Max Scherzer turned in a stellar performance for the New York Mets in his return from an oblique injury.
Perhaps more importantly for the NL East leaders, the ace right-hander felt good the entire time on a steamy Tuesday night in Cincinnati.
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Scherzer struck out 11 while pitching six innings of two-hit ball, but New York lost 1-0 to the last-place Reds on Mike Moustakas’ game-ending sacrifice fly.
Scherzer, who turns 38 in three weeks, had been sidelined by a strained oblique muscle on his left side. It was his first big league game since May 18.
“I felt great,” he said. “No issues whatsoever today. Felt strong all the way through. (The oblique) never tightened up on me, so that’s a good thing.”
Mets manager Buck Showalter took Scherzer out after 79 pitches — mostly fastballs and sliders — but the ace believed he could have gone deeper into the game.
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“This is a good problem to have,” Scherzer said. “Buck is going to make the best decision for the ballclub and for my health and my long-term health, so I completely understand where he’s coming from. With that being said, I didn’t have any problems tonight. I felt good. I felt strong. I had nothing tighten up. I wanted to get to that 90, 95 pitch count.”
Tommy Pham led off the Cincinnati ninth with a double into the right-field corner against Seth Lugo (1-2). It was the Reds’ fourth hit of the game.
Tyler Naquin was walked intentionally before Donovan Solano walked to load the bases. Moustakas’ deep fly ball to center drove in Pham with the game-winner.
“It is kind of how you want to draw it up when you’re coming up to win the game,” Moustakas said. “You just get a pitch to hit and don’t miss it.”
Reds rookie Nick Lodolo combined with four relievers on a six-hitter. Lodolo struck out eight and gave up just three hits in 4 2/3 innings in his return from a back injury.
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It was Lodolo’s first major league game since April 24.
“Lodolo — as good as he was — that lineup made him work,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He was really on a mission.”
Hunter Strickland (2-2) got three outs for the win.
“I’m so happy for the bullpen, they kept us right there,” Bell said.
“I know the players are frustrated to have that kind of outing, but I knew that their pitcher was going to be a challenge before the game,” Showalter said of Lodolo. “Watching a lot of stuff on him and talking to people, we knew he was going to be a challenge for us tonight. I was hoping it wasn’t that much of a challenge as it ended up being.”
The Reds threatened in the eighth, putting runners on second and third with one out. But Tommy Hunter got Jonathan India to pop out and Brandon Drury to fly out to right.
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There was a 53-minute weather delay before the start of the game. But it never rained.
Pham prevented a potential extra-base hit in the Mets ninth when he went into the left-field corner to snag a deep fly off the bat of Jeff McNeil.
Reds: RHP Tony Santillan (back) was transferred to the 60-day injured list. … RF Tyler Naquin (strained quadriceps) was back in the lineup for the first time since May 31.
The Reds claimed right-hander Ian Gibaut off waivers from the Dodgers. They also optioned utilityman Max Schrock and catcher Mark Kolozsvary to Triple-A Louisville. Catcher Chris Okey was designated for assignment. … To make room on the roster for Scherzer, the Mets designated lefty Chasen Shreve for assignment.
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Right-hander Graham Ashcraft (4-2, 4.53 ERA) starts for the Reds against Mets lefty David Peterson (5-1, 3.24 ERA). Ashcraft was tagged for seven runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings in a 15-7 loss to the Cubs last week. Peterson is coming off the paternity list to start for New York.