Strength of schedule doesn’t matter when the two teams in question play head-to-head — and the opener of the Mets’ big three-game series in Atlanta against the Braves went to the National League leaders.
Behind another masterclass from Max Scherzer and two RBI apiece from Luis Guillorme and Pete Alonso, the NL East leaders (54-33) defeated the Braves 4-1 on Monday night at Truist Park to extend their division lead to 2.5 games.
Scherzer, pitching in just his second game since returning from an oblique injury, went seven innings and allowed just one run — a seventh-inning blast to the dangerous Austin Riley — while striking out nine.
Over his last two outings (13 innings), the 37-year-old right-hander has allowed just one run on five hits while striking out 20.
He was given a 2-0 lead in the third inning when Pete Alonso snuck an RBI double down the third-base line on Braves All-Star starter Max Fried. Guillorme drove in the second when he beat out a double play with the bases loaded and one out.
While the damage was limited, Fried labored for most of the night — a far cry from his All-Star caliber. After walking just five batters during the entire month of June, he admitted five free passes to the Mets over five innings of work. His line at the end of the day could have been worse, but New York went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Scherzer cruised through the opening six innings, retiring 18 of the first 19 batters he faced. The lone baserunner during that span came in the form of former Met Robinson Cano, who signed with the Braves on Sunday and was quickly activated and started at second base to make his team debut against his old team.
Following Riley’s home run to make it a one-run game, Marcel Ozuna doubled to provide one final test for Scherzer. But the three-time Cy Young Award winner struck Eddie Rosario out to end his night on a high note — bouncing off the mound with an emphatic fist bump.
The flare continued in the top of the eighth when Guillorme immediately re-opened the Mets’ two-run advantage, taking Atlanta reliever Darren O’Day deep into the left-field seats with a bat flip, too boot, for his second home run of the season.
A light-hitting infielder, Guillorme seems to like hitting against O’Day as two of his four career home runs have come against the sidearmer.
Alonso picked up his second RBI of the night and another insurance run in the ninth when a fielder’s choice scored Brandon Nimmo from third. It was his 72nd RBI of the season, tying him with Mike Piazza (2000) for the second-most in franchise history before the All-Star break.
Edwin Diaz, as he’s done all season, emphatically shut the door by striking out the side in the ninth inning, raising his punchout total to 73 in just 36 innings of work.