One part of Sunday’s game between the Mets and Rockies, which the Rockies won 1-0, was entirely predictable.
Max Scherzer flexed his muscles all over Colorado, which came into the game ranked 24th out of 30 teams in wRC+.
Rockies’ pitcher German Marquez filling the Mets’ bats with pudding, though, was much harder to foresee. No pitcher in the majors this season has given up more hard contact than Marquez, whose 5.22 ERA prior to his Sunday start was the highest among all qualified National League starters. A 2021 All-Star, who has filled the role of Rockies’ de facto ace many times, Marquez looked like his best self on Sunday.
For all seven of his innings, Marquez was nearly unhittable. The Mets scraped together one base hit and two walks against him. The 27-year-old righty retired ten in a row between Pete Alonso’s first-inning walk and Jeff McNeil’s fifth-inning single, the only Met hit of the afternoon before Colorado went to its bullpen. Marquez was able to use the Mets’ contact-oriented strategy against them, as the limited amount of strikeouts he racked up helped keep his pitch count down.
When Marquez was on the bump, the Mets made four outs on the first or second pitch of an at-bat. The only time they got a runner in scoring position against him — McNeil moved to second on a balk after breaking up the no-hit bid — Marquez swiftly struck out Tyler Naquin and got Brett Baty to line out. The Baty liner into center field was a blistering 104 mph, but in a perfect encapsulation of the Mets’ day at the plate, it found Garrett Hampson’s glove.
The game entered the seventh inning with just two combined hits: McNeil’s single and Colorado mainstay Charlie Blackmon’s bloop over third base during the top of the first. But C.J. Cron led off the visitor’s half of the seventh with a frozen rope into left field, then two infield hits (one actual bunt and one swinging bunt) loaded the bases. Scherzer didn’t go gently into the inning. He got Sam Hilliard to swing over a slider for the first out, but with the bases still drunk with Rockies, rookie catcher Brian Serven barreled a ball up for a sacrifice fly.
That was how this game was won. Baty tried to spark something in the eighth off reliever Carlos Estevez by knuckling a ball into the outfield for a one-out single. But neither pinch hitter Starling Marte nor Brandon Nimmo could get him in, even after a wild pitch scuttled Baty along to second.
For Scherzer, his 11 strikeouts moved him into a tie with Roger Clemens for third all-time in double-digit strikeout games. Both Scherzer and the Rocket have accomplished the feat 110 times, trailing Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. Scherzer fell short in his quest for 200 career wins though, and his teammates fell oddly short all day against a Rockies’ squad that had won just 18 of its 60 games away from Coors Field this season. The stellar outing for Scherzer lowered his season ERA to 2.27, and he has now pitched six or more innings each of the last 11 times he’s taken the ball.
All of those things are essentially meaningless in the Mets’ overall journey, though. Personal accolades and fun facts do not help a team lock up their division, which is still very much up for grabs given how well Atlanta has been playing in the second half.
Rockies’ closer Daniel Bard — a 37-year-old who Colorado’s front office bizarrely gave a two-year, $19 million contract extension to instead of getting something for him at the trade deadline — secured the final three outs to help the men in purple avoid a four-game sweep.
Winning three out of every four games is essentially how the Mets have gotten to this point in their glorious season, but when the one loss comes against a team like the Rox, it could go down as a mountainous missed opportunity depending on how the final standings look.