Padres have their playoff ace in Joe Musgrove

It’s games like this where teams find out whether or not they have what it takes to advance further in the playoffs.

Playoff runs live and die on the mound. The New York Mets were thought to be built for it on the mound but so were the San Diego Padres.

The odds were stacked in the Mets favor when they tied the series and forced the only Game 3 of the entire Wild Card round. But the Padres leaned into their ability to bounce back after a loss, and more importantly, had their ace in the hole.

San Diego Padres starting pitcher Joe Musgrove (44) reacts at the end of the seventh inning of Game 3 of a National League wild-card baseball playoff series against the New York Mets, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Padres second baseman Jake Cronenworth said on Saturday about Joe Musgrove “I don’t think anybody in this clubhouse would want anybody else,” and he was right. Musgrove shut the Mets down, allowing only one hit in seven innings, in the Padres 6-0 series clinching victory.

“You could see the resolve in his face and the demeanor he had,” San Diego manager Bob Melvin said. “He was on a mission today.”

Musgrove is the first pitcher in postseason history to go 7+ innings and allow fewer than two hits in a winner-take-all game. Since returning to his hometown, Musgrove has been pitching his best and getting better each year. He was the first Padre in team history to throw a no-hitter, earning himself his own beer. This was the first season of his career in which he finished with an ERA under 3.00 in 30 starts, making him the 13th Padre to accomplish the feat.

Musgrove’s last playoff appearance was an inning on relief in Game 6 of the 2017 World Series vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers when he was a pitcher for the Houston Astros. This time around, he is the ace who is deserving of taking the mound in the first postseason game at Petco Park since 2006.

“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 wasn’t enough for the Padres to get passed the Mets on the road. They had to demonstrate that they have an ace in the mound who can take control of the game and decide for themselves the direction of the series.

The Padres tried to form an entire rotation of those guys when they traded for Musgrove, Blake Snell and Yu Darvish a year ago. All three realized general manager AJ Preller’s vision and pitched in this series and will line up again in the National League Division Series against the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers. San Diego went 5-14 against the Dodgers this season and finished 22 games behind them in the NL West. The Dodgers were also the ones to have eliminated the Padres in the 2020 playoffs.

It is only fitting that the Padres would have to finally overcome their seemingly superior Southern California counterparts in order to realize their World Series dreams.

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