When the National League East rival Mets and Marlins meet on Opening Day next Thursday at loanDepot park at 4:10 p.m. ET, it’ll be a matchup of Cy Young Award winners … just not quite the reigning honorees.
A duel between Verlander and Alcantara would’ve marked the first time in MLB history the reigning Cy Young Award winners dueled on Opening Day the following year.
"I enjoy competing against the best," Scherzer said. "He's obviously established himself as one of the best in the game. That's what Major League Baseball does is constantly put you against the best and constantly put you in high-intensity positions. You've got to rise to it and match it every single time."
RHP Max Scherzer
Previous Opening Day starts: 2015, 2016, 2018-21
2022 season: 11-5, 2.29 ERA in 23 starts
Given the choice between a pair of three-time Cy Young Award winners in Scherzer and Verlander, the Mets selected the pitcher who has been there, done that with a year in Queens already on his resume. It was another fine season for Scherzer, whose introduction to his new team included a 2.23 ERA over 23 starts.
The primary issue for Scherzer was his left oblique, which cost him six weeks in the first half of the season plus an additional start in September. But there were also some performance hiccups. Healthy at the end, Scherzer allowed four earned runs in a crucial October showdown against the Braves, then seven in a Wild Card Series loss to the Padres.
Take out those starts, and Scherzer was routinely brilliant. Now 38 years old, the future Hall of Famer appears to be beyond his days as a 220-inning workhorse, as minor injuries have limited him to an average of 165 2/3 innings over the last three full Major League seasons. Scherzer finished in the top three in Cy Young voting in two of them.
Against the Marlins, he has proven nearly unbeatable in his career, posting a 2.94 ERA over 26 starts. Scherzer did not face them last season. This will be his seventh Opening Day start but his first with a team other than the Nationals, as Verlander annually started the opener over Scherzer when both were with the Tigers.
RHP Sandy Alcantara
Previous Opening Day starts: 2020-22
2022 season: 14-9, 2.28 ERA in 32 starts
It was a foregone conclusion as to who would get the nod for Miami. Four months after becoming the first Marlin to capture the NL Cy Young Award, the 27-year-old Alcantara continues to make franchise history as the first pitcher to garner four Opening Day starts. From 2020-22, he permitted a combined three earned runs across 17 2/3 innings (1.53 ERA), but the club went 1-2 in those season openers due to a lack of run support.
During his Cy Young Award-winning campaign, however, Alcantara gave up four earned runs in each of his home starts against the Mets. Miami lost both games. New York is projected to field a nearly identical lineup in 2023, so Alcantara will need to make adjustments in order to see better results.
The last time Alcantara took the loanDepot park mound was on March 11, when he started the Dominican Republic's first game of pool play vs. Venezuela at the World Baseball Classic. He was chased in the fourth inning after surrendering three runs on five hits and three walks, taking the loss in an upset.