Max Scherzer blanks Cards for seven, then Mets finish job with wild ninth-inning comeback

Jeff McNeil scored in a wild ninth that got the Mets a huge win Monday night. (Joe Puetz/Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS — Though each of Max Scherzer’s last two outings were brilliant, his next start was even better. But baseball games cannot be won by one star pitcher alone. After eight scoreless innings, the Mets offense finally woke up in the ninth and completed an incredible comeback to match Scherzer’s excellent performance.

The Mets were down to their final strike, trailing the Cardinals by two runs, in the top of the ninth inning when pandemonium ensued. The Mets finally got on the board after nine-time Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado recorded a throwing error. Then Dominic Smith, pinch-hitting for catcher Tomas Nido, came up clutch with a two-run single to first base. Paul Goldschmidt corralled the line drive, but Smith hustled down the line and slid head-first into first base a split second before pitcher Giovanny Gallegos reached the bag.

Jeff McNeil, who was safe at home plate representing the go-ahead run, joked: “Dom with the fastest 90 of his life, probably.” Brandon Nimmo padded on with a two-run home run to right field and the Mets completed the late comeback for a 5-2 win against the Cardinals on Monday night at Busch Stadium.

“I felt slow, but I was trying to run hard,” Smith laughed. “I knew I had a step on him. My first thought was to avoid the tag.”

Added Smith: “We’re a resilient team. I feel like we’re in it until the last pitch every night.”

Scherzer, who watched the thrilling comeback from the kitchen near the visitor’s clubhouse, threw seven shutout innings and struck out 10 in his no-decision. In his fourth start as a Met, Scherzer allowed just two hits and one walk across 101 pitches to St. Louis batters. It was the 106th time in Scherzer’s 15-year career that he struck out 10 or more batters in a game, and the effort lowered his season ERA to 1.80.

“We’re playing good team baseball,” Scherzer said. “Everyone’s got a hand in this, everyone’s doing something for the team on and off the field. We’ve got a great clubhouse right now. We’re just in the flow of things. We’ve come out of the gates pretty well, but we haven’t won anything yet. April’s April. Things get hairy here in the next few months, so that’s when we’ll get tested.”

The three-time Cy Young winner carried a 3-0 record for the first time in his career into his start Monday, but could not record his fourth straight win because the Mets offense struggled to generate any runs while he was on the mound.

Scherzer threw the kitchen sink at the Cardinals, incorporating his fastball, slider, changeup, curveball and cutter to whiff one batter after another. Though the Cardinals lead the National League West, seven batters in their starting lineup entered Monday hitting .250 or worse. Scherzer capitalized on St. Louis’ slow offensive start, holding the opposing lineup to an .083 average in his outing.

“Max and our pitching staff have been brilliant,” Smith said. “Obviously we didn’t get the run support that he needed for the win, but to even hang in there and then to come back and win a ballgame, it’s just very gratifying. It shows that when we stick at them and when we stick to our approach, then we still have a chance at the end of the game.”

Trevor May received the win on Monday even though he stumbled in the eighth inning, allowing four of his seven batters to reach base via three singles and a walk. With an offense that believes coming back from a two-run deficit is “easy,” as McNeil described it, the pair of runs that May coughed up wound up being negligible.

Mets manager Buck Showalter said his lineup’s five-run rally in the ninth inning was “worth the wait.” Showalter picked the correct moment to pinch-hit Smith for Nido, and it could not have worked out better for the veteran skipper and his first-place team. The Mets are 13-5 to start the year.

“These are games that you can reach back for and remember why you’re doing all of this,” said Showalter.