Aside from one mediocre start from Zack Wheeler, the Mets’ starting rotation had a solid week, posting a 3.67 ERA as a group. The bullpen, bolstered by some extra depth, has mostly held it together too. However, with Robert Gsellman hitting the injured list with triceps tightness, that is one fewer arm Mickey Callaway can rely upon in high leverage situations. The usually reliable Seth Lugo had one meltdown this week and Drew Gagnon had a nightmarish outing that turned a blowout into a close game.
We’ll start with Lugo, who avoids the down arrow only because he would go on to earn the save in Saturday’s game. Lugo entered the game on Wednesday with a skinny one-run lead to protect in relief of Steven Matz. He faced seven batters and retired only one of them. He allowed a leadoff walk and then allowed four straight singles before retiring a batter, after which he allowed yet another base hit. When all was said and done a 2-1 lead became a 6-2 deficit and Lugo was charged with five runs, ballooning his ERA to 3.41. That said, Lugo did redeem himself on Saturday, earning his third save of the season in relief of Jacob deGrom to even the Royals series at one game apiece.
The choice to bring Lugo into Wednesday’s game was a controversial one because Steven Matz had been cruising heading into the seventh. He had retired 14 batters in a row and had only thrown 79 pitches. Callaway even allowed Matz to hit in the top of the seventh, which made it seem like his intent was to let Matz pitch another inning. However, the Mets taking the lead in that frame may have changed his calculus. Regardless of the poor outcome of the game, Matz had a fantastic outing, giving up just one run on two hits and striking out five over six innings of work.
This was in stark contrast to Zack Wheeler’s outing the night before, which was the first bad performance by a Mets starting pitcher in quite some time. Wheeler was no match for the Braves lineup, yielding five runs on twelve hits in five innings of work. He walked two batters and struck out just two batters. The Mets tried to mount a comeback in the eighth, but the 5-1 deficit proved to be too great and Wheeler was handed his seventh loss of the season. Wheeler was better in yesterday’s game, but still lasted only five innings. He gave up three runs on four hits, striking out two and walking one. He left the game the pitcher of record on the short side, but the Mets’ huge seventh inning agains the Royals bullpen bailed out Wheeler, handing him a no-decision.
It was Jeurys Familia who earned the win in yesterday’s game for his two innings of work in relief of Wheeler. He tossed a scoreless sixth and yielded a run in the seventh, but this was after the Mets had taken a big lead. Familia has looked much better of late, still mostly pitching in low leverage situations, but yesterday’s sixth inning was a clutch performance in a close contest. In Tuesday’s game, Familia came in the seventh inning with traffic on the bases and two outs and struck out Charlie Culberson to end the inning. He also tossed a scoreless ninth in Wednesday’s loss.
On both Tuesday and Wednesday, Familia immediately followed Luis Avilan in relief, who has been a key cog in this Mets bullpen since he returned from the injured list. Avilan had a shaky, but not awful week this week. On Tuesday, he started the seventh inning and gave up a leadoff single. He retired the next batter he faced, but then hit a batter with a pitch. He got a big strikeout in Ender Inciarte and then was removed from the game in favor of Familia. After Lugo’s meltdown on Wednesday, Avilan was called upon to put out the fire. He did give up one additional hit to plate a run, but that run was charged to Lugo. He then bounced back and got Freddie Freeman to ground into a double play to finally put the inning to bed. He also worked around a base hit to finish off the sixth inning in relief of Marcus Stroman in Thursday’s victory.
Stroman was handed a huge lead early on Thursday and gave the Mets enough to win the game. His outing was not anything to write home about, but he also wasn’t helped out by his defense behind him, as only two of the three runs he surrendered were earned. His big problem on Thursday was walks; he issued four of them in his 5 1⁄3 innings of work. He also gave up two home runs. But he limited the damage, striking out five batters.
The pitcher who did not limit the damage on Thursday was Drew Gagnon, who was called up from Triple-A after his recent success there. But he had about as bad of an outing as one can have. He came into the game with a seven run lead and nearly gave it all back. He pitched a perfectly respectable eighth inning, giving up a home run to Freddie Freeman, but nothing else. Callaway left Gagnon in the game for the ninth to finish things off and he was unable to do so. He gave up three more home runs in the ninth, including another one to Freeman. With the score now 10-8, Edwin Diaz had to come in the game to record the final out. Prior to this meltdown, Gagnon did pitch a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday’s loss.
Things looked dicey yet again for a brief moment for Diaz on Thursday, as he walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. But he bounced back to strike out Ender Inciarte to secure the victory, earning his 25th save of the season. Like Familia, Diaz has been downgraded to lower leverage situations and is now in a timeshare with Lugo for the closer role. And it was an up-and-down week for Diaz overall. His roughest outing came on Friday, when he entered the game with the Mets down 2-1 with the bases loaded in the eighth. He walked a batter and gave up a single to plate two runs, neither of which were charged to him. Things were very nearly much worse for Diaz, as he gave up a long fly ball down the line to Ryan O’Hearn that was initially ruled a grand slam on the field, but was found to be foul upon replay review. Diaz bounced back to strike out O’Hearn and induce a double play grounder off the bat of Meibrys Viloria, but the two extra runs put the game out of reach for the Mets. With the Mets leading big in yesterday’s game, Diaz was called upon to pitch the ninth and delivered a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts.
Those two runs in the eighth inning of Friday night’s game were charged to the ledger of Brad Brach, who started the inning, but loaded the bases without retiring a batter. It was Brach’s first truly poor outing as a Met. It wasn’t all bad for Brach this week, though. In fact, his other outings all consisted of 1-2-3 innings. He pitched the sixth inning in Tuesday’s loss, the seventh inning on Thursday, and the eighth inning yesterday, striking out three batters across those outings and not allowing any hits or walks.
Friday night’s game getting away from the Mets spoiled a strong outing by Noah Syndergaard, who went six innings and gave up just two runs on five hits. He struck out six batters and walked two. Unfortunately, that effort handed him his sixth loss of the season, but he has lowered his season ERA to 3.86 with a 2.05 ERA since the All-Star break.
Before things went south for the Mets in the eighth inning on Friday, Justin Wilson tossed a 1-2-3 seventh inning with a strikeout in relief of Syndergaard to keep the Mets within a run. It was a strong week for Wilson, who also served as the bridge between Jacob deGrom and Seth Lugo with a scoreless eighth inning on Saturday, which earned him his seventh hold of the season. Wilson now owns a 2.55 ERA as a Met and has been essential for the Mets’ depleted bullpen since his lengthy injured list stint.
Jacob deGrom was his usual deGromian self on Saturday, tossing seven brilliant innings. He gave up one run on three hits, walked two, and struck out five. Once again, deGrom was heavily reliant on his slider. “It seems like everybody is hunting fastball,” deGrom said after the game. “They can hit the slider, but it’ll get some soft contact if I make a good pitch with it.” The Mets were able to snap a 1-1 tie late and get deGrom the win, his eighth of the season. deGrom is now second only to Max Scherzer—who will be activated this week after a stint on the injured list—in fWAR among qualified National League starters. He is third in the NL bWAR behind only Scherzer and Hyun-Jin Ryu. He is fourth in the NL in ERA, behind Mike Soroka, Ryu, and Scherzer.