Padres stun Mets with four home runs off Max Scherzer to win Game 1
Fans received orange towels Friday as they entered Citi Field.
“I’m gonna wave it until I break my arm,” a man in a personalized Mets jersey said as he exited an elevator an hour before first pitch.
Some 40,000 people did just that early in the evening.
Autumn in New York and The Amazins in the postseason for the first time since 2016 is quite a scene.
Until the Padres hit four home runs in the first five innings on their way to a 7-1 victory and Mets fans turn on one of their star pitchers and their team and begin to boo every move for a time and fight in the stands and eventually all but lose interest. (Box score.)
The Padres hit their first home run in the first inning and the second one in the second inning and two more in the fifth, all of them off three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, and routed the Mets in the first game of their National League wild-card series.
One more victory in the best-of-three series that continues Saturday night (4:37 p.m. PT, ESPN) would put the Padres in the NL Division Series beginning Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. (Game 3, if necessary, would be played here Sunday.)
Freddie Freeman thought he would end his career with the Atlanta Braves, but he has since grown comfortable with the Dodgers.
Friday was the first time in 22 postseason starts Scherzer allowed more than two home runs and the first time in Mets history an opponent homered four times in a postseason game.
The first two were hit by Josh Bell and Trent Grisham, the kind of heroes the postseason creates. Jurickson Profar rattled a three-run homer off the foul pole in the right field corner in the fifth inning to make it 6-0, and Manny Machado followed two batters later with a line drive at 110.5 mph that just cleared the wall in left field.
Yu Darvish allowed one run on six hits in seven innings, a career high in the postseason, to earn the win. Darvish had retired 10 straight before Eduardo Escobar’s home run made it 7-1 in the fifth, and he allowed one hit in each of his final two innings.
By the time Robert Suarez was jogging in from the bullpen and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” was playing, thousands of seats were empty. Suarez worked the eighth and Luis Garcia the ninth for the Padres.
The ballpark in Queens was packed and pumped at the start. The buzz began 90 minutes before first pitch. The “Lets Go Mets” chants started shortly after that.
It got quiet for a time after Bell sent a Scherzer fastball 419 feet through the air to the seats beyond left field in the first inning. It got quiet again for a time when Grisham turned on a Scherzer fastball and sent it 401 feet through the air to the seats beyond right field in the second inning.
The crowd rebounded both times, as the Mets rallied after each homer but didn’t score.
They stole three bases, singled twice, were hit but a pitch and twice had a runner at third with one out. But Darvish escaped both times, the beginning of a night in which the Mets would go 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Bell and Grisham were unlikely stars unless one considers how different October hits.
The condensed, intense and magnified setting of the postseason is where big names can become legends and where those that aren’t big names can too.
Both players had disappointing finishes to the regular season and found themselves sidelined more often because of it.
Bell batted .192 with three home runs in 177 at-bats after arriving in San Diego with Juan Soto via the massive Aug. 2 trade with the Nationals. He started just 10 of the final 16 games after starting 38 of his first 40 games with the Padres.
The Philadelphia Phillies scored six times in the ninth inning off the St. Louis bullpen, highlighted by a bases-loaded single by Jean Segura, in a 6-3 win.
Grisham batted .107 with one home run in September. He started six times in the final 15 games before Padres clinched a playoff spot on Sunday.
The switch-hitting Bell was in Friday’s lineup primarily because he was 5-for-12 with three doubles and a home run against Scherzer in his career. Bell and Wil Myers (7-for-25) were the only Padres with more than four at-bats against Scherzer to have better than a .182 average.
Grisham is a left-handed hitter who plays deft defense, so manager Bob Melvin chose him to start against a pitcher who dominates right-handed hitters in a ballpark with a massive outfield.
In his first postseason plate appearance, Bell hacked at a fastball Scherzer left too far in on the outer third of the plate, stepped back as if off-balance to watch the ball fly and just before it cleared the wall tossed his bat toward the line and took off for first base.
The two-out blast scored Profar, who had led off the game by ambushing a Scherzer fastball and flaring it into shallow left-center field.
With one out in the bottom of the first, Darvish hit Francisco Lindor on the back foot with a slider. Lindor stole second on the first pitch to the next batter, Jeff McNeil, and went to third on a single by McNeil.
The National League’s batting champion was followed to the plate by Pete Alonso, who led the National League in RBIs and was second in home runs. Alonso struck out looking and Daniel Vogelbach flied out to the wall in right field.
With two outs in the second, Grisham sent a 1-1 fastball in the upper middle portion of the zone to the first row of seats beyond the right field wall.
Scherzer allowed multiple home runs in just two of his 23 starts this season.
9:34 p.m. Oct. 7, 2022: This article was updated with postgame quotes.
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