NEW YORK — With a magnificent performance on a memorable night in Padres history, Joe Musgrove brought this one home to San Diego and really stuck with it New York Mets.
The right-hand man dismissed chants of “Cheater!” after a bizarre spot check by umpires on the mound, he pitched his hometown Padres into the next round of the playoffs Sunday with seven innings of one-hit ball in a 6-0 victory over the listless Mets.
“He was on a mission today,” San Diego manager Bob Melvin said.
Trent Grisham hit an RBI single and made a stunning catch in center field that helped the Padres take the best-of-three National League wild-card series 2-1. Austin Nola and Juan Soto each had a two-run single.
San Diego advanced to face the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers in a best-of-five division series starting Tuesday — ensuring the Padres will play in front of their home fans in the postseason for the first time in 16 years when they return to Petco Park for game 3.
“Can’t wait to get back there. They deserve it,” Melvin said.
It was the fifth time the Padres won a playoff series. They took a matchup in the first round against St. Louis in their own ballpark with no fans allowed after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season before being swept in the Division Series by the eventual World Series champion Dodgers.
For the Mets, a sparkling season ended with a whimper at home in front of empty seats. Baseball’s biggest hitters won 101 games — the second most in franchise history — but were unable to keep Atlanta in the NL East after sitting atop the division for all but six days.
New York was up 10 1/2 games on June 1 and seven on Aug. 10 before finally relinquishing control last weekend. The defending World Series champions clinched their fifth straight division title and a first-round playoff bye on the strength of a head-to-head sweep in Atlanta — and the Mets never quite recovered.
Max Scherzerand after they mustered almost nothing against Musgrove and finished with a solitary blow.
No. 3 starter Chris Bassitt lasted just four innings, giving up three runs and three hits with three expensive walks to batters near the bottom of the order.
Pete Alonso’s leadoff single in the fifth and Starling Marte’s walk to start the seventh were the only baserunners Musgrove had allowed in his first postseason start.
Robert Suarez and Josh Hader finished for the Padres in perfect relief.
“They completely beat us,” Alonso said.
Musgrove grew up a Padres fan in the San Diego suburbs and pitched the franchise’s first no-hitter last year in his second start with the team.
He was working a one-hitter and warming up for the sixth inning Sunday when Mets manager Buck Showalter came out of the dugout and spoke with first base umpire Alfonso Marquez.
All six umps huddled and then went to the mound as Marquez, the crew chief, felt Musgrove’s glove, hood — even his ears — apparently in search of illegal sticky substances.
“I’ve seen him do that before and check the pitcher,” Musgrove said. “I get it dude. They’re on their last legs, they’re desperate, they’re doing everything they can to get me out of the game.”
Musgrove said Marquez concluded, “There’s nothing there.”
The umpires allowed Musgrove to continue, and he worked a 1-2-3 sixth punctuated by a pointed gesture toward the New York dugout.
“It motivated me a little bit, man. It fired me up,” he said.
The spin rate had increased on all six of Musgrove’s pitches.
“We know a lot of things. I love him as a pitcher — always have,” Showalter said. “I don’t go into a lot of things.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” he added. “I have to do what’s best for the New York Mets and our players.”
Fans chanted “cheat!” at Musgrove, a member of the 2017 Houston Astros World Series champions who were found by Major League Baseball to have illegally stolen signs to help their hitters.
“Joe Musgrove is a man of character,” Melvin said. “Questioning his character, I have a problem with.”
The Astros’ cheating scandal rocked the sport. Musgrove has said he feels uncomfortable wearing his championship ring and wants “one that feels earned” with the Padres.
“I guarantee Musgrove has Red Hot on his ears,” tweeted Milwaukee outfielder Andrew McCutchen. “Pitchers use it as a mechanism to stay locked in during games. It burns like crazy, and IDK why some guys think it helps them, but in no way is it “sticky.” Buck is smart. It might try to throw him off.”
THINKING OF MR. FATHERS
During batting practice, San Diego second baseman Jake Cronenworth wore an old-school Tony Gwynn No. 19 uniform T-shirt, a giveaway at Petco Park one day this season.
“We have them all,” Cronenworth said. “Usually a lot of us wear them, but I think everyone is wearing hoodies today.”
However, Cronenworth believed this was a day to pay tribute to the late Padres Hall of Famer.
“It was just sitting in my locker and I brought it with me for a reason, so I decided I wanted to wear it,” he said. “Tony was one of the best, so give us some support from above.”
Fathers: All-Star 3B Manny Machado, who had an RBI single, limped back to the dugout after striking out in the ninth inning and appeared to favor a leg. He stayed in the game.
Mets: Francisco Lindor was concussed after fouling a ball to the inside of his right knee in the fourth. As the star shortstop was being checked by an athletic trainer, Showalter strolled to the plate, took Lindor’s bat and handed it back to him. Lindor stayed in the game and struck out.
San Diego went 5-14 against the first-place Dodgers this season and finished 22 games behind them in the NL West.
New York begins its spring training schedule next year with split-squad games on Feb. 25 against Miami and Houston. The regular season opener is March 30 in Miami.