As has been the case for most of the season, the Mets have benefitted from excellent pitching so far in the second half. In the eight games since the All-Star break, the Mets essentially had two poor pitching performers: David Peterson and Joely Rodríguez. These outings exemplified the Mets' need for another setup man/eighth inning guy—especially given the injury to Drew Smith—and a reliable left-handed reliever. The return of Trevor May this week should help with the former, but 1-2 additional arms will likely be necessary to build a formidable bullpen capable of helping carry the Mets in a deep playoff run. That said, the starting rotation was excellent this week and will be bolstered even further by the return of Jacob deGrom tomorrow. The Mets' pitching staff as a whole has pitched to a 2.75 ERA so far in the second half, which is the third-best mark in baseball.
We'll start with the two poor performances I alluded to in the intro and get the bad out of the way before discussing the far more numerous strong performances the Mets' pitching staff put forth over this eight-game span. The Mets' second half began with two losses to the Padres which can mostly be pinned on the offense for not scoring enough, but Joely Rodríguez certainly made the prospect of a comeback more difficult last Friday when he allowed two insurance runs in the seventh inning while recording only one out. Rodríguez also came in the game in the ninth inning with a six-run lead last Sunday and gave up three runs without retiring a batter, necessitating Edwin Díaz coming in the game to bail him out. It is abundantly clear that Buck Showalter simply does not trust Rodríguez in high leverage situations right now. Rodríguez can't get out of his own way right now and has put his roster spot in jeopardy as the Mets show interest in Andrew Chafin and others who may take his place.
Wednesday's walk-off victory also exposed a weakness in the Mets' bullpen when Buck Showalter turned to David Peterson to protect a two-run lead against the Yankees due to a dearth of other options with both Adam Ottavino and Edwin Díaz having pitched the day before and Drew Smith going down with a lat injury. Smith's only outing in the second half before hitting the injured list came last Sunday when he allowed a run, but earned the win anyway. Predictably, immediately throwing the starter Peterson into a high-leverage relief situation did not go well. Peterson walked Anthony Rizzo on four pitches before allowing a game-tying two-run shot to Gleyber Torres. He bounced back to strike out Matt Carpenter, but then was removed from the game with the game still tied. Luckily for Peterson, the Mets were able to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth. Peterson also pitched the eighth inning of last Sunday's game and, like Smith, allowed a run, but with the Mets up big it didn't truly matter until Rodríguez made things hairy in the following frame. Peterson has since been optioned to Triple-A, but will make a start during the Braves series with a doubleheader on tap for Saturday.
Both poor bullpen performances from the Mets in these eight games came to the detriment of Max Scherzer, who had two fantastic starts, but didn't earn the win in either of them. In fact, for giving up two runs in six innings of work against the Padres last Friday, he took the loss. The only damage off him was a two-run homer by Eric Hosmer. He struck out eight batters and walked one in the outing. He was even better on Wednesday, holding the formidable Yankees lineup scoreless over seven innings of work. He gave up five hits, walked two, and struck out six in that outing. Since returning from the injured list, Scherzer has been excellent and this week, the Mets will finally get the 1-2 punch of Scherzer and deGrom at the top of the rotation fans have been dreaming of since the season began.
Seth Lugo had to clean up the mess from both bullpen debacles over the eight games and looked possibly the best he's looked all season in doing so. He issued a walk after entering the game following Rodríguez last Friday, but then got Nomar Mazara to ground into a force out. Unfortunately, the Mets botched that play and allowed a run to score, which was charged to Rodríguez, but Lugo was able to stop the bleeding and allow things from getting out of control. Lugo also pitched as scoreless seventh inning in the series finale against the Padres. But the highlight of his second half so far came on Wednesday, when he delivered a truly heroic effort. With one out in the eighth following the game-tying home run allowed by Peterson, Lugo struck out Josh Donaldson and Aaron Hicks to keep the game tied and then went on to pitch a scoreless ninth inning as well, setting things up for the walk-off in the ninth. Lugo earned a well-deserved win for that effort, his second win of the season. Lugo also finished Saturday's game, tossing 1 1/3 more scoreless innings, this time in relief of Carlos Carrasco. The Mets could certainly use more of this version of Seth Lugo in the second half.
Trevor Williams pitched the final two innings of last Friday's loss and delivered two scoreless frames. But Williams' more notable outing came on Friday night against the Marlins when he was the latest pitcher to be asked to play setup man for the Mets. Williams pitched a 1-2-3 inning to earn his first hold of the season and set the stage for Edwin Díaz in the ninth. Williams has become a key member of the bullpen since returning to a relief role.
Lugo was the only relief pitcher Buck Showalter needed to use on Saturday because Carlos Carrasco pitched a very tidy and efficient 7 2/3 innings against the Marlins. He gave up just four hits and two walks in the outing, while striking out seven, cruising his way to his eleventh win of the season and the 100th win of his career. Carrasco also delivered a strong outing in the final game of the Padres series, although he was not quite as efficient due to the fact that he gave up six hits. However, he still held the Padres scoreless for five innings, helping the Mets avoid a sweep. Carlos Carrasco was absolutely fantastic in July, pitching to a 0.90 ERA for the month.
It goes without saying that Edwin Díaz is the third fireball recipient of this first meter of the second half, along with Scherzer and Carrasco. Díaz was not scored upon in any of his four appearances across the first eight games of the second half and he earned a save in three of those four appearances. He began his second half by pitching a scoreless ninth inning in a non-save situation with the Mets down 2-0 in last Saturday's game. The following day, he was forced into service on a day he probably did not expect to pitch due to Rodríguez's ninth-inning blowup. Díaz shut the door, retiring the next three batters in order—one via the strikeout. He followed that up by earning a four-out save in Tuesday's victory against the Yankees. He worked around a hit and struck out four in that outing. Then in Friday night's game, Díaz missed an immaculate inning by inches when Joey Wendle barely foul tipped an 0-2 pitch. Nonetheless, he needed only ten pitches to strike out the side in the ninth and earn his 23rd save of the season.
Adam Ottavino preceded Díaz in three of his outings and continues his run of excellent work lately. Ottavino struck out the side in his appearance last Saturday agains the Padres. He followed that by earning his 13th hold of the season in Tuesday's win with 1 2/3 scoreless innings of work. He earned his fifth win of the season on Friday night, working around a hit to pitch a scoreless seventh inning and striking out two batters in the process. Other than Díaz, Ottavino is the most trusted reliever in the bullpen at present and deservedly so.
Two of Ottavino's three outings were in relief of Chris Bassitt who has had one excellent start and one so-so one since the break. Ironically, he took the loss for the stronger of his two starts, which came against the Padres last Saturday. Over seven innings of work, he struck out a whopping eleven batters while walking none. The only damage against him came in the form a two-run homer off the bat of Manny Machado, which, that'll happen sometimes. Unfortunately, due to the lack of run support, it was enough for Bassitt to take the loss. But, perhaps due to some sort of balancing of the karma in the universe, the Mets gave Bassitt a lot of run support in the weaker of his two outings to avoid another loss. The Marlins jumped on Bassitt right away for three runs in the first inning, but luckily Bassitt was able to settle down after that and the Mets got to Sandy Alcantara for the first time this season. Bassitt ended up pitching six innings and gave up four runs on six hits. The real issue for Bassitt in that outing was the walks; he surrendered a season-high four walks and struck out only two batters. Bassitt will pitch the series finale in DC following the Scherzer-deGrom 1-2 punch.
Taijuan Walker earned the win in both games he's pitched in the second half thus far. He gave the Mets a quality start against the Yankees on Tuesday, giving up three runs on seven hits in six innings of work. Walker gave up solo home runs to Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo in the first inning, but he settled in after that and the Mets responded by putting up a four spot in the bottom of the first to pick him up. Walker struck out three batters and walked one in the outing. In yesterday's game, Walker benefitted from an abundance of run support from his offense off Pablo López. He lasted just 5 2/3 innings, but the outing was certainly good enough. He gave up three runs on seven hits, walking two batters and striking out four. It remains to be seen if Walker will wear down in the second half like he did last season, but early indicators look promising.
The big lead the Mets built up in yesterday's game allowed them to rest their high-leverage relievers and give some other bullpen arms some work. Tommy Hunter recorded the final out for Walker in the sixth inning without allowing any additional runs. The newly promoted Stephen Nogosek then delivered two scoreless innings of work, striking out four batters in the process. Yoan López worked around a walk to pitch a scoreless ninth inning.