Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023|
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NEW YORK — With a magnificent performance on a memorable night in Padres history, Joe Musgrove brought this one home for San Diego and really stuck it to the New York Mets.
The big right-hander brushed off chants of “Cheater!” after a bizarre spot check by umpires on the mound, pitching his hometown Padres into the next round of the playoffs Sunday with seven innings of one-hit ball in a 6-0 victory over the listless Mets.
“You could see the resolve in his face and the demeanor he had,” San Diego manager Bob Melvin said. “He was on a mission today.”
Trent Grisham hit an RBI single and made a terrific catch in center field that helped the Padres take the best-of-three National League wild-card series 2-1. Austin Nola and Juan Soto each had a two-run single.
San Diego advanced to face the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers in a best-of-five Division Series beginning Tuesday — ensuring the Padres will play in front of their home fans in the postseason for the first time in 16 years when they return to Petco Park for Game 3.
“Can’t wait to get back there. They deserve it,” Melvin said.
It was the fifth time the Padres won a playoff series — and they took this one without star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., sidelined all season by a wrist injury and PED suspension.
They won a first-round matchup against St. Louis in their own ballpark with no fans permitted after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season before being swept in the Division Series by the eventual World Series champion Dodgers.
For the Mets, a scintillating season ended with a whimper at home in front of empty seats. Baseball’s biggest spenders won 101 games — second-most in franchise history — but were unable to hold off Atlanta in the NL East after sitting atop the division for all but six days.
Relegated to the wild-card round, New York never fully recovered. Max Scherzer got rocked in Game 1 and, after the Mets won Game 2 behind Jacob deGrom to stave off elimination, they mustered almost nothing against Musgrove and finished with one lonely hit.
No. 3 starter Chris Bassitt lasted just four innings, giving up three runs and three hits with three costly walks to batters near the bottom of the order.
Pete Alonso’s leadoff single in the fifth and Starling Marte’s walk to start the seventh were the only baserunners permitted by Musgrove in his first postseason start. He was 0-5 with a 6.33 ERA in five previous starts against the Mets.
Robert Suarez and Josh Hader finished up with perfect relief. After the final out, Padres players and coaches gathered for happy hugs and handshakes on the field as a small but vocal throng of San Diego fans dressed in brown and yellow cheered and chanted “Beat LA! Beat LA!” behind the team’s dugout.
Then the Padres took the party inside their clubhouse — dancing and dousing each other with booze in a loud, raucous celebration.
“They flat-out beat us,” Alonso said.
Musgrove grew up a Padres fan in the San Diego suburbs and pitched the franchise’s first no-hitter last year in his second start with the team.
He was working on a one-hitter and warming up for the sixth inning Sunday when Mets manager Buck Showalter came out of the dugout and spoke to first base umpire Alfonso Marquez.
“All Buck requested was for us to check for an illegal substance,” Marquez said.
The six umps huddled and then went to the mound. Marquez, the crew chief, felt Musgrove’s glove, cap — even his ears — searching for any unauthorized sticky substances.
“I’ve seen him do it before, checking the pitcher,” Musgrove said, referring to Showalter. “I get it, dude. They’re on their last leg, they’re desperate, they’re doing everything they can to get me out of the game.”
Marquez said the umpires “found nothing.”
Musgrove was allowed to continue, and he worked a 1-2-3 sixth punctuated by a pointed gesture toward the New York dugout.
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