Buck Showalter’s reward for pulling out all the stops for the New York Mets in Game 2 of their National League wild-card series Saturday night?
Another chance to do it in a winner-take-all third game on Sunday.
The Mets and San Diego Padres will have the baseball stage all to themselves when they square off in the decisive game of the best-of-three series.
Chris Bassitt (15-9, 3.42 ERA) is slated to start for the Mets against Joe Musgrove (10-7, 2.93) in a battle of right-handers.
The Mets staved off elimination with a 7-3 win Saturday night. Pete Alonso hit the tie-breaking homer leading off the fifth inning and closer Edwin Diaz sandwiched five key outs around a four-run seventh inning by New York.
The winner of the lone Game 3 in the wild-card round will advance to face the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers in an NL Division Series scheduled to begin Tuesday night.
“It’s pretty much just like the old format — it’s going to be that one-game wild card,” Mets center fielder Brandon Nimmo said. “And rather than a regular season, where you keep on playing after this, you either don’t or you move on to L.A.”
Diaz hadn’t pitched in the seventh inning of a nine-inning game since Aug. 2, 2020. But he relieved Jacob deGrom to start the seventh Saturday with the Mets clinging to a 3-2 lead and the heart of the Padres’ order approaching.
Diaz gave up a one-out single to Austin Nola before retiring the top two batters in the San Diego lineup, Jurickson Profar and Juan Soto, on groundouts.
The Mets then sent nine batters to the plate over a period of about 45 minutes in the bottom half. Diaz — who stayed loose by playing catch in the batting cages with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner — issued a walk between getting the first two outs of the eighth.
Adam Ottavino relieved Diaz and recorded the last out of the eighth before getting into trouble in the ninth. He plunked a batter and walked three, including third-place hitter Manny Machado with two outs and the bases loaded.
Seth Lugo got cleanup hitter Josh Bell to ground out to earn the save for the Mets.
“I’m going to take my best pitcher and face (the heart of) their order, hope they don’t come up again,” Showalter said. “I think it was pretty obvious, by what went on in the ninth inning, why we did it that way.”
Padres manager Bob Melvin will be well-positioned to empty his bullpen Sunday. Closer Josh Hader has yet to pitch for San Diego, which rolled to a 7-1 victory in Friday’s opener behind a four-homer outburst against Mets co-ace Max Scherzer and seven strong innings by Yu Darvish.
The Padres’ top two set-up men, Luis Garcia and Robert Suarez, each tossed an inning Friday.
“(Hader is) going to be in (Sunday’s) game, and Suarez potentially (for) multiple (innings) too,” Melvin said. “So, our two most effective relievers will be part of this.”
Bassitt is 0-2 with a 6.60 ERA in three career starts against the Padres. He absorbed both losses this season, posting a 7.84 ERA in two starts.
Musgrove is 1-5 with a 5.83 ERA in six games (five starts) against the Mets. He opposed New York once this season and took the loss July 24, when he allowed four runs over 5 1/3 innings as the Padres fell, 8-5.
Bassitt is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in two career postseason starts, both of which he made with the Oakland Athletics in 2020.
Musgrove made all seven of his postseason appearances as a reliever with the World Series-winning Houston Astros in 2017, when he went 1-0 with an 8.10 ERA.
–Field Level Media