There was a multitude of reasons why Justin Verlander could have felt good about his gem on Wednesday night in the Mets’ 2-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
In just his second start as a member of the Mets following a five-week rehab stint stemming from a shoulder strain, he followed up a tough team debut with seven innings of two-hit ball, allowing just one run with seven strikeouts — which included four punchouts in the final five batters he faced.
After allowing a run-scoring double to Jake Fraley and a walk to Tyler Stephenson in the first inning, Verlander retired 18 of the final 19 batters he faced to exhibit his first flash of dominance in blue and orange.
“It felt more normal,” Verlander said (h/t SNY). “I’m still making some mechanical adjustments and finding my timing. I made a few minor tweaks during the game especially there during the third inning that all of a sudden I felt right and I went from there and kept that feeling.”
Verlander’s ace-like performance could not have come at a better time for the Mets, either. Not only did a 2-1 win provide a positive result after losing 12 of 15 games, but a deep outing finally gave New York’s bullpen a break after being overworked and shuffled around.
Mets starting pitchers had seen the sixth inning just three times in their previous 15 games as they’ve dealt with the absence of Verlander, Carlos Carrasco, and Jose Quintana along with the 10-game suspension of Max Scherzer, who was then scratched before Tuesday’s game in Cincinnati due to neck spasms.
“I know there hasn’t been a lot of length recently and hopefully that comes,” Verlander said. “Your job as a starting pitcher when it’s your day and you know the bullpen is a little taxed is to go out there and eat some innings — and hopefully quality innings. To be able to do that, it felt great and hopefully it can jump-start our rotation and just win some games.”