Padres eliminate Mets with 101 wins behind Joe Musgrove’s outstanding performance in NL Wild Card Game 3

The San Diego Padres head to the NL Division Series after shutting out the New York Mets in Game 3 of a winner-take-all wild-card series. Padres starter Joe Musgrove was nearly flawless in seven scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and one walk. The back end of the Padres’ lineup produced inning after inning and ended a 101-game hitting season for the Mets with a 6-0 victory.

San Diego will now travel to begin a division series matchup with the juggernaut Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.

The Mets’ season deteriorated from a dream to a nightmare over two brutal weeks. First, they lost their season-long grip on the NL East in a decisive blow at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. They were then eliminated from the postseason entirely, dropping two of three in the wild-card series against the Padres. Their bats went quiet in Games 1 and 3 as unexpected contributors flourished for San Diego.

Center fielder Trent Grisham, a .184 hitter in the regular season, had four RBIs, walked twice and was hit twice more in the series. Oh, and he also played the stellar defense that kept him in the lineup when his bat was ice cold.

Musgrove, it turns out, doesn’t take much offense. His seven innings of one-hit ball are first in a winner-take-all postseason contest. according to Sara Langs of MLB.com. The 6-foot-5 San Diego native twirled the franchise’s first no-hitter in 2021, signed a five-year contract extension earlier this season and is now coming off one of the most impressive postseason performances in team history.

The dominance did not come without controversy. Mets manager Buck Showalter asked the umpires to check Musgrove for foreign substances before the sixth inning after Musgrove’s ears appeared to be glowing. His velocity and spin rates (which increase with velocity) were above season averages, especially his slider.

The umpires found nothing untoward and Musgrove went through two more frames before handing it over to Robert Suarez and Josh Hader. San Diego’s offense rattled Mets starter Chris Bassitt early, frequently calling timeouts and exits as Bassitt struggled to hear PitchCom and get calls for pitches. The offseason acquisition — a former Oakland Athletics ace under current Padres manager Bob Melvin — walked three and allowed three runs in four innings.

Much of that production came from the bottom of San Diego’s lineup. Ha-Seong Kim walked three times and scored three times. Catcher Aaron Nola, batting in the No. 9 hole, drove in the game’s first two runs after Bassit threw carefully to the red-hot Grisham. They proved decisive.

A Mets team that never felt out of sorts earlier this year — they pulled a five-run rally out of their hat in the ninth inning against the Cardinals in April — never felt in this one. The Thunder they briefly discovered Saturday night were nowhere to be found, and a summer spent atop the NL East suddenly turned into a disappointing exit in early October.

It’s going to be an eventful winter in Queens. Jacob de Grom could opt out of his contract to test free agency, and said he almost certainly will. Stars closer Edwin Diaz and center fielder Brandon Nimmo are also slated to become free agents. Then there’s the matter of team owner Steve Cohen, whose goal of winning a World Series within three to five years is about to hit a critical juncture. Will he spend big or act aggressively to push the Mets beyond the sinking feeling in 2022?

The Padres get a daunting challenge. They will face the Dodgers, who their team owner has called “big brother,” on Tuesday at 9:37 PM ET. San Diego went 5-14 against the Dodgers this season.

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