Home News Mets’ Justin Verlander comes up big at just right time

Mets’ Justin Verlander comes up big at just right time

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Mets co-ace Justin Verlander dueled his former Astros teammate and friend Gerrit Cole to a draw over six impressive innings, which is to say Verlander showed significant signs he may be on the road back to his usual Hall of Fame form.

The fellow is 40. But the belief here is that he’s in his prime at 40, which isn’t something many who play baseball can say.

Of course, the standards are high for all-time greats. And the salary, which is a record at $43 million (tied with Mets co-ace Max Scherzer), only raises the bar.

We’ve been complaining a lot lately about the Mets’ two $43 million men, which is what we do when folks get paid a ton and are less than perfect. But we should learn never to count Verlander out, or Scherzer, a mere youngster at 38, for that matter. Verlander delivered six efficient innings of one-run ball in his first Subway Series appearance and the Mets beat the Yankees, 4-3, in 10 innings at a sold-out Citi Field in rousing walk-off fashion four innings after he was gone.

“That’s the key,” manager Buck Showalter said of Verlander’s performance. “To have a chance to win you have to have your starting pitcher match a very good pitcher who’s on top of his game.”

Justin Verlander held the Yankees to one run over six innings in the Mets’ 4-3, 10-inning win over the Yankees in the Subway Series finale.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

If Verlander can keep it going like this, that should make a big difference.

This victory alone — clinched on a walk-off, 10th-inning double by Brandon Nimmo off Yankees reliever Nick Ramirez that drove home ghost runner Eduardo Escobar — was enormous.

The opponent. The opposing pitcher. All of it was big.

Verlander made some mechanical adjustments, and his curveball and slider were back to normal, which means devastating. The timing couldn’t have been better, as Verlander loved his first foray into the Subway Series — although he was surprised there were so many Yankees fans (it seemed like a 60-40 split for the Mets, which is actually pretty typical).

“This is definitely the brightest light, especially in a regular-season game,” Verlander said. “At this point for our team, every win matters. We’ve got to start winning some ballgames.”

This is the sort of win that could lift a team that’s been down but shouldn’t be counted out. Not quite yet.

But is it enough?

I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer. But even in victory, the Mets can tend toward the sloppy, and that remains worrisome.

Don’t get me wrong. This is potentially the kind of victory that can turn things around. It’s always huge when you break out of a bad slump — the Mets had lost nine of 10 — but it’s especially notable when you beat the big-brother Yankees.

Justin Verlander delivers a pitch during the third inning of the Mets' win.
Justin Verlander delivers a pitch during the third inning of the Mets’ win.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

But there remains an issue. The storyline all year has been that Verlander and Scherzer are the linchpins of baseball’s most expensive team ever, that the Mets will go however their co-aces go. But here’s the reality: There are just too many other things going wrong around them.

The mistakes can amaze. I will list some of the latest here (just as a reminder that they still need to clean things up no matter how sweet this win was).

There was Jeff McNeil throwing wide of first to allow the go-ahead run to score in the seventh when there was no chance to double-up Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

There was Francisco Alvarez throwing wildly into center field on a Kiner-Falefa steal of second, allowing IKF to take third.

There was reliever Brooks Raley losing track of Kiner-Falefa taking a big lead off third base, and allowing IKF to become the first Yankee to steal home since Didi Gregorious (This could have been a backbreaker).

Those slipups all occurred in the seventh inning, meaning the Mets managed to cram a game’s worth of mistakes into 15 minutes.

Showalter was called upon to answer for all the mistakes, and he said, without a smile, “We scored more runs than they did over the course of the game, and it was a big win for us.”

Then Showalter added, “You like to see them not happen.”

All the mistakes came close to conspiring to waste a gem of a game by Verlander, who’s definitely had his moments since returning from his teres major strain. While he still isn’t the consistent force he was while winning his third Cy Young for the Astros last year, he’s showed what he can still do in limiting the Yankees to three hits and no walks while striking out six over 107 pitches.

In summary, he pitched like the ace he is. He isn’t the problem.

And while there are many other issues, there is still also a reason to believe. This roster is very similar to the one that won 101 games last year, even if it did fall down at the end.

Sure, we are focused on the negative while the Mets remain on the wrong side of .500, but this team should be pretty good. Sure, there are a lot of reasons to worry. But there are plenty of reasons to hope, too. Vintage Verlander reminded us again how things can be.

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