Outside of Jacob deGrom’s usual excellence and, surprisingly, Jason Vargas, the Mets’ rotation had somewhat of a down week. But overall, the team had a good week and outside of Matz’s poor outing, the pitching staff was perfectly cromulent.
Let’s talk about Jacob deGrom, shall we? I could talk about Jacob deGrom all day. Fireball deGrom put up 0.9 fWAR by himself this week. No one else on the pitching staff accrued more than 0.1 fWAR. His two most recent starts featured some his most impressive work yet. He started Monday night’s makeup game against the Yankees, facing off against their ace, Luis Severino. deGrom bested Severino, tossing 6 2⁄3 innings and giving up three runs—only two earned—on five hits. He walked just two and struck out a dozen Yankees. Even though it was more runs than we’re used to seeing the other team score against deGrom, he was still great against an extremely formidable lineup—even sans Aaron Judge it is something to behold. Despite the fact that being in the big spotlight against the crosstown rivals surely didn’t rattle deGrom, it did catapult him into the national NL Cy Young conversation, with many more folks finally taking notice of his stellar season. And then, as if that wasn’t good enough, he pitched a complete game on Saturday against the Phillies, giving up just one run—also unearned. His ERA for the season is now 1.71 and the question isn’t simply whether he is in the conversation for the Cy Young. It’s whether he is the favorite for the Cy Young.
To stay on a positive note, let’s discuss the week Jason Vargas had. It was probably his best week as a Met. He put up a quality start on Tuesday against the Orioles, giving up just two runs on five hits, walking three and striking out one. I was in attendance for this start and I can attest that it wasn’t luck; he was throwing the ball quite well. Unfortunately, the bullpen let that game get away and Vargas walked away with a no-decision. In case you were wondering, as I was, whether Tuesday happened just because it was the Orioles, Vargas did earn the win in last night’s game, pitching 5 1⁄3 very solid innings in Williamsport against the Phillies in the Little League Classic. He had been cruising through five but unfortunately the sixth inning unraveled on him a bit and he gave up a two-run homer to Carlos Santana that ended his night. But all told, it was very much a step in the right direction for Vargas, who was in danger of losing his rotation spot to Corey Oswalt. If Vargas can continue to build on this run of success and show that he can give the Mets something in the second year of his contract, that would be a positive development.
Vargas’ work on Tuesday was squandered by the bullpen, namely Bobby Wahl and Paul Sewald. Wahl gave up a two-run homer to Chris Davis in the seventh inning and Sewald gave up an additional two runs, also the result of a home run—this time off the bat of Tim Beckham. Wahl also gave up two runs in Thursday night’s loss and hurt himself in the process, tweaking a hamstring. He is now on the disabled list. Sewald did bounce back with a scoreless inning on Thursday night, forced into duty in the third inning due to Steven Matz’s poor outing.
Hopefully it’s just rust due to not throwing any rehab starts before returning, but Steven Matz had an extremely rough outing on Thursday night. He gave up six runs—four of them earned—in just two innings of work. He gave up two home runs, one in each inning, before his early exit.
Drew Smith and Tyler Bashlor did the heavy lifting in relief of Matz, tossing two innings apiece. Smith gave up three hits, but no runs, while Bashlor gave up a run on two doubles in the seventh inning, but settled down to face the minimum in the eighth. It was a good week for Smith, who pitched a total of four scoreless innings. He put in an inning of work in Wednesday’s lopsided win and a scoreless eighth in relief of Vargas last night. Bashlor recorded the final out of the eighth inning on Tuesday, bailing out Sewald.
Zack Wheeler started Wednesday’s game and was not as sharp as he has been recently. But lucky for him, he didn’t have to be, as the Mets unloaded for 16 runs against the Orioles. It was still a good outing on paper, just one run on five hits in five innings of work. That said, it was laborious for Zack to even get that deep into the game, as he ran up his pitch count in the first two innings, working himself out of jams. “The old Zack reared his ugly head today,” Wheeler said after the game. Hopefully it’s just a blip on the radar for Wheeler.
Lost in the shuffle of the raucous win on Wednesday was Tim Peterson’s poor effort. He gave up four runs on five hits in his two innings of work, including a two-run shot to Jonathan Villar. It didn’t cost the Mets, who had already built up a substantial lead at that point, but it was not a positive return to the big leagues for Peterson.
Corey Oswalt was the beneficiary of the Mets’ record-setting 24 runs on Thursday afternoon, earning a win for his six innings of work. He gave up four runs on nine hits and continues to look every part the solid fifth starter. However, he has been moved to the bullpen, as Vargas has retained his rotation spot and ideas of a six-man rotation were dismissed, in order to keep Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in their proper rhythms. Still, Oswalt has shown the Mets that he is a potentially useful piece for next season.
Speaking of Syndergaard, he had only a so-so outing on Friday night and unfortunately—matched up against Aaron Nola—that did not cut it. The Phillies jumped on Syndergaard early and scored three runs in the first inning. Syndergaard settled down after that, but still was only able to last 5 2⁄3 innings, giving up four runs on eight hits overall and taking the loss. As he has done most of the season, he kept his team in the game, but he hasn’t had the dominant season many have hoped he’d have and this most recent start was mediocre by his own standards and the standards of those expecting ace-like quality from Syndergaard.
The bright spot in Friday’s game was the major league debut of Daniel Zamora, recalled straight from Double-A to replace the injured Bobby Wahl. Zamora tossed 1 1⁄3 hitless innings in his debut, striking out two and walking one, featuring his sweeping breaking stuff. Zamora also closed out yesterday’s win with a scoreless ninth inning. Hopefully the Mets can get a nice long look at Zamora to determine if he can be a part of a revamped bullpen for next season.
Seth Lugo was somewhat of a mixed bag this week. He threw 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings yesterday in relief of Vargas. But he gave up two runs in the eighth inning on Monday against the Yankees on a two-run homer by Miguel Andjuar, making the game a little too close for comfort.
Luckily, Robert Gsellman followed Lugo with a perfect ninth inning, notching his seventh save of the season. Gsellman also threw a scoreless eighth inning in Friday’s loss, but the Mets were unable to rally to win the game.
Jerry Blevins also had yet another good week and is quietly putting together an extremely good second half. With deGrom’s pitch count rising in the seventh inning on Monday, Blevins was called upon to get the final out of the inning in Brett Gardner and was successful, getting Gardner to fly out to left field. Blevins pitched a scoreless sixth inning in relief of Wheeler on Wednesday and a scoreless seventh inning in Thursday afternoon’s 24-4 win.
Jacob Rhame also logged two very low-pressure scoreless innings on Thursday afternoon, finishing out the win for the Mets.