The most ace-like performance the Mets have received this season came from a pitcher who is currently in Triple-A. Joey Lucchesi authored the kind of masterpiece one might expect from Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander a month ago in San Francisco.
But Max Scherzer came close Sunday in the Mets’ 5-4 win over the Cleveland Guardians at Citi Field and Justin Verlander followed his performance with one of his own in the second game of a doubleheader. Behind Verlander, the Mets rallied for a 2-1 win to complete the sweep.
“That’s how you would draw it up on a day like today,” Verlander said.
Verlander went eight innings and settled in after Jose Ramirez hit an absolute bomb off the right-hander in the first inning.
Scherzer tossed six scoreless innings and struck out five to earn a quality start, limiting the Guardians to only three hits and a walk. His last two starts have been, more or less, what’s expected of him, even if the three-time Cy Young Award winner has higher expectations for himself.
“You really don’t take anything from this other than how you compete and how you win,” Scherzer said.
Six innings and a 4.01 ERA isn’t where the bar is set for an ace, but this isn’t the same Scherzer from a few years ago. This Scherzer has been dealing with many nagging injuries and is two years away from 40, learning how to navigate some diminishing velocity and get outs without his best stuff.
Sunday’s issue was a callous that opened up and split the skin on his thumb. This comes after a bout with neck spasms, there was the back soreness last month that forced the Mets to push him back a few days and last season there was the oblique issue.
It seems as though Scherzer has yet to be 100% this season. At this stage in his career, he may never be as healthy as he’d like to be.
“He’d been fighting it the whole game, but every pitcher fights something, said manager Buck Showalter. “Jerking your arm down violently every day or every 5-6 days is not good for your body. You’re going to have things and some you can pitch with, some you can’t.”
The cut on his thumb affected his fastball velocity, something he had worked hard to build up after his 10-game suspension in late April. But it forced him to alter his grip slightly on his curveball, moving his thumb up on the ball, and that pitch helped him get outs.
“The only thing that could really throw was a curveball, so I shifted the grip on it,” he said. “Surprisingly enough, when (I brought my thumb up) on the curveball, I actually found a good grip. That was one of the two pain-free pitches I could throw today. So curveball and changeup were pain-free for me today. Because of that, I was actually able to snap off some good curveballs and used it when I needed it.”
Still, he only went six innings. An overworked bullpen finally broke when the Mets’ best high-leverage relievers in Adam Ottavino and David Robertson gave up four runs in the eighth inning to hand the Guardians a lead. The offense bailed the bullpen out in the bottom of the inning, but the inability of the starting staff to go deep has been the story all season.
Having thrown only 86 pitches, Scherzer would have liked to go back out for the seventh inning but left the decision to Showalter. The manager felt it best to replace him with left-hander Brooks Raley to counter the left-handed Josh Naylor and the switch-hitting Josh Bell in the seventh.
Scherzer was seen in the tunnel with Showalter and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner in the tunnel looking angry after the sixth, but he admitted that the manager made the correct choice to go to the bullpen.
“I told Buck, ‘It’s up to you. If you want me to keep going, I’ll go. But I also get it if you want to pull me,’” Scherzer said. “It was probably the right move to pull me.”
The Mets built a team around Scherzer and Verlander but until Sunday, neither one had really been the true ace the team needed them to be. But the Mets seem to have corrected course this week with two series against the Tampa Bay Rays and the Guardians, so this could be where we see the entire team turn the corner.
Two of the game’s best pitchers weren’t dominant, but they got big outs in big spots like aces are supposed to.
“You’re not always going to feel good,” Scherzer said. “You’re actually going to feel pretty crappy some days. I feel like I’ve been on a string of this and it’s part of the game. You just suck it up and win.”
Source: Berkshire mont