Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer works against the Colorado Rockies...

Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer works against the Colorado Rockies in the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, May 26, 2023, in Denver. Credit: AP/David Zalubowski

DENVER — Of all the recent signals that Max Scherzer is back to being Max Scherzer, this was the surest.

In shutting down the Rockies and pushing the Mets to a 5-2 win Friday night, Scherzer conquered a ballpark, Coors Field, that is known as a nightmare for pitchers and has presented problems for him throughout his career.

He allowed a lone run, on Ryan McMahon’s homer in the second, in a season-high seven innings, which required a season-high 102 pitches. He struck out eight, more than in any of his earlier outings, and walked none for the first time this year.

That was far better than any of his previous outings in the Mile High City, where he was winless with a 6.39 ERA, a 1.61 WHIP and a .902 opponents’ OPS in a half-dozen previous starts spread out from 2008-21.

“That’s right up Max’s alley,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Any time you tell him, ‘Hey, you won’t be able to do well,’ he’s going to figure out a way to prove you wrong.”

Usually, a starter’s numbers in that limited sample across such a long period wouldn’t be all that meaningful. In Denver, where the altitude creates pitch-movement and cardiovascular issues — and where Scherzer said earlier in the week he doesn’t like playing — it is more interesting.

The closest Scherzer came to looking wiped was in his final frame, when the first batter, McMahon, sent a grounder to first baseman Pete Alonso. Scherzer covered first on the play, a sprint of several seconds that required more energy than usual. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner gave him a breather by visiting the mound, the only time he did so all evening.


Colorado (22-30) managed six hits but had only two at-bats with runners in scoring position, including its last, against Scherzer. Ezequiel Tovar, representing the potential tying run, flied to center to strand men on second and third in the seventh.

Scherzer turned to see where the ball was headed, noted that Brandon Nimmo was settling under it in a routine manner and walked away from the play, pumping his fist without watching the out.

“You’re playing baseball on the moon. That’s the best way to describe it,” Scherzer said. “Knowing how your pitches play, knowing how their hitters react to different pitches, what pitches play up more here and less here, what you need to do. But at the end, it comes down to location. You gotta locate the baseball. For the most part today, I was able to locate the baseball, and that’s why you have success.”

In eight starts this season, Scherzer has a 3.54 ERA, the lowest it has been after any of those games. In three starts since returning from a brief bout of neck spasms, he has a 1.00 ERA.

“He’s gotten in a routine for the first time, it seems like, this year, where he’s taking the ball and pitching,” Showalter said.

Scherzer echoed that, speaking of his dynamic with catcher Francisco Alvarez: “I feel like we’re getting in a good rhythm. When we can get in a good rhythm, then we can get rolling.”

Nimmo got on base five times — two triples, three walks — and scored three runs. Francisco Lindor went 2-for-4 with four RBIs. They helped beat up Rockies starter Connor Seabold, who gave up four runs (three earned) in 4 2⁄3 innings.

When the Rockies brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth against Adam Ottavino, Lindor made one last major contribution.

Alan Trejo singled off third baseman Eduardo Escobar, seemingly loading the bases and bringing up the potential winning run. But Lindor picked up the ball in shallow left and Jeff McNeil called for him to throw it to second. Nolan Jones, promoted from the minors before the game, had wandered too far past the bag. Lindor made the throw and McNeil applied the tag for the penultimate out.

“Frankie’s head is always in the game,” Showalter said.

Lindor said: “That was all Jeff.”

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