Between locking up a playoff berth and Max Scherzer tossing six perfect innings to earn the 200th win of his career, the New York Mets had a lot to celebrate Monday night.
They hope there will be a lot more to celebrate over the next five weeks.
The Mets will look to maintain their lead in theNational League East on Tuesday night when they visit the Milwaukee Brewers in the middle game of a three-game series.
Mets right-hander Carlos Carrasco (15-6, 3.70 ERA) is slated to start against Brewers left-hander Aaron Ashby (2-10, 4.58 ERA), who is expected to be activated off the injured list after missing the last month due to left shoulder inflammation.
The Mets clinched their first playoff berth since 2016 in the series opener on Monday, when Scherzer struck out nine in his first start in 16 days, leading New York to a 7-2 victory.
The Mets (94-55) remained a game ahead of the second-place Atlanta Braves (92-55) -- who beat the Washington Nationals 5-2 -- in the race for the NL East crown and likely the second bye in the NL playoffs.
The scorching pace of the defending World Series champion Braves -- who are 69-28 since June 1, a span in which they have gained 9 1/2 games on the Mets -- ensured a restrained celebration in the visiting locker room Monday night in Milwaukee.
"If we can win the division, that would be great -- Atlanta is a great team and it will probably go down to the wire," Mets owner Steve Cohen said. "And then we'll see what happens in the playoffs. I think this is a team that can go really far."
But with the Mets seeking their first championship in 36 years and with the clinching experience being new to much of the squad, manager Buck Showalter recognized the importance of celebrating Monday night.
"You've got to have step one to get to the rest of it, (and) I think our guys understand what's ahead of us and the challenges," Showalter said. "But nobody should feel bad about feeling some elation tonight. Kind of hit me with two outs in the ninth: 'Wow, we're an out away from being in there.'"
Showalter has managed 3,218 regular-season games without appearing in a World Series, though his clubs have made the playoffs five times. Only Gene Mauch (3,942) was in charge of more games without reaching the Fall Classic.
The Monday result made it harder for the Brewers (78-69) to join the Mets in the playoffs. Milwaukee is now 2 1/2 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies in the race for the third and final NL wild-card spot.
The Brewers, who are 46-50 since June 1, didn't come close to a hit against Scherzer in his first start since he injured his left side on Sept. 3. Christian Yelich doubled leading off the seventh against Tylor Megill to end the Mets' bid for the first combined perfect game in baseball history.
"We need to win games at this point in the year, so to go out and not win a baseball game hurts," said Milwaukee's Corbin Burnes, who took the loss after giving up five runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Carrasco earned a win on Thursday when he allowed one run over six innings and struck out a season-high 11 batters in the Mets' 7-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Carrasco is 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA in four career starts against the Brewers.
Ashby made his most recent appearance Aug. 19, when he didn't factor into the decision after surrendering six runs over five innings as the Brewers fell 8-7 to the Chicago Cubs.
He is 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA in two games (one start) against the Mets, including a no-decision on June 16, when he surrendered four runs on four hits in 4 1/3 innings.
--Field Level Media