The New York Mets have been held afloat on the back of their pitching staff and this week is no exception to that rule. Yes, there were a couple of bad bullpen performances this week. Yes, Marcus Stroman’s most recent start was not good. But, given the Mets’ schedule this week and the injuries to their pitching, the fact that the pitching staff performed as well as it did, given how many innings it had to cobble together this week, is a borderline miracle. The Mets have continued to get production from the unlikeliest of places (Jerad Eickhoff? Tylor Megill?). And they won both deGrom starts this week, extending their streak to eight-straight victories when their ace takes the hill.
Let’s begin with those two Jacob deGrom starts, which were not quite incredible enough to earn the deGOAT fireball, but still pretty amazing nonetheless. On Monday evening in Game 1 of that doubleheader, deGrom was especially dominant, tossing five shutout innings in which he gave up just one hit and two walks and struck out six Braves. He needed just 70 pitches to get through those five innings, but it was his first start since yet another injury scare, and given the fact that the game was only seven innings, the Mets were cautious with their ace. The game was not without some late-inning agita, but the Mets cruised (relatively speaking) to a 4-2 victory, giving deGrom his seventh win of the year. While the Mets won in deGrom’s second start of the week on Saturday, deGrom did not himself earn the win because he left the game down 2-1. It was deGrom’s “worst” start of the year and by “worst” I mean he gave up two runs in six innings. He only gave up three hits, but the Phillies got some solid swings against him and he looked, dare I say, human at times. Nonetheless, he did what aces do best: he limited the damage and gave his team a chance to win. And they did so.
In both deGrom starts, the Mets turned to their high leverage relievers Seth Lugo and Edwin Díaz to get the job done and this week both had a mixed bag when it came to shutting the door. Lugo’s rough patch came in relief of deGrom on Monday when he gave up a two-run homer to Ozzie Albies in the sixth that allowed the Braves to pull within two. But it was not a mistake that ultimately cost the Mets the victory and Lugo was lights out the rest of the week. It was Lugo that earned the victory (his first of the year) in Friday afternoon’s walk-off victory with a scoreless top of the eighth inning, in which he struck out three batters to strand the free baserunner and Bryce Harper, who was intentionally walked. Lugo also pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning in a tie game on Saturday.
Díaz, by contrast, started the week off strong, but had a hiccup at the end of the week. He earned his fifteenth save of the season in relief of deGrom in Game 1 on Monday with a 1-2-3 seventh inning complete with a strikeout. He followed that with a five-out save on Wednesday. Although the Mets won the game by four runs, it was a skinnier lead when Díaz came in the game with traffic on the bases and he was able to bail out Corey Oswalt and finish the job, striking out two batters and walking one in the outing. Díaz did not get the job done in a tie game on Saturday, however. He was struggling with his control from the outset, hitting a batter and walking a batter to lead off the inning and then throwing a wild pitch. He also was not paying attention the baserunners and allowed two stolen bases in the sequence. A sacrifice fly by Nick Maton tied the game and Díaz very nearly allowed a third stolen base, if not for an excellent tag by Guillorme that gave him a chance to get out the jam with limited damage. He did so, striking out Ronald Torreyes to end the inning with just the one run allowed. Of course, Díaz got the win for that effort, since the Mets answered for two against the Phillies bullpen to walk it off in the bottom of the frame. So all told, Díaz’s one poor performance this week did not cost the Mets.
Nestled between deGrom’s start and the work of Lugo and Díaz in relief on Saturday was Aaron Loup’s scoreless seventh inning. Although that certainly helped the Mets in their win on Saturday, that is not why Loup earns the fireball this week. Loup earns the fireball this week for his absolutely Herculean effort on Tuesday with three scoreless innings of relief after Marcus Stroman exited the game early due to hip soreness. The Mets lost the game ultimately, but Loup deserves recognition for his yeoman’s work nonetheless. He allowed one hit, struck out four batters, and walked none in the outing. Loup continues to be instrumental to the Mets’ success this year and perhaps the most underrated member of the relief corps.
There is not much to grade from Marcus Stroman’s abbreviated start on Tuesday. After a rather uneventful first inning, he left the game partway through the first batter he faced in the second inning due to hip soreness. This did not cause him to miss any starts and he returned the mound yesterday. Unfortunately, he did not pitch well in yesterday’s game. The Phillies were hitting him hard right from the outset and the Mets made two fantastic plays in the first inning to rob the Phillies of what could have been a big inning. But the defense giveth and the defense taketh away, as they say; only four of the five runs Stroman ultimately gave up over his three innings of work were earned since the Mets played pretty poorly in the field later in the game. However, the fact remains that Stroman did not have his best stuff yesterday. He struck out as many batters as he walked (3) and did not last deep into the game, forcing the Mets’ overworked bullpen into action.
Corey Oswalt, freshly recalled from Triple-A, pitched four scoreless innings in long relief of Stroman yesterday. He gave up four hits, struck out four batters, and walked none in the outing. This came after Oswalt earned the win for his work in relief on Wednesday, giving up one run over 2 1⁄3 innings of work. With Robert Gsellman sidelined, the Mets are going to be relying on Oswalt and Sean-Reid Foley for long relief duty.
Speaking of Sean-Reid Foley, he took the loss in Game 2 of Friday’s doubleheader, but the run he allowed was unearned since it was the free extra innings runner. Reid-Foley retired all three batters he faced in that inning, but the Mets did not have another comeback in them that time. He also pitched a scoreless inning in Game 2 of Monday’s doubleheader, but the Mets were shut out in that game.
To Jerad Eickhoff’s credit, he kept the Mets in the game in his first start as a Met. He pitched four scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and striking out three batters. He also walked three in the outing. With Joey Lucchesi out for the duration and the trading deadline not yet close enough to do something substantial, the Mets are going to need to cobble together the fifth starter slot somehow for the time being and Eickhoff will likely continue to be part of that equation.
It was Miguel Castro who allowed the only run scored by either team in Game 2 on Monday on a solo homer to Ronald Acuña Jr. It’s the type of thing that should be just a blip in an otherwise good week, but because of the Mets’ offensive woes, he took the loss for that one mistake. Castro also contributed 2⁄3 of an inning in relief of Tylor Megill on Wednesday and 1 1⁄3 scoreless innings in Game 1 of Friday’s doubleheader in a close contest. We’ve seen some flashes of the old Miguel Castro of late, as he has struggled with his control some; he walked three batters in his outing on Friday. But that usually has not come back to bite him the way it did when he was an Oriole.
It was Yennsy Díaz who really had to fall on the sword due to Stroman exiting the game early on Tuesday. Freshly called up from Triple-A when Jeurys Familia was placed on the injured list, Díaz was likely not expecting to have to come in the game in the second inning, let alone pitch multiple innings. But he was called upon to do both of those things. He managed to wriggle his way out of a jam in the second inning, despite loading the bases. But he gave up a three-run homer to Dansby Swanson the following inning and that was all she wrote; he took the loss in that game. He was optioned back to Triple-A on Wednesday, but will likely end up back in the big leagues again at some point.
Perhaps lost in all of this week’s ups and downs was the fact that this was a great week—perhaps even a banner week—for Drew Smith. Not only did he soak up two scoreless innings in relief following Yennsy Díaz on Tuesday, he bailed Miguel Castro out in Game 1 on Friday when Castro put two men on via the walk in a one-run game. Smith retired the next two batters to escape the jam and the Mets went on to tie the game in the bottom of the frame and win it in the next inning. Then, after Corey Oswalt bore the brunt of long relief on Sunday, Smith stepped in and pitched the last two innings of that game as well, giving up just one hit. Smith is not a guy the Mets have turned to in high-leverage situations very often, but given how stretched their pitching is and how many games they had in short succession this week, they were forced to use him heavily this week and he delivered.
Although Taijuan Walker had to walk away with a no-decision in Game 1 on Friday, he once again gave the Mets a strong outing and has become arguably the Mets’ most reliable pitcher outside of deGrom of late. He tossed five innings of one-run ball in what ultimately was an eight-inning game, giving up three hits and one walk and striking out five. Ironically, really the only damage done against Walker in the outing came at the hands of the opposing pitcher Aaron Nola, who is not known for his bat. Walker is still top ten in ERA in the National League and has an outside chance to make the All-Star Team.
Immediately following Walker in Game 2, David Peterson delivered his third-straight strong start after struggling mightily for a period. Peterson gave up just one run—a solo homer to Bryce Harper—over six fantastic innings. He gave up just two other hits in the outing, striking out five and walking two. Unfortunately the Mets went on to lose the game in extra innings, but given the Mets’ current pitching situation, they are more dependent on Peterson than ever to be the reliable version of himself that he was in 2020. Hopefully his recent outings are the start of a long stretch of success.
With the Mets still down 1-0 following the Harper home run, Trevor May tossed a 1-2-3 seventh inning, giving the Mets a chance to tie it in the bottom of the inning. It was the end of a really strong, bounce back week for May, who went through a rocky period, but seems to be back on his game now. In fact, May allowed just one baserunner all week long. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday’s loss, allowing a hit, but nothing else. He struck out two batters in that outing. He also struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 seventh (and final) inning in a one-run game in Monday’s Game 2 loss. May has looked dominant lately and that can only be good for the Mets.
We’ll finish the meter with the newest kid on the block, Tylor Megill, who probably did not expect to pitch in the big leagues this year. As the Mets were in a stretch of their schedule where they had three doubleheaders in less than a week, Megill made his major league debut on Wednesday after putting up fantastic numbers (particularly eye-popping strikeout totals) in Double-A and then a short stint at Triple-A. It was smooth sailing for Megill early, as he was given an early lead by the Mets’ offense and cruised through the first four innings. But he walked a batter and then gave up a two-run homer to Ender Inciarte in the fifth to get the Braves on the board. He then walked the pitcher Josh Tomlin—a clear indication that he was running out of steam—which necessitated his exit from the game after 4 1⁄3 solid innings of work. He did not go deep enough in the game to earn the win, but it was a solid debut for the 25-year-old.