HOUSTON (AP) — Max Scherzer went back to basics with his slider and it led to a fantastic performance.
Francisco Lindor homered and drove in five runs, and Scherzer pitched eight strong innings for his longest outing with the New York Mets in their 11-1 victory over the skidding Houston Astros on Monday night.
Scherzer (6-2) gave up four hits and struck out eight to rebound from consecutive rough starts against the Braves and Yankees. He was tagged for seven hits and six runs over 3 1/3 innings last week in a no-decision at home against the Yankees.
“After the Atlanta start, I didn’t like where my changeup was at and I made a little tweak to my changeup and I felt like I found my changeup,” Scherzer said. “I just applied that tweak, that little adjustment, to my slider. Well, that adjustment to the slider screwed everything up for the Yankees start. So I just went back and undid that change and that’s it.”
The win was New York’s first over the Astros since Sept. 28, 2014, at Citi Field, snapping a seven-game skid. The Mets had lost eight in a row in Houston since their previous win here in May 2011.
Daniel Vogelbach, who tied a season high with three RBIs, homered off rookie Hunter Brown (6-4) to start the third. The Mets were up 2-0 with one out in the inning when Lindor’s three-run shot made it 5-0. Vogelbach has homered twice in the last four games after the slumping slugger was benched for six games.
The last time Scherzer went eight innings was Sept. 12, 2021, when he tossed eight scoreless frames of one-hit ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers against San Diego.
Mets manager Buck Showalter said his team needed this kind of outing from Scherzer to give the taxed bullpen a break.
“We were in a real need to get deep in that game, so for him to go eight innings, that was pretty special in a lot of ways,” Showalter said.
New York won for only the fourth time in 15 games overall.
Yainer Diaz homered for the second time in three games, but the Astros couldn’t do much else as they lost their season-high fifth straight. Houston has scored just one run in three of its last five games as the team struggles to deal with an injury to star slugger Yordan Alvarez.
Brown allowed seven hits and a career-high six runs in 5 2/3 innings after pitching seven scoreless innings in a win over Washington in his last start.
He retired his first six batters before Vogelbach’s homer to right field. Brett Baty and fellow rookie Francisco Álvarez hit consecutive singles, and Baty scored on a one-out single by Starling Marte.
Lindor then sent a fastball from Brown into the seats in right field to make it 5-0.
Tommy Pham opened the sixth with a double and scored on a single by Jeff McNeil to push the lead to 6-0.
Jeremy Peña singled with none out in the third for Houston’s first hit, but Scherzer retired his next 10 batters before Martín Maldonado singled with one out in the sixth. Alex Bregman singled with two outs in the inning before Scherzer struck out Kyle Tucker.
“He always had a good slider and you’ve got to stay off of that slider because he can throw one over the plate and then he can throw one off the plate,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “And it was the slider that set up everything else tonight.”
Diaz ended Scherzer’s shutout bid when he homered to left-center with one out in the seventh to make it 6-1.
Scherzer walked Jake Meyers to start the Houston eighth. The three-time Cy Young Award winner then struck out Maldonado before Jose Altuve grounded into a double play.
Lindor hit a two-run double and Vogelbach drove in two more with a single in New York’s five-run ninth.
Justin Verlander, who pitched for the Astros from Aug. 2017 until signing with the Mets last offseason, was presented with his 2022 World Series ring in a pregame ceremony. Verlander, who also helped Houston to its first title in 2017, was honored in a video filled with highlights from his tenure with the team before Baker handed him the ring.
“It was an incredible run and I look back so fondly at my time here,” Verlander said. “It was a wonderful chapter in my career and I’m very thankful for it.”
Verlander was 61-19 with a 2.26 ERA in 102 regular-season starts with the Astros, winning two of his three AL Cy Young Awards (2019, 2022).
Álvarez was hit on the right hand by a foul ball in the bottom of the eighth inning. The catcher was checked by Showalter and a trainer before making a couple of test throws to first base and finishing the inning. He was replaced by Omar Narváez in the ninth.
X-rays on Álvarez’s hand were negative and he said he was OK, but wasn’t sure if he’d be in the lineup Tuesday.
Verlander (2-3, 4.40 ERA) will face his former team for the first time Tuesday night when he opposes LHP Framber Valdez (6-5, 2.27).
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