The New York Mets won a must-win game Saturday night against an ace-caliber pitcher. Now they have to do the same thing Sunday night.
The Mets will look to earn a series win and at least tread water in the National League wild-card race when they host the Los Angeles Dodgers in the finale of a three-game set.
Zack Wheeler (11-7, 4.21 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Mets against the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler (13-3, 3.14 ERA) in a battle of right-handers.
The Mets outlasted the Dodgers in a pitcher’s duel Saturday night, when Rajai Davis snapped a scoreless tie with a pinch-hit, three-run double in the eighth inning of a 3-0 victory.
Reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom (three hits over seven innings) remained in the race for this year’s honors by matching Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (two hits over seven innings), the NL ERA leader (2.35) and the Cy Young front-runner.
Things won’t get much easier Sunday, when the Mets face a budding ace in Buehler, who entered Saturday ranked among the NL’s top 10 in wins, strikeouts and ERA while leading the Senior Circuit with a 1.02 WHIP.
But the dramatic win at least ensured another vital game for the Mets (77-71), who stayed three games behind the Chicago Cubs in the race for the second wild card.
“We’re at that point where every game’s very important,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said afterward. “They have been important for a while, and they’ll continue to be important. So we’ve just got to do everything we can to win every night.”
The series against the Mets is serving as a postseason dress rehearsal for the Dodgers (96-54), who clinched the NL West for a seventh straight season on Tuesday night. Matching Clayton Kershaw, Ryu and Buehler against another team’s vaunted trio is the type of thing Los Angeles will be doing next month, when it seeks the franchise’s first World Series title since 1988.
Kershaw out-dueled the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard in the series opener Friday night, when the three-time Cy Young Award winner earned the win after giving up two over 6 1/3 innings in the Dodgers’ 9-2 victory.
“There’s no better person to set the tone for the starters than Clayton in a big series like this, where we’re seeing some pretty good arms come at us,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Saturday afternoon. “So it’ll be good for our guys to close out this season with starters throwing the baseball well.”
Both Wheeler and Buehler earned wins in their most recent starts last Tuesday. Wheeler allowed one run over seven innings as the Mets beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-2. It was the third straight start in which Wheeler allowed just one run.
Buehler tossed seven scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 7-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. It was the third time he’s blanked an opponent over his last four starts.
Wheeler is 1-2 with a 7.88 ERA in three career starts against the Dodgers. Buehler didn’t factor into the decision in his lone appearance against the Mets on May 29, when he allowed five runs over five innings in Los Angeles’ 9-8 win.