BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
After the Mets found out Jacob deGrom would miss time after suffering a stress reaction on his shoulder in spring training, they figured they could get by without him. Mainly because they felt Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt could compensate for his absence. It was easy for Mets manager Buck Showalter to say the sky is not falling and that it is only raining.
But then Scherzer suffered an oblique injury that had him on the injured list May 18 and Tylor Megill suffered biceps inflammation that had him on the injured list. Megill returned from the injury list to make his start against the Los Angeles Angels last week, but on Thursday night in his start against the Milwaukee Brewers, he landed back on the injured list with a right shoulder strain after leaving in the fourth inning with shoulder discomfort. He is out again for four weeks.
Any time a team’s three starters land on the injured list, it’s never a good thing. It leaves them vulnerable. Yet, the Mets are still in first place despite a 6-2 loss to the Miami Marlins Sunday afternoon at Citi Field.
The back end of the rotation and depth help the Mets survive so far. Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Williams and David Peterson pitched well enough to give them a chance to win. They played a role in the Mets having the fifth-best pitching ERA in the National League at 3.80.
After one okay start against the Los Angeles Dodgers and one awful start against San Diego Padres, Bassitt bounced back nicely by pitching two good starts in a row. He matched zeroes with Marlins ace Sandy Alcantra for six innings in Sunday’s loss.
In the end, he took the loss after he left in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and one out. He gave up a single to Miguel Rojas to start the inning and then gave up another single to Jacob Stallings and walked Bryan De La Cruz to load the bases. Seth Lugo relieved the Mets starter and promptly gave up a grand slam to Marlins super uber-prospect Jerar Encarnacion, giving the Marlins a 4-1 lead.
Still, no one can dispute how well Bassitt pitched so far this season. He gives the Mets quality starts by getting ahead of the hitters and accumulating strikeouts. He knows how to get out of jams. He gives them length in innings. He is a starter that knows what he’s doing out there. His fastball works to his advantage. Good things tend to happen when he starts.
It’s what the Mets envisioned when they acquired him from the Oakland Athletics. They know he is a guy that has no fear of the hitters when he is out there. He will give his best, and he would give his team a chance to win. They knew he could be the perfect third starter to form a good trio with deGrom and Scherzer. It was an under the radar move that the media and fans did not notice until they saw him pitch for the Mets this season.
He has done his job as a third starter, and then some.
Walker stands out as one of the most valuable contributors to the Mets. If not for him, the starting rotation would have served as an Achilles’ heel. He serves as the unsung ace for the Mets with Scherzer and deGrom out. He is 5-2 with a 2.88 ERA. His splitter put him in a position to be successful which results to many strikeouts. He finally use all sorts of his pitches to get guys out whether it’s curveball, slider and splitter to go with his fastball.
After coming off a start which he retired 18 consecutive batters against the Los Angeles Angels, he gave up a run on two hits in 6 ⅔ innings with nine strikeouts to show for it against the Marlins, who struggled to solve his splitter Saturday night. In his last two starts, he combined for 19 strikeouts.
This may be the best Walker pitched in his career. He always had the potential to be an ace, but injuries dertailed his career. This is the first time he has been healthy and productive.
Carrasco has delivered on the mound, and most importantly, he has been healthy after enduring hamstring and elbow injuries last season. The Mets needed every one of his starts to offset the loss of their starting pitchers. Like Walker and Bassitt, he has given them quality starts to give the Mets a chance to win. He leads the majors with eight victories as a starter. He completed his fifth win in his last six outings. Over that six-start stretch, he posted a 40:9 K:BB through 34 innings.
In his start against the Marlins on Friday night, he allowed three runs on eight hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings in the Mets’ 10-4 victory against the Marlins. He struck out seven, and finished the game with 98 pitches.
Then, there’s Williams and Peterson. They provided depth in the rotation by performing well as spot starters. They have been useful in time of need.
After a tough loss on Sunday, Peterson gave the Mets a boost by throwing 5 ⅓ innings and getting out of jams in the first few innings of the game. This came after his wife is close to giving a birth to a boy. He found a way to pitch despite what’s going on.
No one should be surprised what Peterson has done since he was good two years ago until an oblique injury and foot surgery derailed him last season.
The Mets have the calvary on the way. Scherzer will make his rehab start on Tuesday for Double-A Binghamton. If all goes well, he could even make a start this weekend.
deGrom has been progressing, though my guess is the Mets will try to start him in August. Megill will be out for four weeks.
The Mets managed to make the most out of their situation, and it has been good enough to see them in first place. They can only hope the back end starters have more in them as the season keeps going on.
This writer can be reached on Twitter at: @LeslieMonteiro6