Max Scherzer’s return from nearly seven weeks on the injured list went about as well as the Mets could have scripted Tuesday night.
But in a case of mistaken identity, Scherzer’s teammates evidently thought he was Jacob deGrom.
That meant nothing in terms of run support, nullifying the zeroes Scherzer placed on the scoreboard against the Reds.
Mike Moustakas hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth that accounted for the only run in the Mets’ 1-0 loss at Great American Ball Park.
Seth Lugo, pitching for a second straight night, loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth: Tommy Pham doubled leading off and Tyler Naquin was intentionally walked before Donovan Solano walked. Moustakas ended it with a drive to medium center field.
Scherzer was brilliant over 79 pitches that encompassed six shutout innings in which he allowed two hits and struck out 11. He finished strong, retiring the last eight batters he faced, six of them by strikeout.
Before Scherzer’s return from a left oblique strain, Francisco Lindor tried to downplay the idea the right-hander would be a savior, putting an emphasis on the team as a whole.
“It’s not their job to save our season,” Lindor said, referring to Scherzer and deGrom, who is rehabbing at Single-A. “We all have to do whatever it takes to help the team win on a daily basis. These guys are just a part of the team, so they are going to going to go out there and give us a chance to win. If Max comes out and doesn’t win, it is what it is. Who cares? You have got to move on.”
The Reds didn’t get a three-ball count against Scherzer until the fifth, when Matt Reynolds went ahead 3-1 before striking out. Michael Papierski then whiffed, completing a strikeout of the side. Scherzer’s performance was the 107th of his career in which he reached double digits in strikeouts.
Scherzer had to work through a second inning in which he threw 22 pitches, escaping with a strikeout of Reynolds. In the inning Scherzer allowed a single to Solano before Moustakas was drilled by a pitch.
The Reds didn’t get another base runner until Naquin’s single in the fourth, but Solano and Moustakas struck out in succession to end the inning.
Scherzer’s first inning went about as smoothly as he could have wanted: nine pitches and three outs, which included a strikeout of Jonathan India leading off the frame.
Joely Rodriguez pitched a perfect seventh for the Mets before Tommy Hunter escaped a jam in the eighth to keep the game scoreless. The Reds got runners to second and third with one out on a single, walk and sacrifice bunt. Hunter responded by retiring India and Brandon Drury.
Reds left-hander Nick Lodolo frustrated the Mets with 4 ²/₃ scoreless innings in which he allowed three hits and three walks. The Mets had their best chance against him in the second, when Mark Canha and Jeff McNeil singled and advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. But Lodolo struck out J.D. Davis before James McCann was retired to end the threat.
In the first inning, Starling Marte walked and stole second but was left stranded. Marte singled in the third and was picked off first base — after taking steps toward second — by the catcher Papierski.
Canha hit a grounder in the sixth that India threw away (ruled a single and error), but was left stranded at second base.