NEW YORK (AP) — Justin Verlander outpitched Shane Bieber in a marquee matchup of Cy Young Award winners that lived up to its billing, and the resurgent New York Mets edged the Cleveland Guardians 2-1 on Sunday night for a doubleheader sweep.
Francisco Lindor homered against his former team and Jeff McNeil knocked in the tiebreaking run with a sacrifice fly off Bieber in the eighth inning. Brooks Raley closed out New York’s fifth consecutive comeback victory since a 6-16 slide.
In the opener, Starling Marte ended a long power drought by hitting a go-ahead homer in the eighth off Trevor Stephan that sent the Mets to a 5-4 win.
In just the second matchup of Cy Young Award winners this season — Max Scherzer started for the Mets against Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara on opening day — Verlander (2-2) gave up three hits and struck out five. The 40-year-old right-hander became the first Mets pitcher to complete eight innings this season.
José Ramírez homered off Verlander in the first. Ramírez also hit a two-run shot in the eighth inning of Game 1 to give the Guardians a 4-3 lead.
Lindor homered off Bieber (2-2) in the sixth inning of the nightcap before rookie Francisco Álvarez led off the eighth with a single. Marte pinch-ran and dashed to third on a check-swing single past shortstop by Lindor before scoring on McNeil’s sacrifice fly.
Raley needed only five pitches in the ninth to earn his 10th career save and first for the Mets, finishing an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel that took just 2 hours, 6 minutes. He made a terrific defensive play on Steven Kwan’s drag bunt and got Ramírez to ground into a game-ending double play.
The left-hander also threw a scoreless seventh inning in the opener.
Bieber permitted seven hits in his fifth career complete game and first this season. He struck out four and walked two, throwing 106 pitches.
The Mets (25-23) have won five straight one-run games following their prolonged slump.
“That’s what makes it fun — everybody’s jacked up because of the way we’ve been winning,” Scherzer said after firing six shutout innings in the opener despite a callus on his right thumb.
After a rainout Saturday, Marte’s first three-hit game of the season included a two-run shot to right field for his first extra-base hit since April 14 in Oakland. His only other long ball this year came in the home opener April 7 against Miami.
The 34-year-old outfielder, who raised his batting average from .231 to .245, had groin surgery in the offseason and was hampered earlier this season by a stiff neck.
“He works hard, he’s got a track record and he’s healthy,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “What else would you do but trust that type of guy? It’s hard as we get older and sometimes the water takes a little longer to warm up. So I try to keep that in mind.”
The Guardians got only three hits before the eighth, when Myles Straw had an RBI groundout and Amed Rosario delivered a run-scoring bloop single before Ramírez’s go-ahead homer off David Robertson (2-0).
Stephan (2-2) walked Brett Baty leading off the bottom half, and Marte homered to the opposite field.
“It’s frustrating as a team,” Stephan said. “Seems like the offense gets going and the bullpen has a tough game. But it’s a long season. We’re fighting, we’re going to be all right.”
The Mets brought back LHP Josh Walker from Triple-A Syracuse to serve as their 27th man for the doubleheader, while the Guardians (20-26) added C Bo Naylor, the younger brother of 1B/DH Josh Naylor.
Scherzer (204 wins) and Verlander entered Sunday with 449 career wins between them — the most for a team’s starting pitchers in a doubleheader, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, since Nolan Ryan (300 wins) and Charlie Hough (184 wins) had 484 prior to Texas’ doubleheader against the White Sox on Aug. 17, 1990.
WHOLE LOTTA STARTS
Verlander, who played his entire career in the American League before signing with the Mets last December, made his 55th career start against Cleveland, tied for the most by an active pitcher against one club. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has made 55 starts against San Francisco.
Guardians: C Cam Gallagher (right thumb) went 0 for 3 in the nightcap after sitting out the opener. Gallagher was hit on the thumb by a foul tip in the 10th inning Friday night. … RHP Triston McKenzie (teres major strain) allowed two hits over three scoreless innings in his first rehab start Saturday for Triple-A Columbus. Cleveland manager Terry Francona said McKenzie and RHP Aaron Civale (left oblique), who began his rehab stint at Columbus on Thursday, will pitch every fifth day for the Clippers.
Mets: Scherzer said the callus began bothering him in his previous start, but he should be healed for his next scheduled outing. He said the pain contributed to his low-90s (mph) fastball velocity and forced him to rely more on his curveball and changeup. “I’d rather pitch in pain and win than not pitch at all,” Scherzer said. … C Tomás Nido (dry eye syndrome) went 0 for 4 as the DH for Class A St. Lucie in his second rehab game Saturday. Nido was limited to DH duties after being hit by a pitch Friday night. … C Omar Narváez (left calf strain) is expected to begin a rehab assignment this week. Narváez is on the 60-day IL with an injury sustained April 5. … LHP José Quintana (left rib fracture) threw his first bullpen Saturday since undergoing surgery in March.