Believe it or not, the final week of the season the Mets’ bullpen actually pitched quite well. Two Walker Lockett meltdowns aside, a relief corps that ranged from bad to dreadful all season long was nearly spotless in the dying days of the 2019 season. Jacob deGrom was also spotless, doing everything he could to lock down his second straight Cy Young Award. Marcus Stroman and Zack Wheeler finished the season out strong. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz each logged one poor start and one solid start in the last week of the season. The rotation finished its second season in a row benefitting from extreme fortune when it came to health. The Mets’ top four starters each made at least 30 starts and Marcus Stroman and Jason Vargas combined for 29 starts for the Mets in 2019. There were just seven games all season not started by one of those six pitchers.
We’ll start with that last deGrom start—the final entry in another spectacular chapter of his career. Going into the season, many predicted it would be impossible for him to replicate his 2018 numbers, but after a shaky April, he basically did just that. On Wednesday, he tossed seven scoreless innings against the Marlins, surrendering just two hits. He struck out seven and walked one. The Mets gave him plenty of early run support for a change and he cruised to his eleventh victory of the season. He ended the season with a 2.43 ERA, short of the ERA title, but he did lead the league in nearly every other important metric.
The Mets built up enough of a lead on Wednesday that Tyler Bashlor and Drew Gagnon were entrusted to finish things out. Bashlor tossed a scoreless eighth inning, working around a walk and striking out two. He replicated that same exact performance in Sunday’s come from behind win to finish out his season on a high note.
Drew Gagnon came in to pitch the ninth on Wednesday and gave up three runs, eliciting horrible flashbacks to his performance against the Braves in which he single handedly almost blew a very large lead. However, this time, none of those runs were earned, as a throwing error by Todd Frazier got the rally started for the Marlins. However, he got out of the inning without allowing the game to get close enough to have to use another pitcher. That was Gagnon’s only work for the week.
The next day, Zack Wheeler took the loss despite a solid effort on the mound. He cruised through seven scoreless before giving up three runs in the eighth inning on two home runs to blow a 2-0 lead. Still, he struck out ten Marlins and walked none over his eight innings of work and theoretically gave the Mets enough to win the game. But the Mets were unable to rally and bail him out in what was perhaps his final start as a Met. He will hit free agency this offseason and it remains to be seen whether the Mets will give him a qualifying offer.
Edwin Diaz gave up another run on a solo homer in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game to put things further out of reach for the Mets in the ninth. However, this was balanced out by two good outings from Diaz this week to finish out a nightmare season for him. He tossed a scoreless inning in Monday’s loss with two strikeouts. He earned his 26th save in his final appearance of the season, completing a shutout of the Braves in Saturday’s game. He also struck out two batters in that outing. This final week was rather emblematic of Diaz’s entire season: a preponderance of strikeouts but also lethal vulnerability to the long ball.
Saturday’s shutout began with six scoreless innings from Steven Matz, who bounced back to end his season on a high note after a rough start earlier in the week. He gave up just two hits on Saturday. He did walk five batters, but limited the damage, striking out seven. The story was different for Matz on Monday when he gave up six runs on nine hits, including a grand slam to Jorge Alfaro that effectively stuck a fork in the Mets’ dimming postseason hopes. It was a devastating blow for Matz. He is another pitcher whose final week seemed to follow a similar arc to his whole up-and-down season.
Jeurys Familia and Brad Brach each contributed a scoreless inning in relief of Matz to bridge the gap to Diaz and keep the shutout intact on Saturday. It was an impressive final week of the season for both pitchers, but especially Familia who has struggled so mightily this season. Familia logged four scoreless innings of work this week in all—one on Monday in relief of Matz, one on Tuesday in relief of Syndergaard, one on Friday in relief of Stroman, and the aforementioned performance on Saturday in which he earned his fourteenth hold of the season.
Brach also earned a hold on Saturday for a scoreless eighth inning, his sixth of the season. He gave up a hit and struck out a batter in the outing. Brach also pitched 2⁄3 of an inning on Monday and allowed his inherited runners to score on a single, but those runs were charged to Walker Lockett.
Lockett was by far the worst pitcher for the Mets this week. He failed to record an out on Monday when he gave up a walk and a single to lead off the seventh inning, both of which would come around to score. He also imploded on Sunday, giving up two home runs in the eleventh that seemed like they would surely doom the Mets in their final game of 2019. Luckily for Lockett, it merely set the stage for Dom Smith’s exciting walk-off home run. But Lockett’s performance this week still underscored the fact that, as things stand right now, he is the primary starting pitching depth heading into 2020 and that is an unsustainable state of affairs.
This week was a banner week for Paul Sewald. He earned his first major league win! Until this week, he had been 0-14 and had accumulated the longest streak of big league appearances without a win in major league history. But that infamous streak came to an end on Tuesday when he pitched a scoreless top of the eleventh inning with two strikeouts. The Mets walked it off in the bottom of the frame and Sewald could finally sleep soundly. Sewald also pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Monday’s loss, giving up one hit and striking out a batter. He gave up a solo home run in his 1 1⁄3 innings of work in Sunday’s game in relief of Syndergaard.
It was truly all hands on deck on Tuesday, as the Mets scraped out a win despite Noah Syndergaard’s shaky start. Syndergaard gave up a whopping ten hits, but was able to limit the damage to four runs. He struck out seven batters and walked none over five innings of work. Coincidentally, both of the Mets’ eleventh inning walk-offs were started by Syndergaard. On Sunday, he delivered a better performance. He gave up three runs on five hits over seven innings. He struck out nine batters and walked two. He ultimately finished his season with a disappointing 4.28 ERA, but still accrued 4.4 fWAR, surpassing his total from last year when his season was interrupted by injury.
Chris Mazza was the first pitcher called upon after Syndergaard’s early exit on Tuesday. He went 1 2⁄3 innings, walking two batters and striking out three. Mazza also recorded the final two outs of the eleventh inning on Sunday after Lockett’s ineffectiveness and ultimately got a very unexpected win out of the deal.
Luis Avilan followed Mazza on Tuesday recorded the final out of the seventh inning via the strikeout. It was a strong week for the Mets’ lefty specialist. The day before, he also recorded the final out of the seventh inning after Brach allowed Lockett’s inherited runners to score to keep the inning from ballooning further. He faced the first batter of the ninth inning in Thursday’s loss in relief of Wheeler and retired that batter via a strikeout.
Justin Wilson pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday’s game, working around a walk. This paved the way for the Mets to tie the game in the bottom of the frame. That was Wilson’s only work for the week, as he was shut down out of an abundance of caution, given the injuries he dealt with in the first half of this season. He will be a key piece of the Mets’ bullpen in 2020.
No relief pitcher will be more key to the Mets’ bullpen in 2020 than Seth Lugo, however. Lugo appeared in two games this week. He immediately preceded Wilson on Tuesday, tossing a 1-2-3 eighth inning with two strikeouts. He earned his sixth save of the season in his final appearance of 2019, recording the final six outs in Friday’s victory. He allowed two hits and struck out two.
That performance came in relief of Marcus Stroman, who finished his 2019 strong after his penultimate start was marred by the effects of illness. Stroman was shaky early, giving up two runs in the first inning. But he quickly settled in and went on to toss six innings, not giving up another run the rest of the way. He struck out eight batters and walked one, earning his tenth victory of the season. The Mets acquired Stroman at the deadline with an eye toward 2020 and he will be a crucial part of their rotation next year.
Daniel Zamora made just one appearance this week, but it turned out to be an important one. He recorded the final two outs of the eighth inning immediately following Sewald in relief on Sunday. One of those outs came via the strikeout. His fellow left-handed teammate Donnie Hart was the only reliever to not make an appearance this week.