The Mets are starting to come around. Emphasis on starting.
Max Scherzer became the latest starter to silence the Phillies in a 4-2, sweep-clinching victory at Citi Field on a gorgeous afternoon for the 38,302 on hand and for the Mets.
The Mets (30-27) outplayed Philadelphia (25-31) in the three-game set, won their eighth straight home game and await the Blue Jays, who visit Queens on Friday.
In a series in which the Mets dominated, their bats were barely needed. Kodai Senga, Carlos Carrasco and Scherzer combined to pitch 20 innings in which they gave up two earned runs.
The Mets improved to 16-0 in games their starter goes at least six innings, a testament to both strong bullpen work and the sky-high upside of a rotation with two future Hall of Famers, one of whom starred Thursday.
“He’s been Max,” manager Buck Showalter said of Scherzer, who confirmed as much.
“I’m just pitching like myself,” said Scherzer, who has allowed three earned runs in 25 innings since missing a turn due to neck spasms. “I know what I can do.”
Scherzer allowed two runs — just one earned — in seven innings in which he mixed in plenty of changeups, sliders, curveballs and cutters, which allowed him to continually put hitters away with fastballs.
Senga has given up four runs in his past three starts.
Carrasco, after a rough beginning to the season and an elbow injury, has sliced his ERA from 8.68 to 5.74 with two quality starts.
With Justin Verlander — coming off a rough outing in Coors Field — pitching Friday and Jose Quintana rehabbing, a healthy and rolling Mets rotation is within view.
Scherzer, who had been sidelined with both injuries (the neck, right scapula discomfort) and suspensions (10 games for a failed sticky-stuff inspection), finally looks healthy and rolling.
The 38-year-old struck out nine and allowed just five hits and a walk.
After a sideways first inning, Scherzer only allowed one batter (Nick Castellanos in the fourth inning) to reach scoring position. Scherzer bore down and got Kody Clemens to ground out to escape.
Scherzer’s fastball had more velocity and induced 15 swings and misses.
“Fastball’s good, but I’m older now. I don’t throw the same way I used to throw,” said Scherzer, whose ERA is down to 3.21. “But I got so many offspeed pitches, it makes the hitters worry about what they have to guard against. And so my fastball plays up because of that.”
Once Scherzer was pulled, Jeff Brigham, Brooks Raley (pitching for a second straight day) and Drew Smith (second career save) recorded the final six outs.
Showalter stayed away from David Robertson and Adam Ottavino, who had pitched in the first two games of the series, and the bullpen middlemen came through.
The Mets’ pitching did not need much assistance from the club’s batters, who relied on timely hits (a few) rather than an abundance of hits (finishing with four).
The Mets, down 2-0 in the third inning, drew a pair of two-out walks against ex-Met Taijuan Walker before Jeff McNeil singled to drive in Brandon Nimmo.
An inning later, the suddenly hot Mark Canha drilled a Walker fastball to left for a two-run homer, his second in as many days after the outfielder went 19 straight games without homering.
“All it takes is a couple good swings to get you feeling good,” said Canha, who had knocked in 12 runs in his first 47 games and now has six RBIs in two games. “If you look at my last couple days, I’ve had three good swings. All of a sudden in 48 hours it’s gone from ‘Mark Canha struggling,’ and now I’m ‘picking it up.’ All it takes is a few good swings.”
The blast gave the Mets a lead they padded in the sixth, when Brett Baty doubled, reached third on a Starling Marte bunt and scored on a successful pinch hit from Mark Vientos, who barrelled up a sacrifice fly to center.
Forgotten by the end was the troublesome beginning, when the Phillies scored two runs with one hit and one Baby Met error in the first.