The Mets got truly excellent pitching in their final two series of the first half. In fact, over the final week of the first half, the Mets’ 1.83 staff ERA was the best in the major leagues and the only staff ERA under 2.00 in the major leagues. This is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the staff pitched 21 total innings on Saturday and helped the Mets win both games of the doubleheader in Chicago in extra innings. There was not a single bad effort from a starting pitcher this week. There were a couple of poor performances out of the bullpen, but almost all of the games the Mets played this week were close ones with a lot of high leverage situations to navigate and the bullpen was successful in this situations more often than it was not. Still, despite the fact that the pitching staff had a strong first half overall, it remains clear that a bullpen arm is a necessary acquisition for the Mets at the trading deadline to provide more surety behind Edwin Díaz in the late innings.
Since this meter is overwhelmingly positive, we’ll get the small amount of bad news out of the way first. Drew Smith continues to struggle. He failed to protect a one-run lead in the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, surrendering two runs in 2⁄3 of an inning, which ultimately prevented the Mets from sweeping the Cubs series. Of course, it was Smith’s second day of work in a row, but that would have been true of almost anyone since so many pitchers appeared in Saturday’s doubleheader. Smith was one of them and his appearance in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday was his only clean one of the week. He tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning with two strikeouts, playing a key role in that victory. I almost generously gave Smith a side arrow because of that performance and because he pitched two innings of relief in Wednesday’s rubber game victory over the Braves. However, they were not two clean innings; he did give up a solo homer to Austin Riley, which didn’t ultimately play into the final result. Overall, it was a mediocre week for Smith and whether it’s a down arrow or a side arrow in the end, it’s hard to argue he’s out of his pitching slump yet.
Seth Lugo—another one of the Mets’ rotating cadre of setup men filling the Trevor May-shaped void in the bullpen—also continues to be hit or miss. In Sunday’s game, Lugo had to get the final out of the eighth inning to stop the bleeding from the wound opened by Smith and he did so successfully, retiring the final batter of the inning with the Mets behind by only one run. Lugo also preceded Smith in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, working around a hit and a walk to pitch a scoreless seventh inning. It was Lugo’s first appearance for the week on Tuesday that was the poor one. After David Peterson began to tire in the sixth inning, Lugo struck out back-to-back batters to escape trouble. But he came back out for the seventh inning and gave up a two-run homer to Adam Duvall that provided the Braves with key insurance runs and was a turning point in Tuesday’s loss.
Tuesday’s game began with a solid outing from David Peterson, who held a formidable Braves lineup to two runs over 5 1⁄3 innings. Three walks contributing to a high pitch count limited his longevity in the game somewhat, but Peterson also struck out nine batters in the outing. The only damage off him came on a go-ahead two-run homer from Matt Olsen in the sixth inning, which resulted in Peterson’s exit from the game. Peterson followed that performance with another strong outing on Sunday. He also did not go deep into that game and only threw five innings, but he gave up just one run on three hits in the game. Walks were his enemy again in the outing; the only run he gave up was a bases-loaded walk that forced in a run. That said, the run was unearned because the inning should have been over if not for a flubbed double play grounder by Eduardo Escobar.
Before Drew Smith coughed up the lead in the eighth on Sunday, Tommy Hunter gave the Mets a Herculean effort in relief, pitching two scoreless innings to protect the one-run lead and giving up just one hit in the process. That effort earned him his first hold of the season. Hunter also pitched the final inning of Wednesday’s rubber game victory and did give up a solo homer to Eddie Rosario, but the Mets’ lead was large enough to absorb that blow.
Wednesday’s huge win over the Braves began with a great start from Chris Bassitt, who gave the Mets a desperately-needed quality start. The Braves are a team that hits a lot of home runs and like Smith and Hunter that day, the only damage off Bassitt came in the form of a solo homer—this one off the bat of Matt Olsen. But Bassitt and the bullpen did well that day to make sure the long balls only scored one run each. Over his six innings of work, Bassitt struck out six batters and walked two. The effort earned him his seventh win of the season, getting his record above .500 for the first half.
Following Lugo’s surrender of the homer to Duvall on Tuesday that put the Braves ahead for good in that contest, Colin Holderman finished the game for the Mets and at least kept the game theoretically within reach. Over 1 1⁄3 innings in that outing, Holderman didn’t give up any hits, walked one, and struck out two batters. Holderman also came up huge in the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader, tossing 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings in relief of Max Scherzer to preserve the tie game and help push the game to extras. He came in the game with a man on in the seventh and was able to prevent him from scoring and then came back out and tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Saturday night’s game began with a gutsy outing from Max Scherzer. The Mets’ ace faltered early, allowing a run in the second inning and it looked like he was not as sharp as he had been in his other outings since retruning from his oblique injury. But he did what aces do and limited the damage. He gave up eight hits, but only two runs because he struck out a whopping eleven Cubs hitters while walking only one over his 6 1⁄3 innings of work. Although he didn’t get the win, he still put forth a great performance. Scherzer did get the win in Monday’s victory, however—his sixth of the season against only one loss. He held the Braves to just one run on three hits over seven innings of work, the only run being a solo homer by Austin Riley. He struck out nine batters and walked none in that outing. So it was two quality starts for Scherzer this week with a combined 20 strikeouts across the two outings. Ho-hum.
The 27th man for the doubleheader on Saturday, Yoan López was one of the heroes of Saturday night’s extra-inning win. After Holderman navigated the seventh and eighth innings, López came in and worked around a two-out walk of Yan Gomes to pitch a scoreless ninth and send the game to extras. After the Mets scored two runs in the top of the tenth, López pulled off a Houdini act in the bottom of the frame to give the Mets a victory. A one-out single by Christopher Morel scored the free runner to pull the Cubs within a run. Then, Seiya Suzuki followed with a single of his own and stole second base, putting the tying run 90 feet away and the winning run in scoring position. López walked Nico Hoerner intentionally to load the bases and set up the double play and he induced the double play grounder he needed from Frank Schwindel on the eighth pitch of the at-bat with a full count. That heroic effort netted López his first win of the season.
The late innings of Scherzer’s other start this week proceeded in a more conventional way. After Scherzer’s seven brilliant innings on Monday, Adam Ottavino allowed two hits in the eighth inning, but kept the Braves off the board to earn his twelfth hold of the season and set things up for Edwin Díaz in the ninth. Ottavino’s more impressive outing came in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, in which he tossed two scoreless innings in the ninth and the tenth, keeping the free runner from scoring. He didn’t allow a baserunner across those two innings and struck out three batters, earning his fourth win of the season and capping off a strong week heading into the break.
Edwin Díaz followed Ottavino in both of those games and was unsurprisingly 2-for-2 in save opportunities this week. He put the cherry on top of Monday’s victory by striking out the side for his 19th save of the season. Then, with a one-run lead in the eleventh and the free runner on second base in Game 1 on Saturday, he pitched a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts to end his first half with an even 20 saves. Díaz will represent the Mets in tonight’s All-Star game as the National League’s best closer, holding a 1.69 ERA, 20 saves, and 1.7 fWAR.
Taijuan Walker—arguably the most glaring All-Star snub for the Mets—notched another quality start in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. He gave up just one run on four hits over six innings of work. He walked two batters and struck out five in the outing and lowered his season ERA to a sparkling 2.55. The second half was a problem for Walker last season as fatigue set in and we’ll see if he is better prepared for the stretch run in 2022.
Carlos Carrasco: also a quality start this week. He started the series opener for the Mets at Wrigley Field on Thursday and was given an early lead to work with, cruising his way to six scoreless innings of work. He gave up five hits, struck out six batters, and walked two batters in the outing. With that effort, he earned his team-leading tenth win of the season. Those ten wins are one behind Tony Gonsolin and Kyle Wright for the National League lead.
With the Mets up big on Thursday, Trevor Williams finished the game in relief of Carrasco, earning the rare three-inning save—his first save of the season. Williams allowed three hits, did not walk a batter, and struck out four over his three innings of work. With the Mets having dealt with a barrage of pitching injuries in the first half, Williams’ contribution has been indispensable to the team’s success. He now resumes his role as the Mets’ very capable long man in the bullpen, where he will hopefully remain in the second half as the Mets’ pitching staff gets healthy.