FLUSHING, NY — Consider this past Sunday’s split-admission doubleheader between the Cleveland Guardians and New York Mets at Citi Field, an instant classic, and one we’ll look back on for years to come. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, the Mets co-aces and future Cooperstown Hall of Famers, each in the 3,000 career-strikeout club, combined to go for 14 innings, allowing one run on six hits with a walk and 10 strikeouts.
Game 1 – Max Scherzer
6.0 IP, 3 Hits, 5 Strikeouts, 1 Walk
Game 2 – Justin Verlander
8.0 IP, 3 Hits, 1 Earned Run, 5 Strikeouts
Perhaps, this is what the Mets envisioned this past offseason when pairing the two three-time Cy Young Award winners back together. A lethal, dominant duo that gives their team the best chance to come out of the day with a win or in this case, two wins in the span of eight hours…
In Game 1 as the Mets came back in prime fashion, winning 5-4, Scherzer imposed his will on the Guardians offense, landing more than 75% first-pitch strikes, and controlled the zone by utilizing his secondary pitches. The 38-year-old right-hander totaled 86 pitches, 55 for strikes — 27 fastballs, 19 sliders, 15 curveballs and changeups each, and 10 cutters.
Max Scherzer, Pretty 76mph Curveball. 🌈 pic.twitter.com/5m92nBlIYa
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 21, 2023
Scherzer revealed in the postgame that his thumb callus split open in his last start against the Nationals and again during Sunday’s outing. He then went into depth on shifting the grip on his curveball and changeup to help avoid pain and any further injury.
“Surprisingly enough, when you bring your thumb up on your curveball, I actually found it was actually one of the pain-free pitches I could throw today. So, the curveball and changeup were pain-free for me today. Because of that, I was able to snap off some good curveballs and used it when I needed it.”
“The way I equate this, it’s like playing basketball with a sprained ankle,” he added.
“I checked with him every inning,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “He would’ve thrown 130 pitches if we needed him to. But, we don’t live in that world. We’re lucky to have him.”
Despite the obstacles, Scherzer recorded his 34th career start of six or more shutout innings with three or fewer hits allowed — tying Mets legend Tom Seaver for eighth-most in MLB history.
Now, in the Game 2 nightcap broadcasted on ESPN, a marquee matchup: Verlander vs. the 2020 American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber, depicted an old fashion pitcher’s duel. Verlander was sensational, becoming the first Mets starting pitcher to throw eight innings in a start this season while Bieber tossed eight innings of two-run ball with seven hits, two walks and four strikeouts.
Locked in. 🔒 pic.twitter.com/rkYVyjsLYv
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 22, 2023
Additionally, Bieber-Verlander marked the first game this season across MLB with both starting pitchers reaching eight+ innings. Something we may not see very often…
Nevertheless, the 40-year-old right-hander fell into his vintage groove following a Jose Ramírez first-inning solo-shot and set the tempo by relying on his four-seam fastball, slider and curveball. He totaled 98 pitches, 65 for strikes, and lowered his season-ERA from 4.76 to 3.60.
JV put on a Sunday night show. pic.twitter.com/UYKtwqnHqg
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 22, 2023
“He (Verlander) just doesn’t waiver, he’s convicted in what he does and he stays with it,” Showalter said following the Mets 2-1 Game 2 victory. “He had a lot of pitches working tonight. So did their guy (Bieber). He’s impressive, that’s the first time I really got to see him up close like that. I can see why, he’s tough.”
“That’s how you would draw it up on a day like today,” Verlander said about sharing a doubleheader with Scherzer.
Verlander is now 2-2 in four starts this year with 20 strikeouts across 25 innings. Although Scherzer has gone through several challenges in the early parts of the season, he is 3-2 in seven outings with 31 strikeouts and a 4.01 ERA.
Gary Sánchez Makes Mets Debut
Gary Sánchez, a former recipient of the American League LatinoMVP Rookie Award, made his Mets debut in Game 1, catching for Scherzer and stamped his mark on the victory, finishing 1-3 with a clutch RBI sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.
Gary Sánchez makes it 2-0 with a sac fly! pic.twitter.com/AeKBCWBeRz
— SNY (@SNYtv) May 21, 2023
The 30-year-old, of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was signed by the Mets earlier this month and got called up to the big-leagues this past Friday. Overall, Sánchez can provide well-needed depth for New York’s staff behind-the-plate as well as in the designated hitter role depending on certain matchups. Not to mention, he can play a part in mentoring Mets rookie Francisco Álvarez (Guatire, Venezuela).
Robert Rizzo is a journalist and co-editor of Latino Sports – Email: RobertRiz994@gmail.com
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