Flushing, NY — Manny Machado and Juan Soto led the San Diego Padres to a National League Wild Card series clinch with a 6-0 win over the Mets at Citi Field Sunday evening — a celebration in the visiting clubhouse quickly ensued as they move on to play the Dodgers in Los Angeles Tuesday evening in the best-of-five National League Division Series.
And down the hall in the home clubhouse, it was disappointment for a Mets team that won 101 regular season games and lost two-of-three to the No. 5 seeded Padres, a team that finished with 89 wins.
The Padres were a distant 22.0 games from the Dodgers. The Mets finished in a first-place tie with the division-winner Atlanta Braves, which earned them a first-round bye to the NLDS because of a season series win over the Mets.
But it was Machado, Soto, and the Padres celebrating a Wild Card and the Mets going home as an offseason awaits with questions and reconstruction of a roster before they assemble again for Spring Training in February.
This is baseball, and when you get to October, as the Mets were expected to do, and then fail to go deep in the postseason, the questions will linger as to what went wrong.
And this October, nothing has gone wrong with the San Diego Padres, 3-0 in winner-take-all games and the most without a loss in eliminations among all major league teams. They pitched better, hit, used the bunt, and played fundamental postseason baseball.
Joe Musgrove became the 22nd pitcher to take at least 7.0 shutout innings in a winner-take-all Postseason game and allow one hit. The Mets could do nothing with his curveball as manager Buck Showalter asked umpires ro conduct an illegal substance check to no avail.
“Good to be here. It’s amazing,” Soto said. He got off to a slow start coming over from the Nationals at the trade deadline and now will play a pivotal role as the Padres attempt to derail the NL West division champion Dodgers from their World Series plans.
Soto (Latino Sports 2021 NL MVP Award recipient) went 2-for-4, with two RBI and a two-run single in the eighth inning. He helped the Padres produce a run in the fifth inning with a sacrifice bunt that moved Jurickson Profer to second and later scored on the run-producing single from Machado.
Soto had this experience with the World Series champion Washington Nationals in 2019, then a member of another NL Wild Card dream team.
For Machado — who came over from the Baltimore Orioles — he said, “This is the beginning. This is why you play in October.” He had an RBI single in the fifth inning.
Finally, there’s that disappointment from the Mets team. The disappointment of putting together a goal of reaching the World Series last February in Port St. Lucie, Florida, believing they could go deep in October. However, a failure to overtake the Braves and a dismal September stretch showed their inconsistency in winning big ball games.
“It’s raw. It’s sports,” said manager Mets Buck Showalter. “It’s so gratifying, and so many great things happen. It’s just cruel, too, at times like this. Hopefully, we can gain something from the pain.”
Pain that will last the next four months for the Mets, a team that did not live up to expectations. And that continued momentum for the Padres as they continue in October and head back West for that series with the Dodgers to continue their quest,
“This is the beginning,” Machado said. But evidently a sad ending to a Mets season that had all the expectations.
Rich Mancuso is a senior writer @Latinosports.com Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 10pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.
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