Collins: 'He was great' and 'we were bad'
Mets give Nats' Scherzer his due after dominant no-hitter
NEW YORK -- As Nationals second baseman Dan Uggla corralled a fourth-inning line drive, cradling perhaps the Mets' only legitimately hard-hit ball of Saturday night in his glove, manager Terry Collins stood in the Citi Field dugout and furrowed his brow. The creases in his face deepened as Max Scherzer took the mound an inning later, in the fifth, and retired all three batters he saw on nine pitches.
"This has the look of a problem," Collins recalled muttering to himself.
A problem, perhaps; if nothing else, Scherzer's second no-hitter of the season -- the second the Mets have suffered in four months -- was a nuisance. The resulting 2-0 loss -- after dropping the doubleheader opener, too -- all but snatched National League Division Series home-field advantage out of their hands, delivering it to a Dodgers team that clinched hours later with a 2-1 win over the Padres. The Mets weren't happy that Scherzer chose this night, this ballpark and this team upon which to assert his dominance, but they did their best to remember that far more impactful games await.
"We're very much looking forward to the playoffs," catcher Kevin Plawecki said. "We've got to look at today and move on."
And the Mets will -- though not before tipping, as Plawecki said, their collective caps toward Scherzer. This was nothing like the first no-hitter the Mets suffered earlier this year at the hands of San Francisco's Chris Heston, who allowed a fair number of balls into play all night. This was pure dominance from the start: strikeouts of Curtis Granderson and Ruben Tejada in the first inning, nine consecutive whiffs from the sixth into the ninth, ample swings and misses on all three of his primary pitches. That the Mets were unable to hit was not the marvel; that they did not come particularly close was what made Scherzer's achievement so memorable.
"He had it all working," Plawecki said. "Each and every one of us, every time we were like, 'All right, we're going to do it this time. We're going to get it.' Hats off to him, he made his pitches when he had to make them. He lived on the corners and lived down all day, made the pitches he had to make to keep us off-balance."
The playoff-bound Mets, to be fair, did not trot out anything close to their top lineup in the second game of the day-night doubleheader. David Wright sat on the bench all evening. So did Travis d'Arnaud. Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda were idle until the ninth, at which point Scherzer already smelled blood. He struck out both of them in quick order.
From there, the Nationals' $210 million man -- the pitcher who was supposed to put Washington over the top in the NL East, keeping the Mets confined to second-tier status all summer -- needed only to pop up Granderson to end things. His teammates flooded the field while the Mets sulked to their clubhouse, for a moment not considering who would have the last laugh. They saved such thoughts for later, as they quietly showered, dressed and prepared for Sunday's regular-season finale.
"Not to take anything away from Max, because he was outstanding, but I just think the focus changes on Friday," Collins said, alluding to NLDS Game 1. "Not that the lights are any brighter, I just think the situations change. We've seen this team grind out at-bats when they have to. And starting Friday, they're going to have to."
Let Scherzer and the Nationals have their way, in other words. "Tip your cap," as Michael Cuddyer said, noting that the Mets and Dodgers will become the first teams to meet in the postseason after enduring two no-hitters apiece during the summer. For now, Collins said, let the Nationals bask in the fact that "he was great" and "we were bad."
"He made every pitch he had to make," Collins said. "He threw every pitch he needed to. There wasn't one hanging breaking ball. Every fastball had a place and a purpose. I'm sure those guys went up there looking for a mistake, and they didn't get any."