NEW YORK – Max Scherzer's first matchup with the San Diego Padres this season sure went a lot better than his last one.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner shut down San Diego for five innings, rebounding from his 2022 postseason flop, and the New York Mets won 5-0 Monday night in a playoff rematch between National League heavyweights.
“I’m not broken,” Scherzer said, chuckling. “I know what I’m capable of when I pitch and locate.”
Jeff McNeil and Francisco Lindor each laced a two-run double as the Mets finally beat Yu Darvish for the first time. Eduardo Escobar added a sacrifice fly, and four relievers finished a two-hitter in the opener of a three-game series pitting two of baseball's three biggest spenders against each other.
A clean single by Ha-Seong Kim off Scherzer (2-1) with one out in the fifth was San Diego's only hit until the ninth. The 38-year-old right-hander struck out six and walked three in a 97-pitch outing that followed a shaky defeat in Milwaukee last week.
“I thought I took a step in the right direction. I thought I self-diagnosed that right,” Scherzer said. “I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just had to fine-tune some things.”
The Padres pounded Scherzer for four homers and seven runs over 4 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the wild-card round last October as Darvish cruised to a 7-1 victory.
San Diego took the best-of-three series at Citi Field with a one-hit shutout in Game 3, when Mets manager Buck Showalter asked umpires to check Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove for illegal substances that might be aiding his grip.
New York went home for the winter, while the Padres made a run to the NL Championship Series before losing to Philadelphia.
“It's nice to get a win against them,” McNeil said. “They're a really good team. We'll probably run into them again.”
San Diego had won three straight — all in Atlanta — and six of eight overall.
“We didn't hit the ball,” Padres slugger Manny Machado said when asked about Scherzer. “He got out of those innings. We had a chance to score and we just didn't take advantage of it. Obviously, he made his pitches and we didn't deliver.”
Darvish (0-1) entered 5-0 with a 2.56 ERA in eight career regular-season starts against the Mets, but Brandon Nimmo got a two-out rally started with a single in the third. Lindor was hit by a pitch, and McNeil drilled a double to right.
Mark Canha doubled off Darvish to spark a three-run seventh, with New York helped by a bunt single and a slow roller that both barely stayed fair along the third-base line.
“Great job by Bill our groundskeeper,” Showalter said.
Escobar had a sacrifice fly, and Lindor doubled in two runs off reliever Tim Hill. Darvish was charged with five runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
John Curtiss, Drew Smith, David Robertson and Adam Ottavino completed New York's first shutout of the season.
“Completely different year,” Machado said. “Max is the same guy every single day, every single outing. He’s the same guy, he’s been doing it for many years — that’s why he gets paid the big bucks.”
THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
Just before the game the Mets played a video tribute to Padres pitcher Seth Lugo, who spent his first seven seasons in New York — mostly as a reliable reliever. The right-hander signed a $15 million, two-year contract with San Diego in December for a steady chance to start and is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two outings this season.
Lugo watched from the dugout and acknowledged some warm applause.
“That was really nice,” Lugo said. “That was pretty cool.”
Padres: Musgrove (broken left big toe) received a cortisone shot Sunday after hurting his pitching shoulder when he landed on it making an off-balance throw during his rehab start last Thursday for Triple-A El Paso. Musgrove kept going, throwing 85 pitches in the game, and an MRI was clean. The right-hander is feeling much better, according to manager Bob Melvin, and could start playing catch again as soon as Tuesday. But it's uncertain exactly when Musgrove will get back on a mound. “He's behind a little bit,” Melvin said. ... LHP Drew Pomeranz (left elbow flexor strain) is ready to begin a rehab assignment. ... RHP Robert Suarez (elbow inflammation) is still feeling soreness and has been shut down from throwing.
Mets: RF Starling Marte was out of the lineup after leaving Sunday's loss to Miami with a strained neck. Showalter likened it to whiplash but was hopeful Marte could be available off the bench.
Padres LHP Ryan Weathers (0-0, 3.60 ERA) faces LHP David Peterson (0-1, 6.00) in the middle game of the series Tuesday night.