The Mets went 5-1 this week mostly on the back of their pitching—notably their starting pitching, which has been excellent. Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman have been elite, Taijuan Walker put forth another solid performance, and David Peterson had a bounce back week. The bullpen has looked much improved from last week as well and Robert Gsellman and Trevor Hildenberger both had positive 2021 debuts. The one black mark on the Mets’ pitching staff came in the nightcap of the doubleheader on Saturday, when Joey Lucchesi was jumped on early and Jacob Barnes poured gasoline on the fire.
We’ll get the one bad game out of the way first and talk about Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader. Because of the many postponements and off days in the Mets’ schedule, it was the first time the team required a fifth starter and they called on lefty Joey Lucchesi to take the hill. Prior to Saturday night, Lucchesi had made one appearance out of the Mets bullpen and pitched well, but unfortunately things did not go as well for him in his first start. The Rockies jumped on Lucchesi early, tagging him for three runs in the first inning. To Lucchesi’s credit, the Mets did not play good defense behind him and he settled down after that and was able to throw two scoreless innings after the first, but the Mets were in an early hole.
The Mets were able to pull within a run on Saturday night by scoring two runs in the fourth, but Jacob Barnes got lit up in the fifth to the tune of four runs—three of them coming from a three-run homer off the bat of Josh Fuentes. That was Barnes’ only appearance for the week, so he earns the lone poop emoji in the group. Hopefully he can redeem himself outside of the hostile environment of Coors Field.
Somewhat buried in this week’s pitching narrative are the positive season debuts from both Robert Gsellman and Trevor Hildenberger, as they both came in that lopsided loss on Saturday night. Gsellman came in the game in the fourth when it was still close and kept it a one-run game, working around a hit to toss a scoreless frame, striking out one batter. Hildenberger pitched a scoreless sixth inning in a low-pressure situation, giving up one hit and striking out two batters. Depending on how Branes, Gsellman, and Hildenberger perform over the next couple of weeks, the Mets may have an interesting choice to make when Seth Lugo returns.
Outside of Saturday night, the Mets’ pitching this week was fantastic. Let’s start with Marcus Stroman, who was the only starter to pitch twice this week. He gets a fireball for giving up just one run across both of his starts and earning a win in both of them. His performance was nothing short of sensational this week. After throwing just nine pitches last Sunday before that game was suspended due to rain, he took the hill for nightcap of Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Phillies. Stroman shut the Phillies out for six innings, facing the minimum through the first four innings. All told, he gave up just four hits and was inducing ground balls all night long, including two key double plays. He struck out three batters, walked none, and needed just 86 pitches to get through six innings and secure the win. He was economical again in yesterday’s game, absolutely cruising through the first six innings of the game and carving up the Rockies lineup (at Coors Field, no less). The only blemish on his day came in the seventh when he gave up a double to Trevor Story and an RBI single to Charlie Blackmon to allow the Rockies to pull within a run. But outside of the seventh, he allowed only two other baserunners the rest of the afternoon, going eight innings in total, over which he struck out five batters. Once again, he gave up mostly soft contact and the defense (including the Gold Glover himself) was stellar behind him. Stroman is now 3-0 on the season with a 0.90 ERA.
Is it unfair to not give Jacob deGrom another fireball this week? I certainly considered it. After all, he did chase history in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader when he struck out nine Rockies in a row, matching his career high and falling just one strikeout short of Tom Seaver’s major league record. And he struck out 14 batters in total for the second start in a row; it’s starting to get absurd at this point. But, unfair as it is, he did give up three runs in his start. Thankfully for his ERA (which now stands at 0.45 for the year), they were all unearned due to a Jeff McNeil error. But they were runs nonetheless and unfair or not, the fireball bar for deGrom is probably just a little bit higher than for everyone else at this point. Regardless, he still pitched great (in less than ideal weather conditions) and this time, the Mets were actually able to come from behind and give him his first win of the season.
Because the Mets offense has yet to truly break out, the Mets had razor thin margins to work with—both yesterday and in Game 1 on Saturday. As a result, Edwin Díaz was instrumental to the Mets’ success this week. And he pitched great, earning the save for striking out the side in the seventh in relief of deGrom on Saturday and for a scoreless ninth in relief of Stroman yesterday, totaling two saves for the week. He also pitched a scoreless seventh inning in a tie game in Game 1 on Tuesday and a scoreless ninth to secure Wednesday’s victory in a non-save situation. He struck out six batters across his four appearances, allowed just one hit, and did not issue a walk; for that performance, he earns a fireball for this week.
It was Jeurys Familia who was able to complete the shutout of the Phillies behind Stroman in the nightcap on Tuesday with a scoreless seventh inning. Familia allowed baserunners in both of his outings this week, but no damage was done in either case. On Tuesday, he gave up back-to-back two-out singles, but was able to induce an inning-ending groundout from Jean Segura. On Wednesday, Familia entered the game with a skinny one-run lead and allowed a leadoff walk and a one-out single, but Aaron Loup bailed him out by inducing the inning-ending double play.
Speaking of Loup, he turned things around this week in a big way. That double play was arguably the key moment of the game on Wednesday and he followed it with a 1-2-3 eighth inning in which he struck out two batters. It was Loup’s only outing for the week, but it was crucial to Wednesday’s victory.
David Peterson was the beneficiary of Loup’s strong outing, as it helped him earn the win for his start on Wednesday. He deserved it too. After being hit hard by the Phillies in his first start, he did a complete 180 and turned in arguably his best start in his young career so far, striking out a career-high ten batters and walking none over six innings of work. The only blemish on his day was a solo homer off the bat of Jean Segura in the fifth inning. Otherwise, Peterson was excellent, keeping the Phillies hitters off balance all evening long and outdueling Zack Wheeler to complete the sweep.
Taijuan Walker put together his second strong outing in a row in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader, showing that the velocity bump he showed in his first start was no fluke. He struck out eight Phillies in 4 1⁄3 innings of work—his highest strikeout total since before his Tommy John surgery. Three of those came in the third inning, in which he struck out the side. He walked three batters and gave up just one run on three hits. The one knock on Walker so far has been his inability to go deep into the game. After issuing two one-out walks in the fifth inning, Luis Rojas was quick with the hook to try to protect a one-run lead.
Miguel Castro failed to protect that lead, but his overall line does not really tell the story of his outing on Tuesday, which was his only appearance for the week. Castro delivered a key strikeout of Andrew McCutchen to bail Walker out of the fifth inning and stayed in to pitch the sixth. He was burned by a leadoff walk, but there were a couple of borderline calls that did not go in his favor in that at-bat. He induced two slow grounders, but unfortunately they were too slow; the former was not fast enough for the Mets to turn two and the latter was an infield hit that allowed the tying run to score. But Castro limited the damage and kept the game tied and the Mets went on to win the game in thrilling come-from-behind fashion.
Trevor May’s outing in the eighth inning on Tuesday (following Díaz’s scoreless seventh) was much the same as Castro’s. He allowed the go-ahead run, but it was somewhat of a hard luck run. Since it was extra innings, he had to begin the inning with a runner already on second base. May struck out Rhys Hoskins for the first out. Then, the Mets intentionally walked Bryce Harper to get to Alec Bohm. A passed ball by James McCann allowed the runners to advance. Still, May got the ground ball he needed, but much like in the sixth inning, a combination of the infield shift and the speed of Didi Gregorius meant that Lindor had no play on it and the go-ahead run crossed home plate. May limited the damage by striking out Jean Segura to end the inning, keeping it close and setting it up for the eventual walk-off win. So although on paper it looks like Castro and May didn’t do their jobs, they still both ultimately pitched well and limited the damage, earning them side arrows for the week.