|Jurickson Profar heads back to the dugout with Ha-Seong Kim and Austin Nola after his three-run home run. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The San Diego Padres put on quite the power display Friday night as they beat the Mets, 7-1, on Friday night in the first game of the Wild Card Series.
Max Scherzer got the start for the Mets, and the game opened with Jurickson Profar dunking one into left field for a hit.
The Mets ace then struck out Juan Soto and got Manny Machado to fly out to left before Josh Bell crushed one the opposite way to left-center field, with the ball landing in the back of the lower deck, to give the Padres a 2-0 lead.
Yu Darvish got the start for the Padres, and he ran into trouble in the bottom of the first when Francisco Lindor was hit by a pitch, and Jeff McNeil followed with a single to give the Mets two runners on with one out.
Pete Alonso, who hit 40 home runs in the regular season, was up next in a perfectly set-up moment to deliver, and he struck out looking, and Daniel Vogelbach then gave one a ride to right field for the third out.
The Padres responded by adding to their lead in the second when Trent Grisham crushed a solo shot to right field to make it 3-0 San Diego.
In the bottom of the second, Starling Marte, in his first action in a month, led off with a seeing-eye single, and he then stole both second and third bases, but Darvish got Mark Canha to fly out to left, struck out Eduardo Escobar, and got Tomas Nido to fly out to center.
Those three outs began a run in which Darvish retired 10 in a row, and Scherzer also appeared to settle in, as he retired the Padres in order in the third and fourth innings.
In the top of the fifth, Ha-Seong Kim led off with a single, and Austin Nola got a one-out double before Profar blasted one into the right field corner, just inside the foul pole, for a three-run shot to open up a 6-0 lead for San Diego.
Two batters later, Machado hit a laser to left field for a solo shot to give the Padres the extra point, and make it 7-0.
Scherzer was pulled right after that, and he was booed lustily as he left the field, as Mets fans were extremely let down to see their $43-million-per-year ace, one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, surrender four home runs.
"Of course I'm disappointed, but I don't know what else -- yeah, the baseball can take you to the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows, and this is one of the lowest of lows," Scherzer said afterward.
"I felt like my fastball was running on me. I didn't have a good fastball location. For me, working glove side with my fastballs, usually when I execute that, it stays on - plain on the glove side part of the plate, and it usually has ride. So I keep on the glove side. From watching the film and just watching how they were able to take swings, my fastball was running on me. I wasn't able to command that fastball the way I usually can. That's my bread and butter to be able to set up everything else."
Mets Manager Buck Showalter said of Scherzer having issues with his fastball, "Well, he's got such good command of all his pitches. He was having trouble getting the ball away from his glove. He was trying to throw the ball in, for instance, to Bell, and he can't get it there.
"He had a lot of pitches that were leaking on him, but with Max that's happened before early in the outing, and he's made the adjustments. Tonight he wasn't able to.
"But we didn't score any runs regardless of what - obviously the expectations for Max are always high because of his track record, but we just didn't score any runs. We knew Darvish was going to be a challenge, and he was."
Darvish went seven innings to earn the win, as he allowed one run, on a solo home run by Escobar in the fifth, on six hits and no walks, with four strikeouts. He fooled the Mets all night with his offspeed stuff, so much so that Alonso flung his bat into the net when he struck out in the fourth inning.
On pitching at a frenzied Citi Field, Darvish said, "So during the warmup, as I was warming up to go into the game, I had my headphones on. I basically try to block all the noise out of the crowd of the stadium. So that was good going into the game. But once I was in trouble in that inning (the two on base, one out jam in the first), the stadium was so loud that it felt like basically someone was screaming into my ears. I just kind of reminded myself that it's just noise and just go out there and do your thing. So that's kind of how I got through it."
Darvish said of matching up with Scherzer, "Just for me going into this game, you're facing a pitcher that's most likely going to go into the Hall of Fame. It's a special pitcher that you're facing. Just being on that mound, being on that field today in this game, it's just an honorable thing for me. So just wanted to go out there and give my best."
Showalter said of Darvish's performance, "He's got two breaking balls - he really throws so many pitches, and he commands them, but I think he threw - I know there were a number of times - behind the count there are no-hitter counts with him as far as everything's - there's two shapes of breaking balls, really three with the cutter, the slider, and the curveball. When he wants to, he makes pitches with that even to the left-handed hitters.
"Obviously Max, with the expectations that he has for himself and what he's done for us and throughout baseball, but Darvish is on top of his game. We knew that was going to be a challenge. He's just got so many things you have to defend. I don't think - I think he ended up - did he walk anybody? I think he had one hit by a pitch, and that's the difference."
Showalter did confirm that it will be Jacob deGrom facing off against San Diego's Blake Snell in Game 2 on Saturday night.
DeGrom suffered a blister during his start last Friday in Atlanta, and he said of where he is at physically, "Finger's good. I feel really good. Was able to get off the mound twice this week and felt great. I look back at that Atlanta start, and I made a couple of mistakes that they capitalized on. Other than that, I feel like I threw the ball pretty well. The goal is to eliminate mistakes in big situations and try to stick to your game plan."
This will be the second time deGrom will be pitching in an elimination game, after he won his first, Game 5 of the Division Series in Los Angeles over the Dodgers.
On being successful in a moment like that, deGrom said, "The one in 2015, I didn't have my best stuff. So go out there and you leave it all out on the field. You go out there and compete, you try to execute to the best of your ability and try to keep your team in a position to win...
"This will be my first time pitching in seven years in a postseason and first time at Citi Field, so I'm excited. Like I said, you go out there and execute to the best of your ability and leave it all out on the field...
"You look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and know you gave 100 percent."