By MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — With the season on the brink, the New York Mets’ biggest stars shone brightly.
Pete Alonso hit a tiebreaking home run and Jacob deGrom pitched well enough to help save New York with a 7-3 win over the San Diego Padres that evened their wild-card playoff series at one game apiece. one on Saturday night.
“Win or go home,” deGrom said. “I love pitching here. Mets fans have been great to me. I didn’t want to disappoint.”
Francisco Lindor also went deep, Jeff McNeil hit a critical two-run double and All-Star closer Edwin Diaz came on well earlier than usual to protect a one-run lead in the seventh inning.
New York opened the game by scoring four times in the bottom of the half, key for the bases-loaded double McNeil lined up off Adrian Morejon through an infield.
Seth Lugo retired cleanup hitter Josh Bell on a full-sack save groundout, ending a game that lasted 4 hours and 13 minutes.
“It was a close game in the middle of the inning and then it got away from us in the seventh,” San Diego manager Bob Melvin said.
The teams play a decisive Game 3 on Sunday night at Citi Field, with the winner advancing to a best-of-five NL Division Series against the top-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers beginning Tuesday.
Joe Musgrove is scheduled to start for his hometown Padres against 15-game winner Chris Bassitt.
“Go out there and compete and leave it all on the field,” San Diego slugger Manny Machado said. “At this point, it’s about 27 outs.”
Leadoff hitter Brandon Nimmo had three hits and a walk for the Mets, including a go-ahead single in the fourth that chased wild starter Blake Snell to the delight of a boisterous sellout crowd waving orange towels.
The left-hander walked four of his first 12 batters and six total in 3 1/3 shaky innings in his first postseason start for San Diego.
In a matchup between the 2018 Cy Young Award winners, deGrom struck out eight in six innings with two runs for his fourth career postseason win.
It was deGrom’s first playoff start at home: The right-hander helped lead the Mets to the 2015 World Series, but all four of his starts that postseason came on the road.
“I actually felt like I had my best stuff in the sixth inning,” he said.
One night after co-ace Max Scherzer gave up four homers and seven runs on a Game 1 flop, deGrom came out blasting 100-mph fastballs and delivered with New York facing elimination.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner, who plans to opt out after this season, knocked Machado down three times and bounced back nicely after going 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in his last four regular-season starts.
Trent Grisham homered for the second time in two games, and San Diego tied it 2-2 on Jurickson Profar’s RBI single in the fifth.
But after a visit from pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, deGrom struck out Machado and Bell with runners on the corners to end the inning.
“He’s one of the best in the game,” Machado said. “He did what he does best. We couldn’t open the floodgates.”
Alonso hit a home run on the first pitch in the bottom half off reliever Nick Martinez, who went to college in New York City at Fordham. It was his first career postseason home run for Alonso, who had 40 during the regular season and tied for the major league lead with 131 RBIs.
“That’s why we play, for those moments,” Alonso said.
Diaz was called up by manager Buck Showalter in the seventh, his earliest appearance since August 2020. The reliever made a tough defensive play covering first base and then retired slugger Juan Soto with a runner on second to end the inning.
Diaz went 46 minutes between pitches as the Mets rallied in the bottom half with the help of back-to-back 10-pitch walks by Alonso and Mark Canha against Morejon.
An animated McNeil, the major league batting champion, pointed toward the New York dugout as he hit his key double that made it 5-2. Eduardo Escobar added an RBI single off Pierce Johnson, and pinch hitter Daniel Vogelbach had a sacrifice fly.
After getting two outs in the eighth, Diaz received a standing ovation and waved to the crowd of 42,156 as he walked off the mound.
With two in the ninth, Profar hit a long drive that was caught just in front of the right center fence. Adam Ottavino walked before Showalter went to Lugo for the final out.
“We knew going into this game was going to be tough,” Grisham said. “Any team that is fighting for its life will be shot. We will be in the same situation tomorrow.”
Mets: RHP Taijuan Walker replaced left-handed reliever Joely Rodriguez (shoulder) on the series roster before the game, an injury substitution that needed to be approved by Major League Baseball. Rodríguez will not be eligible to return unless the Mets reach the NL Championship Series. He did not pitch in Friday night’s 7-1 loss. … Sinking designated hitter Darin Ruf returned from a neck strain and played his first game since Sept. 25. Ruf struck out, walked and was hit by a pitch.
Musgrove (10-7, 2.93 ERA) grew up a Padres fan in suburban San Diego and signed a five-year, $100 million contract with his hometown team this season.
Bassitt went 15-9 with a 3.42 ERA in his first season with the Mets after arriving in a trade from Oakland, where he pitched for Melvin.
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