The New York Mets (50-31) are receiving reinforcements with their lead atop the NL East in jeopardy. On the same night that Max Scherzer returned from the injured list, New York’s first-place lead shrunk to just 2.5 games.

The Atlanta Braves (48-34) have pulled within striking distance of the Mets in the latest 2022 MLB standings, improving to a season-best 14 games over .500 by defeating the St. Louis Cardinals (44-39) Tuesday night. New York was shut out by the Cincinnati Reds (28-52) Tuesday, losing for the fifth time in eight games.

Scherzer was on the mound for the first time since May 18. The three-time Cy Young winner was spectacular in six scoreless innings, striking out 11 batters while surrendering two hits and no walks. Seth Lugo lost the game for the Mets in the ninth inning.

New York’s futility at the plate has been a theme as Atlanta has closed the gap in the NL East. Over the last 30 days, the Mets have scored the fewest runs in the National League. The Braves lead the NL in runs scored during that span.

Without Scherzer, New York’s rotation predictably struggled. The Mets have a 4.46 ERA in the last month. Only the Los Angeles Dodgers (51-29) have pitched to a better ERA than the Braves since early June.

In nine starts with the Mets, Scherzer has a 2.26 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP. Scherzer has struck out 70 batters in 55.2 innings.

Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco, who lead the Mets in innings pitched, both have an ERA north of 4.00. Scherzer will resume his role as New York’s ace, and the team hopes to have Jacob deGrom back in the fold some time after the All-Star break.. DeGrom recently made his first rehab start, pitching in a game for the first time in a year.

Max Fried and Kyle Wright lead the Braves in innings pitched and have sub-3.00 ERAs. Dansby Swanson is hitting .302 and slugging .502, potentially playing his way onto MVP ballots. Austin Riley leads Atlanta with 21 home runs and 51 RBI. Matt Olson is first in MLB with 32 doubles.

The Mets have spent considerable time with the NL’s best record. New York now trails Los Angeles by 1.5 games in the overall NL standings. Atlanta has the league’s third-best record.

The Braves didn’t move over .500 for good until Aug. 6 during last year’s World Series run. If Atlanta wins its fifth straight NL East title, the team will have overcome another large deficit. The Braves entered June trailing the Mets by 10.5 games in the division.

The Philadelphia Phillies (43-38) are seven games behind the Mets in the NL East. The fourth-place Miami Marlins (39-40) are 10 games back.

Max Scherzer New York Mets
Max Scherzer #21 of the New York Mets in action against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field on May 18, 2022 in New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 11-4. Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)