Vintage Scherzer, 'motivated' Mets sweep twin bill from Braves

August 7th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Given how things tend to go around Willets Point, it was easy for some pockets of Mets fans to envision a worst-case scenario entering this weekend’s five-game series against the Braves. An Atlanta sweep would have pushed the Mets to second place for the first time since early April. More than that, it would have solidified the Braves as clear division favorites entering the stretch run of their NL East defense.

Such doomsday scenarios can be as much a part of Queens baseball culture as anything that happened in 1969 or ’86. But these Mets want no part of such cynicism. When the Braves trimmed New York’s NL East margin from 10 1/2 games on June 1 to just half a game on July 23, prompting Austin Riley to declare on Braves television that “we’re coming for them,” the Mets reeled off a seven-game winning streak to wrest back firm control of the division. When the Braves once again proved to be more active at the Trade Deadline, the Mets went out and beat them in a five-game series at Citi Field.

With a doubleheader sweep on Saturday, including an 8-5 win in the matinee and a 6-2 triumph in the nightcap, the Mets clinched that series victory over their closest division rival. What’s more, they looked like a team with no interest in being caught. ’s seven scoreless innings in Game 2 provided the latest vindication of the Mets’ decision to hand him a record-setting $130 million contract this past offseason.

“This is what you play the game for,” Scherzer said. “You play to face the best, especially deep in the season. You grind it out here in the NL East.”

With Scherzer, the Mets have legitimized their contention. His 11-strikeout performance moved him into a tie with Justin Verlander for 14th place on the all-time list, while improving his record to 3-1 with a 1.37 ERA in seven starts since returning from the injured list.  collected three hits in the nightcap after  did the same in the matinee, demonstrating how potent the Mets can be when their stars are clicking.

“We’re motivated, and we want to continue to play well,” Alonso said. “Our goal is to make the playoffs, win the division and have a chance to play for a World Series. Every single day is an opportunity to move one inch closer.”

New York has done it by being relentless. Consider:

  • The Mets are 13-0-2 in series against NL East teams
  • They are 30 games over .500 for the first time since the final day of the 2006 season
  • They went 35-19 over the first third of the season and 34-20 in the second third

For a time, the Mets did much of that without Scherzer, who missed nearly seven weeks due to an oblique strain. They’ve since relied on their ace not only to help them repel Atlanta’s charge up the standings, but also to reclaim a chunk of their lead. Following their doubleheader sweep, the Mets’ NL East edge bulged to 5 1/2 games.

Scherzer did need some help to submit a scoreless effort on Saturday, most notably after he allowed a leadoff double and an infield hit to put runners on the corners with one out in the fifth. The next batter, Ehire Adrianza, hit a sharp grounder to second base that  fielded.

Typically, an infielder will gladly trade a run for an out with a three-run lead. But when Guillorme noticed Travis d’Arnaud hesitating off third base, Guillorme waited until d’Arnaud committed to the plate before firing an 85 mph strike home, where catcher Tomás Nido applied the tag to cut down a run.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen that,” manager Buck Showalter said. “That’s a baseball player play. You don’t work on that in St. Lucie.”

“It’s something that I, personally, probably have thought about before,” Guillorme said. “It may or may not happen. It just worked out today.”

That it worked out against the Braves was a boon for the Mets, who improved to 7-4 against the defending World Series champions. It’s a fine start to the head-to-head series, though the Mets are cognizant that that’s all it is -- a start. Even in early August, the Mets have eight games remaining against their rivals, which could still change the shape of the division race.

“It’s great to get these wins, but it’s not over yet,” Scherzer said. “We know how good they can play, and they can get hot, and we can continue to play great baseball as well. It’s great to win these games, don’t get me wrong. You want to beat them as much as you can. But it’s going to take that type of effort for the rest of the season.”