the first seven-pitch inning with two more, erasing the only hit of the first three innings with a double play. Through three, Bumgarner was on pace for a 63-pitch shutout. Syndergaard, who struck out four straight between the second and third, was on track for a 111-pitch perfect game.

Span finally put a Giant on base with a leadoff walk in the fourth, and he quickly took off against Syndergaard, who allowed 48 stolen bases in the regular season. Span was called out on the field but the Giants challenged, and replays appeared to show he was safe. The dugout exploded when the call on the field stood. 

The Mets raised their level a couple of notches the second time through the order and Bumgarner needed 28 pitches to get through the fourth. He threw 20 more in the fifth, stranding a leadoff double. T.J. Rivera got the Mets going, but he was caught in a rundown when Rene Rivera hit a grounder right at Brandon Crawford. The older Rivera took the younger Rivera’s place at second, but he didn’t do any better. Bumgarner intentionally walked James Loney to face Syndergaard, and then he struck his counterpart out. 

The Giants didn’t have a hit through five, and Syndergaard carried his dominance deep into the sixth before the first sign of trouble. He struck out Conor Gillaspie and Bumgarner, becoming the youngest pitcher (24) to whiff 10 in a winner-take-all game. Span put an end to the no-hit bid with a single to left, and he stole second on another bang-bang play. A moment later, the Giants looked to have the lead. 

Belt launched a fastball to deep center and Span raced home, but Curtis Granderson hauled the ball in as he smacked face-first into the wall, 408 feet from the plate. Belt slammed his helmet off the dirt in disgust. 

Syndergaard started to tire in the seventh, but he stranded two before handing the ball over to the bullpen. Over 108 pitches, Syndergaard allowed just two hits, walked three, and struck out 10. He threw 48 times at 98 mph or above.  

Bumgarner kept cruising on the other side, and it looked like the lineup would reward him in the top of the eighth. Gillaspie hit a leadoff single off Addison Reed and Bumgarner bunted him to second. After a razor-thin walk of Belt and a passed ball, Posey was intentionally walked to load the bases. Pence swung through a fastball to end the inning. 

The Mets put a runner on second with two down in the bottom of the inning, but Bumgarner snagged a liner back to the mound. He pumped his fist and screamed as he walked off the mound with a streak of 22 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason.  

Brandon Crawford doubled off Familia to lead off the ninth and Joe Panik walked two batters later. Gillaspie, playing only because of a hamstring injury to Eduardo Nuñez, crushed a sinker over the wall in right. In an instant, just as in Pittsburgh two years ago, the only sound that could be heard was the cheering from the visiting dugout. Just as in Pittsburgh, Bumgarner came out and finished it off.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”