Folks, the deGoat fireball is back. And what a sight for sore eyes it is. For the first time in the 2022 season, Mets fans got what they’ve been dreaming for since Opening Day: a Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. And it lived up to the hype in every possible way. In fact, aside from a clunker from Taijuan Walker, the starting rotation all pitched incredibly well this week, including a fill in start by David Peterson. The bullpen had a couple of hiccups as well, including from newest addition Mychal Givens. But, this week also saw the return of Trevor May from the injured list and more impeccable dominance from Edwin Díaz.
We’ll start with the return of Jacob deGrom since that is obviously the highlight here, although there are quite a few highlights to this week’s meter. At long last, the Mets’ ace made his return to the starting rotation and his return did not disappoint. On Tuesday, deGrom made his season debut in DC. He gave up just one run on three hits in five innings of work, striking out six batters and needing only 60 pitches to do so. Of course, in typical Mets fashion, when deGrom left the game the Mets had yet to score a run, but Francisco Lindor was able to tie the game in the sixth inning with a solo homer before the bullpen let the game get away. But at least deGrom was not tagged with a loss in his first start. His second start—his home debut against the Braves—was even better. deGrom was perfect through 5 2⁄3 innings before issuing a walk to Ehire Adrianza and then giving up a two-run homer to Dansby Swanson that ended his day. Still, it was a thing of beauty to watch deGrom as good as he has ever been, striking out a dozen batters in the outing and regularly pumping fastballs in the triple digits alongside unhittable 95mph sliders. And this time, the Mets did manage to give him some run support so he earned his first win—hopefully of many—of the 2022 season. If this is deGrom just getting warmed up...let’s just say it makes the Mets a very formidable force during this stretch run and beyond.
Oh, and Max Scherzer is on the Mets too, by the way. And he earned a win in both the games he pitched and lowered his season ERA to 1.98. He logged a quality start in Monday’s victory, tossing 6 2⁄3 innings and giving up three runs—only two of them earned—on six hits. He walked two and struck out five in the outing. He gave up a home run to Juan Soto—the last long ball Soto would hit in a Nationals uniform—but not much else. But just like deGrom, he was even better in the Braves series in front of his home crowd under the bright lights. In the nightcap of Saturday’s doubleheader, Scherzer pitched seven shutout innings, striking out eleven batters and walking none. He surrendered just four hits, looking as dominant as ever in his eighth win of the season.
Mychal Givens was given (ha) a chance to redeem himself in relief of Scherzer on Saturday night and he (mostly) did so. He pitched the eighth inning and gave up an RBI double to Ronald Acuña Jr., but nothing else in his inning of work. The Mets had a large enough lead to absorb the one run he gave up. They also had a large enough lead to absorb his horrible first outing as a Met, which came on Wednesday. With the Mets up 9-0, Givens came in to pitch the ninth inning to get his feet wet and ended up giving up five runs before being pulled from the game with one out still to get. Givens did pitch a scoreless inning in Friday’s loss, but it was still about as nightmarish as it could get as far as first impressions go. Hopefully one can chalk that up to adjusting to a new team and his latter two outings are closer to his usual self.
Prior to Givens’ ugly ninth inning on Wednesday, Trevor May made his first appearance in almost three months. May worked around a hit to pitch a scoreless eighth inning, mostly throwing changeups. May also followed Givens in Saturday’s Game 2 victory. Despite giving up a two-out solo homer to William Contreras, May successfully protected the lead for Scherzer and finished out that victory. A healthy Trevor May will be a huge asset to a bullpen in desperate need of reliable arms down the stretch.
It was Seth Lugo who had to bail out Givens to record the final out of Wednesday’s agonizing ninth inning to avoid disaster. Before doing so he gave up an RBI single, but that run was charged to Givens. Finally, he got Yadiel Hernández to fly out to end the game. Lugo also appeared in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader and had a shaky outing, but came out of it with the Mets’ lead in tact and his 13th hold of the season. Lugo came in to replace David Peterson in the sixth inning and worked around a walk to record the final two outs of that frame. Then, things went sideways for Lugo in his second inning of work when he gave up two hits that plated a run and hit a batter with a pitch, necessitating his removal from the game before the inning was over.
Adam Ottavino came in to bail Lugo out and allowed a single to Matt Olsen that plated a run, charged to Lugo. But he retired the next batter with the Mets still up by three runs in the middle of the seventh inning. He then went on to pitch a scoreless eighth inning, escaping a jam of his own making by striking out Ronald Acuña Jr. after two hits and a wild pitch had runners at second and third with two out. That Houdini act earned Ottavino his 15th hold of the season. Ottavino also finished off Monday’s victory by recording the final four outs in that contest. The only run on Ottavino’s ledger this week came in Thursday’s victory when he gave up a run on two hits, but he still left with the lead in tact. He remains the most trusted pitcher in the Mets’ bullpen not named Edwin Díaz.
Speaking of Edwin Díaz, he gets yet another fireball this week. He’s on such a run of dominance that he might become one of those guys that gets his own emoji, a la Jacob deGrom. Díaz was perfect in his three save chances this week, one of which was a six-out save—his first two-inning save of the season. That came in Thursday’s game when he followed Ottavino by pitching two scoreless innings. He allowed one hit and struck out three batters in the outing. Díaz was forced into service in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader after Yoan López yielded two runs in the ninth inning with men still on base, suddenly creating a save situation. The first batter Díaz faced grounded out, scoring a run which was charged to López, but Díaz shut down the rally quickly, striking out Eddie Rosario to end the game. Díaz put the cherry on top of his week by striking out the side in the ninth inning yesterday to earn his 26th save of the season and seal deGrom’s first win of 2022.
Although deGrom and Díaz may be the flashy storylines from yesterday’s big win over the Braves, Joely Rodríguez was the unsung hero, which earns him a fireball as well. With much of the rest of the relievers in the bullpen unavailable due to Saturday’s doubleheader, Rodríguez delivered 2 1⁄3 scoreless innings in relief to build the bridge between deGrom and Díaz. It was a truly Herculean effort; he struck out four batters in the outing and his changeup was the best it has looked this season. In fact, Rodríguez was not scored upon in any of his three outings this week. He recorded the final out of the seventh inning in relief of Max Scherzer on Monday and then recorded the first two outs of the eighth inning after issuing a leadoff walk. He also delivered a scoreless inning in Friday’s loss, complete with two strikeout. It’s been a rough go of it for Rodríguez, but if the only lefty in the Mets’ bullpen has suddenly figured it out, then that’s huge for the team’s success down the stretch.
David Peterson was the fill-in starter for Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader and he did an excellent job in what was perhaps his most important outing to date. The one knock on him is that he walked too many batters (as he tends to do) and that limited his longevity in the game. But he still earned the win for 5 1⁄3 scoreless innings of work. He gave up just three hits and struck out five batters over that span. Peterson was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse after his start so the Mets could get a fresh arm in the bullpen, but he’ll be the first callup should they need another spot starter or perhaps another attempt will be made at making him into a viable lefty option out of the bullpen.
Díaz ultimately had to come in the game on Saturday despite Peterson’s excellent work because Yoan López was unable to get the job done in the ninth. After retiring the first batter he faced, he gave up four straight hits that plated two runs, necessitating the use of Díaz to record the final two outs. Another run scored on a groundout, so López was charged with three runs in 1⁄3 of an inning. Woof. Poop emoji central. López was also one of a few relievers who did not distinguish themselves in Washington DC in Jacob deGrom’s season debut. By the time López entered the game it was merely rubbing salt in the wound, but he did give up a home run in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game to Joey Meneses—one of the rookies now filling the empty husk of the Washington Nationals roster. It was a horrible week all around for López, who returned to Triple-A after serving as the 27th man for Saturday’s doubleheader.
It’s Stephen Nogosek who is primarily to blame for Tuesday’s loss, however (along with the offense for failing to score more than one run). He came into a tie game in relief of deGrom in the sixth inning and gave up three runs on two home runs—a two-run shot by Luis García and a solo homer off the bat of Yadiel Hernández. For that, he took his first loss of the season. He was then promptly optioned back to Triple-A Syracuse.
Tommy Hunter pitched the eighth inning of Tuesday’s loss and didn’t look particularly sharp either, but he got through the inning without giving up a run, while striking out two batters in the process. Hunter also saved the bullpen by giving the Mets two innings of work in Friday’s loss. In that outing, he gave up a solo home run to William Contreras, which ended up to be mostly meaningless insurance for the Braves, despite the Mets’ attempts to come back. Hunter has since been placed on the injured list due to “lower back tightness.” It’s certainly expected that a guy who came back from major back surgery this season would experience some discomfort and the Mets claim that they are just getting Hunter ready for the stretch run. But, it’s also true that the Mets needed as many fresh arms in the bullpen as they could get this week and any back discomfort from Hunter provided them with an excuse to bring in another arm.
Despite the Mets’ best attempts at a comeback, Friday’s game was decided early when Taijuan Walker got absolutely hammered in his worst start of the season so far. The Braves put up a four spot on Walker in both the first and second innings and Walker failed to record a single out in the second inning before he had to come out of the game. Everyone has an off day and hopefully this is just a bump in the road, but Walker certainly earned his poop emoji this week for that performance. Walker was experiencing some hip soreness that clearly affected him, but he says he will be fine to make his next start.
With Walker knocked out early and a doubleheader looming on the horizon, the Mets desperately needed Trevor Williams to soak up some innings and he did so with aplomb, as he has been doing all season. Williams did allow two runs to cross the plate in the second inning, but those were charged to Walker. And he was great after that, stopping the bleeding to pitch four scoreless innings. He struck out two batters and walked one in the outing. It’s because of Williams the Mets even had a shot in Friday’s game, as he continues to be an integral part of the pitching staff.
Chris Bassitt pitched a gem in Wednesday’s series finale against the Nationals, twirling seven scoreless innings. He gave up six hits, walked one, and struck out four batters in the start. With the Mets giving him lots of run support, he cruised his way to his eighth victory of the season. It may have been the Nationals without Juan Soto and Josh Bell, but holding any opponent scoreless over seven is an achievement.
Carlos Carrasco earned his team-leading 12th win of the season for his strong outing in the series opener against the Braves on Thursday, outpitching Kyle Wright. Carrasco gave the Mets yet another quality start: three runs on four hits with six strikeouts against one walk. If Taijuan Walker continues to show inconsistencies and issues with fatigue or injury in the second half the way he did last season, Carrasco may quickly move ahead of him in the pecking order when it comes to a postseason rotation.