Max Scherzer Out Six-To-Eight Weeks As Mets Head West By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
Just keep winning series. If the Mets can do that then everything else will fall into line. For the better part of May the Mets have alternated wins and losses, while losing multiple players to lengthy injury absences. But as the weather warms up – and their players get healthy – so will the Mets.
Thursday afternoon, at Citi Field, the Mets hosted the Cardinals for the final game of their four game set – as well as the final regular-season meeting between the teams this season – and flew out of Queens with a 7-6 victory in 10 innings that had the team feeling good ahead of it’s six-game western road trip.
What led to New York’s latest win? Following an Edwin Díaz blown save in the ninth New York rallied in the 10th to win the game, 7-6, on a Pete Alonso walk-off, two-run home run off Giovanny Galleogs.
Pitching-wise, New York sent Chris Bassitt to the mound hoping he could step up to lead the rotation now that Max Scherzer, Jacob Degrom and Tylor Megill are all injured. Bassitt’s ability to front the rotation becomes even more pertinent now that Scherzer has been diagnosed with a “moderate-to-high grade internal oblique strain” as well as blisters on his throwing hand. Obliques are tricky injuries to recover from. The Mets announced during the game that he is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks; although that is not set in stone. It could be slightly shorter or potential – gulp – longer.
Bassitt came into the game touting a 4-2 record in seven starts to go along with a 2.34 ERA and the second lowest average exit velocity among qualifying MLB pitchers. Bassitt’s average exit velo of 83.4mph trails only Phillies’ Zach Eflin (82.2mph). And his ability to routinely induce soft contact with his sinker/slider combination has been a big part of what has made Bassitt so effective this season.
On Thursday, Bassitt hurled 6⅓ innings, plus one batter, and allowed four runs on nine hits (two solo home runs), one walk and struckout three. There were times throughout the game where you could see he didn’t quite have a feel for his sinker and slider. But there were other times when that combination worked for him as he managed to rack up seven groundball outs compared to nine flyball/line outs.
Opposing Bassitt was righty Dakota Hudson, who, like his Mets counterpart, is a proficient groundball pitcher. Hudson relies even more heavily on his sinker/slider combination than Bassitt. (44.4% sinkers and 28.8% sliders for Hudson versus 27% and 19% respectively for Bassitt). In addition, since his MLB debut on July 28, 2018, Hudson is fourth in all of MLB in groundball percentage (57.9%) and groundball-to-flyball ratio (2.84). Coming into Thursday’s tilt, Hudson was 3-2 in seven starts this season and sported a 3.06 ERA.
The big difference between Bassitt and Hudson is that where the former’s average exit velo is 83.4mph, the latter’s is 90.4mph; a stark contrast and a much more difficult task for the fielders behind St. Louis’ righty. To further understand the differences between these two groundball pitchers let’s look at their respective hard hit rates. Bassitt’s is a scant 32.4% while Hudson’s is 46.8%. That’s a significant difference and one that often plays a big factor into who walks off the mound a winner.
Thursday afternoon, those differences were Hudson’s undoing. He gave up four runs in 4⅔ innings on five hits, two walks and one wild pitch. In addition to his stat line, Hudson struggled at times with his rhythm and ability to throw quality strikes. In fact, Hudson only induced five groundballs that were turned into six total outs – one groundball was a double play – from the 20 batters he faced.
The Mets got off to a hot start with two runs in the first, before bleeding it back to the Cardinals in the second and third innings. St. Louis took the lead in the fifth on a Paul Goldschmidt double but then gave up three runs to New York in the bottom of the fifth to bring the score to 5-3 Mets.
Here’s how the three-run fifth unfolded. Luis Guillorme started things with a double. Tomas Nido laid down a sac bunt to advance Guillorme to third. Brandon Nimmo grounded to first to bring in Guillorme. Mark Canha singled to knock St. Louis starter Dakota Hudson from the game. Francisco Lindor singled to greet his replacement, Nick Wittgren. Then Pete Alonso walked to load the bases. Jeff McNeil drove home Canha and Lindor with a single to make it a 5-3 Mets lead. (Eduardo Escobar lined out to shortstop Brendan Donovan to end the frame).
Moving onto the seventh and a one-out walk to Tommy Edman was followed by a Brendan Donovan single to put runners on the corners. That knocked Bassitt from the game. Drew Smith entered and got Goldschmidt to pop out to left. On the play, Donovan strayed too far and got doubled off to end the inning but Edman scored prior to Donovan being tagged out to bring the Cardinals within 5-4.
Fast forward to the ninth and Edwin Díaz came on to try and lock down a 5-4 Mets win. However, Harrison Bader started things off with an infield single and then stole second to put Díaz in hot water. Then, Yadier Molina grounded to second to advance Bader to third with one out. Díaz followed that up by striking out Tommy Edman looking to put the Cardinals down to their last out. Brendan Donovan stepped to the plate as St. Louis’ last hope and worked a walk to put runners on the corners with two-outs. That brought Goldschmidt up to the plate, who broke his bat and grounded the ball to the right of third baseman Eduardo Escobar. Escobar couldn’t handle the ball and Bader scored to tie the game 5-5; with Donovan advanced to third on the error.
St. Louis brought in Ryan Helsley for the bottom of the ninth to try and force extra innings. That’s exactly what he did as Helsley got Brandon Nimmo and Mark Canha to groundout before striking out Francisco Lindor on a weak wave.
In the top of the tenth the Mets brought in Colin Holderman to face the 6-7-8 hitters in St. Louis’ lineup. Corey Dickerson started at second base as the ghost runner and advanced to third on Dylan Carlson’s leadoff single. Albert Pujols was next and even though he banged into a 4-6-3 double play, Dickerson scored to give the Cardinals a 6-5 lead. Holderman retired Bader to end the inning and bring the heart of the Mets lineup to the plate staring down a one-run deficit.
Giovanny Galleogs was next out of St. Louis’ bullpen and two pitches later the game was over as Pete Alonso crushed a no-doubt-about-it, walkoff, two-run home run to left field to win the game for the Mets 7-6. (Lindor was the ghost runner who scored on the home run). NY Jets Q Zach Wilson was at the game today.