New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer delivers against the...

New York Mets starting pitcher Max Scherzer delivers against the Philadelphia Phillies during the second inning at Citi Field on Thursday, June 1, 2023. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

There was a moment early in the Mets’ 4-2 win over the Phillies on Thursday afternoon when Max Scherzer seemed off to a sketchy start. 

Trea Turner’s single, Bryce Harper’s walk, Francisco Alvarez’s throwing error on their double steal and Nick Castellanos’ deep sacrifice fly put the Mets in a two-run hole in the top of the first inning. Scherzer pushed toward 20 pitches with one out recorded. A Phillies lineup that has vastly underperformed vaguely threatened to wake up. 

But then Scherzer flipped his switch, finishing seven innings with just those two runs (one earned) allowed. He struck out a season-high nine and walked one. 

The Mets (30-27) swept the Phillies (25-31), winning three games by a total of seven runs. 

In four starts since returning from a bout of neck spasms, Scherzer has a 1.08 ERA and 28 strikeouts (four walks) in 25 innings. 

Any notion of him being washed up at 38 years old can be set aside for now. 

“I’m just pitching like myself,” Scherzer said. “I know what I can do.” 

 

What satisfied Scherzer most this time was the sequencing of his pitches, which he credited largely to his batterymate, Alvarez, a rookie catcher. They stayed unpredictable — irrational, Scherzer sometimes says — in choosing what to throw where and when. 

Their formula relied heavily on Scherzer’s fastball, of course, but that pitch looked even better than normal because he commanded his four other options, which he used about equally: changeup, slider, curveball and cutter. 

“Fastball is good, but I’m older now, I don’t blow the same way as I used to throw,” he said. “But I got so many offspeed pitches, it makes the hitters worry about what they have to guard against, so my fastball plays up because of that.” 

Manager Buck Showalter said, comparing him to Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine: “He’s just been Max. I marvel at him, at the level he does it at, at this stage of his career. As the pure stuff starts [to go] a little down, the knowledge of pitching and everything comes up.” 

Scherzer went out of his way to heap more heavy praise on Alvarez. 

“He just has instincts. You can never teach instincts. You either have it or you don’t. He’s got that it factor,” he said. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders, too, being a young kid wanting to learn. We’ve got a great clubhouse of veterans here to learn from and he’s doing a great job of that. As good as he’s doing right now, he just needs to continue to learn and continue to get experience and he’ll continue to get better.” 

Against ex-Met Taijuan Walker, the subject of a brief pregame tribute video before his first game back at Citi Field, the Mets scored three runs in four innings. He exited after just 74 pitches, his velocity lower than normal — the latest in a series of red flags in the first season of his four-year, $72 million contract with the Phillies. Walker has a 5.65 ERA and said afterward he was healthy. 

Jeff McNeil had the Mets’ first hit, which brought in their first run following consecutive two-out walks in the bottom of the third. An inning later, Mark Canha had the big blow, a two-run, go-ahead homer. 

Canha homered twice in less than 24 hours, matching his total from the previous 6 1/2 weeks. 

In his most recent three games against the Phillies, Canha has homered four times. Each of those tied the game or put the Mets on top. 

“It’s just coincidental that I’m doing well against the Phillies,” Canha said. “But it’s a divisional opponent, so I’m happy to help. These are big wins that are great to get.” 

Showalter observed: “Regardless of who it is and whether they’re in our division or not, you don’t get extra points. It’s like a home run — you don’t get a run and a half for hitting it real far.” 

Up next for the Mets is the high-scoring Blue Jays. The Mets are 16-0 when their starter lasts at least six innings and are now 6-0 when their starter lasts at least seven.

“We’re pitching well. But this is the big leagues. Just because you’re pitching well today doesn’t mean you pitch well tomorrow,” Scherzer said. “The Blue Jays come into town, they’re a great team. Then we go to Atlanta, they’re a great team. Yeah, you get a pat on the back today, but that doesn’t mean anything about tomorrow.”

ONE-DAY SALE26¢ for 5 6 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME