|Pete Alonso greeted by Jeff McNeil after his fifth-inning home run. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Mets evened the Wild Card Series with the San Diego Padres with a resounding 7-3 win on Saturday night at Citi Field, as they got six solid innings from starting pitcher Jacob deGrom and home runs from Pete Alsono and Francisco Lindor.
"We had contributions from everyone up and down the lineup. Then Jake, I mean, he set the tone from the start. He poured his heart out there for us," Alonso said in his postgame remarks.
"Overall, it was great," said Lindor. "It was a Mets-like game. Everybody played very well, and we stayed within ourselves."
DeGrom came out firing, as he retired the Padres in order in the top of the first, with strikeouts of Juan Soto and Manny Machado.
In the bottom of the opening frame, Brandon Nimmo laced a single down the left field line off San Diego starter Blake Snell, but he was then erased in a Starling Marte double play.
The downbeat feel after that was short-lived, as Lindor blasted one to left field for a solo home run to make it 1-0 Mets.
The Padres tied it with a solo shot of their own to left-center field from Trent Grisham, who also homered in Game 1.
In the fourth, Nimmo got the Mets the lead back when he hit another one down the left field line to bring in Eduardo Escobar, who opened the frame with a walk.
Snell would leave after that hit, and end to an underwhelming night for a perennial playoff performer, in which he went 3 1/3 innings, and allowed two runs on four hits and six walks, with five strikeouts.
San Diego Manager Bob Melvin was asked after the game about the struggle for Snell in this one, and he said, "Just throwing strikes. What did he have, six walks? Limited the damage for as much traffic as he had out there, but one of the few games we've seen here recently where he wasn't as proficient at throwing the ball over the plate."
San Diego rallied against a tiring deGrom in the top of the fifth when Grisham opened the inning with a walk, advanced on an Austin Nola sacrifice fly, and then scored on a single to right field from Jurickson Profar to tie it at 2.
Juan Soto then crushed one to right to give San Diego two on base with one out, but deGrom beared down and struck out Machado and Josh Bell with high heat to get out of the frame.
With the building still rocking from those strikeouts, Alonso took the first pitch he saw from Nick Martinez way back into the lower deck in left field to make it 3-2 Mets.
Alonso, who hit 40 home runs in the regular season, was asked if this was the biggest dinger of his career, and he said, "I think so, yeah. Being able to come up clutch in a spot like that to get the lead, I mean, that was awesome. Hopefully I can hit a few more like that tomorrow and moving forward. So I'm just really happy I was able to help the team."
DeGrom, obviously emboldened by having the lead back, made quick work of San Diego in the sixth, as he struck out Jake Cronenworth on three pitches, got Brandon Drury to fly out to right, and then got Ha-Seong Kim to ground out to third.
The final line for the Mets ace, who bounced back from a tough finish to the regular season, was: 6 innings pitched, 5 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 2 walks, 8 strikeouts.
Mets Manager Buck Showalter was asked if this is the "full" deGrom, and he said, "I haven't had him before this year. So what he's doing is really hard to do, and not many people in baseball can do it, especially, so whatever version it is, I'm okay with.
"So I can't - it's good. Those guys are on top of their game trying to take the second game and go home, and Jake just wouldn't allow it. So we've got our work cut out for us tomorrow, and all hands on deck."
The Mets then rolled the dice in the seventh as they brought in their closer Edwin Diaz, and he worked around a Nola single to retire the side.
In the bottom of the seventh, San Diego turned to left-hander Adrian Morejon even though the Mets had a switch-hitter in Lindor, followed by two right-handed bats, Alonso, and Mark Canha, coming up.
Lindor opened the inning with a single, and then stole second before Alonso and Canha both worked out walks after 10-pitch at-bats (that has to be some kind of record).
Jeff McNeil was up next, and he punched one to right field, past the drawn-in infield, to bring in Lindor and Alonso to make it 5-2 Mets.
That was all for Morejon, who faced four hitters and did not record an out. Melvin said of the decision to go to the left-hander, "We were comfortable with him. You're not going to get your matchup with Lindor switch hitting and then we were going to take him through McNeil and try to turn Escobar around. He didn't throw strikes either."
Pierce Johnson, a right-hander, followed Morejon out of the bullpen and he came on to face Escobar, and he hit one to left with the infield in to bring in Canha and make it 6-2.
Daniel Vogelbach was up next as a pinch-hitter, and he hit a fly ball to right for a sacrifice fly to open up a 7-2 Mets lead.
Diaz stayed on for the eighth, and he got Machado to ground out before walking Bell and striking out Cronenworth before he exited.
Adam Ottavino came on, and he struck out Drury to end the eighth before he stayed on for the ninth, where he allowed a run to make it 7-3 and let San Diego load the bases with two outs before departing. Seth Lugo came on to get Bell to hit a weak grounder to first base to end it.
SUNDAY NIGHT: The final game of the inaugural three-game Wild Card Series is set for Sunday night at 7:00 p.m., with Chris Bassitt pitching for the Mets and Joe Musgrove for San Diego.
Bassitt, who went 15-9 with a 3.42 ERA (earned run average) in the regular season, was asked about his mindset going into an elimination game in his press conference on Saturday afternoon, "I think you've just got to try to be yourself as best as you possibly can. Obviously the moment is going to be pretty big...I think whatever team can kind of be themself the most will have the advantage."
This is Bassitt's first season with the Mets after he began his career in Oakland, with Melvin as his Manager, and he said of these being the moments he expected coming to New York, "I think we all kind of expected that. This is why we came. This is why we built the group that we built for the playoffs. The division obviously didn't work out the way we wanted it to, but overall we got a chance to win it all. So I definitely expected this, no doubt."
Musgrove, who had a 10-7 record with a 2.93 ERA, said, in his press conference on Saturday afternoon, of making his first postseason start, "I'm really excited. My last postseason experience, obviously, I was out of the bullpen. I was a rookie at the time too, so a lot of nerves, a lot of unknowns, a little bit of fear of being the guy that didn't get the job done," referring to his time with the Houston Astros in 2017.
"I've grown a lot since then," Musgrove said. "I've experienced a lot since then. I'm in a different role now. So I'm extremely excited. I feel really prepared. I like where I'm at physically, delivery-wise. Done a lot of homework over the past week and a half on these guys, so I know what to do. It just ultimately comes down to execution. Excited to get out there and see what I can do."
Melvin said of Musgrove going in Game 3, "We feel good. Joe's thrown well for us all year. We're in pretty good shape with our bullpen as well. Yeah, I think this team takes a lot of confidence from Joe."
Alonso said of his mindset going into Game 3, "Honestly every game is different, every pitch is different. So I mean, we'll see where we're at tomorrow. We've just got to see how they're attacking us. But for us, if we can stay within ourselves, execute like we did tonight, up and down the order and have our pitchers do a really good job, I feel like we have a really good chance tomorrow. Again, it's all about big moments and capitalizing."
Lindor said, "Yeah, we learned from today, turn the page, come back tomorrow, and focus on what we have in front of our feet. Every day is a little different. It might be the same opponent, but every day is a little different. We've got to turn the page, celebrate tonight, turn the page, and focus on tomorrow."