David Peterson immediately gave up the lead in the bottom of the first. After a scoreless second, the Braves plated two more against him in the third.
Then, in the fourth, it all fell apart. After one run had scored increasing the Braves lead to 5-2, and one on, Peterson left the game with an injury. Sean Reid-Foley came in, and he was battered.
While the Mets wanted multiple innings from Reid-Foley, they got 0.2. In that stretch, he allowed the inherited runner to score before allowing four of his own.
This all but forced Thomas Szapucki to make his MLB debut. With Szapucki being a top prospect, and his potentially needing to take Peterson’s spot in the rotation, you wanted this to be the feel good story.
The worst thing Szapucki did was not finish the game. He was completely out of gas after 3.2 innings, and he loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth. Luis Rojas had enough, and he brought in Albert Almora, Jr. to pitch.
When Almora surrendered a homer to Ozzie Albies, Almora officially allowed more homers and RBI than he has hit and driven in this season. Basically, that’s the tale of how the Mets lose 20-2.
It’s just time to say nothing more about this one. Before moving on completely, the Mets need to figure it out soon because their +16 rum differential is now -2, and more importantly, their division lead is down to two.
After the Chicago Cubs swept the New York Mets at Wrigley, the Mets nearly returned the favor at Citi Field:
1. It all begins and ends with Jacob deGrom. If he’s healthy, he and the Mets are unbeatable. Right now, he’s not healthy.
2. Another important thing is no one knows what’s wrong. We just lived the era of Jeff Wilpon, MD. Let’s let the professionals actually call the shots.
3. Marcus Stroman picked up the slack with seven great innings. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for the win, but with the bullpen innings saved, it may mean one down the road.
4. That David Peterson start was huge, but he’s had those moments. The real key for him is consistency.
5. The Mets are usually known for the worst free agent signing. With Taijuan Walker, it’s nice seeing the Mets make the best one for once.
6. On that note, Kevin Pillar has been much better than advertised. It’s not just the offense and defense. It’s the grit.
7. Pete Alonso is great, but he has his moments where he tries to do way too much. Sometimes,he needs to take instead of jumping out of his heels. It’s why that AN was a sacrifice fly.
8. Its a tough spot for Drew Smith, but if you’re brought in to mop it up, don’t make a game of it. That’s how you eventually lose a roster spot.
10. Luis Guillorme‘s ability to transfer is at another level, and as we saw with the play at the plate, it’s game changing.
11. Billy McKinney continues to play well. It appears he may need to hold the fort down just a little longer.
12. The new rules, or better put, efforts to enforce the rules, is merely a deflection from the change in the ball. It also has the added benefit for MLB to have a bargaining chip for the impending CBA talks.
13. Knock on wood, but so far, we’re not seeing any change in performance for Mets pitchers. We’ll see if that continues when enforcement officially begins.
14. With all these games bunched up, Sean Reid-Foley suddenly becomes massively important. His stepping in for deGrom is a sign of the value he can provide to this team
15. For all that narrative about the Mets not beating over .500 teams, they just took five of seven from the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs.
16. Again, you win with pitching a defense. The Mets have the best FIP and second best DRS. If that continues, they’ll continue to win.
17. The Mets have an opportunity to absolutely bury the Washington Nationals and force them to be sellers. They may be tired, but they can’t miss this chance.
18. Last time deGrom was the Mets only All-Star was 2015. That’s a good omen, but odds are the Mets will get a few pitchers.
19. Dominic Smith seems more comfortable in the OF, and he’s working counts, but he needs to pick it up.
20. The Mets have the largest lead in baseball, and they’re not really playing well yet. This team is scary good.
It was just one of those days for Marcus Stroman. You got that sense from the jump.
Josh Harrison singled to start the game, and he’d go to third on a Michael Conforto error. Yes, the ball took a strange almost non-hop, but you have to keep that ball in front of you. Instead, Harrison was on third, and he’d score on a Yadiel Hernandez sacrifice fly.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last Conforto misstep. In the second, Stroman got himself into some trouble. He issued a pair of one out walks before striking out Andrew Stevenson. To get out of the inning, he needed to retire Joe Ross.
Ross singled, and there could have been a play at the plate. However, in what is a dangerous pattern early in the season, Conforto made a really poor throw home. As a result, the Nationals led 2-0.
The issue with Stroman on the day was he was leaving the pitches over the plate, and as a result, he was getting hit fairly hard. The movement was there, but the location wasn’t. When all was said and done, he lasted just four innings after allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits and two walks.
The Mets should’ve had a chance to get Stroman off the hook, but it was more of the same. Conforto had the two defensive miscues, and he lined out hard to end the first with runners on first and second.
There was some measure of redemption for Conforto in the bottom of the fourth when he hit his first homer of the season:
Conforto hits the foul pole for his first home run of the year! ? pic.twitter.com/klrooyQJML
— SNY (@SNYtv) April 24, 2021
It was 5-1 entering the top of the fifth. No matter how much the Mets offense has struggled, that’s not an onerous lead with Ross and the Nationals bullpen.
The problem is Stephen Tarpley wasn’t great, and that’s being kind. He walked two, allowed a hit to Kyle Schwarber, and then he hit Alex Avila to force home a run. At that point, it was 6-1, and Luis Rojas went to Robert Gsellman.
Gsellman did all he could to get out of the jam, but he still allowed a run. That was on a Stevenson fielder’s choice. Still, it was impressive for Gsellman to limit the damage to one run.
This was a positive step after Gsellman’s rough appearance against the Cubs. In fact, it was a really important appearance for Gsellman. Not only did he limit the damage in the inning, but he also pitched three scoreless innings.
That was an indication as to what Gsellman could do to help this team. It also saved the bullpen, which was all the more important after Mets starters failed to pitch more than four innings in Chicago.
On the bright side, aside from Tarpley, the bullpen was really good. Gsellman (3.0), Jacob Barnes (1.0), and Jeurys Familia combined to shut out the Nationals over five innings while allowing one hit, walking one, and striking out three.
The larger issue was Conforto. After that homer, he went back to struggling again.
After Pete Alonso was hit by a pitch to start the sixth, Conforto hit into a double play. In the eighth, runners were on first and second with two outs, and Conforto struck out looking on a pitch over the middle.
Now, Conforto should not be solely blamed for the loss. The Mets had six total hits with Conforto’s homer being one of them. That said his defense continues to be a problem, and he’s leaving small villages on the basepaths.
In the end, the Mets aren’t playing well. Given all that’s happened, it’s understandable. The fact that they’re struggling, and they’re .500 is a phenomenal sign. Just imagine how much better they’ll be when Conforto picks things up again.
Being a starting pitcher isn’t always fair. You can have a great outing like Taijuan Walker and still not get the win.
Walker came out throwing heat hitting 97 MPH on his fastball. With a little help from Francisco Lindor, he’d keep the Miami Marlins hitless through 4.1 innings.
The problem for Walker was the Mets offense was non-existent. Well, their offense with runners in scoring position.
In the fourth, the Mets loaded the bases with one out, but Walker couldn’t help his own cause hitting into the inning ending double play. Finally, the Mets would break through in the fifth, but they were unlucky.
The Mets loaded the bases with one out with Dominic Smith at the plate. Smith hit a long fly to center which looked like it would clear the bases one way or another. Instead, Starling Marte would make a great read and play limiting Smith to a sacrifice fly.
Unfortunately, Walker gave the lead right back. Mets killer Jon Berti singled to lead off the inning. Walker came very close to picking him off, and it would cost him.
Corey Dickerson hit a double to right, and when Conforto fumbled with the ball which bounced off the wall towards center, Berti scored easily. Marte would later move Dickerson to third on a fielder’s choice.
Walker then battled Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar had a great at-bat battling back from 0-2, checking his swing on a nasty pitch, and then singling home the go-ahead run on a full count.
On the bright side, the Mets bullpen, who struggled in Philadelphia, was excellent. Miguel Castro, Trevor May, and Edwin Diaz combined for three scoreless innings which gave the Mets a chance in the bottom of the ninth.
Jeff McNeil, who for reasons beyond comprehension is only batting seventh in the lineup, led off the ninth after starting the season 0-for-10. Actually, make that, 1-for-11.
Bottom 9. Down 1. Home opener. Also your birthday.
Seems like a good time for a DINGER! ? pic.twitter.com/joFGHyyD1f
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 8, 2021
That homer off Marlins closer Anthony Bass tied the score at 2-2. The Mets weren’t done.
Luis Guillorme pinch hit for Diaz, and he hit an infield single to second. After Nimmo doubled, the Marlins walked Lindor to load the bases to put the pressure on Conforto who has been struggling at the plate.
What looked like strike three nicked Conforto’s shoulder forcing home the winning run. Conforto successfully stuck his elbow out to get the win.
It was quite the redemption story for Conforto who needed that hit. It was also a great start to the season for Diaz getting that win. It’s even better the Mets won their first game of the season.
If not for the need to call him up last season, David Peterson would arguably be the Mets top prospect heading into the season. To a certain extent, you’d expect the Mets to handle him like a top prospect.
After all, for the success he had, there were some real reasons for concern. His walks and FIP were too high. His slider was his only consistent weapon. He succeed was very BABIP dependent, and he didn’t go deep into games.
Still, partially the result of the injuries to Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco, Peterson was in the Opening Day rotation. With that should come with the responsibility of treating him like a prospect and protecting his arm and development.
The Mets failed him and their team miserably on the front today.
There are many studies out there on what causes pitcher injury. As detailed by Keith Woolner of Baseball Prospectus, fatigue is one of the biggest causes. Sameer Mehta of Science Direct surmised many pitcher injuries happen early in the season due to pitcher usage and their ramping it up too early.
In 2018, we would see Jacob deGrom lifted after a 45 pitch first inning. The rationale is 40 pitches is just too much of a workload and puts you at risk for injury.
In the first inning of the Mets loss to the Phillies, Peterson threw 38 pitches in an inning where he allowed four runs.
Despite that heavy workload, one which one day would’ve gotten deGrom pulled, Peterson went back out there. He went back out there.
He went back out there despite Joey Lucchesi warming up and the Mets not needing a fifth starter for at least another turn through the rotation.
Really, there was no reason for him to pitch. And yet, they put him back out there. Sure, the results improved, but what did it accomplish?
The Mets pushed him when there was zero reason to do it. The bullpen was mostly fresh, and they had another starter ready to go. It was a complete failure by the team.
The failing of Peterson also went to the offense. The team was 1-for-12 with RISP leaving 14 on base. Michael Conforto was the biggest culprit going 0-for-5 leaving NINE men on base.
Overall, this 8-2 loss was just one of those losses you just want to forget. Put it out of your mind, hope there are no long standing ramifications, and go home for the opener.
Game Notes: Jonathan Villar made the start for Jeff McNeil and was a homer short of the cycle. Dellin Betances made his season debut. He topped out at 93, which he hit just once, and his last fastball dipped under 90.
Maybe this is just the excitement which comes from Opening Day. Certainly, that is amplified by new ownership, the Francisco Lindor extension, and Jacob deGrom taking the mound. However, taking everything into account, this New York Mets team is the best one we have seen since 2015 and probably 2006.
Like most times the Mets are good, they are going to be led by pitching. Their starting staff is great, and when healthy, it is the best in baseball. Part of the reason why is deGrom is still the best pitcher in baseball. Behind him right now is Marcus Stroman. Stroman has made adjustments and added new pitches, and he looks set for a career year. That is really saying something considering he has been a gamer his entire career, and he was the World Baseball Classic MVP.
Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco may be the two most underrated pitchers in baseball. Looking at their FIP, they pitch at or near an ace level. In this rotation, they may be no better than third or fourth starters. It’s not just doing deGrom-Stroman-Syndergaard-Carrasco. This is one of the deepest rotations in all of baseball.
Behind that quartet is Taijuan Walker who was once a top 100 prospect, and he seems poised to take a big step forward after using analytics to help him improve. After Walker, the Mets have David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, and Jordan Yamamoto, each of whom could be around a three in most rotations. For the Mets, they will eventually be on the outside looking in.
They are all going to be better pitchers because they have the tandem of James McCann and Tomas Nido behind the plate. Both of these players are strong catchers who are excellent pitch framers. Having catchers like that behind the plate make good pitchers even better. When your starting pitching is great and operating at a high level, you are going to win a lot of games.
This is paired with an incredible lineup. They Mets have an embarrassment of riches on that front. Consider Francisco Lindor, Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil have each been All-Star lead-off hitters, and they aren’t even the Mets best lead-off hitter. That’s Brandon Nimmo. With that group plus Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith, their 1-6 of their lineup can and probably should be hitting in the middle of the order.
Now, this Mets team isn’t perfect. Far from it. The first problem is their bullpen. The good news on that front is between Edwin Diaz and Trevor May, they have the last two innings covered well. The hope is at least one of Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro, or Jeurys Familia can figure it out to become that seventh inning reliever. That is at least until Seth Lugo is good to return. When that happens the Mets bullpen will be in great shape.
Another factor there is the Mets have some other interesting options. Sooner or later, Drew Smith will be healthy and ready to rejoin the bullpen. It should also be noted when the Mets have their full rotation, someone like Lucchesi can move down to the bullpen where his churve could be a weapon on par with Lugo’s curveball.
The other issue is the defense. Simply put, having J.D. Davis at third is unacceptable. He can’t remotely field the position. Having Dominic Smith behind him makes the left side defense one of the worst in baseball. To that, they may not be the worst in the division with the Atlanta Braves probably being worse with Austin Riley and Marcell Ozuna.
It’s very possible Brandon Nimmo can succeed with positioning in center. After all, he’s had positive OAAs in center most of his career, and he does have the speed for the position. Jeff McNeil seems more comfortable at second, and while Alonso has his defensive issues, he is quite adept and receiving throws around first.
While the lineup has serious defensive issues, the bench does not. Luis Guillorme is a Gold Glove caliber defender. Albert Almora and Kevin Pillar are also quite good. With the lead, we can and should see Luis Rojas run all three out with Smith moving to first base. When that happens, the Mets defensive alignment turns from questionable to really strong.
Therein lies the key. Aside from health, Rojas is going to be the biggest key to this Mets season. He is going to need a deft touch as to when to utilize his defensive replacements. He and Jeremy Hefner are also going to have to get their rotation healthy through the season, which is all the more challenging because of the shortened season last year. They are also going to have to find the right mix in the bullpen while making sure they don’t overuse their best relievers.
Right now, the Mets have the right mix to have a great season. They also have an owner willing to invest in the team, and they have Sandy Alderson in charge, who we know will not be shy making a key trade or two to improve this Mets roster.
Looking at the Braves, their pitching has durability issues, and their defensive issues may be worse than the Mets. The Phillies don’t have the starting pitching, and their bullpen was a disaster last year. The Marlins are young and not deep. The Nationals still don’t know what they are going at key positions on the field.
Taking everything into account, the Mets are the best team in the National League East. If Rojas is up to the task, and there is every reason to believe he will be, the Mets are well poised to return to the postseason again and let their pitching take them back to the World Series.
After sifting through all the options, you eventually come to Miguel Castro. With Castro, the Mets may have the key to the entire bullpen.
Castro, 25, has been a mediocre reliever in his career as evidenced by his 104 career ERA+. However, that is mostly due to his control issues.
According to Baseball Savant, Castro has elite velocity throwing 98+ MPH. He generates good spin, and, at least in 2020, that led to a lot of swings and misses. That’s also evidenced by his 13.9 K/9, which is nearly double his career 7.4 mark.
The issue for Castro is he just can’t control anything consistently. He has a career 4.7 BB/9, and he hasn’t had a season better than 3.1. His K/BB is a woeful 1.59, and it hasn’t been better than 2.40 over the course of a full season.
It’s not just the walks. Castro gets hit extremely hard. Essentially, Castro puts himself at a disadvantage with his control, which leads to walks and extra base hits. If he can truly harness it, Castro can emerge as dominant a reliever as there is in baseball.
Miguel Castro, Wicked Slider. ? pic.twitter.com/tD2YFyott0
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 24, 2021
On that note, the Mets have helped him and their entire pitching staff. James McCann has emerged as an excellent pitch framer. Tomas Nido is also strong in that department. As we have seen in Spring Training, this has helped Castro not only rack up the strikeouts but also limit walks.
That should help him make quicker work of batters. It should also give him more confidence in attacking hitters. It’s been looking good so far in Spring Training.
In 6.1 innings, he has allowed just two hits while walking just one. He’s also struck out eight batters. Essentially, it’s been difficult for batters to make real good contact against him, and that’s for the batters who can make contact.
If he carries that into the season, Castro can stake a claim as the Mets top reliever. Better yet, between him, May, and Diaz, it’s a six inning game. And, that’s before Lugo returns.
If Castro reverts back to what he’s always been, well, the Mets bullpen is in trouble. That’ll leave Diaz and May as the only true reliable late innings relievers. After them, who knows?
That’s how important Castro is to this team. If he falters, the Mets bullpen is in bad shape. It’ll be a bunch of used to be greats and a group of pitchers hoping someone can break out.
That’s what’s at stake. Castro can single-handedly swing the fortunes of the Mets bullpen. It can be great or less than mediocre depending on Castro’s development. That makes him pivotal to what the Mets want to accomplish this year.
For the Mets sake, they need Castro to be as dominant as he was in the Spring. They need him to be the guy whose light out stuff can shut the door. They need it from him because the Plan B in this Mets organization isn’t there yet or is hurt right now.
After missing the pandemic season and becoming a budding TV star commentator, Jerry Blevins decided he wanted one last crack at a ring. There was only one catch. He only wanted to be a Met.
"Competition. I still have that want. I want to win a World Series. Literally the only team I would have come back for was the Mets."
Here's veteran reliever Jerry Blevins on why he decided to return on a minor league deal: pic.twitter.com/OJHdsJiISK
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) March 7, 2021
After a good (but not great) Spring Training, Blevins didn’t make the Opening Day roster. Rather than retire or seek his release, Blevins is going to report to Brooklyn thereby extending his chances of winning that elusive World Series ring.
Right now, the Mets bullpen is in a state of flux. Seth Lugo and Drew Smith are hurt. Veterans like Tommy Hunter and Mike Montgomery didn’t make the team. Players like Dellin Betances and Robert Gsellman had some worrisome signs with their velocity.
Aside from that, over that course of the season, there are pitcher injuries, and there are players who are sent down, designated for assignment, or released due to ineffectiveness. By staying Blevins gives himself a shot, and he very well find his way to Flushing soon.
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) March 28, 2021
If nothing else, Blevins had his curveball working. Back when he was with the Mets the first time, he utilized that curve to be a very good reliever in the Mets bullpen.
There is still the chance for him to be that again. He showed this spring he still has the stuff to get Major League batters out. There is still room for him to fulfill a role in the Mets bullpen. What role that is or when it will be is still to be determined.
The one thing we do know is Blevins will stick around until that time comes. That’s very good for the Mets as Blevins can very be a part of a bullpen who can get him that ring he returned to get.
Because MLB hasn’t quite figured out its diehard fans want to see Spring Training games, New York Mets fans have to wait to see what happened. They missed all they wanted to see.
Jacob deGrom was brilliant for 4.2 scoreless innings throwing between 99-102 MPH.
Hitters beware. ? pic.twitter.com/dpou2CBhWd
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 21, 2021
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 21, 2021
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 22, 2021
All-in-all not a bad day. The only downside was no one was able to watch it.
The New York Mets bullpen has been through for a loop with the injury to Seth Lugo to start the season. Things have grown increasingly complicated by diminished velocity of Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances. With all that said, the bullpen has talent, and there are many spots accounted for already.
Guaranteed – Miguel Castro, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Aaron Loup, Trevor May
Obviously, Diaz is going to be the closer coming off of a strong 2020 season. May is going to figure into the equation as a late inning reliever, and Loup was brought on to be the LOOGY. That’s the easy part.
Castro is out of options, and it is very likely he would be picked up off waivers if the Mets tried to send him down. Fortunately, that does not seem to be an issue with Castro having a great Spring striking out four in 4.0 scoreless and hitless innings.
After him, with Familia seemingly getting his elite level stuff back, he is a lock to make the bullpen. If nothing else, he can pitch the middle innings while the Mets hope Jeremy Hefner gets him back to his dominant form.
Bubble – Dellin Betances, Robert Gsellman, Drew Smith, Daniel Zamora
The 13 pitcher roster rule has been suspended for the 2021 season, but that may be a good general construct. Considering a five man rotation with the aforementioned five guaranteed spots, that leaves three remaining spots.
Given his salary and history of building up his velocity in-season, it is likely Betances makes the Opening Day roster. That leaves two spots available in the bullpen. Given the performances this Spring, that is going to be a difficult decision.
Gsellman has been a mainstay in the bullpen over the last few seasons and based on seniority he gets the call. Notably with him, the Mets did have the option to stretch him out as a starter, but they opted not to do that this spring with Gsellman only throwing 4.0 innings over three appearances.
Smith was the one reliever from the 2017 trade deadline debacle who has proven he could pitch in the majors. So far, he looks good, and the Mets are going to have to go out of their way to try to keep a pitcher with three scoreless appearances with no walks and three strikeouts off of the roster.
Finally, there is Zamora who probably presents the Mets best option to carry two left-handed pitchers in the bullpen. He has been a little wild with two walks over 3.2 innings, but he has also struck out three batters. That is typical for Zamora over the last few years.
Fifth Starter Competition – Joey Lucchesi, David Peterson, Jordan Yamamoto
The injury to Carlos Carrasco certainly changed the complexity of the fifth starter battle. With his injury, that opened up two spots instead of one. Given the nature of the injury, the Mets could feel more comfortable putting Peterson in the Opening Day rotation as the fear of having to send him down at one point isn’t as strong.
If Peterson were to make the rotation, the Mets could put one or both of Lucchesi or Yamamoto in the bullpen. Both pitchers have been great this Spring, and they have both more than made the case they deserve to be on the Opening Day roster in some way, shape, or form.
Outside Looking In – Jerry Blevins, Tommy Hunter, Arodys Vizcaino
Blevins probably has a much better chance than this given his curveball looking great. However, he has only appeared in two games walking two and striking out three. While this arguably puts him ahead of Zamora, especially with his track record, adding Blevins would require the Mets to make a roster move.
With respect to Hunter and Vizcaino, they may well both prove to have an impact on the Mets in 2021. That said, neither quite seem ready to pitch Opening Day at the moment. That goes double for Vizcaino who has only made one apperance so far.
Wild Card – Mike Montgomery, Corey Oswalt
With Carrasco suffering an injury, the Mets are said to begin stretching out Montgomery. That would seemingly be an indication they are looking for him to begin the season in Syracuse instead of Flushing. Still, it is hard to overlook his ability to be another lefty in the bullpen and a pitcher who can give you multiple innings. That said, Lucceshi could offer that himself.
Oswalt has had a very good Spring Training with Luis Rojas being very impressed. His velocity is way up, and he has looked quite strong. In fact, we probably shouldn’t completely rule him out in the fifth stater competition. If it is about competition, Oswalt has a strong case to make the Opening Day roster. That said, the fact it’ll require a 40 man move serves as a significant impediment.
Opening Day Bullpen
Joining the aforementioned group of Castro, Diaz, Familia, Loup, and May will very likely include Betances giving the Mets two more spots to figure out. With Lucchesi and Yamamoto now poised to start the season in the rotation, it would seem the final two spots can go to pitchers who are strictly relievers and not converted starters.
At the moment, it looks like one of those two spots should go to Smith. It’s possible the last spot goes to Gsellman due to his ability to give the Mets an extra inning here or there, but it would seem his spot is about as tenuous as Betances’ is right now. Overall, there are two weeks to go and a lot can happen. It will be very interesting to see where things go from here.