It was a mixed bag for the Mets’ rotation this week, with Chris Bassitt putting forth one mediocre start and one excellent one, Jacob deGrom striking out the world, but not keeping runs off the board in the way we are used to, David Peterson putting up a stinker, and Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker continuing to be very solid at the back end of the rotation. The bullpen, however, had a fantastic week. Especially notable was the work of Joely Rodríguez, who had perhaps his best week as a Met. The bullpen lost Mychal Givens this week due to undisclosed (likely COVID-related) reasons, but gained Trevor May back from the COVID injured list and has more reinforcements forthcoming in the form of Tylor Megill and Drew Smith, who are set to be activated in the coming days.
I don’t usually kick things off with a reliever, but this week I’m going to make an exception because Joely Rodríguez, who has struggled for much of the season, had a banner week, earning the sole fireball on this week’s meter. Rodríguez’s week began with a low-leverage situation, tossing a scoreless ninth inning on with two strikeouts with the Mets down by four runs. But his outings increased in importance as the week went on. In Thursday’s victory, he pitched the final two innings of the game with the Mets up big and retired all the batters he faced in order, complete with two strikeouts. But his biggest outing of all came in yesterday’s game—many Mets fans likely screaming at Buck Showalter through the TV about using Joely Rodríguez for not just one inning, but TWO innings in a tie game—and he delivered BIG time. He struck out the side in the seventh inning and retired the side in order in the eighth as well, striking out two of the three hitters he faced in that inning. That Herculean performance from Rodríguez earned him his first win of the season and he deserves every bit of that win. In aggregate, Rodríguez did not allow a single baserunner in five innings across three appearances and struck out nine batters and walked none—about as good of a week as a reliever can have.
Rodríguez epic performance yesterday came in relief of Jacob deGrom, who looked absolutely unhittable yesterday...until he ran out of gas. deGrom breezed his way through the first five innings and struck out an unreal thirteen batters over that span. But he began the sixth inning three runs to the good and gave it all back in the blink of an eye. A pair of singles and the big blow—a three-run homer by O’Neil Cruz that barely cleared the wall—stunned deGrom and the Mets who suddenly found themselves in a tie game. This was more or less the same story as deGrom’s other start this week. deGrom also had a double-digit strikeout total (10) on Tuesday, but the few mistakes he did make were punished and he ended up yielding three runs over six innings of work. Unlike yesterday, the Mets’ offense did not support deGrom on Tuesday and he took the loss. Still, right up until the moment Cruz took him deep, I was prepared to issue deGrom a deGoat fireball once again because no one looks as dominant as he does while he racks up the strikeouts and continues to not walk anyone. But, the chief issue with deGrom’s performance this week has been his endurance as he continues to try to build his way back from missing a whole year’s worth of starts between the latter half of 2021 and the first half of 2022. The Mets are going to need more than five or six innings of deGrom to be successful in the postseason. But one can hardly call deGrom’s performance this week bad. He’s just being graded on an absurdly unfair curve, setting the bar higher than anyone in the game.
Seth Lugo immediately followed deGrom in relief in both of his starts this week. Yesterday, he came in a game that was suddenly tied after deGrom did not retire a batter in the sixth. He hit the first batter he faced with a pitch, but bounced back to retire the next three batters in order to keep the game tied. Lugo did allow a run on a David Bote solo homer in his other appearance in relief of deGrom on Tuesday, but that run was merely cushion for the Cubs and did not end up factoring into the final result. Lugo’s most impressive outing this week came in Thursday’s victory, in which he struck out the side in the seventh inning, setting things up for Rodríguez to finish the game.
Lugo and Rodríguez’s strong performances on Thursday came in relief of Carlos Carrasco, who continues to look very good after shaking the rust off returning from his oblique injury. Carrasco was dominant on Thursday, giving up just one run on four hits over six innings of work. He struck out a whopping eleven batters and walked only two. That performance earned Carrasco his team-leading fifteenth win of the season.
Carrasco and Taijuan Walker continue to put forth consistently good work at the back end of the Mets’ rotation, which makes for an interesting conversation as to which one of them will serve as the fourth pitcher in the playoff rotation. Walker was excellent again this week, tossing 7 1⁄3 strong innings en route to his twelfth win of the season on Friday. He gave up three runs, only two of which were earned, on five hits. He struck out five batters and walked none, continuing the excellent K:BB ratio the Mets’ pitching staff put up collectively this week.
Given that the Mets were swept by the Cubs and then won big in the first game of the Pirates series, for the second week in a row, Edwin Díaz did not find himself pitching in many save situations. But Friday was an exception, as Walker exited the game with one out in the eighth inning after having given up a two-run homer to O’Neil Cruz that brought the Pirates within a run. Díaz came in for the five-out save and shut down the rally, recording the final two outs of the eighth inning. He issued a walk to lead off the ninth inning, putting the tying run on base, but pinch runner Greg Allen was thrown out by Tomás Nido and then Díaz retired the next two batters to seal the victory and earn his 30th save of the season. Díaz also appeared in a non-save situation in relief of deGrom on Tuesday just to get some work in a (relatively) close game and he gave up two hits, but struck out three batters to avoid besmirching his clean slate for the week.
Mets setup man Adam Ottavino has faced a similar situation to Díaz with the Mets holding very few narrow leads of late. He too pitched an inning on Tuesday with the Mets behind in the game, working around a hit to pitch a scoreless eighth inning with a strikeout. Ottavino also recorded the final two outs of Saturday’s victory to seal that win after David Peterson took care of the bulk of the relief in that contest.
Speaking of David Peterson, he had a horrific start on Wednesday, but he avoided the seemingly inevitable poop emoji with his performance out of the bullpen on Saturday. Peterson had about as nightmarish of an outing as one can have on Wednesday, evoking memories of Thomas Szapucki’s start earlier in the season. Peterson recorded only one out and the Cubs dropped a six spot on the Mets in the first inning before all was said and done; five of those runs were charged to Peterson. Deep counts and walks continue to be Peterson’s kryptonite, as he walked the first three batters of the game in succession, which set the stage for his early exit. The one out he recorded did come via the strikeout. Thus far, efforts to transition Peterson to a bullpen role have not gone well, but he had his best relief performance in quite some time on Saturday, giving up only a solo homer over 2 1⁄3 innings of relief. Perhaps most importantly, he struck out four batters and walked none in the outing.
It was left to Trevor Williams—who was being considered for the start this week in Peterson’s stead—to mop up Peterson’s mess on Wednesday. Williams did give up two more hits after Peterson left the game, which plated two runs, one of which was charged to Peterson and the other to Williams. But Williams settled in after that and soaked up 4 1⁄3 innings to save the rest of the bullpen. That was his only outing this week.
Tommy Hunter followed Williams on Wednesday and pitched 1 1⁄3 hitless innings with two strikeouts and no walks. Like much of the rest of the bullpen this week, Hunter had a clean sheet across his two appearances. Hunter also pitched 1 1⁄3 hitless innings on Monday with one strikeout.
Hunter had to come in the game in the fourth inning on Monday because Chris Bassitt was unable to get out of the inning. Bassitt had a long run of strong outings, but put up a clunker on Monday, yielding five runs on five hits in 3 2⁄3 innings. He struck out two batters and walked two batters in the outing. He also gave up two home runs in the outing, which was especially out of character, as he has done an excellent job in limiting the long ball this season. That performance hung him with his eighth loss of the season. But, he bounced back to earn the win (his fourteenth of the season) with a fantastic performance on Saturday. He twirled six scoreless innings, striking out eight Pirates and walking two. He gave up just three hits in the outing, allowing the Mets to cruise their way to a relatively easy win.
Mychal Givens pitched in Monday and Wednesday’s losses before hitting the injured list for undisclosed reasons (which is usually code for COVID-19). He pitched two scoreless innings on Monday, working around two hits and striking out five. And he recorded the final two outs of the game on Wednesday, retiring the two batters he faced in order. It’s a shame for Givens, who had been on a run of success after a rough start in a Mets uniform, but hopefully he won’t be sidelined long. In the meantime, Stephen Nogosek has been called up from Triple-A, but he has not yet appeared in a game.
But as the Mets lost Givens, they gained Trevor May back from the COVID IL. May also contributed a scoreless inning on Monday, tossing a 1-2-3 sixth inning with two strikeouts. May also followed Hunter on Wednesday, working around a hit to pitch a scoreless seventh inning, striking out one batter in the process. May finished his week strong, locking down the victory with a scoreless ninth after the Mets took the lead in the eighth with their big four-run inning. He gave up a two-out double to Ke’Bryan Hayes, but bounced back to strike out Jack Suwinski to seal the win for the Mets. Three scoreless innings is certainly a good indication that May hasn’t missed a step.
Alex Claudio was one of the parade of relievers to appear in Wednesday’s game after Peterson’s abbreviated start. He pitched 1 1⁄3 hitless innings, walking a batter and striking out a batter. Claudio is one of the likely roster casualties when the Mets activate a plethora of pitchers from the injured list this week (Scherzer, Megill, Smith), but he has a 0.00 ERA over 3 1⁄3 innings feather in his cap to show for his time in the big leagues this season.