I feel like a broken record saying it every week: The pitching is not the problem. Even without Jacob deGrom, the pitching is not the problem. Even with Noah Syndergaard’s triumphant return further delayed by COVID-19, the pitching is not the problem. Even with all the pitchers the Mets have had to cycle through this year—and there is yet another new face on the meter this week—the pitching is not the problem. The pitching (well, really just Tylor Megill) had one bad game and that was on Tuesday. Other than that, every game was within reach and every loss was a one-run loss in which the pitching staff has allowed three runs or less. Three runs or less should be enough to win the ballgame most of the time. But for the Mets, it hasn’t been.
We’ll start with that one nightmarish performance from Tylor Megill, who has been so good as a member of the Mets rotation in a year he probably never thought he would be in the big leagues. But there’s no way around the fact that he got smacked around by the Giants on Tuesday. Hard. The outing was every bit as ugly as the final line looks on paper: seven runs on eleven hits, including four home runs in 3 2⁄3 innings. He struck out five and walked none. In the end, the Mets were shut out, so really it hardly mattered what Megill did, but it was an outing he’d like to forget. The only reason he avoids a poop emoji for this is because he also pitched on Sunday with much better results. He gave up just one hit—a two-run homer to Josh Bell—over five innings of work. He walked three batters and struck out five in the outing, earning his second win of the season.
After Megill’s night ended early on Tuesday, Trevor Williams was tasked with long relief. Williams did allow one of his inherited runners to score in the fourth inning, a run which was charged to Megill, but nothing else over his 2 1⁄3 innings of work. He walked a batter and struck out one in the outing, which represented his only work for the week.
Miguel Castro was also pushed beyond his usual workload to go two innings on Tuesday. He allowed a run on two hits in his two innings of work, but it was hardly an insurance run of any consequence in a blowout loss. Castro’s sheet for the rest of the week was clean; he worked around a walk to pitch a scoreless seventh inning in a one-run game on Friday and did the same in Sunday’s win. He struck out four batters across the three outings.
The final reliever to pitch in Tuesday’s blowout loss was the newest member of the bullpen, Heath Hembree. Hembree was designated for assignment by the Reds on August 16 and the Mets claimed him on waivers later that week. He was added to the roster on Tuesday and made his Mets debut in a blowout, pitching a scoreless ninth inning. In fact, Hembree was not scored upon in any of his appearances this week. He worked around a walk to pitch a scoreless sixth inning in Friday’s one-run loss and tossed a 1-2-3 ninth complete with a strikeout in Sunday’s victory.
Hembree’s scoreless sixth inning on Friday came in relief of Rich Hill who gave the Mets exactly what one can expect of him—five solid innings of work. He gave up two runs on five hits and fanned an impressive eight Nationals. Unfortunately, because the Mets were held to just one run on Friday by Paolo Espino and the Nationals bullpen, Hill took the loss for that effort.
The bullpen certainly did its job on Friday, even if the offense didn’t. In addition to Hembree and Castro contributing a scoreless inning apiece, Jeurys Familia had a dominant seventh inning, striking out the side on 16 pitches. Familia’s outing on Sunday (his only other outing this week) was not as smooth. He gave up a solo homer to Josh Bell in the eighth inning with two out and nobody on. That was not a huge deal, as all it did was shrink the Mets’ lead from four runs to three runs. However, Familia then walked two straight batters, which allowed the Nationals to bring the tying run to the plate. But luckily Familia struck out Luis Garcia to end the inning without further damage to preserve the lead.
Having not pitched at all in the Giants series since the Mets had no late-inning leads to protect, Edwin Díaz struck out three batters in a scoreless ninth inning in a one-run game on Friday night. He followed that up with notching his 26th save of the season the next day with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to close out Saturday’s game. Those were his only two appearances for the week.
Saturday was another day in which the bullpen was solid. Seth Lugo worked around a hit to pitch a scoreless eighth inning, earning his ninth hold of the season. That was a bounce back appearance for Lugo, who took the loss in Thursday’s game, in which he was unable to record an out in the eighth inning. A single, a hit by pitch, and another single quickly snapped a 2-2 tie in that contest, which ended up being the difference in the game. But that horrible outing from Lugo was sandwiched between two good ones. In addition to his scoreless inning on Saturday, Lugo pitched a scoreless eighth inning in Wednesday’s loss.
Trevor May earned a win on Saturday (his sixth of the season) despite the fact that he allowed a go-ahead run in the seventh. After giving up a leadoff single, May retired the next two batters, but then Alcides Escobar hit a single, advancing the go-ahead run to third. That run scored on a wild pitch by May, but May got a huge strikeout of Juan Soto to hold the Nationals to just the one run. The Mets would go on to take the lead in the bottom of the frame, handing May the victory. That was the only outing in which May allowed a run this week. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning in a one-run game on Wednesday and did the same the next day, striking out two batters in the process.
Marcus Stroman was the beneficiary of the strong work from the bullpen on Saturday. Despite having to take a no-decision, Stroman had a strong outing, scattering seven hits to limit the Nationals to just two runs over six innings of work. He struck out five batters and walked one. His season ERA stands at 2.85 and he continues to be the Mets’ most reliable starting pitcher this season.
Lugo’s poor outing on Thursday came in relief of Carlos Carrasco, who went seven innings—the deepest he has gone into a game since returning from the injured list. The seven solid innings Carrasco delivered against one of the best teams in baseball looked a lot more like the Carrasco the Mets hoped they were getting when they made the trade with Cleveland. He held the Giants to just two runs on three hits, striking out five batters and walking one. Who knows? If Carrasco pulls off a truly dominant stretch at some point, I may have to award him a cookie emoji instead of the traditional fireball.
It’s worth noting that the Mets only had a chance in Thursday’s game because of Aaron Loup’s strong work to bail out Lugo in that fateful eighth inning. After Lugo was unable to record an out, Loup retired the next three batters in order to hold the Giants to just a one-run lead. Loup’s other outings this week were not quite as strong, however. On Sunday, Loup allowed a solo homer to Juan Soto in the sixth inning that allowed the Nationals to pull within a run. Luckily, the Mets went on to add to their lead and that run did not end up mattering. Plus, Loup is hardly the first guy to give up a home run to Juan Soto. Loup’s poor outing this week was on Wednesday, when he was brought in to protect a one-run lead in the seventh inning with two on and nobody out and gave up a double to Brandon Crawford that scored the tying and go-ahead runs and ended up to be the difference in the game. Although it was not his run, that’s the reason why Loup is not earning an up arrow or fireball for the first time in weeks—maybe even months.
One of those runs was charged to Taijuan Walker, who had been cruising up until that seventh inning. Other than a solo homer to Kris Bryant, the Giants had not been able to do any damage against Walker. And the seventh inning began with Bryant reaching on a fielding error. Walker then gave up a single—the only other hit he surrendered besides the Bryant solo homer—to advance the tying run into scoring position. At that point, Luis Rojas made the controversial decision to go to Loup—a decision that came back to bite him. But Loup has been the team’s most reliable reliever, so it’s a hard game of “what if” to play. At any rate, Walker took the tough loss for that outing and it’s a shame because it was a good one. All told, he was charged with three runs (only two of them earned because of the Villar fielding error) over six innings of work. He struck out three batters and walked one in the outing.