We know a few of the ways Max Scherzer spent his time on the injured list.
He made a start for Triple-A Syracuse on the 14th. After that game, he treated his minor league teammates to an immaculate feast. Over the weekend, he was back in the Citi Field clubhouse, razzing people about their preferred college football teams. But while Scherzer spent 15 days between pitching in major league games, he was mostly shrouded in mystery. His absence caused tension to build among Mets’ fans who watched the team stumble through a forest of bad opponents.
But on Monday, back from his spat with a left oblique injury, Scherzer left no doubt about what kind of pitcher he’d be after his second IL stint of the year. Scherzer was perfect in his six innings, retiring each of the 18 batters he faced, nine of them on strikeouts. He not only helped the Mets to a 7-2 win in Milwaukee, he earned the franchise its first postseason berth since 2016 while also netting the 200th win of his unbelievable career.
This was a total undressing of the Brewers. The Milwaukee hitters were the ones who looked like they were gone for two weeks, not Scherzer. Fastball after fastball seemed to teleport straight from Scherzer’s blessed right hand directly into catcher Tomas Nido’s glove. The Brewers were just there because somebody had to be, but it wouldn’t have mattered if it was peak Robin Yount or Prince Fielder facing Scherzer on Monday night, they were not going to touch him.
Scherzer threw 38 fastballs in this game. They averaged 95 miles per hour and produced nearly double the amount of called strikes or whiffs (13) as balls in play (7). The only thing that stopped Scherzer was his pitch count limit. As unfortunate as it is to pull a pitcher from a perfect game after just six innings and 68 pitches, the Mets made the pragmatic choice to save him for more important matters. Already winning 5-0 when he was yanked, with a potentially division-deciding series in Atlanta not far away, the Mets did not need Scherzer to do anything more on Monday.
“I knew where I’m at in this rehab process,” said Scherzer, who said the plan was for him to go about five innings or 75 pitches. “That’s what the win tonight is about.”
At 38 years old, perhaps two down periods this season will make Scherzer stronger when it matters most. The Mets admirably weathered the storm both times he was out — his first trip to the IL lasted seven weeks — and now it’s time for a slightly rested Scherzer to return the favor. After keeping the Brewers in a headlock, Scherzer’s ERA is down to 2.15, which would be the best in the National League if he had enough innings to qualify. Injuries notwithstanding, that’s exactly what the Mets would have asked for when they signed Scherzer to his record-breaking contract in November and the way he looked in Milwaukee is how they hope he looks in the postseason.
“This is what you play the game for,” Scherzer said afterward. “You play to get in the postseason. The fact that we got here — there’s a lot of ways for it not to work out — for us to be able to find a way is awesome.”
The perfect game left as soon as Scherzer did. Tylor Megill, making his first MLB appearance since June 16, had a perfect landing spot for his return. A five-run lead gave him a stress-free scoreboard situation — even if a perfect game was still intact — allowing him a cushy outing to begin his transition to the bullpen. Christian Yelich doubled on the second pitch Megill threw, evaporating the no-hitter and perfect game. Two batters later, Rowdy Tellez hit a soaring home run into right-center field.
With that, Megill can at least say he got the first one out of the way. His inaugural relief appearance lasted one inning and featured the Yelich and Tellez extra base hits as well as a strikeout to Willy Adames. Now that the playoffs are a guarantee, Buck Showalter can hopefully speak a little more openly about how Megill, David Peterson, Trevor Williams, Joely Rodriguez and the rest of the team’s low-leverage relievers factor into his postseason plans.
“I’m just happy for so many people and the hard work put in by everybody in the organization,” Showalter shared. “It’s step one. You gotta have step one to get to the rest of them.”
This postseason will be the first one for Pete Alonso. Already occupying some important pages in the overall story of the Mets’ franchise, the dopey power hitter will now get to test his strength on baseball’s biggest stage. He definitely had it on Monday, as Alonso opened the scoring by whacking a Corbin Burnes changeup 437 feet for his 36th home run of the season.
In less than a month, Alonso, Brandon Nimmo, Edwin Diaz and Jeff McNeil will make their long-awaited playoff debuts. October veterans like Scherzer, Francisco Lindor, Starling Marte and Adam Ottavino will play their first postseason games as a Met.
As exciting as it can be to look forward, the Mets will cherish all the moments that got them there, which now includes a memorable victory in Milwaukee that restored some glory to a playoff-starved organization.
“This is a lot of fun,” team owner Steve Cohen said in the postgame celebration. “It’s a lot better than losing, right?”