Sunday, May 21, 2023

Comeback Kid Mets Sweep Doubleheader From Cleveland, Have Won Five In A Row

Max Scherzer pitching to Mike Zunino in the fifth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

The Mets did it again on Sunday, as they scored a pair of comeback victories over the Cleveland Guardians in their doubleheader at Citi Field. They also got superb outings from their pair of aces, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. They won five straight to close this homestand and run their record to 26-23, and have climbed back into second place in the National League.

In the first game, they got six shutout innings from Scherzer, but after Cleveland stole the lead back late, Starling Marte hit the game-winning home run to give them the 5-4 victory. In the nightcap, Verlander,threw eight innings in which he allowed just one run, and Jeff McNeil drove in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth to give the Mets the 2-1 win. 

Mets Manager Buck Showalter, in his pregame press conference on Sunday morning, opened the day by announcing that Gary Sanchez, whom the Mets signed on Thursday, would be catching Game 1, with Scherzer on the mound. He also said that Francisco Alvarez would catch Justin Verlander in the nightcap.

On how he made that decision and added communication between Sanchez and Scherzer, Showalter said, “All our guys do it, whether it’s Francisco or Gary or Tomas (Nido), I mean, I know the protocol, they spend a lot of time together, they go over the hitters, they talk about plans or whatever because, in today’s game, there’s not a lot of mound visits, you know, so there’s a plan going in there, but it can deviate sometimes. I think that’s the key when something happens that takes you away from what you thought originally. You got to kind of do some things on the fly…Little different today because Gary hasn’t caught him…I don’t like Gary sitting around too much, get away from catching.”

Showalter also revealed something interesting about his approach to doubleheaders, “I don’t bite off something before we get there. You want to make everybody laugh, tell them about your plans, it could change within the next two hours, probably will. That’s why I don’t post two lineups; I’ve never had something not happen in Game 1 of a doubleheader that changed the way I had to look at Game 2. I love when these people send these lineups over a day or two in advance, or the whole doubleheader. I know it’s coming, sure enough, they have to change it every time!”


Max Scherzer got the start for the Mets in this one, and he turned in his best start of the season. He threw six shutout innings, and scattered just three hits and a walk, with five strikeouts. 

Max Scherzer firing one in to Jose Ramirez in the first inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

Though he got the no-decision, leaving his record at 3-2, Scherzer lowered his ERA (earned run average) from 4.88 to 4.01.

“Really good” was how Mets Manager Buck Showalter described Scherzer’s performance. “Really good, obviously battling through some things. He had a little cut here (as he pointed to his fingers) but he worked his way through it, but he was the difference in the game. You could talk about all the things that went on, this guy pitched six shutout innings for us against a very good offensive club with a lot of left-handed hitters, and I thought he and Gary did a nice job.”

Cleveland starter Taylor Bibee worked out of trouble in the first two innings and retired the Mets in order in the third.

Starling Marte got a one-out single in the fourth, and then was picked off first base.

Daniel Vogelbach worked out a walk before Sanchez singled. 

Eduardo Escobar lined one to right field that brought in Vogelbach to make it 1-0, but Sanchez was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

Sanchez redeemed himself in the sixth when he hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring in Pete Alonso, who singled earlier in the frame, to make it 2-0 and give Sanchez his first Met RBI.

Gary Sanchez connecting on his sacrifice fly in the sixth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.

With Eli Morgan on for Cleveland in the bottom seventh after Bibee exited, Brandon Nimmo led off with a solo home run to right field, his fourth of the year, and the Mets were up 3-0.

After left-hander Brooks Raley threw a perfect seventh, the Mets turned to Adam Ottavino for the eighth. Tyler Freeman greeted him with a double, moved to third on a ground out by Bo Naylor to first base, and scored on an RBI grounder from Myles Straw Thad made it 3-1 Mets.

Steven Kwan kept the inning going with a double and Amed Rosario brought him home to pull Cleveland within one and chase Ottavino from the game.

In came Mets closer David Robertson and Jose Ramirez crushed a two-run homer to put Cleveland up, 5-4.

Jose Ramirez, with lime shoes, heads back to the dugout and celebrates with his teammates. Photo by Jason Schott.

Trevor Stephan came on for Cleveland in the bottom of the eighth, and Brett Baty opened the frame with a walk. 

As Marte came to the plate, the anticipation of another come back was palpable in the air, after the Mets had wild comeback wins against Tampa Bay on Wednesday and Cleveland on Friday.

Marte rewarded the crowd with a blast to right field for a two-run shot and the Mets were back on top, 5-4.

This was just Msrte’s second home run of the season, to go along with 12 RBI, and the three hits he had in this one boosted his average to .245.

Starling Marte greeting Brett Baty after his home run. Photo by Jason Schott.

“He’s a very proud man,” Showalter said of his right fielder. “You know, especially, like I said, the main thing, can you imagine having that type of stuff at your disposal and you can’t get to it, for wherever reason. It’s very frustrating for players in general, so I’m sure it’s had something to do with it.”

Robertson stayed on to finish it off in the ninth, and he was credited with the win to improve to 2-0 on the season.

Showalter said of Marte and Roberson bouncing back from adversity in this one, “I look at guys like him and Robbie - he gets picked off, Robbie gives up a home run to one of the best hitters in baseball and how they came back and responded after that is what separates them - that’s the separator. If you want to pull the dirt in and wallow around in self-pity, this game will swallow you up. You make a mistake, what are you going to do? There’s another opportunity to make it not matter. Starling, we have to keep in mind what he did this offseason (surgery on his broken finger), so it’s not going to just happen overnight.”


The nightcap featured a premier pitching matchup tailor-made for ESPN, as the Mets' Justin Verlander took on Cleveland's Shane Bieber.

Verlander surrendered an early home run to Jose Ramirez, which gave Cleveland an early 1-0 lead, and he dominated for nearly the rest of the game.

After his tough home debut against Tampa Bay last Tuesday in what turned out to be the Mets' only loss on this homestand, Verlander gave Mets fans visions of the ace that was signed as a free agent in the offseason. 

Justin Verlander fires a pitch early in Game 2. Photo by Jason Schott.

Cleveland was only able to scrap by a pair of singles after the home run, as Verlander went eight innings, allowing just three hits and did not allow a walk, while striking out five, and he threw an economical 98 pitches, with 65 strikes, to do it.

The Mets had chances against Bieber, as they had four hits over the first four innings, but they didn't break through until the sixth when Francisco Lindor went opposite field for a solo shot to tie the game at 1. It was the Mets' shortstop's seventh home run of the season, and he now has 33 RBI.

Francisco Lindor approaching his plate while tapping his chest on his home run. Photo by Jason Schott.

Just as Verlander did, Bieber was still on for Cleveland in the eighth, and Mr. Clutch Francisco Alvarez opened the inning with a single. 

Starling Marte, the Game 1 hero, went in to pinch-run, and after Brandon Nimmo popped out to second base, Lindor laced a single to center field that brought him all the way to third.

Jeff McNeil then hit a sacrifice fly to left field to bring in Marte and give the Mets a 2-1 lead.

The Mets turned to left-hander Brooks Raley, who threw a quick seventh inning in Game 1, to close it out. He was tested immediately by Steven Kwan, who bunted one that Raley fielded for the first out. Then, after Amed Rosario was hit by a pitch, Ramirez bounced into a double play to end it. This was Raley's first save of the season, and his superb pitching on the homestand shows what the Mets were missing when he missed the prior couple weeks on the injured list.  

After the first-inning home run, Ramirez grounded out twice to first base and had this double play to finish 1-for-4.

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