Saturday brought a host of drama, with all four games coming down to the wire. But three of those games ended their respective series, leaving us with just one showcase matchup for our Sunday night: a do-or-die contest in Queens between the Mets and Padres.
Game 1 saw San Diego demolish Max Scherzer. The Mets struck back in Game 2, with Jacob deGrom pitching well and their offense coming to life. The season hung in the balance for both teams in Game 3, with the Mets hoping to ensure that the franchise’s winningest season in 35 years wouldn’t go up in smoke.
NLWC Game 3
(SDP wins series 2-1)
If putting your season on the line with Scherzer or deGrom is like shoving in all your chips with a pair of aces, doing so with Chris Bassitt is more like going all-in with, say, a pair of tens. Mathematically, it’s fine, but it doesn’t feel great. Bassitt had a good debut season in Queens, but his value derives most naturally from his ability to make 30 solid starts over the course of a year. How would he perform when his team needed him to be a savior for one night?
Bassitt managed an easy first inning, but the Padres started to work him over in the second. With one on and two out, Ha-Seong Kim worked a seven-pitch walk, and Trent Grisham followed with a five-pitch walk to load the bases. Austin Nola, after fouling off three 0-2 offerings from Bassitt, then came through with a groundball single through the left side, putting the Padres ahead 2-0:
Bassitt got himself into trouble thanks to his inability to put away a few hitters who are generally unthreatening, and ran into the same issue soon after. In the fourth, Bassitt again walked Kim, he of a .679 career OPS in the majors. Kim promptly swiped second and scored on an RBI single from Grisham.
Meanwhile, the Mets could get nothing going against Joe Musgrove. The right-hander retired the first 12 batters he faced, allowing Citi Field to grow quieter and quieter as the innings passed and the home team remained scoreless.
Buck Showalter went to left-hander David Peterson to start the fifth, and the Padres started to get some offense from somewhere other than the bottom third of their order. Jurickson Profar singled, moved to second on a bunt (!) from Juan Soto, and scored on Manny Machado’s single.
Musgrove continued to dominate, and Showalter seemingly got a little desperate. With Musgrove shoving (and with the spin rate on his pitches slightly up across the board), the New York manager asked the umps to check Musgrove for sticky stuff. The umpires launched a thorough check of Musgrove’s person, including a tender caress of the pitcher’s ears:
The search yielded nothing, other than a staredown from Musgrove into the Mets dugout after he retired the side in order.
Musgrove finished with seven stellar innings, allowing just one hit and one walk against five strikeouts. The Padres tacked on two more in the eighth to extend the lead to 6-0, and their bullpen handled things with ease once Musgrove departed to ensure safe passage to the NLDS.
So there you have it. The four Wild Card series are in the books, with the lower seed advancing in three of them. The Padres will move on to face the Dodgers, while the Mets will rue the missed opportunity that was 2022.