Monday, September 19, 2022

Mets Clinch Playoff Spot, Led By Max, Who Hit A Milestone

The Mets celebrate on the field in Milwaukee. @Mets.

The Mets clinched a playoff spot with their 7-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night, led by six perfect innings from Max Scherzer, who earned his 200th career win.

This is the 10th postseason appearance for the Mets in their 61-year history, and the first since 2016, when they appeared as a Wild Card.

The Mets have won five straight as they improved to 94-55, and they maintained their one-game lead in the National League East over the Atlanta Braves (92-55), who beat the Washington Nationals, 5-2.

The Mets are now 39 games over .500, the highest in the franchise's history since they finished the 1988 season 100-60. The Mets are just six wins from that 100-win plateau, which has only been done three times in their history, by that 1988 team, the 1986 team, which won 108 games; and 1969, when they won 100. They won the World Series in '69 and '86 and the NL East in 1988.

They achieved this in the first year at the helm for Manager Buck Showalter and General Manager Billy Eppler, and the second season since Steve Cohen became owner. The trio has set a tone that this is a different organization, and have produced what has been a very special season on many levels.

Cohen was with the team in the locker room for the celebration in Milwaukee, and he said, "I think it was a modest celebration. It's a first step and when we go further, there will be bigger celebrations, and I think that's the way it should be.

"This team's been tenacious, they never gave up the whole year. This is a special group of guys, they love each other, they're a team that enjoys playing together, and you can see it. They've been consistent all year, and the results speak for themselves. I'm so excited for them, and the fans, too."

Eppler was also in the locker room, and he told SNY's Steve Gelbs, "The thing that really stands out is just how resilient they are, how much they fight. We could go through, you know, back to April, and man, we could point out different wins and different comebacks, and I think you just see the assortment of contributors, like everybody here matters, everybody here contributed. I think that's the elements of a strong team, and that's what we've seen here."

Showalter said in his usual postgame remarks, "I'm just happy for so many people that have, you know, the hard work put in by everybody, the organization, obviously the players, and you know, step one. You got to have step one to get to the rest of them, but I think our guys understand what's ahead of us and the challenges, but nobody should, you know, feel bad about feeling some elation tonight about getting that. It kind of hit me with two outs in the ninth, I was going, 'we're an out away from being in there,' and so I love to watch the guys, what they deserve to feel. Winning 94 games is really hard, now we gotta try to win 95. 

"It's always been a team that's stayed in the moment, and Max winning his 200th, you couldn't draw it up any better than that. He made it tough on me; we had a conversation between the fifth and sixth, we needed to get his pitch count up a little bit, but he wasn't cooperating there. It hit me about the fourth inning that he had a no-hitter, I go, 'they don't have any hits, thanks Max!'" Buck said with a smile.

Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor was a big part of the Mets' resurgence, as he was Cohen's first big signing ahead of the 2021 season. He has 24 home runs and 95 RBI this season, and had an RBI triple in the win. He told SNY's Gelbs on the field, "We understand this is not the end goal, but it's part of our destiny to be in the postseason, you gotta make it, so I'm just blessed, I thank the Good Lord, and I'm certainly proud of my teammates and the front office."

This will be the first playoff appearance for Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who is in his fourth season, and he had a three-run homer in this one, his 36th of the season, which also gave him 118 RBI, which is the most in the National League.

"Our chemistry is unparalleled, we have a really great group of guys, and it's just really special how much we care about each other and how well we work together," Alonso told SNY. "I feel like we had talent, but I feel like that the personnel complements each other in the best way, so we're able to go out there and compete. It doesn't always have to look pretty, but we do a really good job of competing night in and night it, and this is what it's all for, this is what it's all about."

Max Scherzer was dealing on Monday night. @Mets.

Scherzer improved to 10-4 and lowered his ERA (earned run average) to 2.15. In his six perfect innings, he retired all 18 batters he faced, with nine of them strikeouts, in his six innings.

It is fitting that he would get the win in the Mets' playoff clincher, as he is a big reason for their success. When the Mets signed him to a three-year contract, giving him a record $43 million per season, last November, it was a massive statement by Cohen that they were ready to take the next step as a franchise.

The Mets' offense gave Scherzer plenty of support, as Alonso had his three-run home run in the fourth inning, and then in the sixth, Lindor had an RBI triple and Daniel Vogelbach had an RBI double to make it 5-0.

Scherzer said of how he felt in his start, "Felt good physically, we were gunning for kind of a 75 pitch count, five innings, 75, that's kind of what we were looking for, you know, was able to get through five innings at 54 pitches. I was talking with Hef (pitching coach Jeremy Hefner) and Buck, hey, we gotta press the pitch count, you gotta let me go back out, I think it's important to continue to get more pitches underneath my belt. The scoreboard was what it was, so it allowed me to go back out there and pitch, and was able to pitch through it, you know, felt normal fatigue, I felt like my side was fatiguing at the same rate as my arm, so that's the good news in that." 

Scherzer was referencing how he had to leave his last start on September 3 with left side fatigue, and then four days later, he was placed on the 15-day injured list with left oblique irritation. He missed six weeks earlier in the season with an oblique injury, from May 18 to July 5, which makes the Mets' 94 wins all the more remarkable.

On clinching the playoff berth, Scherzer said, "This is what you play the game for; you play to make the postseason. The fact that we got here - there's a lot of ways for it not to work out. For us to be able to find our way to get into the postseason, that's awesome. That's what we celebrate, that's what you play the game for. We have a lot of things in front of us, and we understand that, but you got to celebrate the good times too...

"I can speak to what this clubhouse is. This clubhouse, we've gelled, we've come together, everybody's got a roll, everyone's contributed to the ballclub and helping us win in so many different ways, offense, defense, pitching, starters, bullpen, you name it, we're always finding a way to cover each other and do the little things right to win ballgames. A lot of times, we just don't beat ourselves, and when you do that, other teams make that one mistake and we capitalize on it. We've done that the whole season, and that's what makes it fun. We've won so many ballgames, and we've played good, and that's why we get to celebrate today because of that."

After Scherzer exited, the Mets still had hope for a combined perfect game, and they turned to Tylor Megill, who had started the combined no-hitter on April 29, for his first relief appearance of the season in his return from the injured list. 

Christian Yelich laced one down the left field line for a double to break up the perfect game, and then Rowdy Tellez hit a two-run home run to get the Brewers on the board and make it 5-2 Mets.

The Mets got those runs back in the top of the eighth when Tyler Naquin got an RBI single, and Tomas Nido, who has been hot lately, got an RBI single to score Naquin and make it 7-2.

Seth Lugo pitched a scoreless eighth, and Adam Ottavino closed it out with a scoreless ninth, as he got two strikeouts, as he ended it with a strikeout of Hunter Renfroe. (Ottavino and Renfroe were teammates with the Boston Red Sox last year, a team that went to the ALCS) 

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