Of course, the second the pitching began to look like it had figured things out, two things happened: the offense fell completely silent and players started getting hurt. This week, Justin Wilson remains on the injured list and was joined by Jeurys Familia and Luis Avilan, with Steven Matz and Jason Vargas not far behind. The good news is that as a staff, the Mets posted a 2.43 ERA over 70 1⁄3 innings this week, which is the second-best in baseball over that span—all of this while the revolving door of middle relievers up and down from Triple-A continues to spin unabated.
Let’s start with the best pitching storyline of the week: Noah Syndergaard’s unbelievable day on Thursday. He tossed a complete game shutout against the Reds and hit a home run for the game’s only run—a feat that had not been accomplished since 1983. He allowed four hits, struck out ten, and walked only one batter. That herculean effort earned him his second win of the season and is hopefully the start of a turnaround for Syndergaard.
Speaking of turning things around, Jacob deGrom had his first good outing since his return from the injured list. This time, the game was not delayed by rain for nearly three hours and that likely helped matters. The good news is that deGrom pitched seven shutout innings on Wednesday, allowing just three hits, walking two, and striking out six. The bad news is that the game was very much a flashback to last season thanks to the scuttling offense, which provided deGrom no run support and the result was a 1-0 loss.
The winning run in that 1-0 loss on Wednesday was surrendered by Edwin Diaz, who gave up two home runs this week that resulted in his first and second loss of the season. The first was to Jesse Winker in Monday’s 5-4 loss and the second was to Jose Iglesias on Wednesday. Diaz showed he’s human this week, but he did finish out his week on a high note, setting down the Brewers 1-2-3 in the twelfth inning of Saturday night’s marathon contest.
Ryan O’Rourke, fresh up from Triple-A, and Seth Lugo combined for a scoreless eighth inning on Wednesday in relief of deGrom. O’Rourke walked two batters, but neither came around to score. He also walked a batter in 2⁄3 of an inning of work on Saturday. He was promptly sent back down to Triple-A yesterday.
It’s Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman that would have gone down as the the pitching heroes on Saturday if the Mets had been able to hang on for the win after taking the lead in the eighteenth inning. They each contributed three scoreless innings of work. For Lugo, it capped off a week in which he didn’t allow a run over 4 1⁄3 total innings. In addition to getting the final out of the eighth inning on Wednesday, Lugo tossed a scoreless seventh inning on Monday.
Gsellman also had a clean sheet for the week. In addition to his three scoreless innings on Saturday, he also contributed 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings to Tuesday’s extra-inning victory and 1 1⁄3 scoreless innings in relief of Steven Matz in Friday’s loss.
Matz fell one out short of a quality start on Friday, giving up three runs on nine hits—including two home runs—in 5 2⁄3 innings of work. He wasn’t his sharpest, but he kept the Mets in the game and as was the theme this week, the offense was unable to pick him up. Later, we learned that Matz has been dealing with a nerve issue in his forearm and had been trying to pitch through it for multiple starts now. The Mets are hoping it isn’t series and that he will only have to miss “a start or so.” Meanwhile, it seems Corey Oswalt is due to take a spot start in his place.
Matz isn’t the only Mets pitcher banged up this week. Luis Avilan pitched 2⁄3 of an inning on Friday in relief of Matz, but then had to come out of the game in visible discomfort. Due to their bullpen woes, the Mets had been relying on Avilan as a multi-inning reliever despite his injury history and role as a lefty specialist. The results have not been there for Avilan and now he has been placed on the injured list with elbow soreness.
He joins Jeurys Familia, who has been dealing with shoulder soreness due to bone spurs. Familia made two appearances this week before going on the injured list. He tossed a scoreless eighth inning on Monday prior to Diaz giving up the game-winning home run to Winker. The next day, he blew a lead in the ninth, giving up two runs to the Reds that allowed them to tie the game. The Mets would go on to win the game in the tenth inning, but Familia hit the injured list and is currently rehabbing in Port St. Lucie.
With all of the injuries to their relief pitching, that meant it was all hands on deck for Saturday’s game and the pitching performed exceptionally well until the very end of the game. Daniel Zamora tossed a scoreless inning, bouncing back from his outing on Tuesday in which he walked the batter he was tasked with facing. He also recorded a key out in yesterday’s loss.
Zamora was bailed out on Tuesday by Drew Gagnon, who was not scored upon in his two total innings of work this week. After Familia surrendered the tying run and Zamora failed to get his man, Gagnon came in and recorded the last out of the ninth inning on Tuesday and then followed that up with a scoreless tenth. He got the win—his first of the year—when the Mets walked it off in the bottom of the tenth. Gagnon also pitched 1⁄3 of an inning on both Friday and Saturday.
It was Flexen who took the fall for Saturday’s loss. He pitched a scoreless seventeenth inning and then when the Mets took the lead in the top of the eighteenth inning, because they had already burned Diaz, Flexen was asked to pitch as second inning. He was not successful, giving up two runs and the walk-off loss. The only reason Flexen avoids the poop emoji is because he was squeezed by home plate umpire Angel Hernandez. Flexen was sent back down to Triple-A when Tim Peterson and Tyler Bashlor were recalled.
The Mets needed those fresh arms yesterday in Jason Vargas’ second start of the week. Mickey Callaway had said before the game that Vargas would be pushed to 100 pitches due to the bullpen being taxed from the long extra inning game the night before. Therefore, it was puzzling when Vargas was removed after just 50 pitches and four innings of work. He gave up three runs, two of them the result of a two-run blast off the bat of Christian Yelich in his return the to Brewers lineup, and took the loss. It turns out that Vargas is likely heading to the injured list due to hamstring tightness. Lucky for the Mets, they won’t be needing a fifth starter due to off days in their schedule and they are hoping that by the time they need a fifth starter next time around, Vargas will be back. Vargas also started Tuesday’s walk-off victory, delivering the Jason Vargas version of a quality start. He gave up one run on three hits over 5 1⁄3 innings of work, striking out five and walking three batters.
Tim Peterson and Tyler Bashlor were both immediately needed in their first game up from Triple-A yesterday due to Vargas’ injury-shortened outing. Both delivered scoreless outings. Peterson gave up just one hit over 2 1⁄3 innings of work, striking out one. Bashlor logged 1 1⁄3 innings, striking out two and walking a batter. They kept the game close, but the offense-starved Mets couldn’t quite come back from the 3-0 deficit left by Vargas.
It may be only a distant memory at this point, but Zack Wheeler actually started the game on Saturday and pitched very well, giving up two runs on six hits over seven innings of work and striking out ten batters. He walked only one in the outing. Wheeler also started Monday’s game in which Edwin Diaz took the loss and was less sharp, giving up four runs on seven hits, only striking out four and walking three. Still, it was a game the Mets had every chance to win. With Matz and Vargas both (hopefully temporarily) sidelined, the Mets will be more reliant on Wheeler than ever to be up there with deGrom and Syndergaard delivering consistent quality starts to save the injury-ravaged bullpen.