With 13 more wins separating the Mets from their ultimate goal, their next immediate challenge is a familiar one: Yu Darvish.
Darvish, the Padres’ starter in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series on Friday, has faced the Mets twice already this season — and he dominated them both times. First came the seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball in San Diego on June 7, a game perhaps best remembered for Pete Alonso’s first-inning hit by pitch that forced him out of the game. Then came seven more innings of one-run, four-hit ball at Citi Field on July 22.
“I think that was luck,” Darvish said through an interpreter Thursday. “I did do good against these guys this year, but I try not to focus too much on that. Obviously, I have the video and that leading into tomorrow’s game. So I have something to study going into the game. But I try not to focus too much on that."
Darvish noted, too, that he didn’t have any special approach against the Mets in those games relative to his norm versus any other opponent. The numbers bear that out. Aside from leaning on his sinker in one of the outings, he attacked them with his vast array of offerings: cutter, fastball, slider, splitter, curveball, sinker.
Yeah, that’s a lot.
“If he executes, it’s going to be a tough challenge,” said Francisco Lindor, who went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts and a double-play grounder against Darvish. “But that goes for everybody. In the postseason, you face the best of the best. You’re going to get everyone’s best punch. We’re going to get theirs and we gotta give them ours. That’s what the postseason is.”
Manager Buck Showalter echoed: “It’s going to be tough. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game. That’s what you’re going to see from here on out.”
Darvish, 36, finished the regular season with a 3.10 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. He totaled 194 2/3 innings — sixth most in the NL — and averaged 6.5 per outing.
That workhorse ability might matter less in this setting, when teams generally are quicker to go to their best relievers to try to shorten a game — which might be especially true in this best-of-three round. Lefthander Josh Hader, the Padres’ closer, stabilized late in the season, allowing one earned run in his final dozen appearances (0.79 ERA). He had pitched poorly upon joining San Diego, which acquired him from the Brewers at the trade deadline.
Darvish doesn’t strike out a ton of batters — a tick over one per inning on the season and about the same in his small sample against the Mets — but is efficient with his pitches.
“He’s one of those marquee guys, but it’s two talented teams competing against each other,” Alonso said. “I know the boys are going to be doing our video, doing our homework and taking off that past experience. We’re going to be more than prepared.”
Then again, Showalter made the point that all of this is basically a crapshoot — and that is the fun of it (for uninvolved third parties). Nobody would have expected based on the statistics or trends that, for example, Jacob deGrom would get rocked by Oakland last month or that Max Scherzer would have had that hard of a time with Atlanta last weekend.
“Guys with great track records have games where they’re not as good as they have been in the past. That’s why we go watch the games,” Showalter said. “What ‘should’ happen doesn’t always happen. We’ve seen that with some of our guys. We’ll find out.”
Comparing the Padres and Mets team hitting and pitching statistics for the 2022 regular season (NL rank in parentheses):
705 (8) RUNS 772 (3)
153 (12) HOME RUNS 171 (8)
1,327 (4) STRIKEOUTS 1,217 (1)
574 (3) WALKS 510 (7)
.241 (8) BATTING AVG. .259 (1)
.318 (4) OBP .332 (2)
.382 (11) SLG .412 (5)
.700 (9) OPS .744 (4)
3.81 (5) ERA 3.57 (3)
1.20 (4) WHIP 1.18 (2)
.232 (4) BAA .236 (5)
1,263 (4) HITS 1,274 (5)
660 (5) RUNS 606 (2)
173 (8) HOME RUNS 169 (7)
1,451 (5) STRIKEOUTS 1,565 (1)
468 (5) WALKS 428 (2)
GAME 1 PITCHING MATCHUP
Yu Darvish vs. Max Scherzer
Darvish in 2022:
Lifetime vs. Mets:
Owns: Jeff McNeil (1-for-11 lifetime)
Owned by: James McCann (4-for-10, 1 double, 2 HRs)
Scherzer in 2022:
Lifetime vs. Padres
Owns: Manny Machado (8-for-50 lifetime, 2 HRs, 20 Ks)
Owned by: Josh Bell (5-for-12, 3 doubles)