Max Scherzer exits start early

NEW YORK — For Max Scherzer, a milestone win is proving elusive. Now for the sake of a Mets team hoping to ride Scherzer deep into October, they hope it won’t be too long before he gets another bite at that apple.

This after the oblique issue that shelved Scherzer for several weeks earlier in the year cropped up again Saturday night, forcing Scherzer’s early exit in an eventual 7-1 loss to the Nationals at Citi Field. Seeking career win No. 200 for the third time, Scherzer showed no outward signs of duress while completing five innings of one-run ball against his former team. But alarm bells sounded when Tommy Hunter took over to begin the sixth, replacing Scherzer after only 67 pitches in a 1-1 game.

Scherzer was actually at his most efficient just before exiting, having retired seven straight and the side on 10 pitches in the fifth. But back in the dugout, he reported what the Mets later called “feeling fatigued on his left side.” The 38-year-old missed several starts earlier in the year with a left oblique strain but had been operating at full tilt since returning, averaging 6 2/3 innings and 98 pitches per start over his past 11 starts.

He’d also been enormously effective in those outings, pitching to a 2.10 ERA with 89 strikeouts. Scherzer had pitched into the seventh in nine of those starts, and completed six innings in the other two. Coming off that sort of vintage-Scherzer workload, the Mets operated with understandable precaution when the side issue reemerged Saturday night.

As a result, Scherzer was long gone by the time Adam Ottavino allowed Lane Thomas’ go-ahead homer in the eighth and Adonis Medina allowed five runs (four earned) in the ninth, sinking the Mets on a night they mustered little against Patrick Corbin .

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