A pattern is emerging: every week I dive in to do the pitching meter and every week it turns out better than I expect it to. Despite the Mets continuing to use a revolving door of pitchers, the pitching has mostly held things down. As has been the case all year, the offense has been what has doomed the Mets. However, there are notable exceptions here worth discussing. The Mets once again were forced to use Jerad Eickhoff to start a game this week, due to deGrom’s injury woes (which are worse than it initially appeared, it seems) and the doubleheader with no off days. And at this point, such games are automatic losses. By contrast, the bullpen game this week was one the Mets won (via a narrow 1-0 shutout) and the bullpen deserves immense credit for that. Luckily, Carlos Carrasco’s return to the rotation and the Mets’ acquisition of Trevor Williams from the Cubs (who was optioned to Triple-A) means that they will not need to use the likes of Jerad Eickhoff again. However, the margin for error (and for injury) is very thin here. Additionally, while the trusted guys in the bullpen continue to get the job done for the most part—even when one of them has a bad week, they rarely all have a bad week at the same time—the number of high leverage innings needed from the bullpen outstrips the number of trusted relievers to pitch them. As such, guys like Anthony Banda and Geoff Hartlieb find themselves pitching in close games and that often doesn’t end well. This really highlights the Mets’ failure to get enough pitching at the deadline—a decision that hopefully does not come back to bite them.
Unless there is a truly outstanding performance that warrants the spotlight, I often like to peel the Band Aid off and start with the ugly things first. So we’ll begin with that aforementioned Jerad Eickhoff start. The last time Eickhoff pitched, he was very much let down by the Mets’ defense, but he does not have that excuse this time. Put simply, the Braves lit him up and he did not look like a pitcher that belonged in the major leagues. He gave up ten runs on seven hits—three of them home runs—in 3 1⁄3 innings. The decisive hit that completely blew the doors off the game was an Austin Riley grand slam in the fourth inning that chased Eickhoff from the game. Eickhoff also walked five batters in the outing, never a recipe for success. All told, it was ugly; the game was over before it was halfway through and the Mets need to do whatever they can to make sure Eickhoff does not sniff the big league mound again this season.
As I mentioned, hopefully the return of Carlos Carrasco will help things in that regard. In his very first start as a New York Met, Carrasco’s worst pitch was the very first one he threw, on which he gave up a solo home run to Jonathan India to lead off the game. But that was all he would give up over four innings of work. He walked one batter and struck out four over his 58-pitch outing. The Mets will take things slow with Carrasco given the sheer amount of time he missed this year, but it was a very strong first start for him. Unfortunately, the Mets did not give him any run support and his four innings were en route to a 6-2 loss.
The bullpen didn’t do its best work behind Carrasco either. Anthony Banda was really the one who put the game out of reach for the Mets, entering the game with the Mets down two runs and leaving the game after the top of the ninth with the Mets down five runs. He gave up two hits to lead off the inning, then a sacrifice fly, and then the death knell—a two-run shot to none other than India. That ended Banda’s week on a sour note. But for every bit of blame he deserves for letting that game get away late, he deserves credit for keeping the Mets in the bullpen game this week, which was the nightcap of Monday’s doubleheader. Banda pitched two scoreless innings in that contest—the only reliever to go multiple innings in the game. He gave up just one hit in the outing and struck out three batters. Banda also pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday’s blowout loss in relief of Eickhoff. The Mets designated Banda for assignment over the weekend and just this afternoon he was picked up by the Pirates, so this is likely the last time we will see Banda’s name on the meter this season.
Banda wasn’t the only reliever to pitch poorly in relief of Carrasco on Friday night. Miguel Castro surrendered the game-tying run in the fifth inning on a Jonathan India double followed by a Jesse Winker RBI single. He took the loss for that effort, falling to 2-3 on the year. It wasn’t a good weekend series for Castro, who was asked to get the final out of the sixth inning yesterday in relief of Marcus Stroman, but walked the eight hitter and the pitcher to force in a run (charged to Stroman) before finally putting the inning to bed. Although those two outings are certainly down arrow worthy from Castro, he avoids that distinction because of his fantastic work (also in relief of Stroman) in Game 1 of Monday’s doubleheader. He kept the Mets within striking distance with two scoreless innings of work, avoiding having to use any other relievers ahead of the bullpen game in the nightcap. He struck out four batters in that outing. Castro also pitched a scoreless inning in relief of Taijuan Walker in Thursday’s loss.
Marcus Stroman did really well to limit the damage in Game 1 of Monday’s doubleheader, yielding eight hits but only two runs in his five innings of work. Unfortunately, the Mets were shut out by Kyle Muller and the Braves bullpen and Stroman took his ninth loss of the year for that effort. Stroman notched four strikeouts and walked one batter in the outing. Stroman took yet another loss (his tenth loss of the year) for his outing yesterday, which started off solid but went downhill quickly. He again gave up eight hits, but was able to negotiate the traffic on the base paths for most of the game. He gave up just one run in his first five innings of work in the form of a solo homer to the apparently unstoppable Max Schrock, who went 5-for-5 on the day. But a double, a triple, and a sacrifice fly to begin the sixth inning saw two additional runs cross the plate and then Castro walked in a run that was charged to Stroman to close the book on his day. All told, he was charged with four runs on eight hits over 5 2⁄3 innings—the definition of meh.
Still, the Mets were technically in the game; at least it felt that way, given their heroic come from behind victory the night before. But like Castro, Geoff Hartlieb (recalled from Triple-A when Luis Guillorme was placed on the injured list) was bitten by the walk and he let the game get away. The Reds put up a three spot against Hartlieb in the ninth, in part thanks to the three walks he surrendered in the inning. Much like Banda’s outing in the first game of the series, this is the pitfall in using fringe relievers in relatively close games.
Both Yennsy Díaz and Drew Smith logged a scoreless inning of relief yesterday before things got out of hand in the ninth and have comported themselves well as middle relievers that can reasonably be trusted in closer games. It was the second day of work in a row for Díaz, who also pitched a scoreless sixth inning in relief of Rich Hill on Saturday. Díaz’s rough outing this week came in relief of Eickhoff in Tuesday’s lopsided loss. He gave up a two-run homer to Austin Riley, but it was in his third inning of work. He still deserves credit for soaking up 2 2⁄3 innings in that game and the two runs he gave up hardly mattered in the end.
Smith also soaked up two innings in Tuesday’s blowout loss and did not allow a baserunner in that outing, striking out three batters in the process. Like everyone else who relieved Carrasco on Friday night, he did give up a run over his two innings of work in that game. However, it was a solo homer to Joey Votto and at that point, who wasn’t giving up home runs to Joey Votto? He then worked around a walk to pitch a scoreless eighth inning yesterday with two strikeouts to cap off his week.
The Mets continue to win every time Tylor Megill is on the mound and this week was no exception. Megill was looking sparkling again through five innings on Wednesday, but in the sixth, Austin Riley ended Megill’s day with a game-tying solo homer. Still, that was the only run Megill gave up over 5 1⁄3 total innings of work, over which he struck out six batters, walked one batter, and gave up five hits in total.
The bullpen took it from there and delivered very strong work in relief. Seth Lugo recorded the final two outs of the sixth inning after the Riley homer to calm things down. Lugo was also one of the parade of relievers to toss a scoreless inning in Game 2 of Monday’s doubleheader, earning his eighth hold of the season for a scoreless sixth inning in which he worked around a walk and a hit. It was Saturday’s game where Lugo had a shaky outing, giving up two straight singles to lead off the eighth inning in a one-run game. However, he bounced back to strike out the next two hitters before being replaced by Aaron Loup.
Aaron Loup recorded the last out of that eighth inning on Saturday to keep the Mets within a run and help enable their comeback in the ninth, but it wasn’t because of his pitching. Loup had the baserunner picked off first base, who tried to stay in a rundown long enough for the runner to score from third, but the Mets expertly executed the rundown and nabbed Kyle Farmer between third and home to end the inning. That capped off yet another strong week for Loup. Loup was the opener of the bullpen game on Monday night, retiring the Braves 1-2-3 in the first inning and needing just 11 pitches to do so. Loup also made quick work of the Braves in a scoreless eighth inning in Thursday’s loss. Much like Lugo, Loup also had one outing this week where he needed to be bailed out, but it ultimately did not cost the Mets. Loup entered the game in the eighth inning on Wednesday to protect a one-run lead and allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning before retiring the dangerous Freddie Freeman on a groundout and then ceding to Jeurys Familia.
Jeurys Familia came into that eighth inning on Wednesday with a skinny one-run lead and runners at second and third and one out and got two king-sized outs to help bail out Loup, retiring Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson to help end the threat. He earned his eighth hold of the season for that effort. Familia was also unrattled by the Mets’ poor defense behind him in the bullpen game on Monday, rallying to strike out three straight batters with two men on base in the second inning of that contest. Familia also tossed a crucial scoreless seventh inning in relief of Rich Hill on Saturday. Familia’s only hiccup for the week came in Thursday’s loss, in which he allowed a Braves insurance run in the eighth inning in the form of a Dansby Swanson solo homer.
That hiccup came in relief of Taijuan Walker, who continues to struggle. This week isn’t quite poop emoji worthy like last week was, but his outing this week still wasn’t a good one. Walker gave up five runs on six hits, including two home runs in the fourth inning, over five innings of work on Thursday. He struck out seven batters and walked two in the outing. He took the loss, falling to 7-5 on the season. With the rotation continuing to miss deGrom, Walker is going to have to do better moving forward.
One bright spot in Thursday’s loss was that Akeem Bostick made his big league debut with a scoreless ninth inning. He walked a batter, but did not allow a hit. Unfortunately for Bostick, he was soon designated for assignment (along with Banda) and outrighted to Triple-A to make room on the 40-man roster for Mets trade acquisitions Javier Báez and Trevor Williams.
To round out the bullpen evaluations this week, both Trevor May and Edwin Díaz had strong weeks. Both of them contributed a scoreless inning to Monday’s bullpen game victory with May earning the win for a 1-2-3 fifth inning and Díaz striking out the side in the seventh to earn his 22nd save of the season. A similar pattern followed in Wednesday’s game; May earned his fourth win of the season for a scoreless seventh inning and Díaz closed things out in the ninth, earning his 23rd save. That said, it is worth mentioning that Díaz was bailed out in that outing by Michael Conforto’s outfield assist, on which the tying run was nabbed at the plate. Still, Díaz had a great week. He came in a tie game in the top of the tenth inning on Saturday with the free baserunner on second base and stranded that runner, retiring the next three batters in order (two of them via the strikeout) after a leadoff walk issued to Jesse Winker. He earned his fourth save of the year for that effort, which immediately followed May’s scoreless ninth inning that allowed the Mets the chance to tie things up in the bottom of the frame. Like Díaz, May walked a batter and struck out two batters in that outing.
All of that came in relief of Rich Hill on Saturday, who has pitched like, well, a fifth starter. But it has been enough to keep the Mets in the games he has pitched. Much like a lot of the Mets’ pitchers this week, Hill’s bugaboo in this outing was the home run. He gave up a three-run homer to Eugenio Suárez in the fourth inning and a solo home to Kyle Farmer in the fifth inning, which represented all of the Reds’ runs for the night. All told, Hill gave up four runs on five hits with one walk and four strikeouts over five innings of work. Hill is basically a five-and-dive guy at this stage in his career and the Mets should treat him as such. The problem is that in return, they are going to need length from guys like Stroman and Walker to keep the bullpen from being overtaxed, as Carrasco continues to slowly ease back as well.