The San Diego Padres defeated the New York Mets by a score of 7-1 in Game 1 of the National League Wild Card Series on Friday night at Citi Field. That outcome gives the Padres 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series that functions as the opening round in MLB's new playoff structure.
Now for some takeaways from Game 1.
Bell got to Scherzer early
The Padres didn't need long to do damage against Mets starter and co-ace Max Scherzer, as first baseman Josh Bell in the top of the first hit this booming two-run homer to the opposite field:
That 95-mph fastball from Scherzer caught too much of the middle, and Bell didn't miss. That homer left the bat at 107.8 mph and traveled 419 feet to deep left-center. That had to be a huge moment for Bell, who's struggled badly since coming over in the Juan Soto blockbuster just prior to the trade deadline. With the Padres in the regular season, Bell slashed .192/.316/.271 with just three home runs in 53 games. That came on the heels of a highly productive 103 games with the Nationals. Perhaps more concerning is that Bell saw his quality-of-contract metrics decline significantly on San Diego's watch.
Well, there were no such quality-of-contact concerns on that one above, and Bell is now the author of what may be the Padres' biggest home run of the season to date.
Then a bunch of other Padres got to Scherzer
It wasn't just Bell who took Scherzer yard. So did Trent Grisham in the second and Jurickson Profar in the fifth. The very next batter after Profar, Manny Machado, became the fourth Padre to homer off Scherzer in Game 1, and this one sent him to the showers:
At that point, Trevor May came on, and Scherzer's night was over: 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 4 SO, 0 BB, 4 HR. That comes to a 13.50 ERA for the game. This is just the second time in his career, playoffs or regular season, that he's allowed at least seven runs and four home runs in a game. As for the postseason itself, there's this:
This disaster outing comes just after Scherzer struggled in a crucial start against the Braves – four runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings when the division title hung in the balance. Maybe he's still not fully over his oblique injury, maybe he's suddenly feeling his 38 years, or maybe it's just cruel short-run randomness that can happen to anyone in baseball.
Scherzer's a three-time Cy Young winner and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he's looked like nothing of the sort recently.
Darvish was excellent
While Scherzer had a Game 1 to forget, the Padres' Darvish had one to remember. His work for the night:
Darvish kept Mets hitters off balance with his usual dizzying array of offerings -- he threw five different pitches on Friday, headlined by his cutter. His velocity ranged from 95.2 mph on a fastball to Francisco Lindor in the fifth to 66.9 mph on a curve to Eduardo Escobar in that same inning. While his strikeout tally wasn't what it typically was, hard contact eluded the Mets for much of the night. The only blemish came on a solo home run by Escobar. Also of note is that Darvish's seven innings of work meant a light night for the Padres' bullpen, particularly by postseason standards.
DeGrom goes next for New York
We already knew that lefty Blake Snell will start Game 2 for the Padres, but the Mets' decision hinged on how Game 1 went. If they won, the plan seemed to be to hold back ace Jacob deGrom in the hopes that they could close out the Padres in Game 2 and line up deGrom for Game 1 of the NLDS. If they lost Game 1 to San Diego, then deGrom would start Game 2, which would be an elimination game for the Mets. Well, the latter scenario, as you now know, is what unfolded, and deGrom will indeed go Saturday against Snell and Padres. The Padres are now one win away from a matchup with the NL West-rival Dodgers in the NLDS.
Game 2 on Saturday is scheduled to start at 7:37 p.m. ET.