Mets’ Jeff McNeill points to the dugout after hitting a...

Mets’ Jeff McNeill points to the dugout after hitting a double in the bottom of the 7th inning against San Diego Padres in Game 2 of the NL Wild Card Series at Citi Field on Saturday Oct 8, 2022. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

For at least another day, Jacob deGrom kept the Mets’ season alive.

As they beat the Padres, 7-3, in Game 2 on Saturday night to even up the NL Wild Card Series, deGrom gutted through one of their foremost individual performances: six innings, two runs, eight strikeouts in his first playoff start at Citi Field and potentially his final ever with the Mets.

Pete Alonso provided the go-ahead home run in the fifth, Jeff McNeil had a two-run double to key a four-run seventh, and Edwin Diaz (five outs), Adam Ottavino (three outs) and Seth Lugo (one out) combined for the final three innings. Josh Bell, the would-be tying run, grounded out with the bases loaded for the game’s final out.

The deciding Game 3, featuring the Mets’ Chris Bassitt against the Padres’ Joe Musgrove, is at 7 p.m. Sunday. The winner will face the Dodgers in the NLDS starting Tuesday.

“You can’t make it bigger than it is,” Brandon Nimmo said of the Mets’ biggest game in at least several years. “Otherwise, you’ll play probably worse. You just try and treat it like another game. You realize there’s consequences to losing but there’s also rewards to winning. We’re going to go out there and try to have a similar game plan.”

DeGrom, not at his best, was good enough. His fastball maxed out at 101.8 mph, against Juan Soto in the first inning. He allowed five hits and two walks. The Padres went 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded five against him.

Throughout, he fought with himself and the pitches that usually make him even better. The changeup was “not great,” he said. He threw just two curveballs. That left relying on his go-tos, the fastball and slider, and even those he had trouble locating.

Newsday sports reporter Laura Albanese recapped a big night for the Mets' offense and looked ahead to Chris Bassitt's Game 3 start against the Padres following Game 2 on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022 at Citi Field.

“It was just sticking with those two pitches, once I felt like I figured out where my slider was going,” deGrom said. “You know, didn’t want to get beat on a third- or fourth-best pitch.”

His biggest moment came in the top of the fifth with the score freshly tied by San Diego, which threatened to take its first lead of the night by putting runners on first and third with one out. DeGrom escaped by striking out Manny Machado and Bell, both swinging, the former at a 93-mph slider and the latter at a 99-mph fastball. He needed just seven pitches.

“Try to eliminate every other thought,” said deGrom, who acknowledged thinking through mechanical issues in the middle of innings. “And execute in the moment.”

DeGrom on multiple occasions this season has expressed his intent to opt out of his contract after this season to become a free agent for the first time in his career — a chance to cash in on his status as perhaps the best pitcher in baseball when healthy.

 

Did it cross his mind at any point during the day that this could be his last appearance in a Mets uniform? He paused, seemingly trying to decide whether to tell the truth, then broke into a guilty smile.

“That went into my mind,” he admitted, “but the hope was we’d win a baseball game and continue to keep playing.”

The Mets never trailed, but the Padres proved pesky, erasing two early deficits. Lefthander Blake Snell allowed just two runs in 3 1⁄3 innings despite walking six and giving up four hits.

DeGrom didn’t have his signature dominance in his first playoff game since 2015, seven years and two Cy Young Awards ago. But the Mets didn’t need it.

“He’s obviously the dominator that he is, and I’ve seen that all the regular seasons that I’ve been with him. So it was fun to do it in a postseason,” Nimmo said. “He really grinded and they had some good at-bats against him. He was able to respond. I thought he did a great job. So very proud of him and very fortunate to get to do that with him and play behind him.”