A sell out crowd was on hand, Max Scherzer was on the mound and all seemed right for the Mets as they prepared to play their first playoff game in six years. There was one problem. Mad Max was bad Max.
The future Hall of Famer gave up a post season career high seven earned runs and four home runs as the Mets lost 7-1 to the Padres last night at CitiField in the first game of the best-of-three Wild Card round. The Mets will play tonight to keep their season alive in game two.
To say Scherzer didn’t have it is an understatement. “When my fastball is flat, and running, that’s usually when I get hit a lot, and, obviously tonight, I got hit a lot,” said Scherzer, who seemed as stunned as the Mets’ fans after the game.
Mets Manager Buck Showalter decided to start Scherzer in game one and hold Jacob deGrom back, depending on if the Mets won or lost. deGrom will start game two Saturday night.
Scherzer was victimized by the home run ball, beginning in the very first inning.
Jurickson Profar led off with a single to left center on the first pitch of the game. After Scherzer retired Juan Soto on a strikeout and Manny Machado on a routine fly out to left, Josh Bell jumped on a 3-1 pitch and drove it to the opposite field over the left field wall for a quick, 2-0 lead.
Scherzer once again got the first two outs in the second but gave up a solo home run to Trent Grisham to put the Mets in a 3-0 hole. With the Mets’ offense struggling to score runs over the past few weeks, three runs felt like ten.
The Mets had their chances early on against Yu Darvish. With one out in the first, Francisco Lindor was hit by a pitch and stole second before the red hot Jeff McNeil lined a single to right to put runners on first and third. Darvish went to work and got a huge strikeout of Pete Alonso and then snuffed out the potential rally when Daniel Vogelbach flied out to deep right field.
Starling Marte, who was surprise addition to the starting lineup, singled up the middle to start the second inning. Marte had not played since September 6th, but he immediately made his presence felt as he stole second and then third, but was left stranded when Eduardo Escobar struck out and Tomas Nido flied out to center.
“We had a man on third and one out, twice, Showalter said. “A chance to hit back early and gain some momentum, getting back into it, usually we answer there. We had a chance but Darvish wouldn’t let us.”
That was pretty much it, as Darvish settled in to continue his domination of the Mets this season. The Padres right hander lost his shutout in the fifth when Eduardo Escobar hit a solo home run, but he went seven and did not walk a batter. Including this game, Darvish is 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA against the Mets this season.
The Mets went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and their top four hitters (Brandon Nimmo, Lindor, McNeil and Alonso) were 3 for 15 with no runs scored. On the other hand, the Padres’ lower third of the order (Ha-Seong Kim, Grisham, and Austin Nola) were a combined 4 for 11 with a home run and three runs scored.
Three of those hits came off Scherzer, who was knocked out after giving up four runs in the fifth.
With runners on second and third and one out in the fifth, Profar hit a three run homer to make it an insurmountable 6-0 lead. With two out, Machado poured more salt on the wound and the knockout blow with the fourth home run off Scherzer. That was it for the Mets’ right hander who was showered with a loud chorus of boos from the 41,621 displeased fans on hand for the first Mets playoff game since 2016.
Scherzer, who was on the IL twice this season, was asked if he was having any physical issues that led to this poor performance. “I don’t think so, you know I felt good.”
The focus now shifts to game two as the Mets’ hopes ride with deGrom who will be making his first post season start at CitiField.
“I’ve said it before, I love pitching here,” deGrom said after game one. “This is a great atmosphere to play in, fans have been great to me so I’m excited to go out there and see what I can do.”
Showalter may tweak the lineup and put Marte back in the two hole, but he feels his team will respond to the challenge. “We’ll get an opportunity now, we’ll get one tomorrow to right the ship,” he said. “I know our guys will come out and present themselves well. I got a lot of confidence in ‘em.”
deGrom has experience with elimination games.
In 2015, the two time Cy Young Award winner started game five of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers. He didn’t have his best stuff and gave up two runs in the first inning, but he tossed a gutsy six innings to lead the Mets to a 3-2 win, so he’s been here before.
“You leave it all out on the field,” deGrom said. “You got 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.”
Alonso will be playing in his first elimination game but he’s not ready to call it a season just yet.
“There’s really no other choice,” he said. “If we were to just pack it up and go home, can’t do that. We have a challenge and we’re gonna face it head on and we’re gonna run towards it.”
Lefthander Blake Snell will be looking to send San Diego to the National League Division Series against the Dodgers. Snell is 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA in two starts against the Mets this season, but he pitched five scoreless innings at Citi earlier this year.
The Mets have been resilient but they’ll have to dip into that well one more time or their season could be over by Sunday morning.
Alonso couldn’t have put it any better. “We’ve been really good and now we’ll get to see what we’re made of,” he said.