NEW YORK -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was asked for any advice he might have for Mets counterpart Terry Collins when it became apparent the Mets most likely were going to face Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in the National League Wild Card Game."Like a friend from Wyoming told me,
NEW YORK -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was asked for any advice he might have for Mets counterpart Terry Collins when it became apparent the Mets most likely were going to face Madison Bumgarner and the Giants in the National League Wild Card Game.
"Like a friend from Wyoming told me, 'It's like a bull rider drawing a bad bull,'" said Hurdle, whose team was knocked out at home in the 2014 NL Wild Card Game by Bumgarner and the Giants. "Some guys draw Wildflower and some guys get Widowmaker. That night, the way it worked out, we got Widowmaker."
:: NL Wild Card: Giants vs. Mets coverage ::
Now, Collins knows the feeling. Collins had a darn good hand of his own taking the mound for the Mets in the win-or-go-home matchup at Citi Field on Wednesday night, and for seven innings, Noah Syndergaard matched Bumgarner zero for zero in one of the most riveting pitchers' duels in postseason history.
Syndergaard, however, paid the price for a high pitch count early, and he departed after seven innings in a scoreless game while Bumgarner was still going strong, winding up with a 3-0 victory thanks to Conor Gillaspie's home run off Jeurys Familia in the top of the ninth.
"This is one of the best postseason games I've been a part of," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "Great pitching. ... Bum just did his thing."
Great pitching? Just about as good as it can get.
Two pitchers locked in a shutout for seven innings in the postseason? It has happened only once in a win-or-go-home postseason game -- Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. That's the one where Braves right-hander John Smoltz exited after 7 1/3 shutout innings, then sat in the dugout to see counterpart Jack Morris hang around 10 innings and walk out of the Metrodome with a 1-0 victory and a World Series championship for the Twins.
Smoltz gave up six hits and walked a batter in his effort, and Morris gave up seven hits, walked two and got a break on a Lonnie Smith baserunning blunder in the top of the eighth, but he never gave in during the 126-pitch effort.
And that was on the Game 7 stage, where it's not a chance to advance in the postseason at stake but rather the right to claim baseball's ultimate symbol of success.
It is, however, hard to overlook what transpired at Citi Field, where Syndergaard allowed two hits in seven innings -- both with two outs: Denard Span's single in the sixth and Ángel Pagán's single in the seventh. Bumgarner gave up only four hits.
"Very rarely do I feel overmatched, and I felt that way [Wednesday night]," Gillaspie said.
Oh, there have been some memorable mound moments in postseason history, starting with Don Larsen's perfect game for the Yankees against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 Fall Classic, the only no-hitter in World Series history.
It was "only" Game 5, one that gave the Yankees a 3-2 edge in a Series they eventually won in seven games. It wasn't an all-or-nothing postseason affair.
Wednesday's game was all about advancing to the NL Division Series against the Cubs, which opens on Friday night (9 ET/6 PT on FS1), or heading home for the offseason.
:: NLDS: Giants vs. Cubs coverage ::
It was only the 20th time in postseason history that a pitcher threw a shutout in a winner-take-all affair, and Bumgarner was also on the mound the past two times, having also beaten the Pirates, 8-0, in the 2014 NL Wild Card Game.
But that's Bumgarner in October. He does now have a streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings in postseason play, the fourth longest behind Mariano Rivera (33 1/3), Whitey Ford (32) and Jeremy Affeldt (23 1/3). Bumgarner's 1.94 ERA is the third lowest for a pitcher with at least 10 postseason starts.
For seven innings on this night, Syndergaard was Bumgarner's match. The Mets right-hander faced only 25 batters in seven innings, and only two of those came up to the plate with a runner in scoring position.
"He did great," Bumgarner said. "We were fortunate to get his pitch count up and get him out of the game. That was it for us."
Fortunate? There have been only five lower-scoring shutouts in win-or-go-home postseason matchups, including Morris and the Twins' 1-0 victory in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. The other two 1-0 end-of-the-line postseason games? Ralph Terry of the Yankees beat the Giants in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series, and Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals beat the Phillies in Game 5 of a 2011 NLDS matchup.
Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers beat the Twins, 2-0, in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series, and Johnny Podres of the Dodgers beat the Yankees, 2-0, in Game 7 in 1955.
But other than the Morris game, none of those was scoreless through eight innings, like the Mets and Giants on Wednesday night.
When it was done, Bumgarner was the last man standing on the mound at Citi Field.
"He's a fighter and a competitor," Gillaspie said. "He has a lot of intangibles a lot of everyday big leaguers don't have. It's unbelievable what he's done."
It's the kind of things that become the subject of barroom debates, folks trying to decide if it was the greatest or just one of the greatest pitching matchups in postseason history.
Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for MLB.com.