Ironically, the Mets continue to get fantastic starting pitching after trading their two best starting pitchers. The bullpen was once again a mixed bag this week, however.
Though the race for the NL Cy Young has no clear winner and a lot of players, Kodai Senga continues to bolster his case. Senga was blessed with boatloads of run support on Thursday and cruised his way to his eleventh win of the season, pitching six shutout innings against the Diamondbacks and striking out a whopping ten batters. He walked only two and surrendered only two hits in the outing. At one point in the game, he retired 13 straight hitters. He wanted to pitch another inning, but his pitch count was at 103 after six, so Buck Showalter opted to pull him. His ERA for the season is now below 3.00.
It was Phil Bickford who pitched the seventh inning instead on Thursday, throwing a scoreless frame in relief of Senga. Bickford is one of only three Mets relievers who boasts a clean sheet this week. Bickford also pitched a scoreless seventh inning in Tuesday’s victory and a hitless ninth inning in Friday night’s loss.
Jeff Brigham pitched the final two innings of Thursday’s game and gave up a run, but it hardly mattered since the Mets were up big at that point. A similar situation played on Sunday when he was asked to pitch the eighth inning of a lopsided game and gave up a two-run homer to Christian Encarnacion-Strand that cut the Mets’ lead from six runs to four. That was ultimately not consequential in the result of the game either, but Brigham gets a bad grade for the week for those two performances.
The beneficiary of the run support in Sunday’s contest was José Quintana, who was the only starter to pitch two games this week. Quintana gave the Mets yet another quality start on Sunday, limiting the Reds to just two runs on eight hits through 6 2⁄3 innings of work. He struck out two batters and walked one in the outing. He earned his third win of the season for that performance. He was one inning shy of a quality start in Monday’s game, which ultimately ended in a loss, but Quintana left the game after five solid innings with a lead. Over those five innings, he gave up two runs on five hits, striking out four batters and walking two.
With Quintana in a jam on Sunday in the seventh, Drew Smith was called upon to get the final out and did so successfully, protecting what was a narrow lead at the time. Smith was the only reliever to appear in four games this week and had three good outings and one bad one. His bad outing was on Monday when he gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning and ultimately took the loss. But things took a turn for the better for Smith after that. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Wednesday’s lopsided victory and retired the two batters he faced in the eighth inning on Friday.
Brooks Raley pitched a scoreless ninth inning to polish off Sunday’s victory. Along with Bickford, Raley is one of the three relievers to not be scored upon this week. Raley began his week by earning his 24th hold of the season with a scoreless seventh inning on Monday. Raley also struck out three out of the four batters he faced in Saturday’s game.
The final reliever with a clean sheet this week is Adam Ottavino, who continues to be the only steady presence alongside Raley in the Mets’ bullpen. Ottavino contributed 1-2-3 ninth innings with two strikeouts each in both games over the weekend. He also earned his tenth save of the season for recording the final five outs in Tuesday’s game.
Ottavino’s efforts were necessary on Tuesday in part because Sam Coonrod almost let the game get away. Coonrod melted down in the eighth inning on Tuesday, walking the leadoff hitter, then retiring the next batter, but subsequently allowing two straight singles, hitting a batter with a pitch, and then walking another batter. All told, he gave up two runs in just 1⁄3 of an inning. That was Coonrod’s only outing for the week. He has since been optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. Also no longer present on the roster is Sean Reid-Foley who unfortunately made one appearance this week—pitching a scoreless sixth inning in relief of Quintana on Monday—and strained his lat after coming all the way back from Tommy John surgery.
Luckily the game did not get away on Tuesday and as a result José Butto earned his first win of the season. Butto was very good on Tuesday, limiting the Diamondbacks to just one run on two hits through five innings of work. Perhaps more importantly, Butto struck out seven batters while walking only three. Butto is having quite a strong month of September as he continues to make a case for himself for a spot in next year’s rotation.
Other than Coonrod and Brigham, Grant Hartwig was the other reliever to have a bad week this week. He came in the game on Tuesday in relief of Butto to pitch the sixth and allowed a run on two hits. Luckily, the Mets still won the game. However, the Mets did not win the game due to his poor performance on Friday and he took the loss because of it. After recording the final out of the sixth inning in what was then a tie game, Hartwig came back out for the seventh and hit a batter with a pitch and then gave up a go-ahead, two-run homer to Jonathan India that turned out to be the difference in the game.
That performance came in relief of David Peterson, who was able to limit the damage despite giving up six hits because he struck out a career-high ten batters over his 5 2⁄3 innings of work. But, he gave up a two-run homer to Spencer Steer in the sixth that extended the Reds’ lead from one run to three runs at the time. Thanks to Pete Alonso’s game-tying home run in the bottom of the frame, Peterson was not tagged with the loss, but Hartwig spoiled what could have been an exciting comeback. Peterson continues to show promise since his return to the rotation.
Tylor Megill continues to show promise late in the season as well and he had another solid performance on Saturday, but took a tough loss in a one-run defeat. Megill was slapped around a bit for nine hits, but limited the damage to just three runs—only two of which were earned—over 5 2⁄3 innings of work. He struck out two batters and walked two in the outing.
Sandwiched between Raley and Ottavino’s scoreless outings on Saturday in relief of Megill was a scoreless eighth inning for Trevor Gott, who worked around two walks to keep the Reds from extending their lead. Gott also pitched a scoreless eighth inning in Wednesday’s victory. However, his week started poorly with a blown save in Monday’s game. After Reid-Foley and Raley held the fort in relief of Quintana, Gott gave up a game-tying solo homer to none other than former Met Tommy Pham in the eighth inning before Drew Smith would go on to lose the game for the Mets in the ninth.
Gott’s best performance of the week was in relief of Joey Lucchesi, who was nothing short of excellent in his return to the Mets’ rotation on Wednesday. Lucchesi shut out the Diamondbacks for seven innings with one unearned run to his ledger on a batter reaching on a fielding error by Francisco Lindor in the eighth and coming around to score with Gott on the mound in relief of Lucchesi. Lucchesi walked three batters and struck out two in the outing. With the Mets not contending for a playoff spot and a desire to give Kodai Senga extra rest, they have opted to go with a six-man rotation for the remainder of the season and with the way Peterson, Megill, Butto, and Lucchesi all have pitched, it’s hard to argue against it.