Max Scherzer had a four-run lead in the sixth inning and everything was rolling right along for the Mets — same as all season.
Until the three-time Cy Young Award winner signaled to the dugout he was done.
Scherzer pulled himself from a start Wednesday night with discomfort in his left side before the Mets finished off an 11-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. He plans to get an M.R.I. on Thursday.
“I don’t think this is a major strain,” Scherzer said. “I was kind of tight and then all of a sudden it went. But I don’t feel like I really ripped it. It just kind of got worse. So hopefully I got out of there quick enough to prevent a major injury here because I know oblique, intercostal, those things can be nasty. Hopefully I avoided a serious injury.”
Pete Alonso homered and drove in four runs for the Mets (25-14), already missing ace starter Jacob deGrom and his effective replacement in the rotation, Tylor Megill, because of injuries.
Still, they improved to 13-1 following a loss. The only time they dropped consecutive games this season was April 10-11.
Jeff McNeil had an early two-run single and Alonso snapped a 2-all tie with an R.B.I. single off rookie reliever Jake Walsh (0-1) in a four-run fifth. Dominic Smith singled home a run and Luis Guillorme drove in another with a nicely executed safety squeeze.
Mets batters were hit by pitches three times, increasing their major league-leading total to 28. That includes eight by Cardinals pitchers in six games — the teams got into a bench-clearing melee in St. Louis last month.
Both clubs were warned Wednesday night after Mark Canha was hit near the ribs by a 98-mile-per-hour fastball from Cardinals starter Jordan Hicks in the third, but there was no trouble between the teams.
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“Relax, all right? Don’t try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they’re fascist. Throw some ground balls, it’s more democratic.”
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Canha scored three times and followed Brandon Nimmo’s run-scoring triple with an R.B.I. single as the Mets broke open a 6-4 game with a five-run eighth capped by Alonso’s three-run homer off struggling lefty T.J. McFarland.
“Left a changeup up and he was ready for it,” McFarland said. “It’s very frustrating, especially with our offense. We need a zero. We had momentum, and it’s disappointing that I come in and give up runs like that.”
Nolan Arenado hit a two-run homer for the Cardinals in the eighth. Albert Pujols got two hits to pass Eddie Collins for 10th place on the career list with 3,314, including an early two-run single off Scherzer (5-1).
The 37-year-old right-hander left with two outs in the sixth and a 1-1 count on Pujols.
“It’s in spasm right now. It doesn’t feel real good,” he said after the game, chuckling. “But once you get the spasm subside, what’s the actual extent of this injury? We don’t know. So we’ll know tomorrow.”
With two runners on, Scherzer threw a slider in the dirt and immediately motioned to the New York bench that he was finished.
“Just felt a zing on my left side and just knew I was done,” he said. “When I felt it, I just knew there’s no way you can throw another pitch, so just get out of there.”
Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, Manager Buck Showalter and a trainer came out to the mound. After a quick discussion, Scherzer walked off the field.
“I don’t rush out there, because usually it’s not really good news,” Showalter said. “He’s been a great self-evaluator. He knows when he’s at a point where if he pushes more, it’s going to turn into something serious.
“He’s not going to put himself in harm’s way. A lot of guys might have tried to continue to pitch. I’m hoping we caught whatever’s in there at an earlier stage of it.”
Scherzer threw 61 of his 87 pitches for strikes and left with a 6-2 lead against his hometown team. Adam Ottavino was given all the time he needed to warm up, and he struck out Pujols to end the inning.
The 42-year-old Pujols, who stole second off Scherzer, also grounded out with the score 6-4 and a runner on against Seth Lugo to end the eighth.
Yankees Win With Baserunning and Defense
BALTIMORE — On a night when their bats were held in check, the Yankees found another way to win.
Gerrit Cole pitched seven efficient innings, the defense backed him up with several strong plays and New York beat the skidding Baltimore Orioles, 3-2, Wednesday night.
Cole (4-0) allowed two runs and six hits with five strikeouts. Behind him, right fielder Marwin Gonzalez made two clutch grabs and Josh Donaldson flagged down several sharp grounders. Then, in the eighth, first baseman Anthony Rizzo grabbed a scorching liner to start an unassisted double play.
The Yankees managed only six hits, but a three-run first inning that featured a sprint from second to home on a wild pitch proved enough to squeeze out a victory.
And that, to a large degree, explains why New York is off to an amazing 28-9 start.
“Tonight we won on baserunning and defense,” Cole noted, “and we’re the Bronx Bombers.”
No home runs required. The Yankees could muster only a pair of doubles, but they still secured their 21st win in 24 games.
“It’s been a great start, no question,” Manager Aaron Boone said. “Just really pleased with how they’re doing it — in a lot of different ways. Tonight we leaned on the pitching and great baserunning.”
New York broke on top in the first when Gleyber Torres followed two-out singles by Rizzo and Donaldson with an R.B.I. double. Then, on a wild pitch by Jordan Lyles, Donaldson scored and Torres came home on catcher Anthony Bemboom’s errant throw to the plate.
That was enough to propel the Yankees to their ninth win in the last 10 games. New York’s 28-9 start is tied for second-best in the majors since 1948, trailing only the 1984 Detroit Tigers at 32-5.
The Yankees will attempt to complete a four-game sweep of last-place Baltimore on Thursday afternoon. The Orioles, who have lost six straight, are the only team to take a series from the Yankees this season, winning two of three in mid-April.
After Cole’s impressive outing was done, Clay Holmes worked the final two innings for the third save of his career, all this season and all against the Orioles.