Max Scherzer’s perfect return powers Mets over Brewers to clinch playoff berth
MILWAUKEE — Max Scherzer’s perfection Monday night served as the ideal springboard for the Mets to celebrate a playoff berth and the right-hander’s 200th career win.
In his return from the injured list, Scherzer retired all 18 batters he faced over six innings and struck out nine in helping the Mets clinch their first postseason appearance since 2016 with a 7-2 victory over the Brewers at American Family Field.
The Mets, with their fifth straight victory, maintained their one-game lead on Atlanta in the NL East race, but are assured at least a wild-card berth. They joined the Dodgers and Astros (both of whom already clinched their respective divisions) among MLB teams officially in the postseason.
Afterward, the team hoisted champagne glasses in a low-key celebration of the team’s success and Scherzer’s milestone win. Scherzer was presented with “Ace of Spades” champagne that he shared with teammates.
“This team has been tenacious — it never gave up the whole year,” said team owner Steve Cohen, who addressed the players postgame. “This is a special group of guys. They love each other. They are a team that enjoys playing together and you can see it.”
But Cohen suggested he’s not satisfied yet.
“This is just the first step,” Cohen said. “I have high expectations. If we can win the division that would be great — Atlanta is a great team and it will probably go down to the wire — and then we’ll see what happens in the playoffs. I think this is a team that can go really far.”
Manager Buck Showalter and general manager Billy Eppler also spoke to the players. The postgame celebration included a team photo on the field.
“It kind of hit me with two outs in the ninth,” Showalter said. “I went, ‘Wow, we’re an out away from being in there.’ I love to watch the guys feel what they deserve to feel. Winning 94 games is real hard … and Max winning his 200th, you couldn’t draw it up any better than that.”
The Mets held off on celebrating too big with the NL East still hanging in the balance, and a fairly low-key Showalter joked: “If we win the division you will see me do something stupid.”
Scherzer, who had been stuck on 199 career victories since beating the Braves four starts earlier, recorded No. 200 with a flourish. He needed only 68 pitches in handling the Brewers before departing — Showalter wasn’t going to push him in his return from an oblique irritation that cost him two starts. Scherzer joined Justin Verlander (243) and Zack Greinke (223) as the only active pitchers with at least 200 victories.
But Scherzer said the milestone is something he will reflect on during the offseason. For now, he would prefer to focus on the Mets.
“This is what you play the game for, you play to get into the postseason,” Scherzer said. “The fact that we got here, there’s a lot of ways for it not to work out. For us to find a way, that is awesome, that is what we celebrate. But we have a lot of things in front of us and we understand that, but man you have got to understand the good times too.”
Pete Alonso’s three-run homer in the fourth inning set the Mets toward the clinch. Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil singled in succession before Alonso fell behind 1-2 in the count to Corbin Burnes and blasted a shot into the left-field mezzanine. Alonso’s homer was his 36th this season and gave him 118 RBIs.
Brandon Nimmo and Lindor delivered consecutive triples in the sixth that extended the Mets’ lead to 4-0 before Daniel Vogelbach singled in another run. After Tylor Megill, in his relief debut for the club, surrendered a two-run homer to Rowdy Tellez in the seventh, the Mets rallied for two in the eighth.
“We have worked really hard and we performed and it just feels really good to secure a postseason spot,” Alonso said. “We have more to come. We know what the challenge ahead of us is, but you can’t just not celebrate special moments. We really do care about each other.”
The Mets’ 2016 ride (which followed a World Series appearance the previous year) ended with a wild-card game loss to the Giants. In the five seasons that followed, the Mets finished with a losing record four times and were largely removed from the race this deep into September.
In pandemic-shortened 2020, the Mets were mathematically alive the final weekend of the regular season — in an expanded playoff format — but finished with three straight losses in Washington and were shut out from the postseason.
“There’s been some hard years in there,” Nimmo said. “Especially in this market, they expect you to win and be in the playoffs and be a contender and when we weren’t doing that it hurt.
“There is still work to do, but once you get in all bets are off. It’s a new season — nobody cares what the regular-season record was. Nobody cares what your record against the other team was. It’s whoever gets hot at that time. The most important step we just accomplished in getting in there.”
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