Although the Mets’ record was rather mediocre to close out the final week of the season, like most weeks this year, it wasn’t because of the pitching, who performed well overall as a group. Of the team’s losses this week, two were by one run and one was a shutout, so overwhelmingly, the pitching staff kept the Mets in their games this week. This week also saw the returns of Noah Syndergaard and Robert Gsellman—both facing somewhat uncertain futures—from the injured list.
We’ll start with Noah Syndergaard who made two appearances this week of one inning each. The first one was good—a strong 1-2-3 inning to start Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, complete with two strikeouts. As advertised, Syndergaard did not use his slider, relying only on his fastball (topping out at 96mph) and his changeup. He threw nine of ten pitches for strikes in the frame. Syndergaard also started the final game of the season on Sunday and this outing did not go as well. He gave up a leadoff homer to Jorge Soler. Then with one out, Ozzie Albies laced a ground rule double down the left field line. That was followed by an Austin Riley single, on which Albies tried to score and unfortunately was successful due to a poor throw by Dominic Smith. Syndergaard was able to hold the Braves there, but it was definitely not the note he wanted to end on for his brief return. He did, however, use his slider in this appearance at least once and it was effective. Syndergaard said not returning to the Mets next year would be “a tough pill to swallow.” The Mets have until just after the postseason to decide whether to extend Syndergaard a qualifying offer.
Trevor Williams followed Syndergaard in long relief in both his outings this week. And like Syndergaard, his first outing was more successful than his second. In four innings in the nightcap on Tuesday, Williams gave up just one run—a solo homer to Jesus Sanchez in the second—and struck out six batters and helped the Mets to a 2-1 victory. On Sunday, he went even deeper in the game, pitching five innings in relief. But unfortunately, the Braves tagged him for three runs in the third inning. He struck out five batters and walked two in that outing. Williams is entering his final year of arbitration heading into the the 2022 season.
Like Syndergaard, Robert Gsellman also returned for a brief spell this week after a lengthy stint on the injured list. And also like Syndergaard, he had mixed results. He threw a scoreless inning in relief of Syndergaard on Sunday, striking out a batter in the process. The day before, however, he yielded a run in the sixth inning on a hit by pitch and two singles. At the time it didn’t seem very consequential, as it extended the Braves’ lead to five runs. However, one run ended up being the difference in a game where the Mets fell just short of a comeback. Like Williams, Gsellman is heading into his final year of arbitration and it’s safe to say his place on the 2022 team is uncertain, given how much time he missed to injury.
Saturday’s game was started by Carlos Carrasco, who put the Mets in an early hole, as he has had a tendency to do this season. It was really the only poor start from the Mets’ rotation this week. All told, Carrasco gave up five runs on seven hits, including two home runs. He struck out five batters and walked two in five innings of work. Given the Mets’ pitching situation, Carrasco is almost certainly going to be in the rotation in 2022 and while it’s impossible to say how he will fare in a fully healthy season, his performance since returning from the injured list has not inspired confidence.
The rest of the rotation had solid outings this week. Marcus Stroman kicked off the week by earning his tenth win of the season in his final start, giving up two runs on five hits over five innings of work in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Stroman struck out four batters and walked two in the outing. The Mets’ most consistent starter this season, Stroman finishes out 2021 with a 3.02 ERA in 33 starts. He enters free agency as one of the top starting pitchers available.
Edwin Díaz earned his 31st save of the season with a 1-2-3 seventh inning in relief of Stroman, complete with two strikeouts. He ends his season on a high note, putting forth a similar performance on Friday night—a 1-2-3 ninth inning with two strikeouts to earn his 32nd save of the season. Although he certainly wasn’t elite this season, he accrued 2.0 fWAR, which makes 2021 the second-most valuable season of Díaz’s career by that metric. He is likely to earn a hefty contract in arbitration.
Also in relief of Stroman on Tuesday, Seth Lugo earned his 14th hold of the season with a 1-2-3 sixth inning, in which he struck out two batters. Unfortunately for Lugo though, his other outing this week was not a good one. Lugo took the loss in the only loss of the Marlins series on Wednesday, allowing both of his inherited runners to score, as well as the go-ahead run in the eighth inning. Although Lugo’s numbers are not out and out bad this season, it’s safe to say that he took a step back this year, as he battled injuries as well.
That performance from Lugo robbed Taijuan Walker of a win to close out his season, which is a shame because it was one of his best performances in what has otherwise been a tumultuous second half for Walker. Walker shut the Marlins out for seven innings on Wednesday, giving up just one hit over that span. But, he came back out for the eighth and allowed a leadoff double and a one-out walk before being replaced by Lugo, who allowed both of those runs to score, charged to Walker. It was truly a tale of two halves for Walker, who was an All-Star, but then posted a 7.13 ERA after the All-Star break. Whether the workload is what got to him is unclear, but the Mets will need him to be a lot closer to the first half version of himself if they can hope to be successful in 2022.
After Lugo coughed up the lead in the eighth inning on Wednesday, Aaron Loup pitched a scoreless ninth, working around a hit and striking out two batters. That was his only work for the week and he ends the 2021 season with a 0.95 ERA in 56 2⁄3 innings pitched. He is just the tenth relief pitcher in MLB history to finish a season with an ERA below 1.00 (minimum 56 IP). In a season mostly marked by underperformance from a lot of the roster, Loup was far and away the most pleasant surprise, far exceeding any expectations the Mets had when they signed him to a one-year, $3 million deal last offseason. Loup has expressed interest in returning to the Mets and it’s hard to find a reason why the team should not pursue it.
The Mets finished the Marlins series with Rich Hill earning his seventh win of the season thanks to a boatload of run support from his offense. Hill yielded three runs on six hits over five innings of work, but only two of the three runs were earned due to a throwing error by Michael Conforto in the fourth inning. Hill struck out six and walked three in the outing, which finished off his season strong. Hill gave the Mets everything they could have asked of him, posting a 3.84 ERA in 13 starts as a Met—nearly identical to his Rays numbers. The Mets knew exactly what they were getting with Hill and he delivered that.
The bullpen held the fort in relief of Hill on Thursday and pitched four collective scoreless innings of work. Brad Hand immediately followed Hill and earned his third hold of the season with a scoreless sixth inning. Hand also earned the win in Tuesday night’s extra-inning victory by tossing a 1-2-3 top of the ninth inning prior to the Mets walking it off in the bottom of the frame. Hand capped off his clean sheet in the final week of the 2021 season with a scoreless seventh inning in relief of Carrasco on Saturday. Although Hand had his rocky moments, he ended up with a 2.70 ERA in 13 1⁄3 innings as a Met.
Miguel Castro also earned a hold—his ninth of the year—on Thursday for a 1-2-3 seventh inning complete with two strikeouts. Like Hand, Castro was unscored upon in three appearances this week. He worked around a walk to pitch a scoreless sixth inning in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader and he did the same in the eighth inning of Saturday’s loss, enabling the Mets to get close to a comeback in that game. Like much of the Mets’ bullpen, although Castro had his rough patches this season (particularly after the “sticky stuff” crackdown), he finishes the season with solid numbers and greatly improved upon his control issues he faced as an Oriole to better harness his stuff, which is filthy when it’s on. 2022 will be Castro’s final year of arbitration and he is likely one of the few guarantees for next year’s bullpen.
Trevor May is another reliever who will be back in 2022, as he enters the second year of his two-year deal with the Mets. He immediately followed Castro in his appearances on Tuesday night and on Thursday, pitching a 1-2-3 inning each time. He struck out one batter in the former and two batters in the latter, also earning his fifteenth hold of the season. He followed that up with his sixteenth hold of the season on Friday, although he did yield a run in that outing. He entered the game with the Mets up 4-2 in the eighth inning and gave up a solo homer to Ehire Adrianza to allow the Braves to pull within a run. He also gave up back-to-back two-out hits, but was able to wriggle out of it without surrendering the tying run and luckily Díaz locked it down in the ninth to render the homer meaningless.
That final appearance from May came in relief of Tylor Megill who desperately needed a silver lining on which to hang his hat and he got that in his final start of 2021. Megill one-hit the Braves through five innings of work, striking out six batters and walking one. With that effort, he earned his fourth win of the season. After starting his big league career so promisingly, Megill began to struggle as the innings piled up and the league adjusted to him. Although the Mets should learn their lesson from David Peterson and not pencil Megill into a guaranteed rotation spot next year, Megill at least proved himself as valuable depth moving forward—something that likely no one saw coming.
The bullpen was less stellar in relief of Megill on Friday than it was for Hill on Thursday, but they did enough to secure the victory. In addition to May surrendering a run, Heath Hembree and Jeurys Familia each gave up a run in their appearances on Thursday. After striking out the first two batters he faced in the sixth, Familia gave up a single, threw a wild pitch, and then allowed an RBI double to Ozzie Albies. But luckily he stopped the bleeding there, getting the dangerous Austin Riley to fly out to end the inning. Familia’s shaky outing was balanced by a good outing in Game 2 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, in which he entered a tie game in extras and picked off the free runner Magneuris Sierra to give himself a clean frame to work with. It was the first pickoff of Familia’s career, amazingly enough. He then retired the next to batters he faced, the latter via the strikeout, to help preserve the tie and keep the game going.
Similarly, Hembree had one good outing and one bad one this week. In the seventh inning on Friday, he gave up a solo homer to Eddie Rosario to allow the Braves to pull within two runs. However, Hembree was the final reliever to pitch a scoreless inning in relief of Rich Hill in Thursday’s lopsided victory, working around a walk and striking out a batter in the ninth inning of that contest. Hembree finished off his week (and his season) on a high note too, tossing a 1-2-3 seventh inning in Sunday’s loss. Since the Mets claimed him on waivers on August 20, Hembree posted a 3.45 ERA, which was much improved on his mark with the Reds, which was well over 6. Like Hand, Hembree proved to be a solid pickup for the Mets to bolster a bullpen that had its rough patches, but was ultimately not the problem when it comes to what went wrong for the Mets in 2021.