Sunday, October 9, 2022

WILD CARD GAME 3: Padres, Musgrove Finish Off Mets


The Padres celebrate after they clinched the series. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets suffered a crushing 6-0 loss to the San Diego Padres in Game 3 of the Wild Card Series on Sunday night at Citi Field.

This is a bitter, sudden end for a Mets team that led the National League East all season before losing the lead to the Atlanta Braves in the final week despite finishing with 101 wins, second-most in their franchise history, and then went on to drop two of three in this series to the Padres.

Mets Manager Buck Showalter, who was in his first year at the helm, said in his postgame remarks, "I don't think I've ever had such a blend of good people and good players, and it really creates a bond that you hate to see them not get, you know, everybody thinks they deserve it this time of year. I've been there with them every step of the way and seeing what they put into it and how much they cared. They're a very easy group to pull for - as a fan, as a coach, as a manager, as a teammate, and I just feel for them...

"It's a very sincere group. They're trying to do as good as they could do. There's a reason why the Braves were World Champions last year and have a chance this year. We've been real good against them. They beat us one more time than we did. (Atlanta won the season series 10-9, which was the tiebreaker to win the NL East)

Mets Manager Buck Showalter in his postgame press conference Sunday night. Photo by Jason Schott.

"I think I told our players, I don't want them going around apologizing for winning 101, 102 games, but all that does is give you a chance to do what we were able to do the last three games. That's all you get back for it. 

"That's frustrating and it hurts, but I hurt for our players and our fans more than anything else, and the whole organization because I know how much everybody put into it, from the groundskeeper in St. Lucie to people all the way through it. It plays off of how we do.

"It's a great responsibility. Our players took on that responsibility. A lot of people run from it. They didn't."

In the first game of the Wild Card Series, San Diego won, 7-2, on Friday night, backed by a big start from Yu Darvish and four home runs off Mets starter Max Scherzer. The Mets rebounded with a 7-3 win on Saturday night to even the series, backed by a strong outing from Jacob deGrom and home runs from Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso.

San Diego starting pitcher Joe Musgrove was superb in this one, as he threw seven shutout innings, and allowed just one hit and one walk, with five strikeouts to win his first-ever postseason start.

"It feels great," Musgrove said of delivering in such a big moment. "It feels a lot better now than it did before the game. I was sick to my stomach all day leading up to this. I don't know, it's just something I've been preparing for for a long time. You go over in your head so many times as a kid about getting the ball in the biggest moment on the biggest stage. This is something we do a lot of visualizing on in the off-season is moments like this."

Musgrove is the first pitcher in Major League history to throw seven shutout innings and allow one hit in a winner-take all playoff game.

Joe Musgrove pitching to Mark Canha in the fifth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

Padres Manager Bob Melvin was asked afterwards when he knew Musgrove was on his game, "Man, like the first inning. Once you get through the first, that's the one that's sometimes most difficult on a starter, but from the second inning on, it's just loaded with everything, using all his pitches. You could see the resolve in his face and the demeanor he had. He was on a mission today."

Musgrove is the 22nd pitcher ever to throw at least seven shutout innings in a winner-take-all Postseason game. The last two times it occurred was in the same game, the Wild Card playoff between the Mets and the San Francisco Giants in 2016. The Mets' Noah Syndergaard threw seven shutout innings, and San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner threw a complete game shutout as the Giants won it.

Mets starting pitcher Chris Bassitt had a tought night after he cruised through the first inning. He ran into trouble in the second. Josh Bell led off the inning with a single past past a lunging Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, and then after retiring the next two hitters, he allowed walks to Ha-Seong Kim and Trent Grisham.

Austin Nola, the ninth-hitter in the San Diego order, was up next, and after he fell behind 0-2, he fouled one off on the outside corner to stay alive, and he then punched one to left field to bring in a pair and make it 2-0 San Diego.

In the bottom of the second, with one out, Jeff McNeil lined one off the first base bag, but Wil Myers leaped up to grab it, kept his balance and fired to Musgrove covering to nab McNeil.

That was the first of four superb plays by Myers at first base, so many that it became a recurring theme in the game.

San Diego added to their lead in the fourth when Kim drew a two-out walk, stole second, and came in on a single by Trent Grisham to make it 3-0. The Padres center fielder homered in each of the first two gmaes, so he arguably was their offensive Most Valuable Player. 

Bassitt left after four innings, and allowed three runs on three hits and three walks, with two strikeouts, and yielded to David Peterson in the fifth.

Jurickson Profar led off the frame with a single, and then Juan Soto bunted him over (yes, you read that correctly) before Manny Machado singled him in to make it 4-0 Padres.

The Mets tried to respond in the bottom of the fifth when Alonso got their first hit on liner to right field. Then, with one out, Grisham showed he could do it with his glove, as well as his bat, as he made running catch on a Mark Canha drive to right-center field in front of the bullpens to extinguish the Mets' only real scoring chance of the game.

San Diego put it away in the eighth when Juan Soto laced a two-out single off Mets closer Edwin Diaz to make it 6-0, which was the final.

Bassitt, who won 15 games for the Mets in his first year in New York, saw his season end with two straight tough outings, one in Atlanta last Sunday when the Braves beat him to complete their sweep of the Mets, and this one tonight to end their season.

In his postgame press conference, Bassitt said of what the difference was with these two starts compared to his others throughout the season, "I'd say more so just beating myself. Looking back at the Atlanta start, I'm not sure how many runs they scored on walks, and then tonight I know they scored two guys on walks. So not too proud of that, but I'm proud of the group...

"No matter where you lose, it's stunning. I've lost in this one. I've lost in the next round. It don't matter what round you lose in. It just sucks. I would say almost every playoff team, they have a really special group and you don't want to leave. Yeah, everyone that loses from here on out is stunned, and everyone's just - it's a terrible, terrible feeling. But I'm beyond grateful and beyond proud to be a Met. That's all I can really say."

Chris Bassitt and Buck Showalter in their postgame press conference. Photo by Jason Schott.

Showalter, who was on the stage with Bassitt to open the postgame press conference, began his portion of it by speaking of how he felt seeing the season end like this, "It's raw. This sport is so gratifying and so many great things happen. It's just cruel too at times like this. I feel for the players. They put so much into it and were such a special group. 

"I told them it's not always fair. I don't think I've ever had such a blend of good people and good players, and it really creates a bond that you hate to see them not get, you know, everybody thinks they deserve it this time of year. I've been there with them every step of the way and seeing what they put into it and how much they cared. 

"They're a very easy group to pull for - as a fan, as a coach, as a manager, as a teammate, and I just feel for them it's not something that's sharp either. It's like a dull, it's not going to go away, but in a lot of ways, you hope it's a stepping stone that drives you in the off-season. I know it will be in (General Manager) Billy (Eppler), and I know the players. Hopefully we can gain something from the pain. It's one of those things that you can't do anything but say it was self-inflicted. It's not like - you seek your level, and we're not going to be able to continue to play.

"I think I feel for the players and their families and the fans that were so supportive. I think that's what I take. The biggest disappointment I take is for the players and the fans and the organization. There's so many people that give so much to it trying to get to the last step, and it's so difficult. But like I said, everyone feels that way this time of year, the ten teams playing. It's such a roll of the dice in October, but we just didn't do much with the bats tonight.

"Got to give them a lot of credit. They really pitched well for the whole series for the most part. They've got a lot of quality arms, and they just keep coming at you. They kind of got it going this time of year. And I've known (Padres Manager) Bob (Melvin) a long time, always pull for his teams because I know how he goes about it. If you had to be eliminated, it's well run."

Padres Manager Bob Melvin. Photo by Jason Schott.

Melvin said of winning it at Citi Field, where the entire Wild Card Series took place, "It's something you deserve to celebrate. This is at a different level here. This is a really tough venue to play at against a really good team. So to take it to another level, I think, certainly feels a lot better.

"One thing I feel great about is we're going to be able to take this thing home and have a playoff series in front of our fans in San Diego. Can't wait to see them. Can't wait to get back there. They deserve it."

San Diego moves on to play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series starting Tuesday night. 

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