Mets hope ace Max Scherzer can top Braves, stay healthy

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets will bring out their two big guns to start the final two games of their four-game series in Atlanta.

Now if they can only stay healthy enough to get past the second inning.

The Mets lost their starting pitcher after two innings for the second straight game against the Braves on Tuesday. Taijuan Walker left with back spasms after throwing only 32 pitches.

On Monday, Carlos Carrasco exited with a left oblique strain that landed him on the injured list.

Now, with Atlanta having won the first two games of the series, the Mets need a big finish from Max Scherzer on Wednesday and Jacob deGrom on Thursday. The Braves have trimmed the Mets’ lead in the National League East to 3 1/2 games.

“I feel like we are a unit and really doing well as a unit,” said Scherzer, a right-hander. “Going out there and providing quality starts to the team and being consistent. We are the backbone of the team. Let the hitters be the muscle and we’re the backbone. You can’t win without backbone.”

Atlanta manager Brian Snitker knows the final two games of the series won’t be easy.

“We’re aware that we’re facing two of the game’s best in the next two days,” Snitker said. “But anything can happen. If you go up with that bat and swing it, you’ve got a chance. They’re two of the premier pitchers in the league, and you know that going in. You still get after it and compete and see what happens.”

Scherzer (8-2, 1.93 ERA) will be opposed by Atlanta right-hander Jake Odorizzi (4-4, 3.80) on Wednesday.

Scherzer is coming off a seven-inning stint against Philadelphia on Friday, when he allowed one run on nine hits and six strikeouts. It was the seventh time he has pitched at least seven innings and allowed one or fewer runs.

Scherzer is 12-9 with a 3.62 ERA in 29 career appearances (27 starts) against the Braves. He threw seven scoreless innings and fanned 11 without allowing a walk against Atlanta on Aug. 6 in the second game of a doubleheader.

Odorizzi was acquired by Atlanta from Houston at the trade deadline to provide depth for the team’s young starting rotation. He is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in two starts since joining the club. The veteran worked four innings and allowed two runs on eight hits, one walk and two strikeouts in his last start against Miami on Friday.

He took the loss against the Mets in his Atlanta debut on Aug. 6 when he allowed three runs, two earned, in 4 2/3 innings in the first game of the twin bill.

The Mets might have highly regarded third baseman Brett Baty in the lineup. Baty, their first-round draft pick in 2019 and rated as their No. 2 prospect, was called up on Tuesday. He was hitting .315 with 19 homers in 95 minor league games split between Double-A and Triple-A.

Infielder Luis Guillorme was placed on the injured list with a groin strain, and Eduardo Escobar, who has lingering issues with his left oblique, was a late scratch on Tuesday. Escobar could be headed for the IL.

The Braves recalled right-hander Freddy Tarnok and middle infielder Ryan Goins, designated Danny Young for assignment and put reserve catcher Chadwick Tromp on the injured list.

–Field Level Media

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images

TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.