Scherzer shines as Mets cool off Braves 4-1 in series opener

Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
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ATLANTA – In what he called “a measuring-stick win” in the opener of an NL East showdown, Max Scherzer was the difference-maker for the New York Mets.

Scherzer pitched seven strong innings, Luis Guillorme homered and drove in two runs, and the Mets beat Max Fried and the Atlanta Braves 4-1 on Monday night.

“They’re a great team over there and you want to come out and play your best baseball,” Scherzer said.

The right-hander was very close to his very best. Thanks to Scherzer’s outstanding performance, the first-place Mets stretched their division lead over the Braves to 2 1/2 games.

“It makes it great when you have the guy behind you throwing zeros,” Guillorme said. “Everybody knows one or two might be enough when he’s in the game.”

Pete Alonso also had two RBIs and Scherzer (6-1) gave up only three hits, including Austin Riley‘s 24th homer in the seventh. That cut the Mets’ lead to 2-1, but Guillorme answered with his homer off Darren O'Day in the eighth.

All-Star closer Edwin Diaz, pitching for the third straight day, struck out the side in the ninth for his 19th save.

Former Mets second baseman Robinson Cano, obtained by Atlanta for $1 in a minor league deal with the San Diego Padres on Sunday, had two hits in his Braves debut.

Scherzer had nine strikeouts with no walks in his second consecutive impressive start after missing almost seven weeks because of an oblique injury. The right-hander threw six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits, with a season-high 11 strikeouts in a no-decision against Cincinnati last Tuesday.

“For the second time out, that was really, really good, I thought,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said.

Scherzer did not feel any lingering effects from the oblique issue.

“I feel like the injury is really behind me now,” he said.

The successful return of the three-time Cy Young Award winner boosts New York hopes it can hold off Atlanta, the defending World Series champion.

Mets manager Buck Showalter said Scherzer overcame the challenge of “facing a really good team on the road in an atmosphere that was conducive to the home team. He’s a difference-maker.”

The Mets led the Braves by 10 1/2 games on June 1, but the lead was cut to 1 1/2 entering the series. The Braves went 29-8 and the Mets were 19-16 in that span going into Monday night.

Through 6 2/3 innings, Cano had Atlanta’s only hit off Scherzer, a single past Guillorme’s glove at second base with two outs in the third.

Riley lined a homer over the left-field wall with two outs in the seventh, ending Scherzer’s shutout bid. Marcell Ozuna followed with a double down the left-field line, but Scherzer pumped his right fist after striking out Eddie Rosario to end the inning.

Cano singled off Adam Ottavino with two outs in the eighth and moved to third on a double by Ronald Acuna Jr. Ottavino escaped on Dansby Swanson‘s groundout.

Fried (9-3) gave up two runs on five hits and five walks, matching his career high, in five innings. He also walked five batters in a 9-3 win over the Cubs on June 25, 2019.

Despite the walks, Fried has allowed no more than two earned runs in nine of his last 10 starts.

New York scored two runs in the third. Brandon Nimmo doubled and scored on Alonso’s double to left field. Alonso scored on Guillorme’s grounder.

Alonso added an RBI grounder in the ninth off Jackson Stephens to drive in Nimmo from third, increasing his major league-leading total to 72 RBIs.

RILEY ON A ROLL

Riley’s homer was his third in three games. He ranks second in the National League and is tied for fourth in the majors with 24. It’s the third streak of homers in three or more consecutive games in his career. Last season, he had homers in four straight games from July 27-30.

POWER VS. BRAVES

Guillorme hit only his second homer of the season. Each has come against Atlanta. He hit his third career homer on May 4 against the Braves in New York.

“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” Guillorme said. “I was just trying to put a good swing on the ball. … It doesn’t happen that often for me, but it’s great when it does.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: RHP Jacob deGrom (stress reaction, right scapula) is scheduled to make his third minor league rehab start for Triple-A Syracuse on Thursday and could be activated soon after the All-Star break. … All-Star 2B/OF Jeff McNeil was placed on the paternity list. … OF Travis Jankowski (broken left hand) started in right after he was reinstated from the 10-day injured list. … RF Starling Marte (left groin tightness) was held out for the second consecutive game.

Braves: RHP Kenley Jansen (irregular heartbeat) threw in the bullpen and appears set to return from the 15-day injured list this week. … OF Adam Duvall was reinstated from the paternity list. … With Cano’s acquisition, INF Phil Gosselin was designated for assignment and 1B Mike Ford was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.

UP NEXT

Hard-throwing RHP Spencer Strider (4-2, 2.60 ERA) will try to continue his impressive rookie season for Atlanta when he faces LHP David Peterson (5-1, 3.48) in the middle game of the series Tuesday night.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.