Max Scherzer Leads Mets to Double-Header Sweep

The easy choice, for Max Scherzer, would be to start the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader at Citi Field. Pitchers thrive on a routine, and the only opening game was a scheduled time for the first pitch. Scherzer is a future Hall of Famer, and if he had insisted on opening his first home as a Met, he could have his way.

“They make the decision, but I always like pitching Game 2 because I know what the bullpen situation is at,” Scherzer said late Tuesday night, after the Mets had swept the San Francisco Giants. “There are different things you can do to try to get more length if you need to. I kind of like having that pressure, like tonight. I really had seven innings circled. That was the mark I really, really, really wanted to hit. “

That mentality was not the reason the Mets made Scherzer the highest-paid player in baseball last December. Scherzer’s ability to hit overpower hitters, even at 37 years old, got him a three-year, $ 130 million deal in free agency. But like a subtle gesture Tuesday’s was part of the package, a sign that for all of his personal accomplishments, Scherzer is a team guy first.

Manager Buck Showalter found Scherzer in his office after the Mets won the first game, 5-4, on a single by Francisco Lindor in the 10th inning. Scherzer peppered his manager with questions – the start time, the weather – and Showalter thought he looked like a colt, eager to set free.

The Mets used four relievers in the opener, giving Scherzer a goal and an urgency to meet it. Before Tuesday, the only one pitcher in the majors, Nathan Eovaldi of the Boston Red Sox, had thrown 100 pitches in a game this season. Showalter set an even higher pitch limit for Scherzer: 110.

He would not need that many to reach his destination. Scherzer finished with seven innings in 102 pitches, allowing just one hit, a two-out, run-scoring single by Darin Ruf in the sixth inning. Scherzer walked three, struck out 10 and won, 3-1, for his third victory in three starts.

“He’s Max Scherzer – it’s the same thing you see every time he goes out there,” said Giants starter Logan Webb, who lost 23 starts in the first time. “I didn’t know it was his home debut, so I was like, ‘Man, he’s going to probably do something pretty cool.'”

Webb witnessed something pretty cool last October – from Scherzer’s perspective, anyway – in the final game of the Giants’ division series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Scherzer, who started twice in the past eight days, came out of the bullpen to clinch his first career save with the series.

It came with a price: Scherzer labored through his Game 2 start in the National League Championship Series and couldn’t take the ball for Game 6 in Atlanta. But he did what he had to do for the Dodgers to get that far.

It is safe to say that Scherzer’s arm has recovered just fine. He looks exactly like the Pitchers the Mets expected, with a 2.50 earned run average and 23 strikeouts in 18 innings. He retired his first eight hitters on Tuesday, walked Curt Casali, then set down the next nine in a row to turn the lineup over again.

“My rule of thumb is, when you get through an order, you get something going,” Scherzer said. “You get two times through the order, you’ve got a shot. So for me, it was getting two times through the order, that is when you started getting there, and in the seventh and eighth, that is when it really comes into play. “

After a pair of two-out walks in the sixth, it seemed clear that Scherzer’s pitch count was getting too high to complete nine innings. Showalter didn’t relish the idea of ​​pulling Scherzer from a no-hitter, and Ruf spared him the decision by pulling a clean single to the left.

But Scherzer was completely dominated by the Giants; His best pitches, he said, were his high fastball and his cutter, which he buried in the hands of the six left-handed hitters in their lineup – a sound strategy on a chilly, wind-whipped night.

Without a sweat to help his grip, Scherzer said the baseball felt like a cue ball in his hand. It was frustrating, he said, but who could tell?

“It’s just the level he competes at every time, so this is what you expect every time he’s out there,” catcher Tomas Nido said. “But I guess the plan was going to be a lot smoother than when it wasn’t one of those kinds of nights, because everything was working perfect.”

Even by Scherzer’s high standards, it was an extraordinary outing, just the fifth of his 401 career starts in which he allowed no more than one hit.

He fired two no-hitters for Washington in 2015, including a 17-strikeout gem against the World Series-bound Mets in the next-to-last day of the season. That performance was one of the best in history, the only game ever in which a pitcher allowed no hits and no walks with more than 15 strikeouts. A teammate’s error kept Scherzer from perfection.

Now those dazzling Scherzer nights belong to the Mets – who, of course, has another ace, Jacob deGrom, on the injured list. They are 9-3, the only team in the NL East with a winning record, and made a strong early statement on Tuesday.

“We can compete with the best,” said Scherzer, complimenting the Giants, who had the most wins in the majors last season. “For us to be neck and neck with both of them shows that we’re having a great ballclub as well.”

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