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Max Scherzer had a terrific performance for the New York Mets in his return from an oblique injury.

Perhaps most important to the NL East leaders, the ace right-hander looked good the entire time on a steamy Tuesday night in Cincinnati.

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Tyler Naquin #12 and Mike Moustakas #9 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrate after Moustakas hit a walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to beat the New York Mets 1-0 at Great American Ball Park on July 05, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  .

Tyler Naquin #12 and Mike Moustakas #9 of the Cincinnati Reds celebrate after Moustakas hit a walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to beat the New York Mets 1-0 at Great American Ball Park on July 05, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. .
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Scherzer struck out 11 while pitching six innings of two-hit ball, but Mike Moustakas’ game-ending sacrifice fly gave New York a 1-0 loss to the last-place Reds.

Scherzer, who turns 38 in three weeks, is sidelined by a strained oblique muscle in his left side. It was his first big league game since May 18.

“I felt great,” he said. “No problems today. Felt strong all the way through. (The incline) never made me too hard, so that’s a good thing.”

Mets manager Buck Showalter retired Scherzer after 79 pitches — mostly fastballs and sliders — but the ace believed he could go deep into the game.

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“It’s a good problem to have,” Scherzer said. “Buck’s going to make the best decision for the ballclub and for my health and my long-term health, so I totally understand where he’s coming from. With that said, I had no issues tonight. I felt good. I felt strong. I didn’t screw anything up. I was that 90, I wanted to reach a pitch count of 95.”

Tommy Pham led off Cincinnati’s ninth with a double into the right-field corner against Seth Lugo (1-2). It was the Reds’ fourth hit of the game.

Tyler Naquin walked intentionally before Donovan Solano walked to load the bases. Moustakas’ deep fly ball drove in the game-winner.

“It’s how you want to draw when you’re coming to win the game,” Moustakas said. “You get a pitch to hit and don’t miss it.”

Reds rookie Nick Lodolo combined with four relievers on a six-hitter. Returning from a back injury, Lodolo struck out eight and allowed just three hits in 4 2/3 innings.

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New York Mets' Max Scherzer prepares to throw a pitch during the fifth inning of the team's baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Cincinnati.

New York Mets’ Max Scherzer prepares to throw a pitch during the fifth inning of the team’s baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Cincinnati.
(AP Photo / Aaron Doster)

It was Lodolo’s first major league game since April 24.

“Lodo – as good as he is – that lineup made him work,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He really is on a mission.”

Hunter Strickland (2-2) had three strikeouts for the win.

“I’m very happy for the bullpen, they kept us there,” Bell said.

“I know the players are frustrated to have that kind of outing, but I know their pitcher is going to be a challenge before the game,” Showalter said of Lodolo. “Watching a lot of him and talking to people, we knew he was going to be a challenge for us tonight. I was hoping it wasn’t going to be a challenge at all.”

The Reds threatened in the eighth, putting runners on second and third. But Tommy Hunter got Jonathan India to pop out and Brandon Drury to fly out to right.

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Cincinnati Reds pitcher Nick Lodolo throws during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the New York Mets, Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Nick Lodolo throws during the first inning of the team’s baseball game against the New York Mets, Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Cincinnati.
(AP Photo / Aaron Doster)

It’s late

There was a 53 minute weather delay before the start of the game. But it never rained.

Nice catch

Pham prevented a potential extra-base hit in the Mets’ ninth when he went into the left-field corner to hit a deep fly off the bat of Jeff McNeil.

Trainer’s room

Reds: Transferred RHP Tony Santillan (back) to the 60-day injured list. … RF Tyler Naquin (strained quadriceps) is back in the lineup for the first time since May 31.

movements

The Reds claimed right-hander Ian Gibot off waivers from the Dodgers. They also optioned utility man Max Schrock and catcher Mark Kolozvary from Triple-A Louisville. Catcher Chris Oakey was designated for assignment. … To make room for Scherzer on the roster, the Mets designated lefty Chasen Shreve for assignment.

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Mike Moustakas #9 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to beat the New York Mets 1-0 at Great American Ball Park on July 05, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Mike Moustakas #9 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a walk-off sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to beat the New York Mets 1-0 at Great American Ball Park on July 05, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Next

Right-hander Graham Ashcroft (4-2, 4.53 ERA) will face Mets lefty David Peterson (5-1, 3.24 ERA) for the Reds. Ashcroft was tagged for seven runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings in last week’s 15-7 loss to the Cubs. Peterson is coming off the paternity list to start for New York.