NEW YORK — Even after watching his team’s three best starting pitchers struggle during four costly defeats over the past eight days, New York Mets manager Buck Showalter remains confident Jacob deGrom will be able to turn around the club’s fortunes.
With the Mets on the brink of a swift elimination from the playoffs, Showalter has little alternative.
The Mets will look to avoid being swept by the San Diego Padres in a National League wild-card series on Saturday night, when deGrom is scheduled to take the mound in Game 2 of the best-of-three set.
deGrom (5-4, 3.08 ERA in the regular season) is slated to oppose San Diego’s Blake Snell (8-10, 3.38 ERA) in a battle of 2018 Cy Young Award winners.
The Padres hit four homers off Mets co-ace Max Scherzer on Friday night and rolled to a 7-1 win in the series opener.
The four homers allowed tied a career high for Scherzer, who surrendered all seven runs. His performance continued an untimely slump for the Mets’ big three of Scherzer, deGrom and Chris Bassitt. The trio went a combined 31-18 with a 2.94 ERA in 64 regular-season starts but are 0-4 with a 8.53 ERA in their past four appearances.
The first three losses came in last weekend’s series against the Atlanta Braves, when the Mets — needing one win to clinch the season series and position themselves to win the NL East — lined up deGrom, Scherzer and Bassitt to start in that order.
New York lost all three games and wound up in a wild-card series.
“Guys are human beings — sometimes we expect them to be exactly what they’ve done in the past,” Showalter said Friday night. “It doesn’t happen every time. The other team’s good, too. This is hard to do. My money’s on Max figuring it out and Jake and hopefully ‘Bass’ if we can get there.”
Bassitt is lined up to start Sunday’s Game 3 if the Mets can extend the series.
The Padres — who have won just one postseason series since reaching the World Series in 1998 — hit four or more homers in a game just twice in the 2020 regular season before becoming just the fourth team ever to hit four homers against Scherzer in his 444 career starts.
Josh Bell socked a two-run homer in the first and Trent Grisham delivered a solo homer in the second before the Padres chased Scherzer in the fourth, when Jurickson Profar belted a three-run homer and Manny Machado added a solo shot.
“I don’t think anybody goes out there and expects that we’re going to hit four homers off him tonight,” Grisham said. “But we have a lot of confidence in the guys in this locker room and we were not surprised that we went out there and handled business.”
Snell has handled business over his past 17 starts, a stretch in which he allowed one run or fewer 13 times and posted a 2.53 ERA.
“Every game in a three-game series feels like it’s monumental,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said. “So the same approach, the same kind of scheme going in, same preparation (and a) pitcher that’s been pitching well over the last couple months for us. So we’ll feel good.”
deGrom is 6-3 with a 1.28 ERA in 10 career starts against the Padres, whom he didn’t oppose this season. He is 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA in four postseason starts, all of which came during the Mets’ run to the World Series in 2015.
Snell is 3-3 with a 2.73 ERA in six career starts against the Mets, including 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA in two starts this season. He is 2-3 with a 2.83 ERA and one save in nine postseason games (seven starts).
–By Jerry Beach, Field Level Media