By Deesha Thosar
FOX Sports MLB Writer
NEW YORK — There’s no sugarcoating it: The Mets are failing to meet the moment. Again.
Max Scherzer failed when the Mets needed him the most, both last weekend in Atlanta and Friday against San Diego. The Mets offense failed to capitalize early when they had the chance against dominant right-hander Yu Darvish.
The rowdy fans, the postseason-logo-ed field, the jazzy atmosphere — the stage was set in Queens. But this was no playoff-ready team.
The Mets lost to the Padres 7-1 in Game 1 of the Wild-Card Series on Friday at Citi Field.
Scherzer was disappointing for a second consecutive outing, and in a stunning scene, he was booed off the mound when he was pulled in the fifth. The veteran and future Hall of Famer — who was given $43 million per year by the Mets for this very moment: to shut down opposing lineups in the playoffs — coughed up seven earned runs across just 4⅔ innings. All seven runs were a product of the Padres’ clobbering four home runs off Scherzer.
Scherzer is now the second pitcher in Major League Baseball history to allow four home runs and seven earned runs in any postseason game. The other was Cincinnati Reds pitcher Gene Thompson in Game 3 of the 1939 World Series against the Yankees.
Jurickson Profar, Manny Machado, Josh Bell and Trent Grisham all took Scherzer deep in the series opener. Bell’s two-run shot silenced the Citi Field crowd as early as the first inning, and the Mets were trailing the Padres before Darvish threw his first pitch. Trailing 2-0 might have been manageable for the Amazin’s, but then came the home run Scherzer allowed to San Diego’s No. 8 hitter, who has a penchant for power. The 94 mph fastball to Grisham was right down the middle, and the Padres outfielder pounced on it for a solo shot to center.
Scherzer retired his next seven consecutive batters before allowing two more home runs, including a three-run dinger to Profar, in his fifth and final inning. Combined with his last outing of the regular season — when the Mets lost the second of three games against the Braves last weekend — Scherzer has permitted 11 earned runs, six home runs and 16 hits over 10⅓ innings.
When two important games were in front of him, Scherzer pitched two of his worst outings as a member of the Mets. That’s not at all what Mets general manager Billy Eppler had in mind when he convinced the team’s billionaire owner, Steve Cohen, to pay $130 million to Scherzer across three years.
The Mets offense was just as uninspiring Friday. They threatened to attack Darvish early with an aggressive game plan of stealing bases. Francisco Lindor was hit by a pitch in the first inning and promptly stole second base. He reached third on a Jeff McNeil single, but Pete Alonso and Daniel Vogelbach couldn’t cash him in.
The same thing happened in the second inning, when Starling Marte led off the frame with a single to center. He stole second and third, but Darvish retired Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar and Tomas Nido to strand Marte 90 feet from home.
New York went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left six men on base. Besides Eduardo Escobar’s solo home run off Darvish in the fifth inning, the Mets had just two extra-base hits all night.
What began as an opportunity for a fresh start for a tortured fan base ended with the home crowd darting for the exits by the end of the seventh inning. The DJ the Mets hired to post up next to the Shea Bridge in center field didn’t read the room. The Mets were trailing 3-0 when he started playing “We Are The Champions” by Queen. The crowd — passionate but practical fans — responded with some half-hearted claps, but it was mostly stunned faces and silence.
No one was in the mood for the DJ’s attempts to pick up the energy. Only the Mets could do that.
The day before his first playoff start for this team, Scherzer spoke about his attitude heading into his outing. He was eager to get out there, and he understood that everything was on the line. This is the playoffs, he said. This is no time to mess around. It’s win or go home.
Well, just like that, the 101-win Mets are less than 24 hours away from flaming out and playing what could be their final game of the year. On Saturday, Southpaw Blake Snell will be on the hill for the Padres.
The Mets said they would wait until the outcome of Game 1 to announce their Game 2 starter, suggesting that Jacob deGrom would take the mound if the Mets lost. Now it’ll be on him to try to save his team’s season.
Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets for the New York Daily News. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.
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