When the Giants’ Conor Gillaspie connected with that 96-mph sinker from Jeurys Familia, the crack of the bat sent the Citi Field crowd to its knees. With one loud swing, an entire stadium fell silent, the shockwave knocking the air from 44,747 gasping fans.
For all the different emotions that swirled through Wednesday’s wild-card game, the exhilaration of Noah Syndergaard’s 10-strikeout performance, the dizzying relief provided by Curtis Granderson’s sprinting catch to deny Brandon Belt 400 feet from home plate, all that remained by game’s end was total, absolute deflation.
At the conclusion of the Mets’ 3-0 loss, which abruptly ended their season, there was nothing else left. Sure it was a great game, the tremendous pitcher’s duel everyone expected from Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner — an instant classic. But that is little consolation to the losers, despite the Mets’ inspiring September run, and the resiliency they showed after being punched full of holes by injury.
The Mets tried to put an encouraging spin on this painful loss, because that’s always the first step forward after dusting themselves off. Maybe the Mets never should have made it this far to begin with, after falling 5 1⁄2 games out of the wild card in mid-August. Some might say Wednesday’s do-or-die meeting with the Giants was a bonus, one more night to keep the Mets’ NL title defense alive.
And it was an amazing show, an emotionally-draining ride that jerked people from joy to despair numerous times before Gillaspie permanently stopped that pendulum, with a huge assist from Bumgarner. The Mets can pin this defeat on being outclassed by the most dominant postseason pitcher of our time, and that’s a true statement. It doesn’t soften the blow, however.
“They’re hurting,” Terry Collins said of his players. “But there’s no reason to be. I mean, they were written off so many times this summer and yet they kept fighting back. So they’re down, which they should be. It’s human nature. They were here to win. They wanted to win.”
As did everyone inside Citi Field, which contained as amped-up a crowd as the building has ever hosted. They roared for Wilmer Flores during the intros, and cheered wildly for David Wright, who smartly was announced at the end, right before the starters came out. And when Syndergaard took the mound, the fun really began.
Syndergaard held the Giants hitless until two outs in the sixth inning, when Denard Span slapped a single through the left side of the infield. Polite applause followed, only because the crowd seemed too nervous to offer much more. Probably too busy chewing on their fingernails.
That’s the curse of a brilliant game like this, at least from a Met fan’s perspective. The competition between Syndergaard and Bumgarner was a marvel to witness. But for those decked out in orange-and-blue, the anxiety levels had to be off the charts. And for people wondering if maybe the stout Bumgarner could be outlasted, he made it clear early on that wound not be the case, needing only 21 pitches through the first three innings. With Wednesday’s shutout, Bumgarner hasn’t allowed a run over his last 23 postseason innings while improving to 8-3 with a 1.94 ERA in a playoff career that includes 13 starts and two relief appearances. So what Bumgarner did to the Mets was nothing special — for him.
“He was supremely Madison Bumgarner,” Jay Bruce said. “He was as Madison Bumgarner as you can get.”
That turned out to be a terrible draw for the Mets, who never made it as far as third base and squandered a leadoff double by Bronx native T.J. Rivera — one of September’s best storylines — because of his own running blunder in the fifth inning. The highlight of the evening had to be Granderson channeling Endy Chavez with his run-saving grab in the sixth, but this night ended in almost the same aggravating fashion as that Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Only Gillaspie supplied the ninth-inning homer instead of Molina, and Familia left the mound to boos after 51 saves during the regular season.
“These things happen sometimes,” Familia said.
And they always hurt, with a long winter ahead to think about it.