Outstanding pitching was the story in the Mets’ doubleheader loss Saturday to the Nationals. Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey were brilliant, but paled in comparison to Max Scherzer, who struck out 17 in no-hitting the Mets, 2-0, in the second game.
In doing so, he became the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in one season, and first since Nolan Ryan in 1973.
“I felt great tonight,” Scherzer said. “I had command of all of my pitches. These things are special. To do it twice in one season, my gosh, it doesn’t seem possible.”
Scherzer lost his perfect game bid in the sixth on Yunel Escobar‘s throwing error. He struck out nine of the last 10 Mets, with the game ending on a pop-up by Curtis Granderson. He also lost a perfect game chance when he hit a batter in the eighth inning of his June 20 no-hitter over Pittsburgh.
“He made every pitch he had to make,” said Mets manager Terry Collins, whose team has lost five straight and scored only nine runs in that time. So weak has been the Mets’ offense that it has scored one run in the last 35 innings.
In being swept, and with the Dodgers beating San Diego, the Mets kicked away home field, and Game 1 will begin Friday in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw. Sunday’s starter, Jacob deGrom, will pitch Game 1 for the Mets.
With several key injuries and a struggling offense, the Mets have their issues entering the playoffs. Syndergaard is not among them. Overpowering isn’t an adequate enough description of what Syndergaard was to the Nationals. In the final start of his rookie season, Syndergaard gave up two hits in seven innings with 10 strikeouts in getting a no-decision in the Mets’ 3-1 loss in the first game.
Earlier this year, there was concern about Syndergaard’s ability to win on the road, but seeing how he stuffed Cincinnati last weekend, that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.
Another positive was Harvey, who gave up one run in six innings with 11 strikeouts in an impressive tune-up for the pivotal Game 3. Harvey finished the season with 189.1 innings, 9.1 more than the proposed hard cap.
The flip side is Steven Matz, the projected Game 4 starter, who took an injection for his sore back. Matz’s start this week in Philadelphia was scratched and it was hoped he would throw several innings this weekend.
Now the thinking is the Mets will send him to the Instructional League this week. The better thinking would be to hold him off the NLDS roster, knowing they could bring him back in the proceeding rounds. Why take the risk of a re-injury, especially with a five-game first round the Mets have depth in Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese? They would lose that advantage in a seven-game NLCS and World Series.
Actually, the best decision could be to shut him down for the year.
Matz isn’t the Mets’ only injury concern.
Utility infielder Juan Uribe has a slight cartilage tear in his chest and might not be ready for the first round. Uribe has been a spark on the field and calming influence in the clubhouse. His absence was felt in the second game when Kelly Johnson – who hasn’t played third for the Mets – committed an error in place of David Wright to set up the Nationals’ first run.
Yoenis Cespedes, who has two bruised fingers on his left hand after being hit by a pitch, returned and went 1-for-3 in the first game. Cespedes appeared in the ninth inning in the second game as a pinch hitter and was Scherzer’s 16th strikeout victim.
Infielder Wilmer Flores has been bothered by back spasms. He didn’t play in either game and has missed seven of the last nine games.
Collins is not happy with how the Mets are closing.
“We’ve got to get the edge back,” Collins said. “We got to get the focus back, the concentration back. Those are the things that when you clinch early, you can lose. And those are the things we’ve got to regain.”
How long their season lasts depends on it.