Max Scherzer pitched seven strong innings, Luis Guillorme homered and drove in two runs, and the New York Mets beat Max Fried and the Atlanta Braves 4-1 on Monday night in the opening game of their NL East showdown.
Pete Alonso also had two RBIs and Scherzer (6-1) gave up only three hits, including Austin Riley's 24th homer in the seventh. That cut the Mets' lead to 2-1, but Guillorme answered with his homer off Darren O'Day in the eighth.
All-Star closer Edwin Díaz, pitching for the third straight day, struck out the side in the ninth for his 19th save.
Former Mets second baseman Robinson Canó, obtained by Atlanta for $1 in a minor league deal with the San Diego Padres on Sunday, had two hits in his Braves debut.
Scherzer had nine strikeouts with no walks in his second consecutive impressive start after missing almost seven weeks because of an oblique injury. The right-hander threw six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits, with a season-high 11 strikeouts in a no-decision against Cincinnati last Tuesday.
The successful return of the three-time Cy Young Award winner boosts hopes New York can hold off Atlanta, the defending World Series champion.
The Mets led the Braves by 10 1/2 games on June 1, but the lead was cut to 1 1/2 games entering the series. The Braves were 29-8 and the Mets were 19-16 in that span entering Monday night.
Through 6 2/3 innings, Canó had Atlanta's only hit off Scherzer, a single past Guillorme's glove at second base with two outs in the third.
Riley lined a homer over the left-field wall with two outs in the seventh, cutting New York's lead to 2-1 and ending Scherzer’s shutout bid. Marcell Ozuna followed with a double down the left-field line, but Scherzer pumped his right fist after striking out Eddie Rosario to end the inning.
Canó added a single off Adam Ottavino with two outs in the eighth and moved to third on a double by Ronald Acuña Jr. Ottavino escaped on Dansby Swanson's groundout.
Fried (9-3) gave up two runs on five hits and five walks, matching his career high, in five innings. He also walked five batters in a 9-3 win over the Cubs on June 25, 2019.
Despite the walks, Fried has allowed no more than two earned runs in nine of his last 10 starts.
New York scored two runs in the third. Brandon Nimmo doubled and scored on Alonso's double to left field. Alonso scored on Guillorme's grounder.
Alonso added an RBI grounder in the ninth off Jackson Stephens to drive in Nimmo from third, increasing his major league-leading total to 72 RBIs.
With Monday's win, the Mets are ensured to end the series in first place in the NL East. They now lead by 2.5 games (three in the loss column).
Hard-throwing RHP Spencer Strider (4-2, 2.60 ERA) will try to continue his impressive rookie season for Atlanta when he faces LHP David Peterson (5-1, 3.48) in the middle game of the series Tuesday night.