Mets starter Max Scherzer Credit: Wiki (All Pro Reels)

It stood to reason that the Mets weren’t going to run away and hide from the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves this early in the season. There are too many ups and downs, numerous variables, over the 162-game Major League Baseball marathon. 

Despite the Mets holding a 10.5 game lead over the Braves in the National League East on June 1 with a record of 35-17, a little over a month later, they were 50-31, tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the most wins in the NL, but just 2.5 games up on Atlanta after a 1-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on the road on Tuesday night.

The Braves were inevitably going to close the gap as the Mets pitching staff was depleted by the absence of its two aces. Moving forward, the race will get tighter if the Mets bats waste great starts like the one Max Scherzer had on Tuesday in his return to the rotation. Pitching in a Major League game for the first time since May 18 recovering from an oblique strain, Scherzer had a season-high 11 strikeouts and didn’t give up a run, and the Reds had only two hits off of the 37-year-old righty in his six shining innings of work. Unfortunately for Scherzer, the Mets’ lineup was as feeble as he was imposing.

They mustered a mere six hits and were 0-8 with runners in scoring position. The Mets, who won the series opener 7-4 on the Fourth of July, looked to leave Cincinnati winning two out of three when the team’s began their scheduled game last night. They are set to face the Miami Marlins four games at Citi Field weather permitting, with Game 1 slated for tonight. 

“Tonight we gotta score some runs,” said Mets manager Buck Showalter after his team was shutout. “I was really impressed with [Scherzer’s] command more than anything, [to] take that much time off. He’s just a hard worker. 

“You had a rain delay. You had a couple of long innings…with a lot of their pitching changes…Other than the loss, didn’t score any runs, there was a lot of good things from Max’s standpoint. It’s been a long haul for him,’ expanded Showalter, “and all the people working with him, so hopefully it bodes well for what we hope is the rest of the season.”

Now the Mets are optimistically looking forward to two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom getting back into the rotation. DeGrom hasn’t pitched in the majors since being shut down by the Mets last July with forearm and elbow issues, and then sustained a stress fracture in his right shoulder bone during spring training ahead of this season. The 34-year-old righty struck out five of the six batters he faced in his first minor rehab start on Sunday. 

After the Marlins, the Mets will face the Braves next Monday through Wednesday in a three-game series in Atlanta.

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