Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer hands the ball to manager Buck...

Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer hands the ball to manager Buck Showalter in the bottom of the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres in the NL Wild Card Series at Citi Field on Friday Oct 7, 2022. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

All of a sudden, the Mets are on the brink of a long winter.

Max Scherzer’s stunning futility against the Padres on Friday night in a 7-1 loss in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series forced the Mets into an unexpected and harsh reality.

Their season will be on the line in Game 2 on Saturday night, again at Citi Field, featuring Jacob deGrom opposite San Diego lefthander Blake Snell.

If the Mets lose, their season will be over. If they win, the teams will play a deciding Game 3 on Sunday, with the winner facing the Dodgers in the NLDS.

What was true coming into this first round of the playoffs is even more true now: This is going to be difficult for the Mets.

“We’ve been really good, and now we get to see what we’re made of,” Pete Alonso said. “This is fun. Yeah, it’s not great losing. It’s never fun losing. Especially the first game of a playoff series like this one . But you know what? This is fun baseball. I’m really excited to go tomorrow.”

Brandon Nimmo said: “We’ve been able to come back from deficits before that people didn’t think we could .  .  . You’re facing elimination, so that always makes your emotions and your focus heightened.”

Newsday's Mets reporter Tim Healey discusses the club's NL Wild Card Series opening loss to the San Diego Padres on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 at Citi Field.  Credit: Newsday/William Perlman

Scherzer was at a loss after getting crushed in the opener, giving up seven runs on four home runs in 4 2⁄3 innings. That was the worst outing of his first year with the Mets and the second worst of his 22 career postseason starts.

Three of the four long balls came with two outs. After the last one, a laser to left-centerfield from NL MVP candidate Manny Machado, manager Buck Showalter made the slow walk to the mound to yank the Mets’ ace.

Scherzer — 38 years old, one of the best pitchers of his generation, recipient of the highest average annual salary in baseball history at $43.3 million, fresh off a regular season in which he posted a career-best 2.29 ERA — made an even slower walk back to the dugout, sent off by a loud round of boos from the sellout crowd of 41,621.

Outwardly calm, Scherzer continued right down the dugout steps and into the tunnel. He did not stick around to watch the rest of the frame.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t surprising,” Nimmo said. “We expect greatness out of Max. We almost treat him as not human at some points, not expecting him to fail ever. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised, but some days go like this. Unfortunately, it was today. Unfortunately, it’s during the postseason.”

Francisco Lindor added: “He don’t have too many of those.”

And Alonso: “Max just got beat tonight.”

But Scherzer said he didn’t know why he got beat, aside from being unable to control his fastball. Josh Bell (first inning), Trent Grisham (second) and Machado (fifth) homered off four-seamers.

“Of course I’m disappointed,” he said. “Baseball can take you to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. And this is one of the lowest of lows.”

Scherzer became the second pitcher in major-league history to allow four homers and seven runs in a playoff game. Someone named Gene Thompson did it for the Reds against the Yankees in the 1939 World Series.

He maintained that he is not physically compromised after two stays on the injured list because of his left oblique/side. Showalter said he is “not necessarily” concerned about that. But this made two duds in a row for Scherzer after his ugly outing last weekend in Atlanta.

“I came back from the last [injury], the Milwaukee start, I was locked in, executing pitches,” he said. “Went to the Oakland start, was executing pitches. Then the wheels fell off. I don’t know why.”

The Padres’ Yu Darvish, conversely, was excellent for a third time in as many tries against the Mets this year. He held them to one run in seven innings.

The Mets had their chances, especially early, including a runner on third base with one out in each of the first two innings, but they failed to score both times. They were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“We knew Darvish was going to be a challenge, and he was,” Showalter said. “That was the story for me, the job that they did in the pitching department.”

Nimmo said: “We know this offense can score runs, but also, I mean, seven runs is a lot to overcome.”