NEW YORK — Starter Joe Musgrove dominated the New York Mets, who mustered one hit out of the entire evening, as the San Diego Padres cruised to a 6-0 victory in Game 3 of the National League Wild Card Series on Sunday, punching a ticket to the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
San Diego took Game 1 of the series against New York, teeing off against Max Scherzer to the tune of four homers in the 7-1 win but struggled to muster much of an attack in Game 2 against Jacob deGrom, who allowed only two runs in six innings in a 7-3 loss.
After a Game 2 where the Mets offense teed off on Padres pitching, San Diego needed Musgrove to come through during the biggest start of his career. Throughout the evening, Musgrove relied on his fastball, cutter, curveball and slider to keep complete dominance on the Mets lineup. The Mets struggled to mount any offensive momentum against the Padres, with first baseman Pete Alonso tallying the only hit off Musgrove on the evening. In seven innings, Musgrove allowed no runs while striking out five batters, walking one and allowing no runs.
With Musgrove pitching exceptionally well in the biggest game of his career, Mets starter Chris Bassitt had little room for error, but the Padres offense took advantage of every opportunity they earned early in the game.
San Diego’s offense came gradually throughout the course of the evening. Catcher Austin Nola started the tally with a single to left field that scored first baseman Josh Bell and shortstop Ha-Seong Kim. In the fourth inning, Padres outfielder Trent Grisham — who’s led the Padres offense in the wild-card games with two homers — singled on a sharp line drive to center field, scoring Kim.
Bassitt left the game after four innings, allowing three runs on three hits, three walks and two strikeouts.
The Mets bullpen did not fare much better. Third baseman Manny Machado added on in the fifth inning driving a line drive single off of reliever David Peterson to right field, scoring outfielder Jurickson Profar, making the score 4-0. In the eighth, outfielder Juan Soto added some cushion by singling to left field off of Edwin Diaz, scoring Kim and Grisham. The six runs from the Padres proved to be more than enough to punch a ticket to the division series.
An odd moment came in the bottom of the sixth inning when Mets manager Buck Showalter requested a substance check on Musgrove as pictures circulated online of the Padres starter’s ear appearing to shine. Umpires subsequently dug their fingers inside and around Musgrove’s ear, but did not find anything violating rules.
The Padres will make their second appearance in the division series since 2006, with the only other appearance coming in 2020 when they lost to the eventual World Series champion Dodgers. Los Angeles went 14-5 against the Padres in the regular season. The Dodgers ranked as the top offense in baseball in 2022, scoring 847 runs, while San Diego ranked 13th among all teams, scoring 705 runs. The Dodgers also had the lowest team ERA in baseball while the Padres ranked 11th.
The stakes are high for the Padres, who made blockbuster moves at the trade deadline for superstar outfielder Soto and reliever Josh Hader. San Diego also dealt with the fallout following the 80-game suspension in August of superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
The Padres have made significant financial investments in Tatis, Soto, Machado, Yu Darvish, Wil Myers and Blake Snell, expecting to contend for a World Series title, but results have fallen short of expectations so far. Since the Padres hired president of baseball operations A.J. Preller in 2014, San Diego has only made the playoffs in 2020 and this season.