The Mets’ sub-.500 record for the week can be laid almost entirely at the feet of the offense. The pitching this week has been immaculate and as a result, the Mets were within striking distance in every game they played, even if a one-run deficit often felt like much more due to the struggling offense. The bullpen was spotless this week until yesterday’s game, which was millimeters away from being blown. But the Mets ultimately came out on top. The pitching staff is bound to have the occasional bad day and there will be some regression; the key is for the offense to get going and score enough runs to overcome it.
We’ll start with the one bad day from the bullpen, which came last night. Miguel Castro, who had been so strong in a shared setup role with Trevor May and arguably the standout pleasant surprise in the bullpen this season, finally had a bad outing. He allowed a go-ahead three-run homer to Didi Gregorius in the sixth inning of yesterday’s game. Only two of the three runs were earned, but the unearned run was due Castro’s own fielding error on a ball hit by Bryce Harper that he bobbled, allowing Harper to reach first base safely. However, prior to last night, Castro had pitched two hitless innings over two appearances, striking out three batters in the process.
Edwin Díaz also had a poor outing last night, nearly letting the game get away in the ninth after the Mets’ exciting comeback. Luis Rojas opted to use Díaz for a second straight day, this time in a non-save situation. That decision came back to bite him, as Díaz struggled mightily in the outing. He walked the leadoff hitter on four pitches, retired the next batter, but then surrendered a triple to the struggling Roman Quinn to start a rally for the Phillies. He bounced back to strike out Odubel Herrera for the second out, but then issued another base on balls to Matt Joyce and then gave up what would have been the game-tying shot to Rhys Hoskins that was ultimately overturned for a double, allowing the Mets to maintain a skinny one-run lead. While the Hoskins double was being reviewed, Díaz was being seen by the trainer for what was later revealed to be back tightness. Díaz wanted to pitch through it, but he was removed from the game. Like Castro, Díaz’s poor outing came on the heels of an otherwise strong week. He earned his third save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth inning—complete with two strikeouts—on Saturday. He also struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth inning in Wednesday’s loss.
Other than those hiccups from Castro and Díaz in yesterday’s game, the Mets’ bullpen has been perfect this week. Trevor May in particular had a standout week and earns the fireball for his four scoreless innings of work and six strikeouts across four appearances. He gave up just one hit and did not walk a single batter this week. All four of his appearances came in the eighth inning and mostly in high-leverage situations—Tuesday’s game at a one-run deficit, Wednesday’s game at a one-run deficit (where he struck out the side in order), Saturday in a tie game (where he earned his second win of the year), and yesterday with a four-run lead being the exception. After a rocky first week or so, May is looking like the elite setup man the Mets paid for.
Speaking of elite, Jeurys Familia looked like the Familia of old yesterday, flashing his absolute nastiest stuff. After Díaz left the game with the lead barely in tact, it was up to Familia to face Bryce Harper with the tying run in scoring position. He struck Harper out in the key spot, securing the rollercoaster victory for the Mets. To be fair, Harper did look like he was ailing after taking a painful swing in his previous at-bat. Nonetheless, it was a king-sized out for Familia, who was not rattled by a missed call by the umpire in the at-bat on a perfect pitch on the corner that should have been strike three. It was the cherry on top of a strong week overall for Familia. He pitched scoreless seventh innings in both Tuesday’s and Friday’s one-run losses, working around a hit in the former and two walks in the latter.
Perhaps lost in yesterday’s hullabaloo was the fact that Jacob Barnes earned the win for a scoreless seventh inning, after which the Mets rallied from behind to take the lead. It was Barnes’ only appearance of the week and he needed just seven pitches to retire the side.
Rounding out the relief corps, Aaron Loup also had a strong week, pitching three scoreless innings in three appearances, striking out four batters and walking one. Like Castro, he is emerging as a pleasant surprise in the Mets bullpen. He pitched a scoreless seventh in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss, a scoreless sixth with two strikeouts in Friday’s 2-1 loss, and a scoreless seventh in a tie game on Saturday that the Mets went on to win.
As a result of the fact that every game was close this week and the Mets knew they would need length out of their bullpen for tonight’s game, Sean Reid-Foley and Robert Gsellman—the multi-inning guys in the bullpen—did not pitch this week. Lefty Daniel Zamora was recalled from the alternate site this week and has also yet to see action. Expect to see some combination (or even all three) of these pitchers in tonight’s game.
The starting pitchers also performed well this week with very little to show for it. David Peterson was the only starter to pitch twice this week and put forth two great outings. On Monday he notched a quality start, giving up just two runs on four hits over six innings of work. Unfortunately, due to the Mets’ offensive futility, he took the loss in that outing. Although last night’s ESPN broadcast glossed over Peterson’s performance in favor of other topics, it did not go unnoticed by this Mets Meter Maid (a new nickname I’m trying out for myself, do we like it?). Peterson tossed five strong innings, striking out eight and giving up just one run—a solo homer by Andrew McCutchen to lead off the game. At 88 pitches after five, he likely could have kept going, but the Mets needed to pinch hit for him in the sixth with runners on base in a tight game.
Speaking of taking the loss in a great outing, that’s what happened to Jacob deGrom again this week. He gave up just one run and he took the loss because the Mets gave him exactly zero runs of support. He gave up only three hits and struck out nine. It’s funny how at this point, nine strikeouts feels like a low number for deGrom, but he only went six innings in this start. It’s clear he wasn’t quite video game level deGrom this week; his innings were more laborious than usual, which limited his ability to pitch deep into the game. As a result, his season ERA actually went up to a still miniscule 0.51. Nevertheless, he did every bit of what he needed to do and more to give the Mets a chance to win and their hitters squandered it for him as usual.
Marcus Stroman was also the victim of some very hard luck this week. In the Mets’ 2-1 loss on Friday, the Phillies’ only two runs came on a passed ball by James McCann on a strikeout of the pitcher Chase Anderson. As I mentioned in McCann’s paragraph of the position player meter for this week, it was clearly a cross-up and it is possible that Stroman shares some blame for throwing a pitch McCann was not expecting. Either way, neither of those two runs were earned on Stroman’s part, so he tossed five innings over which he was charged with no runs. He gave up three hits and a walk and struck out eight. The Mets’ offense failed once again to score off subpar pitching and for that effort, Stroman took the loss. At 64 pitches, he almost assuredly would have been out there for the sixth, but he exited the game early with a tight hamstring. He is optimistic that he will make his next scheduled start, however.
Ironically, the “worst” outing of the week from a Mets starting pitcher came in a game the Mets were able to win. Taijuan Walker was handed a four-run lead to work with early, as the Mets tagged Zack Wheeler for four runs in the first inning. However, he gave half of that lead back in a shaky second inning in which he allowed three hits, including one to the opposing pitcher. He settled in after that and tossed three straight scoreless frames, but he gave up a game-tying home run to Alec Bohm in the sixth. It is starting to become clear that Walker is a pitcher that becomes ineffective quickly the third time through the order and Luis Rojas will perhaps be quicker with the hook with him in the future. But Walker still was able to put the Mets in a position to win and they did so thanks to a clutch go-ahead homer from Michael Conforto.