PHILADELPHIA — Max Scherzer’s unbeaten streak has been broken. Still, the Mets relied on solid pitching and polar bear-sized strength to flee Philly with another series win.
Scherzer allowed three runs on 10 hits, striking out seven, across six innings in the Mets’ 3-2 loss to the Phillies in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park. The right-hander took his first loss since May 30, 2021, snapping his streak of 24 consecutive unbeaten starts.
The three-time Cy Young winner and future Hall of Famer, obsessed with winning, saw the Mets lose Sunday on his start-day for the first time since he joined his new organization.
“Heck of a run,” Scherzer said of his streak. “Obviously it takes your teammates to be able to do that, but it’s also kind of cool to be a part of it. You gotta go out there and give your team a chance to win. That’s your job as a starting pitcher. I feel like, over the past handful of starts here, I’ve been doing that.”
The Amazin’s beat the Phillies, 6-1, in Game 2 to split the doubleheader in the series finale at Philly. Pete Alonso’s monster power provided five of those six runs after he homered twice in the second leg of the twin bill. Sunday was his 12th career two-homer game following dingers in the first and fifth innings, the latter traveling 426 feet to the final row of seats of the left-field lower deck.
“Let’s go Mets, hell yeah,” Alonso said of the club becoming the first MLB team to 20 wins this season. “That’s great, but we want to win the division. That’s the ultimate goal. We’ve had a great start. … We’ve played such great team baseball. Everyone has answered the bell.”
The Mets (20-10) are 5-1 in three doubleheaders this season. Chris Bassitt, who lowered his ERA to 2.45 on Sunday after holding the Phillies to one run over 5.2 innings, helped the Amazin’s extend their edge over the rest of the NL East. Bassitt has a 0.52 ERA in his three starts on the road this season.
The Phillies (12-16) fell seven games behind the first-place Mets as the team continued to cruise through the first 30 games of the season. The Mets have won eight of their first nine series, splitting one, to start 2022.
“We have five quality quality starters,” Bassitt said of the reason behind the Mets’ success so far. “Anytime you have five quality starters, it’s relentless. Every game, we’re in it because we have five quality starters.”
Manager Buck Showalter said Scherzer is setting the tone for the rest of his Mets teammates and coaches when he refuses to make any excuses regardless of tough situations.
Scherzer’s uniform whipped in the wind on an especially frigid day in Philly. The wind was blowing in from right field as Mets position players zig-zagged through the dirt and grass to attempt, unsettlingly, to catch pop flys. Despite the brisk conditions, Scherzer removed his sleeves after the fourth inning, though he said it had nothing to do with trying to create better luck in his untidy 101-pitch outing.
“It wasn’t as windy and I felt like I could take the sleeves off and go back to short sleeves,” Scherzer said. “I was at least warm enough to do it.”
Sunday was only the third time in the past five seasons that Scherzer allowed double-digit hits. He gave up nine or more hits just once last year, in a Sept. 29 start as a Dodger against the Padres. With the exception of Bryce Harper’s home run in the first inning, the remainder of hits coughed up by Scherzer against the Phillies on Sunday were all singles. Of his 10 hits allowed, five of them were hit with an exit velocity of 77 mph or lower.
Due to the back-to-back rainouts on Friday and Saturday, the Mets ace was pitching seven days after his most recent start — also against the Phillies at Citi Field last Sunday. Given all those elements, Showalter was impressed that Scherzer still managed to record a quality start for the Mets. It was just unfortunate, the skipper said, that the offense didn’t score more than two runs. Scherzer’s takeaway was that he avoided a big inning after the Phillies sprayed hits around the field against him.
“You gotta be able to adapt to anything,” Scherzer said. “This is baseball. Here we go, boom. Two rainouts and you gotta be able to adapt to it and go out there and win. … I will not make an excuse for anything. My job is to go out there and compete and win under any circumstances, under any conditions.”
Starling Marte, gripping a pink bat in honor of Mother’s Day that will be auctioned off to benefit multiple organizations toward the fight against breast cancer, helped put the Mets on the board in the sixth inning of Game 1. His double to left field in that frame was his fifth consecutive hit, dating back to Thursday. Marte has certainly been a productive base runner for the Mets, but he’s still itching to get hot at the plate. The outfielder entered the day batting .262 with a .692 OPS.
Both Scherzer and Bassitt pitching into the sixth inning in Game 1 and 2, respectively, allowed Showalter to deploy his relief arms for work after a couple of postponed games, without having to tax the bullpen.
“Our guys have stayed in the moment,” Showalter said. “Either you can get involved in the sky is falling, or that you’re better than a certain game says you are. So you gotta stay in the middle there. There’s a lot of challenges, but our guys have been very mature about the way they’ve approached it.”
Drew Smith impressed again, extending his scoreless streak to 12.1 innings across 11 relief appearances. Smith is one of five pitchers this season to throw at least 11 innings and not surrender an earned run. For comparison, Aaron Loup – the Mets’ best reliever last year who joined the Angels in the offseason – has a 1.42 ERA over 12.2 innings and relief appearances.
The Mets will enjoy an off-day on Monday, followed by a three-game series against the Nationals (10-20) at Nationals Park beginning Tuesday.