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CINCINNATI — Max Scherzer’s return from nearly seven weeks on the injured list went about as well as the Mets could have scripted Tuesday night.

But in a case of mistaken identity, Scherzer’s teammates evidently thought he was Jacob deGrom.

That meant giving him nothing in terms of run support, nullifying the zeroes Scherzer placed on the scoreboard against the Reds.

Mike Moustakas hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth that accounted for the only run in the Mets’ 1-0 loss at Great American Ball Park.

Seth Lugo, pitching for a second straight night, loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth before Moustakas ended it with a drive to medium center field. Buck Showalter later indicated he went with Lugo because Adam Ottavino, who last pitched Sunday, was unavailable.

“It’s frustrating to waste a good outing by a lot of pitchers,” said Showalter, whose Mets saw their NL East lead on the Braves shrivel to 2 ½ games.

Mets pitcher Max Scherzer delivers in the second inning against the Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 5, 2022 in Cincinnati.
Mets pitcher Max Scherzer delivers in the second inning against the Reds.
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Scherzer was brilliant over 79 pitches that encompassed six shutout innings in which he allowed two hits and struck out 11. He finished strong, retiring the last eight batters he faced, six of them by strikeout. Scherzer wanted to go deeper but understood Showalter’s decision to remove him.

“This is a good problem to have,” Scherzer said. “Buck is going to make the best decision for the ball club and for my health. I completely understand where he is coming from. That being said, I didn’t have any problems tonight. I felt strong. … I wanted to get to that 90, 95 pitch count, they just didn’t want to send me out there for the seventh. Hopefully I will get to that 90-95 pitch count next time out.”

The Reds didn’t get a three-ball count against Scherzer until the fifth, when Matt Reynolds went ahead 3-1 before striking out. Michael Papierski then whiffed, completing a strikeout of the side. Scherzer’s performance was the 107th of his career in which he reached double digits in strikeouts.

“I was able to locate the fastball, but most importantly I felt that I had a really good slider tonight,” Scherzer said. “My rehab starts, my slider wasn’t breaking the right way. Over this turn, in my bullpen, I found something on my slider that I knew I was going to need against this team and was able to execute that and make that adjustment.”

Scherzer had to work through a second inning in which he threw 22 pitches, escaping with a strikeout of Matt Reynolds. In the inning Scherzer allowed a single to Solano before Moustakas was drilled by a pitch.

The Reds didn’t get another base runner until Naquin’s single in the fourth, but Solano and Moustakas struck out in succession to end the inning.

Scherzer’s first inning went about as smoothly as he could have wanted: nine pitches and three outs, which included a strikeout of Jonathan India leading off the frame.

“It’s like [Scherzer] never missed a beat,” catcher James McCann said. “From the first batter of the game, to attack the strike zone early and often, he got into friendly counts for us as far as being ahead and then he put hitters away.”

Joely Rodriguez pitched a perfect seventh for the Mets before Tommy Hunter escaped a jam in the eighth to keep the game scoreless. The Reds got runners to second and third with one out on a single, walk and sacrifice bunt. Hunter responded by retiring India and Brandon Drury.

Reds left-hander Nick Lodolo frustrated the Mets with 4 ²/₃ scoreless innings in which he allowed three hits and three walks. The Mets had their best chance against him in the second, when Mark Canha and Jeff McNeil singled, and advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. But Lodolo struck out J.D. Davis before McCann was retired to end the threat.

In the first inning, Starling Marte walked and stole second but was left stranded. Marte singled in the third and was picked off first base — after taking steps toward second — by the catcher Papierski.

Canha hit a grounder in the sixth that India threw away (ruled a single and error) but was left stranded at second base. Overall, the Mets were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

“I know Lugo was the pitcher of record, but we didn’t score any runs tonight,” Showalter said. “At some point somebody is going to give up a run. If we don’t score runs, it doesn’t really matter how well you pitched, for 8 ¹/₃ or whatever. Eight innings we pitched really well, and it got away from us in the ninth.”

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