Padres Wild Card Win over Mets Should Not Have Been a Surprise

Padres Mets

Padres Elimination of Mets Was No Surprise

Name that pitcher! He faced the New York Mets twice in the 2022 regular season. In his first appearance, he allowed no runs on two hits and no walks across seven innings, striking out six while hitting three batters. Six weeks later, he pitched seven innings again, allowing one run on four hits and a walk, striking out nine. In aggregate, he pitched 14 innings, allowing one run on six hits, one walk, and three hit batters while striking out 15. The pitcher? San Diego Padres ace Yu Darvish, who picked up where he left off in Game One of the Wild Card Series — one run on six hits, no walks, and a hit batter, striking out four Mets in seven innings. The lone run came on a solo home run by Eduardo Escobar.

Now name this pitcher. In his last four regular-season starts — out of 30 total — he allowed one run (solo home run) on 15 hits, walking eight and hitting one batter while striking out 27 across 22 innings. During this span, he held his opponents to a .188/.270/.288 slash line. Of course, this is 2022 All-Star Joe Musgrove. The same Joe Musgrove who pitched the only no-hitter in San Diego Padres history in 2021. And the same Joe Musgrove who carved up the Mets during the emphatic 6–0 Padres victory in the decisive third game of the Wild Card Series.

The score line in the third game was a surprise, certainly. Future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer giving up seven runs on seven hits and four home runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game One was also a surprise, but he also was clearly injured and shouldn’t have been out there. But the results themselves — two Padres victories — should not have been a surprise. They should have been fully expected.

Padres Matched Up Perfectly with the Mets

Embed from Getty Images

Postseason baseball is about matchups. By losing the division title in the final week of the season, the Mets ended up with the least favorable matchup possible. Had they held onto the division, they would have gained a first-round bye and played the winner of the 3–6 series. That series was between the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies — teams the Mets went 5–2 and 14–5 against in the regular season, respectively. Instead, the Mets ended up as the fourth seed, hosting the fifth-seeded Padres in a best-of-three series. During the regular season, the Padres took four of six from the Mets. In their June series in San Diego, the Padres won two of three. The July series in New York went the same — the Padres won two of three. This past weekend in the Wild Card Series, the Padres — surprise, surprise — won two of three.

Far too many people — many of whom should have known better — ignored the head-to-head matchup during the season and focused on the Mets winning 101 games to the Padres 89. However, the Padres record was distorted by going 5–14 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Against the rest of the league, the Padres were 84–59 (.587), which is a 95-win pace. Few serious, let alone casual, observers will catch this fact. But that is no excuse for ignoring the much more basic fact that the Padres took four of six from the Mets during the regular season.

The Flip Side

With the postseason being about matchups, there is a good chance that the Padres will bow out to the Dodgers in the best-of-five National League Division Series. The Dodgers, who won 14 of 19 against the Padres in 2022, could easily sweep them. Some will undoubtedly take a four-game Dodgers victory or three-game sweep as further evidence that the Mets lost to an inferior opponent, but the reality is that the Dodgers are as bad a matchup for the Padres as the Padres were for the Mets.

Tip Your Hat. A Very Good Padres Team Simply Beat the Mets.

Embed from Getty Images

This series was not a “choke” by the Mets. A team that dominated them during the regular season merely did it again in the playoffs. Two of the league’s best pitchers shut them down. The Mets offense didn’t suddenly “go cold” in Game One. No, Darvish shoved them in the walk-in freezer and locked the door. The Mets bats didn’t “fall asleep” in Game Three — Musgrove sent them to bed without dinner.

Calling this series loss a “choke” is to be expected from a bitterly disappointed fanbase. But that takes away from two outstanding performances by Darvish and Musgrove. Those two deserve all the accolades for their brilliant performances. Once again, postseason baseball is about matchups. This matchup was a dream for Darvish, Musgrove, and the rest of the Padres — and it was a nightmare for the Mets.

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images

Players mentioned:

Yu Darvish, Eduardo EscobarJoe Musgrove, Max Scherzer