There’s going out with a whimper and then there’s going out like the Mets.
New York’s 101-win season is over before its postseason ever really began as they were held to one hit and two base-runners while getting dominated by Joe Musgrove and the San Diego Padres in Game 3 of the National League Wild Card Series, 6-0, to end their season on the sourest of notes.
“It’s not going to go away,” Showalter said of the feeling of elimination. “In a lot of ways you hope it’s a stepping stone that drives you in the offseason… Hopefully, you can gain something from the pain.”
The Mets could only muster one hit across seven innings against Musgrove and were desperate enough that Buck Showalter emerged from his dugout before the bottom of the sixth to ask the umpiring crew to check the right-hander for any illegal substances on his person — including rubbing his ears.
The Padres righty struck out five and walked just one in his sterling outing, which came after a five-year hiatus from the postseason where he posted an 8.10 ERA in the 2017 playoffs with the Houston Astros.
Mets starter Chris Bassitt suffered a similar fate as Max Scherzer in Game 1 as one of the club’s top arms fell woefully short on the big stage, lasing just four innings while allowing three runs on three hits with three walks.
“The group that we had, how close we were, it’s tough,” Bassitt said. “Just beating myself… Tonight I know they scored two guys on walks so I’m not too proud of that. But I’m proud of the group.”
After a seven-pitch first inning in which he cruised, Bassitt ran into a roadblock made of his own doing in the second. Josh Bell led it off with a single before the righty got two quick outs. But he walked Ha-Seong Kim and Trent Grisham to load the bases, only for Austin Nola to sneak a single through the left side to score a pair and put the Mets in an early hole.
He walked Kim again with two outs in the fourth inning and after stealing second, the Padres’ shortstop came around to score on a Grisham single to put San Diego up 3-0.
“No matter where you lose, it’s stunning,” Bassitt said. “It sucks… It’s a terrible, terrible feeling.”
Musgrove continued to mow down the Mets, who would finally get their first hit and baserunner of the night in the fifth inning when Pete Alonso led off with a single. It didn’t do much to rattle San Diego’s savior, as he struck out Jeff McNeil and Daniel Vogelbach to bookend his inning. But it was Grisham who bailed him out of the frame when he ran down a Mark Canha rope that looked destined to knock off the right-center-field wall for extra bases.
“It’s one of those things where you can’t say it wasn’t self-inflicted,” Showalter said. “You seek your level and we’re not going to be able to continue to play. I think I feel for the players and their families and the fans that were so supportive. That’s the biggest disappointment I take.”
Taking the mound to lead off the sixth, Showalter met with the umpiring crew to prompt the check of Musgrove, whose ears were especially shiny throughout the night. After the extensive search yielded nothing, he proceeded to retire the Mets in order on just 11 pitches, gesticulating and looking back toward the Mets’ dugout in the process.
“We were privy to a lot of things,” Showalter said of the decision to get the crew’s attention. I love him as a pitcher, always have, that’s the only thing I kind of feel bad about,” Showalter said. “Without getting into a lot of things, the spin rate [was higher]… I get a lot of information in the dugout but we certainly weren’t having much luck with the way it was going.
“I’m in charge of doing what’s best for the New York Mets and however it might make me look, I’m going to do it every time and live with the consequences.”
He allowed a second Mets baserunner on the night by issuing a lead-off walk to Starling Marte but set down the heart of New York’s order — Francisco Lindor, Alonso, and McNeil — in succession.
The Padres put the finishing touches on the Mets in the eighth when Juan Soto drove in a pair with a single off closer Edwin Diaz down the left-field line — though both runners that came around to score belonged to Mychal Givens, who walked Kim and yielded a single to Grisham.
“It’s raw. It’s sports,” Showalter said. “It’s so gratifying and so many great things happen it’s just cruel, too, in times like this… It’s not always fair. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a blend of good people and good players.”