Given the results of the games since the second half began, I honestly thought this meter would be more of a mess than it is. But, the bad performances were either isolated, balanced out by good ones, or worse on paper than they actually were. That said, the Mets were involved in some high-scoring games this week, both on the winning and losing end. Without Jacob deGrom to anchor it, the Mets’ rotation looks very different.
Since I mentioned Jacob deGrom, we’ll start with him and the other pitchers lost to injury since the second half began because it seems like the Mets have been losing a steady stream of pitchers to injury all year. Luckily in the case of deGrom, it appears to be once again not all that serious. But right now it’s looking like he’ll at least need a rehab start before he returns.
Unfortunately for Robert Stock, his injury is much more serious. He threw just one inning in his start last Tuesday against the Reds before pulling his hamstring running to first base. In that inning, he gave up one run on a solo homer. Stock has since been transferred to the 60-day IL, so it will be awhile before we see him again, if at all.
With the Mets already in dire straits and Stock knocked out of the game early, the newly recalled Stephen Nogosek was forced into service in long relief. It looked like things might turn out ugly for Nogosek; he gave up back-to-back solo homers in the third inning. But he settled down and soaked up three innings for the Mets, which they desperately needed and he struck out five batters to boot. However, unsurprisingly, suddenly asking a reliever to throw 48 pitches usually doesn’t end well and Nogosek has since been placed on the 10-day IL with shoulder soreness.
With all hands on deck last Tuesday, Geoff Hartlieb, acquired from the Pirates on waivers also contributed 1 1⁄3 innings of work, surrendering a run on two hits with two strikeouts. That was his only work over this nine-game span.
Marcus Stroman, who had hit a bit of a rough patch heading into the second half, bounced back with one decent start and one excellent one over the first nine games of the second half. In the Mets’ first game of the second half, Stroman negotiated a lot of traffic on the bases against the Pirates, giving up eight hits but limiting the damage to just two runs over five innings. He struck out three in the outing and did not walk any batters. Unfortunately, the Mets’ offense was stymied that day and Stroman took the loss for that effort. But Stroman followed that with an outstanding performance last Wednesday against the Reds, tossing eight shutout innings and yielding just one hit in the decisive victory for the Mets. He struck out seven and walked only one in that outing, giving the Mets the length they desperately needed from him and earning his seventh win of the season.
Jeurys Familia capped off that victory last Wednesday by striking out the side in order in the ninth to secure the victory. Familia’s second half started on a sour note, as he also pitched in relief of Stroman in the Mets’ first game against the Pirates and gave up a solo homer in that outing. But things improved from there. Familia was one of the many relievers who stepped up big for the Mets in the series finale against the Pirates in which Taijuan Walker was knocked out in the first inning. In fact, Familia was the pitcher that earned the win in that contest—his fifth win of the season—for his two scoreless innings of work. Familia also earned his seventh hold of the season for a scoreless seventh inning in the series finale against the Blue Jays on Sunday.
Since I mentioned Taijuan Walker’s performance in the series finale against the Pirates, let’s get that out of the way. Walker unequivocally earned the poop emoji for this meter, as his first two starts since the break have been dreadful—almost jarringly so. He recorded just one out last Sunday against the Pirates and yielded six runs (five of them earned). The debacle of an inning was punctuated by Walker mistakenly batted a fair ball into foul territory, resulting in two runs crossing the plate and Luis Rojas arguing so vociferously with the umpire that he was suspended for two games. In addition to the four hits Walker gave up, he also walked four batters in that 1⁄3 of an inning. The Mets miraculously bailed Walker out and went on to win the game, but a performance like that was exactly the opposite of what the Mets needed from him. His second outing in the second half was not quite as bad, but it’s pretty much impossible to be worse than he was against the Pirates. He took the loss on Saturday against the Blue Jays as their potent offense unloaded for three home runs against Walker. All told, he gave up eight runs on six hits over just four innings of work in a lopsided loss. Here’s hoping this is just a rough patch for Walker, who had such a strong first half.
The Mets’ bullpen deserves a massive amount of credit for stopping the bleeding after Walker’s exit in the series finale against the Pirates, allowing for the comeback win. I already mentioned Familia, but Drew Smith was also a massive contributor to that win. He relieved Walker in the first inning and recorded the final two outs of that inning and went on to pitch two more scoreless frames to settle things down for the Mets. He struck out two batters and gave up one hit in the outing. Smith did give up a run in his first appearance after the break, giving up a solo homer to Wilmer Difo in his inning of work in relief of Stroman in the series opener against the Pirates. And on Saturday, Smith yielded an insurance run for the Blue Jays in the form of a solo homer to Bo Bichette. But he pitched a scoreless inning in a one-run game at the end of a long line of relievers last Tuesday after Stock’s early exit. So although it was somewhat of a mixed bag for Smith in this meter, he earns the up arrow for pitching scoreless innings when they counted and for neither of the runs he surrendered being the decisive ones. Perhaps that is generous, but his effort in relief of Walker was truly Herculean.
Aaron Loup is another member of the bullpen that contributed multiple innings of work in relief of Walker in the Mets’ comeback win last Sunday. He tossed two scoreless innings, giving up three hits and striking out three batters. The first nine games of the second half mark another clean sheet for Aaron Loup; he was unscored upon in any of his outings over that span. Loup came in to bail out Seth Lugo from his disastrous outing in last Saturday’s backbreaking loss to the Pirates, recording one out and earning his tenth hold of the season. He also contributed 2⁄3 of an inning in last Tuesday’s loss to the Reds. And in Sunday’s victory over the Blue Jays, Loup came in with the bases loaded and two outs in a one-run game in the eighth inning and retired Cavan Biggio to keep the Mets in front. At this point, it’s hard to argue that Loup hasn’t been the Mets’ most reliable reliever in the second half so far.
One of the Mets’ usually reliable relievers, Seth Lugo, has had a tough go of it in the second half so far. I mentioned his awful outing last Saturday and it was ugly in a way we’re not used to seeing from Lugo. And although Edwin Díaz’s blown save occupied the headlines for that brutal loss to the Pirates (more on Díaz shortly), Lugo’s role in that loss shouldn’t be glossed over. Lugo gave up five runs in 2⁄3 of an inning and was unable to get out of it; the backbreaking blow came in the form of a three-run homer off the bat of Wilmer Difo. And Lugo’s second-half woes did not end there. In last Monday’s rollercoaster game against the Reds, Lugo came in with the go-ahead run on base in the seventh inning and two outs. He walked the first batter he faced and then gave up a run-scoring double that put the Reds ahead. That run was charged to Miguel Castro, but Lugo failed to do his job and put the inning to bed. Lugo did bounce back, pitching a clean inning in relief of Tylor Megill in Friday night’s victory, earning his seventh hold of the year. And it is honestly that performance that rescues him from poop emoji territory for this meter. Because his final outing over this nine-game span in the second half came on Sunday and he once again failed to be the stopper the Mets have relied on him to be. To be fair, he came into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out, but he did allow all three of those inherited runners to score. Luckily, the Mets went on to take the lead in the bottom of the inning, so ironically enough Lugo earned his third win of the season for that effort.
Let’s talk about the mystery that has been Edwin Díaz in the second half so far. The story on paper from last Saturday’s game was ugly; Díaz gave up a walk-off grand slam to a light hitting catcher on a light hitting team. That said, it’s somewhat baffling that the ball left the ballpark at all. Per Statcast, Stallings’ walk-off homer had an expected batting average of .040. So it’s no wonder Díaz pulled a Hansel Robles, pointing at the sky and expecting the ball to be caught in the outfield rather than sailing over the wall. If that happened, that’s the third out and we may be singing a very different tune about that game. That said, the result is the result and Díaz did load the bases in the first place prior to the homer. And he blew another save in his next appearance in the bottom of the ninth in last Monday’s back-and-forth extra-inning victory. The decision to pitch to Jesse Winker was criminal, but a lead off walk came back to bite Díaz, so he cannot escape blame there. But Díaz redeemed himself over the weekend, earning the save in both Mets victories over the Blue Jays and looking as dominant as ever. He entered the week this week with 21 saves under his belt for the season.
It’s really a shame that the bullpen coughed up the lead in such devastating fashion last Saturday, depriving Tylor Megill of what would have been a well-deserved win. Megill continues to be a godsend for the Mets, now fully entrenched as a member of the rotation. Megill gave up seven hits in his start last Saturday, but no runs over six innings of work. He struck out two batters and didn’t walk any. His performance on Friday night was even more impressive. He shut out a potent Blue Jays offense for six innings, giving up just two hits and striking out five batters. At long last, he earned his first big league win for that effort.
In addition to both Lugo and Díaz making up for their poor outings in relief of Megill against the Pirates by preserving Friday’s victory for Megill, Trevor May earned his eighth hold of the season for a 1-2-3 eighth inning complete with a strikeout. May also pitched a scoreless seventh inning last Saturday before things went south for the bullpen, working around a walk and a hit. In fact, last Saturday began a stretch in which May pitched in three straight games when the Mets desperately needed him. He earned his second save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning in last Sunday’s comeback victory in the series finale against the Pirates and followed that up with earning his third save the very next day in last Monday’s crazy game. The Mets likely did not want to use May for the third day in a row (otherwise he would have come in the game sooner), but Anthony Banda was nearing the end of his rope in his second inning of work and May came in to record the final two outs of the game and secure the victory. May’s ledger in these nine games is not entirely spotless, however. In his most recent outing on Sunday against the Blue Jays, May gave up a run in the eighth inning that brought the Jays within a run before Loup recorded the last out of the inning. That said, it’s still been quite an impressive second half from May thus far.
Since I referenced Anthony Banda’s outing, let’s discuss his role in last Monday’s game. The Mets traded for Banda in early July, acquiring him from the Blue Jays in exchange for Will Toffey. He was added to the roster ahead of Monday’s game and was forced into action after Díaz blew the save in the ninth as pretty much the last available pitcher for the Mets in extra innings. Banda gave up two straight singles to lead off the tenth inning, scoring the free baserunner for the Reds. But miraculously, he induced a double play grounder and was able to limit the damage to just the one run. He came out for a second inning of work in the eleventh after the Mets took the lead and also allowed the inherited baserunner to score again that inning, but May was able to come in and finish the job. So although Banda allowed two runs, neither of them were earned. And that gutsy performance from him earns him a side arrow for this meter, despite the fact that his outing on Saturday against the Blue Jays went poorly. Banda gave up three runs on five hits in the ninth inning on Saturday, but the game was already well out of reach for the Mets at that point due to Walker’s poor start.
Looking back on last Monday’s 15-11, it’s almost hard to remember that the game began with a weird Jerad Eickhoff start (his only appearance for the purposes of this meter). The Reds scored seven runs in total in the first two innings off Eickhoff, but the early innings were marked by Luis Guillorme’s no good, very bad day in the field in which he committed three errors, so Eickhoff was only charged with two runs over his 3 2⁄3 innings of work. But the fact remains that even though sometimes Eickhoff gets lucky and sometimes he is unlucky, he is almost always hit hard by the opposition.
Yennsy Díaz and Miguel Castro were among the parade of relievers that had to soak up innings in middle relief over the course of these first nine games of the second half. As for Castro, he had a solid bounce back week after his rough patch. He began his second half by pitching a scoreless ninth inning in last Friday’s loss. He was also a part of the fantastic collective bullpen effort that kept the Mets in the game last Sunday and allowed them to pull off the comeback win after Walker’s early exit, tossing a 1-2-3 fourth inning following Drew Smith’s work in long relief. The only run charged to Castro over his four outings in this nine-game stretch came in last Monday’s rollercoaster game when Seth Lugo gave up a double that scored his runner inherited from Castro in Castro’s second inning of work. But Castro had pitched a scoreless sixth inning prior to those events. Castro also tossed a scoreless fifth inning in Saturday's loss.
Yennsy Díaz has also had a solid second half so far and has been asked to pitch in increasingly high leverage situations, given the Mets’ pitching situation and how many short outings they had from their starting pitchers over these nine games. Díaz recorded the last out of the fourth inning in relief of Eickhoff last Monday and went on to throw a scoreless fifth as well. He also pitched a scoreless fifth inning in Tuesday’s loss after Robert Stock’s early exit. He capped off this nine game stretch with a 1-2-3 sixth inning in Saturday’s loss.
Rich Hill made his Mets debut on Sunday and his final line looks worse than his actual performance was. Hill cruised through five scoreless innings, efficiently retiring the Blue Jays on soft contact. Given his low pitch count, the Mets sent him back out for the sixth inning, but unfortunately he hit a batter with a pitch to lead off the inning and then loaded the bases on a single and a walk before being removed from the game. All of those baserunners came around to score, thus charging Hill with three runs in 5+ innings of work. But the Mets managed to come back to take the lead in the bottom of the frame and hold onto that lead for the series victory. Barring any more starting pitching acquisitions on the part of the Mets, Rich Hill will remain a key piece of the rotation moving forward.