Max Scherzer’s next big Mets test comes in key Braves series

CINCINNATI — Max Scherzer’s next challenge will be facing the Mets’ biggest NL East threat.

The veteran right-hander is scheduled to pitch Monday in Atlanta, where the Mets will open a key midseason series against the surging Braves. In the four games leading into that series, Trevor Williams, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker will start in succession for the Mets against the Marlins at Citi Field.

Manager Buck Showalter announced that rotation Wednesday, a day after Scherzer returned from nearly seven weeks on the injured list. Scherzer pitched six scoreless innings against the Reds, with 11 strikeouts.

But Showalter denied his rotation was set with the idea of using Scherzer against the Braves instead of the Marlins. In this case the manager said Bassitt was ready to return from COVID-19 protocols, and he wanted to get extra days of rest for Carrasco and Walker.

Max Scherzer

“If it had been different, [Scherzer] probably would have pitched Sunday. Miami is probably one of the hottest teams in baseball,” Showalter said before the Mets’ 8-3 comeback win over the Reds in 10 innings. “There is a good chance they are going to be over .500 when they get to us, they are getting three or four of their players back that they have been missing, so they are probably as hot a team as there is in baseball.”

Showalter was asked how often he reconfigures his rotation to match pitchers against opponents.

“Very seldom,” he said. “Especially this time of year. I think it’s a recipe for overlooking one thing and I just think, respect everybody. You can’t make one game at this stage of the season more important than the other.”

Bassitt, who last pitched on June 25, has been throwing to stay loose during his COVID absence.

“He comes in and nobody is around,” Showalter said. “We have taken a lot of precautions there, but he has been good. He’s ready to go, Friday.”

Showalter said he isn’t concerned about reliever Seth Lugo, who allowed the winning run in the ninth inning Tuesday after loading the bases with nobody out. The right-hander has pitched to a 3.69 ERA with three blown saves and two losses this season.

“A little more up-and-down than probably he would like, but he, from what I understand, has been a pretty consistent pitcher for the Mets for an extended period of time, and he’s got some big outs in different roles and situations for us,” Showalter said. “More good than the other, but I know Seth is probably capable of a little better, but it’s been hard to stay consistent.”

Travis Jankowski was scheduled to continue his rehab assignment at Triple-A Syracuse. The outfielder may play back-to-back games over the weekend for Syracuse before potentially returning to the Mets next week.