Padres eliminate 101-win Mets behind Joe Musgrove’s outstanding performance in NL wild-card Game 3

The San Diego Padres are heading to the NL Division Series after shutting down the New York Mets in a winner-take-all wild-card series Game 3. Padres starter Joe Musgrove was nearly flawless in seven scoreless innings, allowing only one hit and one walk. The back of the Padres’ lineup sparked rally after rally and ended a 101-win 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 soured from a dream to a nightmare over the course of two brutal weeks. First, they lost their season-long grip on the NL East in a crucial sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves. Then they tumbled out of the postseason entirely by dropping two of three in the wild-card series against the Padres. Their bats went quiet in Games 1 and 3 as unexpected contributors thrived for San Diego.

Center fielder Trent Grisham, a .184 hitter in the regular season, tallied four crucial hits, walked twice and reached on hits by pitches 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, as it turns out, didn’t require much offense. His seven innings of one-hit ball are a first for a winner-take-all postseason contest, according to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs. 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 now has one of the most impressive postseason performances in team history.

The dominance didn’t come without controversy. Mets manager Buck Showalter asked umpires to check Musgrove for foreign substances prior to the sixth inning after Musgrove’s ears appeared to be glistening. His velocity and spin rates (which tick up alongside velocity) were up from seasonal averages, especially his slider.

The umpires didn’t find anything objectionable, and Musgrove cruised through two more frames before handing it over to Robert Suarez and Josh Hader. San Diego’s offense flustered Mets starter Chris Bassitt early, frequently calling timeout and stepping out as Bassitt struggled to hear the PitchCom and get pitches called. The offseason trade acquisition — a former Oakland Athletics ace under now-Padres manager Bob Melvin — walked three and allowed three runs in four innings.

Much of that production came from the bottom of the San Diego lineup. Shortstop Ha-Seong Kim walked three times and scored three times. Catcher Aaron Nola, hitting in the No. 9 hole, drove in the first two runs of the game after Bassitt pitched the red hot Grisham carefully. Those prove decisive.

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

It will be an eventful winter in Queens. Jacob deGrom can opt out of his contract to test free agency, and has said he almost certainly will. Star closer Edwin Diaz and center fielder Brandon Nimmo are also due 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 enter crunch time. Will he spend big or move aggressively to nudge the Mets beyond the sinking feeling of 2022?

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