Vintage Max fans 10, ices Giants' bats in Mets' DH sweep

April 20th, 2022

NEW YORK -- The Mets have long been subscribers to the Queens varietal of Murphy’s Law: In these parts, whatever can go wrong typically does. For decades, it’s been their brand. The brand was strong.

And yet a notable reversal has occurred over the first two weeks of the 2022 regular season: Whatever can go wrong … typically hasn’t. That proved true throughout Tuesday’s doubleheader sweep at Citi Field, where  delivered a vintage performance in a 3-1 nightcap victory after Francisco Lindor supplied a walk-off hit in the 10th inning of their 5-4 win in Game 1. It was the Mets’ first doubleheader sweep of the Giants since 1979, and unlike that one, it came against a pennant contender.

“It shows you we’re a good ballclub,” Scherzer said of the Mets, who left the field sporting the second-best record in the Majors at 9-3. “We can compete with the best.”

Scherzer took a no-hitter into the sixth, keeping it alive until Darin Ruf hit an RBI single to put the potential tying runs on base. If it seemed Scherzer might be tiring in that moment, he wasn’t; the chilly night was simply preventing him from gripping the ball the way he wanted. But Scherzer still managed to escape that jam and retire the Giants in order in the seventh, producing his first double-digit-strikeout game as a Met.

“It’s the same thing you see every time he goes out there,” Giants starter Logan Webb said. “I didn’t know it was his home debut. Before the game I was like, 'Man, he’s probably going to do something pretty cool today.'”

The thing is, this version of the Mets isn’t reliant on any singular player. Lindor, who hit a walk-off RBI single in Game 1, sparked the Mets’ only run-scoring rally in Game 2 and is now hitting .310. Eduardo Escobar contributed the big blow with an RBI double. Dominic Smith followed with an RBI single of his own. The bullpen threw six scoreless innings over two games. Even owner Steve Cohen took part in the glee, tweeting afterward that the only thing better than winning a baseball game is winning two.

If there was a concerning moment for the Mets, it unfolded in the eighth inning of the nightcap, when Drew Smith allowed a one-out single and then a booming fly ball to Mike Yastrzemski. A crowd of 27,490 let out a collective groan, having seen that exact pitch go over that exact fence in so many similar scenarios over the years. But this time, it simply didn’t. A shot that would have been a home run in 10 of the 30 Major League ballparks, according to Statcast data, instead settled neatly into Starling Marte’s glove.

Perhaps the Mets should start expecting those sorts of breaks to turn in their favor. Those waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop have so far been disappointed.

“It is different,” said outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who returned from the COVID-19 injured list ahead of schedule earlier in the day. “It’s a great feeling. I’m just really, really proud of these guys. They grind, grind, grind.”

Of course, not everything will come this easily for the Mets. A 162-game season has a way of trying even the best teams, testing both their roster depth and their desire. Manager Buck Showalter stopped short of beating his chest a mere dozen games into the season, calling the doubleheader sweep “a good night for us in a long season and a long challenge, against a real good club that will come out and play us tough again tomorrow.”

Major League Baseball, he knows, crowns no champions for the month of April. The Mets even caught a glimpse of their potential pitfalls toward the end of Spring Training, when Jacob deGrom and Scherzer sustained injuries in rapid succession.

But just because things did, can and still will go wrong doesn’t mean the entire operation must capsize. The Mets, who enjoyed a similarly strong start last year before everything went backward, understand that as well as anyone.

“I don’t remember what we did last year, to be honest,” Lindor said. “But it feels good to be winning this year, for sure.”