Max Scherzer strikes out 11 as Mets sweep Braves in DH

NEW YORK — Given how things tend to go around Willets Point, it was easy for some pockets of Mets fans to envision a worst-case scenario entering this weekend’s five-game series against the Braves. An Atlanta sweep would have pushed the Mets to second place for the first time since early April. More than that, it would have solidified the Braves as clear division favorites entering the stretch run of their NL East defense.

Such doomsday scenarios can be as much a part of Queens baseball culture as anything that happened in 1969 or ’86. But these Mets want no part of such cynicism. When the Braves trimmed New York’s NL East margin from 10 1/2 games on June 1 to just half a game on July 23, prompting Austin Riley to declare on Braves television that “we’re coming for them,” the Mets reeled off a seven-game winning streak to wrest back firm control of the division. When the Braves once again proved to be more active at the Trade Deadline, the Mets went out and beat them in a five-game series at Citi Field.

With a doubleheader sweep on Saturday, including an 8-5 win in the matinee and a 6-2 triumph in the nightcap, the Mets clinched that series victory over their closest division rival. What’s more, they looked like a team with no interest in being caught. Max Scherzer’s seven scoreless innings in Game 2 provided the latest vindication of the Mets’ decision to hand him a record-setting $130 million contract this offseason.

With Scherzer, the Mets have legitimized their contention. His 11-strikeout performance moved him into a tie with Justin Verlander for 14th place on the all-time list, while improving his record to 3-1 with a 1.37 ERA in seven starts since returning from the injured list. Pete Alonso collected three hits in the nightcap after Francisco Lindor did the same in the matinee, demonstrating how potent the Mets can be when their stars are clicking.

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