There should be little to no debate as to whether the New York Mets are World Series contenders. Every aspect of their team, most notably their collective pitching staff, has the makeup of a group poised to be a champion, led by starter Max Scherzer and closer Edwin Diaz, the latter who has been the best in baseball at his job in 2022, accumulating 29 saves in 45 appearances with a 1.39 ERA.
Last Saturday’s 6-2 Mets’ win over the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field in Queens was a reminder of why Scherzer is an all-time great pitcher and the reason the organization signed him to a three-year, $130 million free-agent contract nine months ago that pays him an annual salary of $43,333,333, the largest in baseball history.
After Mets manager Buck Showalter had to exhaust his bullpen last Thursday and Friday in a split of the opening two games of a five-game series against their National League East rival Atlanta Braves, who were at the their neck for the division lead, and stretch it even further in an 8-5 win in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Scherzer took the ball in the nightcap and was resolutely masterful.
The 38-year-old veteran righty, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, four-time league wins leader and 2019 World Series champion with the Washington Nationals, knew his charge. To give the Mets length and put them in position for a victory. Scherzer delivered with seven scintillating innings, giving up just four hits, no runs and striking out 11 to lift his team to a 6-2 victory. The win bettered the future Hall of Famers record this season to 8-2 with a miniscule 1.98.
“This is what you play the game for,” Scherzer said. “You play to face the best, especially deep in the season. You grind it out here in the NL East.” His counterpart, Braves starter Max Fried, who took the loss despite six strong innings allowing six hits and two earned runs, gave Scherzer his flowers.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball,” said Fried. “Has been for a long time.”
The next day, in the series finale, pitcher Jacob deGrom, making just his second start of the season and first at Citi Field, reaffirmed his status as one of the best hurlers of his generation. The 34-year-old has battled arm and shoulder injuries for most of last season and this season, so there was warranted uncertainty among the Mets faithful if he could return to his near unhittable form.
Sunday was a resounding yes. DeGrom’s performance was astounding. He was perfect through five innings and ended up going 5.2 innings, surrendering two runs and striking out 12. The right hander’s fastball, hitting triple digits, and biting slider were virtually untouchable as the Mets finished off the Braves taking four of the five games. They are now 8-4 this season versus their main division rival.
By the time the Mets took the field at home yesterday afternoon with Tijuan Walker on the mound, they had captured the first two games of a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds, were on a five-game winning streak, and were 14-2 over their previous 16 games. Additionally, at 72-39, the Mets held a seven-game advantage over the Braves and had the second best overall record in MLB behind the 76-33 Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Mets begin a three-game series tomorrow at Citi Field against the Philadelphia Phillies then will have a four-game rematch with the Braves in Atlanta next Monday through Thursday.