The New York Mets began their best-of-three Wild Card Series against the San Diego Padres on Friday with a 7-1 loss. For the Mets, this means that Saturday's Game 2 will be an elimination game, and fitting the high-stakes nature of that contest Jacob deGrom will be the starter:
It would've been reasonable to assume that the Mets had planned all along to trot out their two decorated aces, Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, in Games 1 and 2 so as to secure an advancement to the division round, where they'd face the Los Angeles Dodgers, as quickly as possible.
That was not necessarily the case, however.
Scherzer indeed took the ball in Game 1 on Friday -- and struggled badly, giving up four home runs in the loss -- but Game 2 may have been an open question pending the outcome of Game 1. Whereas the Padres named Blake Snell as their Game 2 starter ahead of time, the Mets resisted announcing a starter until afterward. Instead, manager Buck Showalter prior to Game 1 said that his plans for Saturday could be influenced by the results of Game 1, according to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo.
It's possible Showalter was partaking in some gamesmanship, perhaps hoping that the Padres would spend more time thinking about his Game 2 options than they should ahead of Game 1. It's also possible that he was telling the truth. The logic seemed to go like this. If the Mets won on Friday, they could start Chris Bassitt on Saturday and potentially wrap up the series. In that scenario, deGrom would be ready to take the ball in Game 1 against the Dodgers, a more optimal arrangement for the Mets since deGrom would then be in line to make multiple starts in a five-game series.
In the end -- and to the chagrin of the Mets -- the choice was made for them in Friday's Game 1 loss. Now it's deGrom with the season on the line and no margin for error.