MLB Playoffs: Bumgarner, Gillaspie helps Giants blank Mets

MLB Playoffs: Bumgarner, Gillaspie helps Giants blank Mets


NEW YORK -- Nobody takes to October like Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants.

Bumgarner pitched a four-hitter for his latest postseason gem, outlasting Noah Syndergaard in a classic duel between aces, and injury substitute Conor Gillaspie hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning that sent San Francisco to a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets in the NL wild-card game Wednesday night.

Gillaspie connected off All-Star closer Jeurys Familia, who led the majors this year with a club-record 51 saves while allowing only one home run.

With their ninth consecutive victory when facing postseason elimination, manager Bruce Bochy and the Giants advanced to play the NL Central champion Cubs in a best-of-five Division Series. Game 1 is Friday night at venerable Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The good news for the Cubs as they attempt to end a championship drought that dates to 1908 is that Bumgarner probably won't start until Game 3 -- and would only be available once on full rest.

That's because the big left-hander has been untouchable under pressure.

"It's unbelievable what he's done," Gillaspie said.

The last time Bumgarner was on the mound in the postseason, he saved Game 7 of the 2014 World Series in Kansas City with five scoreless innings on two days' rest to cap one of the greatest playoff performances in baseball history.

Including his four-hit shutout at Pittsburgh in the 2014 wild-card game, he has tossed 23 straight scoreless innings in winner-take-all games.

"He's one of the game's great big-game pitchers," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Asked how he wants to be remembered, Bumgarner said: "I'm a winner. That's all anybody wants to be."

Now, the Giants have a chance to extend their pattern of even-year titles after winning World Series crowns in 2010, `12 and `14.

In a matchup between the past two NL champions, Syndergaard struck out 10 in seven shutout innings of two-hit ball. Brandon Crawford doubled leading off the ninth against Familia. Angel Pagan struck out after failing to get a bunt down, and Joe Panik walked.

Gillaspie, starting at third base for injured All-Star Eduardo Nunez, drove a 1-1 pitch over the fence in right field and pumped his arm as he rounded first.

"I don't know what I was thinking. Normally I'm not a fired-up guy. I let some frustration out from the first six innings with that swing," Gillaspie said.

Bumgarner closed with a 1-2-3 ninth against the 3-4-5 hitters and smacked his glove in triumph when rookie T.J. Rivera flied out to end it.

With his sizzling fastball clocking 99 mph and long, blond locks dangling down his neck, Syndergaard held San Francisco hitless until Denard Span's two-out single in the sixth.

Eager to take advantage of Syndergaard's slow delivery, Span stole second before Brandon Belt sent a long drive to deep center. Curtis Granderson, moved over from right field late in the season because of injuries to two other outfielders, crashed hard with his left shoulder into the padded fence 408 feet from home plate and tumbled to the warning track.

He held onto the ball, however, and was shaken up a bit before getting to his feet and jogging off the field as teammates waited to high-five him and fans chanted "Grandy! Grandy!" Syndergaard raised his arm, while Belt tossed his helmet in frustration between first and second.

Syndergaard fired 42 pitches at least 98 mph -- more than the Phillies (41) and Indians (35) threw all year, according to a tweet from Inside Edge.

"He was really good tonight. He was as good as I've seen at this level. It was a tough go-round for seven innings," Gillaspie said.

And while Syndergaard simply overpowered the Giants at times, Bumgarner kept the Mets off balance by mixing pinpoint pitches and changing speeds from around 93-77 mph.

New York came out swinging after Collins said before the game his hitters had seen enough video of Bumgarner over the past two days to know he would challenge them. But the aggressive approach played right into the hands of Bumgarner and the Giants, who never had to use a shaky bullpen that struggled badly down the stretch.

The big lefty was able to get quick outs early and went the distance on 119 pitches, striking out six and walking two -- one intentional. He needed only seven pitches to get through each of the first three innings, with the help of a double play.

"I really thought, hey look, if we can get to him early," Collins said. "We probably need to do a little better job of working the count."

Still, he was visibly aggravated at times by Mike Winters' strike zone -- so was Mets reliever Addison Reed, it appeared -- and had a quick chat with the plate umpire between batters in the sixth.

Trainer's room
Giants: Nunez (strained right hamstring) was left off the wild-card roster, costing San Francisco a base-stealing threat against Syndergaard. An AL All-Star this season with Minnesota, he was acquired in a July 28 trade but hasn't played since Sept. 25.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (wrist) was missed, particularly because of his prodigious numbers against left-handed pitching. Flores has been sidelined since Sept. 10 after getting hurt in a home-plate collision. Surgery is planned this week to remove the hamate bone in his right wrist, and Flores is expected to be healthy for spring training next year.

Up next
Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto figures to start the Division Series opener against LHP Jon Lester.

Mets: Open next season April 3 at home against Atlanta.

Phillies lose Tommy Joseph to Rangers

AP Images

Phillies lose Tommy Joseph to Rangers

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Tommy Joseph is headed to the American League. The Texas Rangers claimed him off waivers on Monday. The Arizona native will head to his home state to join the Rangers for the remainder of spring training.

The Phillies designated Joseph for assignment last week. The move was made to clear room for pitcher Jake Arrieta on the 40-man roster. 

Joseph, 26, joined the Phillies organization in the summer of 2012 in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco. At the time, Joseph was a catcher. A series of concussions nearly ended his career, but he converted to first base and forged his way to the majors in May 2016. He hit 43 home runs the last two seasons, but did not reach base enough to satisfy a front office that wants to build a lineup around players with that skill. The emergence of Rhys Hoskins last season and the signing of free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana this winter made Joseph expendable and efforts to trade him were fruitless.

Joseph’s power makes him a potential fit for a role as a designated hitter. He could also be the right-handed portion of a first base platoon with Joey Gallo, who has hit just .199 against lefties in the majors.

Joseph is now on the Rangers’ 40-man roster.

Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition

USA Today Images

Phillies’ focus turns to Aaron Nola, Scott Kingery, bench competition


FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Phillies began their final full week in Florida on Sunday with a game against the Minnesota Twins. It provided manager Gabe Kapler the opportunity to look at a number of important areas — some settled, some unsettled — of his roster.

To wit:

• The opening day battery of Aaron Nola and Jorge Alfaro worked together. Nola battled through an early rough patch and delivered five innings of two-run ball. He will have one more start before he gets the call in Atlanta in 11 days.

• Scott Kingery, everybody’s favorite prospect, got the start at third base. He had two hits, raising his average to .378 (14 for 37), and made a nice play on a bunt. Kingery is projected to open at Triple A so the Phillies can control his rights through 2024. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be down there long. He projects as the second baseman of the future, but Cesar Hernandez is at the position for now. Third base could be a temporary landing spot for Kingery if Maikel Franco struggles. Kingery played some third at Triple A last season. Yes, Kapler wants to create versatility on his roster. But it was still notable that Kingery got his first look of the spring at third. He will get more time in the outfield before camp ends.

“We want him ready to step in and play all over the diamond whenever that time is,” Kapler said.

• The battle for bench spots was in full display. It’s not clear if the Phils have two or three spots open on the bench because they don’t need a fifth starting pitcher until April 11 and that could allow them a five-man bench at the outset. Regardless, the competition will come into focus this week.  Candidates Ryan Flaherty, Adam Rosales, Pedro Florimon, Jesmuel Valentin and Roman Quinn all played in the game.

Quinn, Florimon and Valentin are all on the 40-man roster so that could help their chances. Quinn, an outfielder by trade, got another look at shortstop. Florimon played left field, had a hit and walked twice. Valentin, an infielder by trade, got a look in right field and belted his third homer of the spring, a three-run shot, for the Phillies’ only runs in a 4-3 loss.

“Valentin has really put his strongest foot forward,” Kapler said. “He’s demonstrated pop, versatility and come up with huge hits.”

Flaherty, who played seven different positions with the Orioles over the last six seasons, started at first base and had a hit. He’s hitting .333.

“He’s having an awesome spring,” Kapler said.

Like Flaherty, Rosales, who has played parts of the last 10 seasons in the majors, can also play anywhere. Flaherty has an out in his minor-league contract on Thursday, so that could bring some clarity to his situation. If he’s still in the hunt Saturday, the Phillies must add him to the 40-man roster, pay him a $100,000 retention bonus or allow him to walk. Ditto for Rosales. So the bench picture will start to come into focus soon.

“There’s a lot to be excited about in that bench role,” Kapler said.