Verlander outpitches Bieber, Mets sweep doubleheader, series from Guardians

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Justin Verlander Mets
New York Mets starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws against the Cleveland Guardians during the first inning of the second baseball game of a split doubleheader, Sunday, May 21, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

NEW YORK (AP) — Max Scherzer fired six shutout innings in the first game, then Justin Verlander threw a gem in the nightcap.

A pair of veteran aces in peak form, pitching back-to-back. Exactly what the New York Mets had in mind heading into this season.

Verlander outdueled Shane Bieber in a marquee matchup of Cy Young Award winners, and the resurgent Mets edged the Cleveland Guardians 2-1 on Sunday night for a doubleheader sweep.

Francisco Lindor homered against his former team and Jeff McNeil hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly off Bieber in the eighth to make a winner of Verlander (2-2), who gave up three hits and struck out five.

“That’s why I have such respect for people that things are expected of, whether it’s a team or an individual, and they still deliver,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “Because there’s such a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world. History’s history, but you’ve got to be able to repeat it when it’s expected. And that’s really hard to do.”

In the opener, Starling Marte hit a go-ahead, two-run homer off Trevor Stephan (2-2) in the eighth inning — his first extra-base hit since April 14 — that sent the Mets to a 5-4 win.

In just the second matchup of Cy Young Award winners this season — Scherzer started against Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara on opening day — Verlander became the first Mets pitcher to go eight innings this year.

“We’ve had so many exciting games this homestand and that’s what this team’s all about,” Verlander said. “Good to finish it off like this.”

Brooks Raley closed out New York’s fifth consecutive comeback victory — all by one run — since a 6-16 slide.

“I woke up this morning, I was like, ‘Oh, we’ve got Scherzer (and) Verlander going today, that’s pretty cool,’” Raley said with a grin.

José Ramírez hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning of Game 1 to give the Guardians a 4-3 lead before he connected against Verlander in the first inning of the nightcap.

Lindor homered off Bieber (2-2) in the sixth inning of Game 2 before rookie Francisco Álvarez singled leading off the eighth. Marte pinch-ran and dashed to third on Lindor’s check-swing single past shortstop before scoring on McNeil’s sacrifice fly.

“That’s what makes it fun — everybody’s jacked up because of the way we’ve been winning,” said Scherzer, who pitched through a callus on his right thumb.

Raley needed only five pitches in the ninth to earn his 10th career save and first for the Mets, finishing an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel that took just 2 hours, 6 minutes. He made a terrific defensive play on Steven Kwan’s drag bunt and got Ramírez to ground into a game-ending double play.

The left-hander also threw a scoreless seventh inning in the opener.

Bieber permitted seven hits in his fifth career complete game and first this season. He struck out four and walked two, throwing 106 pitches.

Verlander and Bieber became the first pitchers to complete at least eight innings in the same game this season.

“You have to credit the Mets,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “They put the ball in play and McNeil is a hard guy to strike out and he gets a sac fly. That ends up being the difference.”

Francona oversaw a postgame team meeting Sunday night for the Guardians, who had just 11 hits in the doubleheader as they fell to 20-26 — the furthest they have been under .500 since May 29, 2022. Cleveland recovered to win the AL Central by 11 games.

“Just don’t take anything for granted,” Francona said. “Play the game as right as you can and see where you end up.”

For more on the Mets, visit AMNY.com