Usually in weeks where the position player meter is ugly, the pitching meter swoops in to save the day. This week, the position player meter was not all that ugly, but the pitching meter is not saving the day. The Mets have relied on lights out pitching all season long, but this week, there were some poor performances to discuss. Sometimes, the Mets overcame them. But other times, they did not.
Given the injuries to starters Joey Lucchesi and David Peterson (and the team still awaiting the returns of Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard) and injuries to long men/fill-in starters like Robert Gsellman, Sean Reid-Foley, and now Corey Oswalt, the Mets have had to cobble together innings at the back end of their rotation and in long relief. Tylor Megill continues to be the pleasant surprise of the bunch in that department. He put forth a fantastic effort in Monday’s victory, tossing five one-run innings and striking out seven Brewers. The only blemish on his night was a solo homer off the bat of Omar Narváez—one of just two hits he gave up in the outing. His second outing of the week did not go quite as well in that he only lasted 3 2⁄3 innings, but he still gave the Mets enough to win Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader. And he continued to strike out hitters at an impressive clip, fanning seven in Saturday’s outing. He gave up one run on four hits with three walks. Even once Carlos Carrasco returns at the end of the month, Megill will likely remain in the rotation as the fifth starter.
Due to the fact that the Mets had two doubleheaders this week in addition to being somewhat short-staffed, they called up Robert Stock—recently picked up off waivers from the Cubs—to pitch Game 2 of Wednesday’s doubleheader. Stock performed just about as well as one could hope for from a pitcher that far down the depth chart; he tossed four innings (in a seven-inning game) and gave up two runs on a two-run homer by Manny Piña. He struck out five and walked two in the outing.
After his start, Stock was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and Nick Tropeano (who served as the 27th man in Wednesday’s doubleheader, but did not pitch in either game) was added to the roster. Tropeano soaked up two innings of relief in Friday’s lopsided victory after the Mets went up big in the sixth inning. He gave up a solo homer, but avoided further damage despite traffic on the base paths in both innings.
Yennsy Díaz was also asked to pitch in garbage time on Friday night after the game resumed after a 40-minute rain delay. He walked the first two batters in the seventh inning despite having a huge lead and did ultimately allow one of those runners to score on a two-out single. It was no harm done as far as the outcome of the game is concerned, but walking two batters when up big is never a good look. Díaz also pitched in Game 2 of Wednesday’s doubleheader, recording the final two outs of the seventh (and final) inning of the loss after Miguel Castro failed to get out of the inning.
Speaking of Miguel Castro, it was another shaky week for him although not quite poop emoji worthy since neither of his outings cost the Mets the game (directly, anyway) and technically one of them was a scoreless outing. As I already alluded to, Castro entered Game 2 on Wednesday to start the seventh inning with the Mets already down 3-0. He hit a batter with a pitch to lead off the inning and then with one out, he gave up a two-run homer that put the Mets in an even more impossible deficit and necessitated Díaz bailing him out. Still, it’s hard to argue that was the difference in a game in which the Mets failed to score. Castro’s other outing came yesterday in a tighter situation. With the Mets leading by just one run, Castro came in the game and pitched a scoreless seventh, working around a single by Adam Frazier. He was then tasked with a second inning of work and that is where things got dicey. With one out in the eighth, Castro walked a batter and gave up a single, necessitating Edwin Díaz coming in the game for a five-out save. Díaz escaped the inning, which meant that none of the runners he inherited from Castro scored, but if Castro had been able to complete two innings cleanly, Díaz may have been more successful coming in fresh for the ninth and the Mets may be heading into the break having taken three of four from the Pirates, rather than settling for a split.
As I alluded to, Edwin Díaz took the loss and the blown save in yesterday’s game. It was just his second blown save of the year. After escaping a bases-loaded jam by striking out two batters to end the eighth inning yesterday, Díaz gave up two runs in the ninth inning, which ultimately proved to be the deciding blow. It’s a sour end to his first half, but overall this week was a mixed bag for him. A five-out save was a heavy lift for Díaz after recording a save the day before. And in that outing, he was dominant, striking out the side for his nineteenth save of the season. Díaz also earned the save in Monday’s victory, although that was not without agita; he gave up a single, a walk, and an RBI single that brought the Brewers within two before retiring the next three batters to put the inning to bed. Díaz was also brought into a tie game in the eighth inning of Game 1 of Wednesday’s doubleheader. Having inherited the free runner at second base in extra innings, Díaz walked two batters with two outs to load the bases. He then hit Christian Yellich with a pitch to force in a run, allowing the Brewers to take the lead. He did manage to stop the bleeding there by recording a strikeout to end the inning. And ironically because of that, when the Mets managed to walk it off in the bottom of the eighth, it was Díaz who earned the win in the contest. So, in all, in Díaz’s four outings this week, he looked dominant in one of them, cost the Mets the game in one of them (but on a day he was asked to get five outs), and had two shaky outings in two Mets victories.
Wednesday’s thrilling walk-off victory in Game 1 of that doubleheader was supported by yet another fantastic outing from Jacob deGrom. deGrom has been giving up more homers lately, but it seems that those are the only type of damage teams can manage to inflict upon him. Two solo homers represented the Brewers’ only runs off deGrom in seven innings of work on Wednesday. He also reached double-digit strikeouts again and didn’t walk any batters. Ho-hum. deGrom has opted not to participate in the All-Star Game and will have some needed and well-deserved rest heading into his first start of the second half over the weekend as he continues his pursuit of another Cy Young Award.
After Edwin Díaz blew the save in yesterday’s game, Drew Smith was entrusted with recording the final out of the top of the ninth inning to stop the bleeding in order to give the Mets a chance to come back. Reader, the Mets did not come back. However, Smith did successfully record that final out, getting the new Pirates legend Rodolfo Castro to ground out. Like many other Mets relievers, Smith’s week was a mixed bag. He was tasked with the bulk of the relief duties behind Robert Stock in Game 2 of Wednesday’s doubleheader and gave up a solo homer to Willy Adames in his second inning of work that stretched the Brewers’ lead to 3-0 at the time. However, it’s hard to blame Smith (or Stock or Castro) very much in a game in which the Mets failed to score, especially when they had the bases loaded and nobody out at one point, and still did not score. But Smith was also scored upon in his other outing this week prior to yesterday, allowing a run on two hits and a walk in the seventh inning of Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader. That was merely an insurance run for the Pirates, but it was still not a strong showing for Smith, coming off a couple of positive weeks in a row.
Game 1 on Saturday was generally not a strong pitching performance all around for the Mets. Marcus Stroman made the start and he took the loss after giving up three runs on five hits through five innings of work. He struck out five batters and walked none. He was the beneficiary of Brandon Nimmo’s home run-saving catch in the first inning and showed his gratitude. He settled in somewhat after that, but the Pirates got to him in the middle innings (which I guess count as the later innings of a seven-inning game). He gave up two singles and a two-run double in the fourth to allow the Pirates to take the lead. Then after Jonathan Villar tied the game with a solo homer, Stroman once again relinquished it by giving up a solo homer of his own to the opposing pitcher, which was the true blemish on his day.
Still, the game was within striking distance at that point, but Trevor May, who had been rebounding so well of late, had himself a bad day. May gave up a two-run homer to Bryan Reynolds in the sixth inning that put Game 1 out of reach for the Mets on Saturday. May’s other outing this week was positive, however. He earned his seventh hold of the season by pitching a scoreless eighth inning on Monday night, working around a hit.
Seth Lugo earned the win on Monday night for his 1-2-3 seventh inning in relief of Tylor Megill, complete with two strikeouts. Lugo’s other outing this week also came in relief of Megill, but it was not scoreless. He was asked for two innings in that outing and gave up a solo homer to Jacob Stallings in his second inning of work in the sixth. That allowed the Pirates to pull within a run. Luckily, the Mets netted an insurance run in the top of the seventh and Lugo still earned his sixth hold of the season for that outing. However, unfortunately, the fact that he went two innings rendered him unavailable yesterday when the Mets could have definitely used his assistance.
As a result, some of the Mets’ other relievers were pushed to their limits in yesterday’s bullpen game and that yielded mixed results. I already discussed Castro and Díaz’s outings, but Jeurys Familia was another member of the bullpen who was shaky yesterday. Brought into the game in the fifth inning to bail out Jerad Eickhoff, much like Díaz, Familia was successful in escaping the jam, but then the damage came in the following inning. In the sixth inning, Familia gave up a two-run homer to none other than Rodolfo Castro to allow the Pirates to pull within a run, which made the whole rest of the game high-leverage and changed the whole complexion of the late innings. To be fair to Familia, his other outing this week was short, but crucial. With Megill faltering in the fourth and a two-run lead in Game 2 on Saturday, Familia came in the game with the tying run on base and got Kevin Newman to ground into a force out to end the threat. He earned his fourth win of the season for that effort.
Perhaps buried among all the frustration regarding yesterday’s loss is the absolutely Herculean effort by Aaron Loup serving as the opener in yesterday’s bullpen game. It was the first start of the 33-year-old’s career and he delivered two scoreless innings for the Mets to begin the game. It capped off a week in which he was unscored upon in any of his outings and for that he earns a fireball for the week—the second time he has been conferred the honor this season. Loup pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning in relief of Megill in Monday’s victory, complete with two strikeouts. He also earned a win—his third of the season—for his scoreless sixth inning of work on Friday night.
It’s definitely hard to pin yesterday’s loss on any one player. Multiple relievers failed to do their jobs and the offense failed to score after their five-run first inning. However, add Jerad Eickhoff to the list of goats in yesterday’s loss. Handed a five-run lead, he let the Pirates back in the game. The final damage wasn’t terrible—two runs in 2 2⁄3 innings of work. But he failed to give the Mets length and they desperately needed that. Instead, he had to be bailed out in his third inning of work and the relievers that followed were stretched beyond an inning apiece, which affected the tenor of the rest of the game. Although his first Mets outing yielded positive results, the fact remains that he’s been hit hard in all three of his outings, both as a starter and as a reliever.
Taijuan Walker’s final outing of the first half wasn’t his strongest, but it was enough for the Mets to win and he ended up being the beneficiary of their huge ten-run inning. Walker gave up two runs on four hits in five innings of work. He walked three batters and struck out two in the outing. He also hit a batter with a pitch, which forced in one of his two earned runs. But, any bad taste in Walker’s mouth was washed away quickly, as he was named as a replacement on the National League All-Star roster. Well-deserved, as Walker ended the first half with a 7-3 record, a 2.50 ERA, and 2.0 bWAR.