A win on Thursday would give the New York Mets another statement series win over a National League contender.
However, the biggest statement regarding the short- and potentially long-term direction of the Mets' season is likely to be issued before first pitch Thursday afternoon -- and after Max Scherzer exits an MRI tube.
The Mets are expected to learn Scherzer's prognosis ahead of their matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals in the matinee finale of a four-game series.
Chris Bassitt (4-2, 2.34 ERA) is slated to start for the Mets against Dakota Hudson (3-2, 3.06) in a battle of right-handers.
Scherzer earned the win but exited after 5 2/3 innings with discomfort in his left side Wednesday night, when the Mets beat the Cardinals 11-4 to ensure themselves at least a split of the series. In 11 series this season, New York has won nine, lost just one and split another.
Scherzer, facing likely fellow future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, made a throat slashing motion and appeared to say "I'm done" after sailing a slider out of the strike zone with two on. He departed after a brief consultation with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, manager Buck Showalter and a trainer.
"In that Pujols at-bat, just felt a zing on my left side and just knew I was done," Scherzer said. "Don't know exactly what the exact injury is, but (I've) never had a left side injury before. So when I felt it, I just knew there's no way you can throw another pitch. So just get out of there."
Scherzer hopes he avoided a major injury. Showalter was thinking positively as well after Scherzer was forthright about a mild hamstring injury at the end of spring training, which cost the right-hander a chance to start on Opening Day but forced him back only one day in the rotation.
"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," Showalter said. "I'm hoping we caught whatever's in there at an earlier stage of it."
The lopsided loss for the Cardinals overshadowed another career milestone for Pujols. His two hits -- including a two-run single -- in what might have been his final game in New York increased his career total to 3,314 and vaulted him into 10th place on the all-time list, one ahead of Eddie Collins, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Pujols also stole a base -- the 117th of his career and his first of the year. But his solid night wasn't enough to overcome an arduous pitching effort by the Cardinals.
Starter Jordan Hicks lasted four innings, during which he gave up two runs but threw more balls (43) than strikes (39). The Mets scored four runs in the fifth off Jake Walsh and added five runs in the eighth against T.J. McFarland.
"Just a combination of a lot of off-nights for a lot of guys," Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said.
Bassitt didn't factor into the decision on Saturday, when he gave up one run over 5 2/3 innings as the Mets beat the Seattle Mariners 5-4. Hudson earned a win on Saturday after tossing five scoreless innings in the Cardinals' 4-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants.
Bassitt is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in two career starts against the Cardinals. He threw six shutout innings to beat St. Louis 3-0 on April 26.
Hudson is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two lifetime starts against the Mets, both in 2019.
--Field Level Media