Ah, September baseball. It makes for an awfully crowded pitcher meter. After mixed results last week, the Mets’ entire starting rotation performed well this week. They weren’t always rewarded for their efforts, however, as performance from the bullpen continues to be uneven. That said, the Mets’ pitching staff as a whole ranks third in the National League behind just the Brewers and the Rockies in both fWAR and ERA over the past week.
The Cy Young race is really pulling into the final stretch now. Jacob deGrom logged two more quality starts this week, while Aaron Nola and Max Scherzer both struggled in their recent outings. Even though his ERA is up from a week ago, deGrom was still able to further cement his Cy Young case. Both of his starts featured dominance with one shaky inning. On Tuesday, that inning was the fourth, in which an infield hit and bloop single put two men on base and the only hard hit ball during the outing plated two runs. That was all deGrom gave up in seven innings of work, striking out nine Marlins, but it was enough to tag him with the loss, with the Mets giving deGrom the usual paltry run support. In yesterday’s start, deGrom looked absolutely filthy early, striking out six of the first seven batters he faced, matching zeros with Chris Sale. Things got away from deGrom a bit in the third, when he gave up three runs, punctuated by a Brock Holt two-run homer. But deGrom was undeterred and put up a zero in four consecutive frames after the homer, going seven innings and striking out a dozen Red Sox. Against the best team in baseball, it was certainly a strong performance. The Mets didn’t win the game, but they were able to tie the game and get deGrom off the hook for a no decision.
Seth Lugo took the loss in relief of deGrom yesterday, giving up the game-winning run in the eighth inning on a leadoff double and two fly outs. Lugo did, however, have a very solid outing in Game 2 of Thursday’s doubleheader, tossing two brilliant innings, surrendering just one hit and striking out five. This effort earned him his ninth hold of the season.
Jason Vargas started the nightcap on Thursday and Vargy decided to make an appearance. He went six innings and gave up just two runs on three hits and striking out seven batters. He earned his sixth win of the season, making it improbable, but still possible that he could catch deGrom in wins for the season, which would be something else.
After Lugo took care of the seventh and the eighth innings, Robert Gsellman earned the save on Thursday, his eleventh of the season. Gsellman had a rocky outing on Tuesday in relief of deGrom, however, coughing up two insurance runs for the Marlins on three straight hits to lead off the ninth inning. These two runs would prove to be significant, as the Mets ended up scoring two runs of their own in the bottom of the ninth on a Kevin Plawecki home run, but instead of tying the game, the comeback fell short.
Nestled between deGrom and Gsellman’s outings on Tuesday was the return of Anthony Swarzak, coming back from his second long stint on the disabled list this season. His first appearance back did not go well. Just when you thought that the Mets may be able to come back from just a one run deficit to avoid handing deGrom the loss, Swarzak gave up a solo home run to the second batter he faced, adding a run to the Marlins’ lead. That said, Swarzak bounced back for a scoreless eighth inning in Thursday’s come from behind win, working around a walk and striking out a batter.
Steven Matz started the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader and as usual was plagued with early-inning troubles, giving up two runs in the second on consecutive solo home runs. But he settled down to deliver a quality start, keeping the Mets in the game and giving them a chance to win. In 6 1⁄3 innings of work, he gave up just one additional hit besides the two solo homers and three runs, surrendering two walks.
Drew Smith came in the game to try to finish the seventh inning for Matz, but gave up a single to plate the go-ahead run, which was charged to Matz. Smith was able to work out of trouble after allowing another single and a walk to avoid further damage. Smith delivered 1 1⁄3 impressive innings on Saturday, surrendering just one hit to the mighty Red Sox lineup.
Jerry Blevins got the win on Thursday for pitching a scoreless ninth ahead of the Mets’ exciting walk-off, his third of the year. He struck out the side in the outing. He also contributed a scoreless eighth in Friday night’s lopsided victory.
Speaking of Friday’s lopsided victory, Noah Syndergaard was very sharp, shutting out a powerhouse Red Sox lineup for seven innings. He gave up three hits and three walks and struck out six. The Mets gave him more than enough run support to coast for his team-leading twelfth victory of the season.
Tyler Bashlor tossed a scoreless ninth on Friday night to seal the deal behind Syndergaard, which represented his only work for the week.
If Syndergaard was sharp, Zack Wheeler was even sharper on Wesdnesday. He shut out the Marlins for eight innings, striking out seven. He scattered four hits in the start and earned his eleventh win of the season. In a level of irony that’s almost cruel, it was Syndergaard and Wheeler that got an abundance of run support that they didn’t really need, while the Mets continued to struggle to score during deGrom’s outings.
Paul Sewald pitched a low-pressure, scoreless ninth on Wednesday to seal the deal for the Mets. His other outing this week went far less smoothly. He came into the Saturday’s game in the fifth, tasked with protecting a two-run lead, acquired from Nimmo’s home run. He got two tough hitters for the first two outs, but things went very poorly from there for Sewald. He gave up two straight singles and then a double which was lucky not to have been called a home run to tie the game. He then gave up another double to give the Red Sox the lead, which they would ultimately hold to win the game. He was saddled with his sixth loss of the season.
Outside of Sewald’s misadventures, the Mets actually cobbled together a well-pitched game on Saturday, when rainouts and doubleheaders during the week forced them to put together a makeshift bullpen game. Corey Oswalt got the start and was shaky early, but settled in and limited the damage for a solid appearance overall. The one run Oswalt did give up in the first inning was unearned because of a fielding error by Dominic Smith and he was able to work around traffic to limit the Red Sox to one run in the inning. He went 2 2⁄3 innings in all, giving up three hits, walking one, and striking out three.
Daniel Zamora replaced Oswalt in the third inning and was very impressive, going 1 1⁄3 scoreless and striking out four in the outing. It was his only appearance for the week.
Drew Gagnon also put together his second solid outing in a row on Saturday, scattering three hits and a walk to contribute 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings. With two outs in the eighth, Gagnon walked a batter and then gave up a single, causing Mickey Callaway to change pitchers in an effort to keep the game close.
Jacob Rhame was able to record the final out of the inning, striking out J.D. Martinez with two on base. Martinez was the only batter Rhame faced this week.
Two members of the bullpen—Tim Peterson and Eric Hanhold—did not appear in any games this week. Peterson has not pitched since he was recalled when rosters expanded, which is somewhat odd, given the two lopsided victories the Mets had this week. Unless there is something going on that we are not privy to, this sends a message about who the Mets see as potential pieces for next year’s bullpen and who they do not.