Max Scherzer’s return to the New York Mets‘ rotation on Tuesday night was a successful one, as he struck out a season-high 11 batters in six scoreless innings against the Cincinnati Reds, leaving after 79 pitches with the game tied 0-0.
Scherzer had last started for the Mets on May 18, when he left his start in the sixth inning and went on the injured list with an oblique strain. After two minor league rehab starts (and one dog bite that didn’t delay his return), Scherzer looked like his usual self in his start at Cincinnati. His fastball to strike out Matt Reynolds in the second inning was clocked at 97.1 mph, matching his fastest pitch of the season — and it was his fastest pitch on a strikeout since 2020. Overall, he induced 15 swings and misses, or 18.9% of his pitches, topping his season rate of 14% entering the game.
He also showed no issues with his control, throwing first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 21 batters he faced and 57 of 79 pitches overall, and looked much sharper than he did in his Double-A rehab start for Binghamton last week, when Hartford scored three runs off him in 4 2/3 innings and had several hard-hit balls. Indeed, this was Scherzer’s 28th career game with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks, passing Curt Schilling for the second-most such games in a career, trailing only Randy Johnson, who had 36.
The Reds went on to win 1-0 with a run in the bottom of the ninth off Seth Lugo.
Scherzer’s return comes at a good time for a Mets rotation that has scuffled a bit of late. With Scherzer leading the way, the Mets went 15-7 in April and the rotation posted a 2.52 ERA and held opponents to a .183 average and .515 OPS. Since May 19, the rotation had a 4.92 ERA, only 23rd-best in the majors, and opposing batters posted a .261 average and .765 OPS.
The Mets are also hoping to get Jacob deGrom back soon. He made his first rehab start on Sunday, striking out five of the six batters he faced in a Class A game (he hit the one he didn’t strike out) and hitting 100 mph in the process.