ATHENS – For the Mets, Max Scherzer’s most significant start to date, he put on an outstanding performance.
The Mets needed Scherzer to set the tone in a three-game series against the Braves because they desperately wanted to start the series on a winning note. In the Mets’ 4-1 victory over Atlanta on Monday night at Truist Park, Scherzer came through with seven excellent innings, allowing just one run on two hits, walking none, and striking out nine batters over 93 pitches.
We are currently in the second half, Scherzer said. “Playing well is important, particularly at this time of the year. When you can rack up victories over them, that serves as a sort of yardstick victory. It’s a satisfying feeling. However, we must head outside and have a fantastic month of July. There are multiple games.
On the field, Scherzer gave it everything. The final six outs needed to be recorded by the Mets bullpen without giving the Braves any room to gather momentum.
Scherzer handed the ball to Adam Ottavino, who managed to get through a shaky eighth inning while allowing two hits. The veteran reliever ended the eighth inning with a slim Mets lead of two runs by getting Dansby Swanson to ground out, leaving runners on second and third. In 33.2 innings and 36 relief appearances for the Mets this year, Ottavino has a 2.67 ERA.
When Edwin Diaz was scheduled to pitch for the third straight day on Monday night, it was uncertain if he would be available. But as the bottom of the ninth inning approached, Diaz emerged from the bullpen in his well-known trot. The outcomes were astounding. The core of Atlanta’s lineup was easily retired by the Mets closer after three straight errors.
Diaz’s development has been amazing to watch, according to Pete Alonso. “And make the guys there look like Little Leaguers. He has been dicing and slicing men.
The Mets (54-33) are still overjoyed that Scherzer is no longer sidelined with an injury. The ace found his usual untouchable rhythm in his second start after recovering from a left oblique strain, and not even against the National League’s top offense. Robinson Cano, who singled off the three-time Cy Young winner in his first game for the Braves, and Austin Riley, who drove a solo shot to left field in the seventh, were the only batters to reach base against him.
It was difficult to believe the Braves were posing a threat to knock the Mets out of first place after the way Scherzer (6-1, 2.15 ERA) handled his first six innings, retiring 17 of the first 18 batters he faced. Atlanta, however, is still very much on their tails. The Mets’ lead (1.5 games) was the smallest it had been since April 16 going into Monday, and the Braves can easily erode any advantage the Amazin’s might have had before their flight to Atlanta.
Scherzer said, “I advise guys to play off the adrenaline. “Don’t be afraid of it; go for it. You play the game for this purpose. You seek out these circumstances. You want to play against the league’s top teams. You wish to compete in races. You need to step up to the plate and compete. It is only beneficial to continue playing in this environment and benefit from it if the atmosphere tonight is this positive.
The Mets and Braves will play each other 12 times over the course of the following 38 days, beginning on Monday. Out of the Mets’ remaining 76 games, the two teams will collectively play 15 games.
This series between the division rivals in the middle of July won’t make or break the Mets’ season because of all those upcoming contests, to name just one. The Amazins are approaching the first of many crucial series against the reigning champions with that mentality.
There isn’t any advantage to begin with, Alonso declared. We simply want to concentrate on carrying out our strategy.
With a ragtag lineup, the Mets were still able to defeat the Braves in game one of the series, which speaks volumes about the team’s quiet confidence under manager Buck Showalter. Showalter’s confidence in the utility infielder is the cause of Luis Guillorme’s success this season in particular. And on Monday, Guillorme significantly contributed to the team’s victory.
Guillorme was the batter who took over for Jeff McNeil and Starling Marte, who were both absent due to maternity leave and groin injuries, respectively. In the third inning, the second baseman sprinted to first base for an RBI force-out that gave the Mets a 2-0 lead. Then, in the eighth, Guillorme hit a solo shot to right field for his second home run of the year, a career high, to give the Mets some breathing room against Atlanta. Two of Guillorme’s four home runs in his career came against Darren O’Day.
In a poor outing against the Mets, 2020 Cy Young Award finalist Max Fried only lasted five innings. The most concerning aspect of Fried’s performance was his five walks given to the Amazin’s, a team that was careful not to chase too many of his pitches. He gave up two earned runs on five hits and struck out five.
Without its sparkplugs McNeil and Marte, the Mets offense still performed admirably, but Scherzer cemented the team’s competitive attitude in the series opener in front of a 42,925-strong sellout crowd.
Showalter said, “He rises to a lot of moments, but that was fun to watch. I was in a good spot. He had excellent control over all of our pitches and a great tempo. Very lethal lineup, and being able to use it whenever, especially while traveling, was something.