By MIKE FITZPATRICK
NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Musgrove brushed off chants of “Cheater!” after a bizarre spot check by umpires on the mound, pitching his hometown San Diego Padres into the next round of the playoffs Sunday night with seven innings of one-hit ball in a 6-0 victory over the New York Mets.
Trent Grisham hit an RBI single and made a terrific 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 beginning 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.
“We know that. We would love for them to be able to see some postseason games,” manager Bob Melvin said Sunday afternoon. “To an extent, we feel like they’re a part of us.”
It was the fifth time the Padres have won a playoff series. They took a first-round matchup against St. Louis in their own ballpark with no fans permitted after the pandemic-shortened 2020 season before being swept in the Division Series by the eventual World Series champion Dodgers.
For the Mets, a scintillating season ended with a whimper at home in front of empty seats. Baseball’s biggest spenders won 101 games — the second-most in franchise history — but were unable to hold off Atlanta in the NL East after sitting atop the division for all but six days.
New York was up by 10 1/2 games on June 1 and seven on Aug. 10 before finally ceding control last weekend. The defending World Series champions snatched away their fifth consecutive division title and a first-round playoff bye on the strength of a head-to-head sweep in Atlanta — and the Mets never fully recovered.
New York ace Max Scherzer got rocked in a Game 1 loss to San Diego and, after the Mets won Game 2 behind Jacob deGrom to stave off elimination, they mustered almost nothing against Musgrove and finished with one hit in the loss.
No. 3 starter Chris Bassitt lasted just four innings, giving up three runs and three hits with three costly 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 permitted by Musgrove in his first postseason start.
Robert Suarez and Josh Hader finished up for the Padres.
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 on a one-hitter and warming up for the sixth inning Sunday when Mets manager Buck Showalter came out of the dugout and spoke to first base umpire Alfonso Marquez.
All six umps huddled and then went to the mound as Marquez, the crew chief, felt Musgrove’s glove, cap — even his ears — apparently searching for any illegal sticky substances.
The spin rate was up on all six of Musgrove’s pitches. Umpires let him continue, and he worked a 1-2-3 sixth.
Fans yelled “Cheater!” at Musgrove, a member of the 2017 Houston Astros World Series champions that were found by Major League Baseball to have stolen signs illegally to help their hitters.
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,” Milwaukee outfielder Andrew McCutchen tweeted. “Pitchers use it as mechanism to stay locked in during games. It burns like crazy and IDK why some guys thinks it helps them but in no way is it `sticky.′ Buck is smart tho. Could be trying to just throw him off.”
THINKING OF MR. PADRE
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 all got ‘em,” Cronenworth said. “Usually a lot of us wear ’em, but I think everybody’s wearing hoodies today.”
Cronenworth, however, figured this was a day to salute the late Padres Hall of Famer.
“It was just in my locker and I brought it with me for a reason, so I decided I’d wear it,” he said. “Tony was one of the best, so give us some support from up above.”
Mets: Francisco Lindor was shaken up after fouling a ball off the inside of his right knee in the fourth. As the star shortstop was checked by an athletic trainer, manager Buck Showalter strolled to the plate, picked up 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 Feb. 25 against Miami and Houston. The regular-season opener is March 30 at Miami.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports