The Padres wrapped up a successful season at Petco Park Wednesday with their eyes on the work ahead, meaning their wild-card series against the New York Mets.
The team was “all kind of focused on what’s coming up here on Friday,” manager Bob Melvin said after San Francisco averted a sweep with an 8-1 win over the Padres to close out the regular season.
They finished with an 89-73 record, 22 games behind the division-winning Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West, but good enough to snag one of the NL’s three wild-card spots.
After the game, the Padres, the NL No. 5 seed, headed east to to begin their playoff journey. The best-of-three series opens at 5 p.m. Friday at Citi Field with Yu Darvish facing Max Scherzer. The games air on ESPN.
The season started with all eyes on toppling the Dodgers, but those hopes frayed quickly as the Padres contended first with the loss of young star Francisco Tatis Jr. due to injury, and then as he was finally set to return, because of his PED suspension.
So other Friars had to step up, notably Manny Machado, who crafted a MVP-caliber campaign, hitting .298 with 32 homers and 102 RBIs. Though Joe Musgrove drew the spotlight for his All-Star effort in the first half, then Blake Snell for his rebound in the second, Darvish quietly anchored the starters all year, finishing the season at 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA and 197 strikeouts.
That’s why Darvish will get the nod Friday. Both teams list the starters for Saturday and Sunday (if needed) as TBD. Ace Jacob deGrom, though beset by a blister, likely looms ahead.
Juan Soto, who knows the Mets well as a former Washington National, refuses to be intimidated by New York’s 101 wins. In fact, the Padres took the season series 4-2 from the Mets.
“For me as a player, a team player, you just gotta go out there end try to beat them as a team,” he told MLB.com. “Don’t try to do too much on our own and just try to get out job done at any moment in any situation.”
New York, thanks to a three-game sweep by the Atlanta Braves last weekend, slipped from division-leader to wild-card contender, while also losing a coveted first-round bye.
The teams finished the season with equal records of 101-61, but the Braves won the season series from the Mets, and thus the division, though the Mets had led the NL East for most of 2022.
The Mets, as the No. 4 seed, boast two league leaders – first baseman Pete Alonso with 131 RBIs and the versatile Jeff McNeil, who hit .326 to take the batting title while playing multiple positions.
As for the starters, both Scherzer and deGrom contended with injuries, yet finished with 11-5 and 5-4 records respectively. Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco tied for the team lead with 15 wins.
Catcher Austin Nola after the Padres clinched their playoff spot Sunday, noted his team’s prowess, both on the mound and in the field. Could that be enough to stop the heavily favored Mets?
“With our pitching and defense, I mean that’s the key, right?” he said. “Good pitching, good defense (could) take us a long way.”