Scherzer perfect for 6 in return, wins 200th as Mets clinch

New York Mets v Milwaukee Brewers
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MILWAUKEE – For the New York Mets, a playoff spot was certainly worth celebrating. Even if they still have bigger goals on the table in the middle of a heated pennant race.

Max Scherzer was pulled from his 200th win with a perfect game intact, and the Mets clinched their first trip to the postseason in six years by beating the Milwaukee Brewers 7-2 on Monday night.

Reinstated from the injured list before the game, Scherzer (10-4) struck out nine in six innings. The 38-year-old ace threw only 68 pitches, but that was as far as the NL East leaders let him go in his first start in 16 days.

Brewers star Christian Yelich doubled leading off the seventh against Tylor Megill, making his first major league relief appearance after 27 starts. Megill also came off the injured list earlier in the day.

Pete Alonso hit a three-run homer off reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes (10-8), and the Mets won their fifth straight to wrap up at least one of the three National League wild cards. They lead their division by one game over defending World Series champion Atlanta, which beat Washington 5-2 at home.

“This is what you play the game for. You play the game to go to the postseason,” Scherzer said. “We have a lot of things in front of us and we understand that. But, man, you’ve got to celebrate the good times, too.”

Mets players and coaches hugged and high-fived on the field after the final out, then enjoyed a boozy but subdued celebration in the clubhouse.

“This is just the first step. I have high expectations,” owner Steven Cohen, wearing a Mets cap, said after giving a postgame speech to the team. “If we can win the division, that would be great. Obviously, Atlanta is a great team, and it will probably go down to the wire, and then we’ll see what happens in the playoffs. I think this is a team that can go really far.”

It is the 10th postseason appearance in the franchise’s 61-season history, and first since the Mets lost to San Francisco in the 2016 NL wild-card game.

“We understand this is not the end goal, but it’s part of our destiny,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said.

Mets players took a group photo and selfies on the field after the game. In the clubhouse, Scherzer held a bottle of Ace of Spades champagne while drinking out of a paper Gatorade cup.

“It’s a mature group that revels, stays in the moment,” first-year Mets manager Buck Showalter said.

Scherzer was activated Monday after recovering from left oblique irritation. Showalter said before the game “we’re not going to go too deep with Max physically” in his first big league start since Sept. 3.

On his fourth try for win No. 200, the three-time Cy Young Award winner fanned Yelich, Willy Adames, Hunter Renfroe and Garrett Mitchell two times each.

Andrew McCutchen hit a line drive to right field off Scherzer in the second, but it was caught by a sliding Tyler Naquin to end the inning.

Scherzer sprinted to the mound before each inning. He often had the ball in hand before most of his teammates emerged from the dugout.

A smiling Scherzer received a hearty round of high-fives from teammates when he returned to the dugout after the sixth, indicating he was done for the night.

“Our chemistry is unparalleled,” said Alonso, headed to the playoffs for the first time in his career.

Scherzer exited his previous start with fatigue on his left side and went on the IL with oblique irritation. He also went on the injured list with a left oblique strain in May and was activated July 5.

“He didn’t give us many pitches to hit,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Lots of strikes, got ahead of us. We didn’t do anything against him.”

The loss dropped Milwaukee 8 1/2 games behind first-place St. Louis in the NL Central and 2 1/2 games back of Philadelphia for the third NL wild card. The Brewers had won two of three games against the Yankees in Milwaukee over the weekend.

With one out in the fourth, Burnes gave up consecutive singles before Alonso hit a 1-2 changeup 437 feet for his 36th home run to stake New York to a 3-0 lead.

Alonso’s 118 RBIs lead the NL.

New York (94-55) extended its lead to 5-0 in the sixth after back-to-back triples by Brandon Nimmo and Lindor, and an RBI double by Daniel Vogelbach.

The previous Mets players to hit consecutive triples were Jose Reyes and Jason Bay in April 2010.

Rowdy Tellez hit a two-run homer off Megill in the seventh, his 32nd.

It was the Mets’ first win in Milwaukee since May 2018. They had lost their last nine road games against the Brewers, and 14 of the past 15.

“A lot of blood, sweat and tears poured into this. Many years of hard work to try and get to this point,” Nimmo said about reaching the playoffs. “It’s been a little bit of a drought. … We’re excited to celebrate it and enjoy this.”

EXCLUSIVE CLUB

Scherzer (200-101) joined Justin Verlander (243 wins) and Zack Greinke (223) as the only active pitchers with 200 career wins.

UP NEXT

The middle game of the series is Tuesday night. LHP Aaron Ashby (2-10, 4.58 ERA) returns from a stint on the IL with left shoulder inflammation to start a bullpen game for Milwaukee. New York goes with RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-6, 3.70). He gave up one run over six innings in each of his last two starts, striking out 17 total batters.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.