It was the best pitching matchup of the season that a big chunk of the U.S. was unable to watch.
Max Scherzer struck out 11 over six innings and combined with three relievers on a shutout as the Tigers beat the Mets 3-0 on Saturday.
Matt Harvey took the loss after giving up two runs in 6 2/3 innings. Oddly enough, he surrendered 13 hits. That’s three more than he had ever allowed previously. He entered the day with a .199 batting average-against this season. The Tigers, though, hit .406 against him.
Perhaps most interesting, Harvey allowed hits to the last four hitters he faced, without ever giving up a run. All four hits were singles, and Omar Infante was thrown out at home on the third of them. After the fourth, Scott Rice replaced him and got Torii Hunter to hit into an inning-ending groundout.
Scherzer’s win moved him to 19-1 on the season. He has a realistic chance of finishing with the best winning percentage ever, minimum 20 decisions:
.950 – Max Scherzer – 2013 Tigers (19-1)
.905 – Greg Maddux – 1995 Braves (19-2)
.900 – Randy Johnson – 1995 Mariners (18-2)
.893 – Ron Guidry – 1978 Yankees (25-3)
.886 – Lefty Grove – 1931 Athletics (31-4)
.880 – Cliff Lee – 2008 Indians (22-3)
.880 – Preacher Roe – 1951 Dodgers (22-3)
With 33 games left in the Tigers’ season, Scherzer probably has six starts remaining. If he can avoid losing more than one of them and he can win at least one more game, then he’ll top Maddux’s .905 winning percentage from 1995.
The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.
In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.
On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.
Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.