|Max Scherzer. Wikimedia commons.|
Mets ace Max Scherzer made his return on Tuesday night against the Cincinnati Reds, and he threw six shutout innings, but the Mets went on to lose, 1-0. Since the Atlanta Braves (48-34) beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-1, the Mets' (50-31) lead in the National League East was trimmed back to 2 1/2 games.
This was Scherzer's first start in 48 days since he suffered an oblique injury and he made it back right in line with estimates on recovery from that kind of injury.
Scherzer came out firing, as he struck out Jonathan India with a 95 mile-per-hour fastball, then he got Brandon Drury and Tommy Pham to ground out to retire Cincinnati in order.
Cincinnati got a couple runners on in the second when Donovan Solano got a one-out single and Mike Moustakas got hit by a pitch. Scherzer recovered by getting Nick Senzel to fly out to right field, and Matt Reynolds struck out looking at a 97-MPH four-seam fastball.
Scherzer then retired the Reds in order in the third, notching a par of strikeouts of India and Drury. In the fourth, he worked around a one-out single by Tyler Naquin with a pair of strikeouts of Solano and Moustakas.
That began a stretch of eighth straight Reds retired in a row by Scherzer, as he struck out the side in the fifth, and then notched a pair of K's in the sixth.
Scherzer's final line was very impressive: 6 innings pitched, 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 11 strikeouts, with 79 pitches, 57 of which were strikes.
This came two days after the Mets' other ace, Jacob deGrom, made a rehab start in Port St. Lucie, the first time he pitched in a game since July 7 last year. He pitched 1 2/3 innings, throwing 24 pitches, and six of them were over 100 miles per hour.
The Mets' offense continued to sputter in this one, as they were shut down by Reds starter Nick Lodolo, who was making his first start since April 24. He pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing no runs on three hits and three walks, with eight strikeouts. The Mets' offense was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
The game was still scoreless in the ninth when Seth Lugo came on to pitch for the Mets, and he allowed a double to Pham to open the inning, and then they intentionally walked Naquin, and Lugo the walked Solano to load the bases with nobody out. Moustakas then hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring in Pham for the winning run.
While this was a brutal loss, this is a night the Mets can look big picture, that they have one ace, Scherzer, back in true form, and the long-awaited return of deGrom, who has not pitched yet this season, seems imminent.