By MIKE FITZPATRICK AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK — After pounding Max Scherzer in a stunning romp, the San Diego Padres are halfway home in the wild-card round.
Josh Bell and Manny Machado smashed two of San Diego’s four homers off an ineffective Scherzer, and the Padres blew out the New York Mets, 7-1, on Friday night in their playoff opener.
“This is not a game that you normally see out of Max, so we were fortunate,” Manager Bob Melvin said.
Yu Darvish shut down the Mets once again, and San Diego also got long balls from leadoff batter Jurickson Profar and slumping Trent Grisham against Scherzer – booed off the mound in the fifth inning at Citi Field.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner exited his first postseason start for New York trailing 7-0, a massive disappointment after Scherzer was signed to a $130 million contract in December to pitch big games for his new team.
“Baseball can take you to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, and this is one of the lowest of lows,” Scherzer said.
San Diego needs one road win over the next two days to take the best-of-three National League wild-card series and advance to face the top-seeded Dodgers in a best-of-five NL Division Series that begins Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
Blake Snell starts Saturday night in Game 2 against scuffling Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
“Every game in a three-game series feels like it’s monumental,” Melvin said.
After winning 101 games during the regular season, the second-most in franchise history, the Mets are suddenly facing elimination at home after falling flat before a revved-up sellout crowd in their first playoff game since 2016.
“We’ve been really good and now we get to see what we’re made of,” said slugger Pete Alonso, who struck out in the first two playoff at-bats of his career – including with runners at the corners and one out in the first inning.
Eduardo Escobar homered and doubled off Darvish, who has won all three of his starts against New York this year with a 0.86 ERA.
The star right-hander from Japan, coming off a 16-win season, was the NL Pitcher of the Month for September and picked up right where he left off. He wriggled out of trouble early when the game was still competitive and then settled in to throw seven innings of six-hit ball without a walk for his first postseason victory in five years.
Darvish is 5-0 with a 2.56 ERA in eight career regular-season starts against the Mets, including 3-0 at Citi Field.
“We’re getting pretty spoiled,” Melvin said, noting that Darvish “invents pitches” during his outings. “It’s kind of a typical Yu Darvish game.”
The 38-year-old Scherzer also lost a critical game last weekend in Atlanta, giving up nine hits – including two homers – and four runs over 5-2/3 innings. He missed about nine weeks this season during two stints on the injured list with left oblique injuries, but finished 11-5 with a 2.29 ERA and said Thursday he was fully healthy.
Scherzer had little snap on his pitches, though, and the Padres took advantage. Bell launched a two-run homer in the first in his initial postseason plate appearance and flipped his bat after his first home run since Sept. 6.
“I kind of blacked out for it,” Bell said. “It felt like I was on a cloud.”
Grisham, batting eighth after hitting .107 from Sept. 1 on, connected for a solo shot in the second.
“Hopefully, this gets him going,” Melvin said.
Profar made it 6-0 with a three-run drive in the fifth that tucked just inside the right-field foul pole, and Machado sent a laser over the left-field fence two batters later.
“My fastball was running on me,” Scherzer said. “When my fastball’s flat and then running, that’s usually when I get hit a lot. Obviously tonight I got hit a lot.”
It was the fourth time Scherzer gave up four homers in a game, his career high. The seven runs marked the most he’s allowed in 27 postseason games (22 starts).
It also was the most runs permitted by a Mets pitcher in the postseason. The only other major league pitcher to give up four homers and seven runs in a postseason game was Cincinnati rookie Gene Thompson in the 1939 World Series against the New York Yankees.
Padres: Darvish was visited on the mound by Melvin and an athletic trainer following Escobar’s double in the seventh, but stayed in the game. “He had a little blister going on his foot,” Melvin said. … After not feeling well the past few days, right-hander Mike Clevinger was left off the series roster in favor of adding left-hander Sean Manaea to the bullpen instead.
Mets: All-Star right fielder Starling Marte batted sixth and went 2 for 4 in his first game back from a broken middle finger on his right (throwing) hand. He was injured on Sept. 6 when he was hit by a pitch in Pittsburgh. With his middle finger wrapped, Marte received a loud ovation during pregame introductions. He grounded a single up the middle leading off the second and then stole second and third – sliding headfirst into both bases.
Snell (8-10, 3.38 ERA) has a 2.53 ERA in his past 17 starts, allowing one run or fewer in 13 of them. The 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner was 1-1 in two outings against the Mets this season.
Meanwhile, two-time Cy Young Award winner deGrom (5-4, 3.08) is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in his last four starts.