Last night, Drew Gagnon absolutely bailed out the Mets. He took the ball in a bases loaded situation, and he got out of the jam. He then navigated through the 10th allowing Pete Alonso to deliver his first career walk-off RBI.
This was not the first time Gagnon impressed out of the bullpen. Back when Steven Matz couldn’t get an out against the Phillies, it was Gagnon who took it on the chin. Despite being on short rest, he pitched 5.1 innings. Yes, he would allow five earned, but three of those came after he was gassed and frankly pushed too far.
That’s been what we have seen from Gagnon in the Majors. In short spurts, he has been fine. When he has been pushed past two innings, he has not been nearly as effective. We saw that in his only start in the Majors, and we saw it in Philadelphia. But in those shorter stints, Gagnon has really showed something.
Last year, he made four relief appearances. In those relief appearances, he allowed one earned in 7.1 innings. His ERA this year may be 6.75, but he has pitched better than that. While it’s always a dangerous game to do this in evaluation, if you eliminate that one-third of an inning, his ERA would drop to a more impressive 2.70.
This is another way of saying Gagnon may prove to be something if he is used properly. As a long man or a short reliever, he could be effective. Since coming to the Mets organization, he throws strikes. He has struck out nearly a batter an inning. With the sinking action on his pitches, he has relatively low home run rates. Overall, while an opponent can beat him, Gagnon is typically not going to beat himself.
That hasn’t been the case for the Mets other options. We have seen Jacob Rhame, Tim Peterson, and Paul Sewald struggle at the Major League level. Tyler Bashlor and Eric Hanhold have yet to establish themselves. Considering the options at hand, the Mets would have to come up with a long list of excuses before sending him back down for one of these relievers.
After all, we have seen this happen in year’s past for the Mets. Pat Mahomes came up huge in 1999. The same happened with Sean Gilmartin in 2015. If given an opportunity, Gagnon may prove to be the 2019 version of that. It’s time the Mets found out if he has what it takes to be just that.
The Mets went to Atlanta in first place, and they leave a half-game back. At one point, it didn’t seem like it was going to be the case, but that is how it proved to shake out. There were a number of reasons why:
- The Mets had the Braves on their heels, and they were in a position for a statement making four game sweep. Instead, they walk away with a split. The biggest reason why is they started Jason Vargas.
- The Mets need to give Corey Oswalt an opportunity to succeed. They had him rush to be ready to relieve on three days rests, and they instead had him on extended rest. They then decide to have him rush his warm-ups to enter a game with runners on base. How did they think his outing on Saturday was going to go.
- The Mets have to make a decision once and for all with the fifth starter spot. Enough of these half measures. It’s either Vargas or an open try out. You can’t keep pushing Vargas back and putting more pressure on the rest of the rotation. It’s still April, and the Mets are running their rotation like it’s late September and there’s a postseason spot on the line.
- Dave Eiland said it well when he said no one can succeed with how the Mets are handling Vargas. If the team doesn’t trust him, name Oswalt or Chris Flexen the fifth starter or sign Dallas Keuchel. If they do trust him, keep him in the rotation on regular rest. Overall, don’t make things worse than they already are.
- If the Padres get Keuchel on top of signing Manny Machado and having Fernando Tatis Jr. being the season in the majors, the Padres will be everything Brodie Van Wagenen has purported the Mets to be.
- The Mets sold us they needed Pete Alonso on the Opening Day roster to win the division. In that time, they won eight games. With their starting Vargas, they gave one of those wins back, and Vargas (or the fifth starters spot) has at least 28 starts to go.
- Just as we all expected, Steven Matz has been the best pitcher in the Mets rotation. If he continues to be so, he’s going to help overcome a lot of the problems created by the fifth starter spot.
- Zack Wheeler and Brandon Nimmo showed in Atlanta we should not overreact to slow starts from people who have historically performed. That is something to remember as Robinson Cano is hitting .183 with a -0.3 WAR.
- Michael Conforto is playing like an MVP candidate. Mets should be looking to lock him up, and don’t play the Scott Boras card. The Nationals locked up Stephen Strasburg. It may be an uphill climb, but it is possible if you have the will.
- With Jacob deGrom struggling with Wilson Ramos behind the plate, we can probably put to rest the insane notion deGrom’s last start was attributable to Travis d’Arnaud.
- The biggest warning sign with deGrom is batters hitting the long ball against him again. It may be just a slight adjustment, but he needs to find a way to keep the ball in the ballpark again. On the other hand, deGrom is striking out batters more than he ever has (14.7 K/9).
- Ramos really needs to step up his game. He’s been quite poor behind the plate with very poor pitch framing and balls getting by him. While he’s hitting, he’s bound to regress as he’s hitting for no power, and he’s hitting the ball on the ground.
- While J.D. Davis hit that homer, his defense is hurting the team. Yesterday, his inability to make a play on an Ender Inciarte infield single helped drive up deGrom’s pitch count, and it led to deGrom not being able to have the pitcher lead off the top of the third. These little things always look large.
- Mets defense is the worst in the National League, and Davis leads the way with a -5 DRS. This is why when Todd Frazier is ready, the team should give consideration to keeping Luis Guillorme up. Another reason why is Amed Rosario (-3 DRS) has not played a particularly good shortstop.
- If Frazier was smart, he would not come up one second before he was ready. He can ill afford another injury plagued year, and with the team’s depth, if he doesn’t get off to a hot start, he may never get off the bench.
- It’s odd how quiet things are surrounding Jed Lowrie.
- Sometimes we over focus on what guys are instead of understanding their roles. Paul Sewald is well suited for mop up duty and for eating up innings. The 1.1 innings he gave yesterday helped save the pen a bit.
- The Mets offense is humming, but there are some warning signs. Alonso is striking out 30.6% of the time. Jeff McNeil has a .439 BABIP. Ramos has a 64.1% ground ball rate. Who knows what to make of Rosario yet?
- The Mets have missed an opportunity in the past two division series losing a series to the Nationals at home and missing a chance to win or sweep a four game set against the Braves.
- With Tiger Woods winning The Masters, the Game of Thrones premiere, and the extensive Hank Aaron interview during the game, the Mets were a complete afterthought yesterday, which is a shame because that was a first place Mets team playing a bitter rival.
At this point, it’s clear Jason Vargas isn’t just pitching with a fork in him; he’s got the whole utensil drawer there. As such, it’s time to look for someone to replace him in the rotation. While Mets fans have been imploring the team to add Dallas Keuchel, it seems like the Mets would not be willing to add that much payroll.
Fortunately, the Mets still have some very interesting internal options:
Seth Lugo – definitively the Mets fifth best starter, but he arguably has more value in the bullpen.
Robert Gsellman – hasn’t had the success in the bullpen everyone imagined he be and may just be better suited to the rotation
Corey Oswalt – it’s hard to get a read on him with how the Mets have jerked him around, but he’s still had flashes of viability
Chris Flexen – he has a surgically repaired knee and is in terrific shape giving hope he can finally put that fastball/curve combo to good use.
Anthony Kay – Mets haven’t been shy rushing starters from Double-A to the majors, and Kay has excellent spin rates on his fastball and curve.
David Peterson – the Mets 2017 first round pick is off to a good start, which is more than you can say for Vargas.
Hector Santiago – he was an All-Star in 2015, and based on what we’ve seen having previously being an All-Star is all you need to get a rotation spot.
Drew Gagnon – in his one start last year, he at least managed to pitch into the fifth, which is much better than what we’ve seen this year.
P.J. Conlon – last year, Conlon showed he shouldn’t be trusted for more than 2-3 innings. It’d be nice to get a fifth starter who could provide that much length.
Walker Lockett – he’s in Extended Spring Training with an injury, and he had a 9.60 ERA in the majors last year, so all told, he’s an upgrade.
Paul Sewald – Mets have never been worried about pushing Sewald too far, so certainly, you could see them randomly asking five from him, and those five would likely be better than any five Vargas throws this year.
Mickey Callaway – had a 6.27 career ERA and last pitched in the majors 15 years ago, which means his arm is probably fresh enough to hit the mid 80s.
Luis Guillorme – it’s not like they’re using him as the team’s backup middle infielder, and we know he’d at least be able to field his position well, which unlike Vargas, would be at least one thing Guillorme could do well as a pitcher.
J.D. Davis – he has a career 3.38 ERA in limited appearances, which make sense considering he hits and fields his position like a pitcher.
Pete Alonso – his being on the Opening Day roster was supposed to be the difference between the Mets making the postseason and not. With Vargas being terrible every fifth day, he’s apparently going to need to do more than hit.
And therein lies the problem. The Mets sold their fans they desperately needed 12 games from Alonso while simultaneously punting 32 starts from the fifth spot in the rotation. That’s an even bigger joke than anything said in this post.
Right now, we are seeing Pete Alonso do things which have not been done in Major League history. While he will have plenty of competition from the likes of Fernando Tatis Jr., Alonso has jumped out to an early lead in Rookie of the Year candidacy. If he does win, he will be the 14th first baseman to win the Rookie of the Year. Can you name them? Good luck!
Four years ago, the Nationals and Mets kicked off the 2015 season with two former Cy Young Award winners. Like today, it was Max Scherzer for the Nationals. For the Mets, it was Jacob deGrom in place of Bartolo Colon. While that 2015 opener was a low scoring game, today was a true pitcher’s battle.
Over 7.2 innings, Scherzer looked like the pitcher who has dominated the National League over the past three years. In each of those seasons, Scherzer led the league in the strikeouts including striking out 300 batters last year. Against, the Mets he would strike out 11 batters. Looking at him pitch, his stuff was completely unfair:
Max Scherzer, 96mph Fastball and 86mph Slider, Overlay.
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 28, 2019
He was all the more dangerous with him getting some really favorable calls, two of which came against Michael Conforto. With him allowing just two hits and three walks, it was clear he did not make many mistakes. But on the one he did make, Robinson Cano would send it opposite field for a homer in his first at-bat as a Met:
— MLBBarrelAlert (@MLBBarrelAlert) March 28, 2019
That would not be the only impact Cano would have on this game. In addition to the home run, Cano would make a heads up and savvy veteran play in the field in the third when the Mets 1-0 lead was teetering:
De-fense 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/6TvlfBlCDz
— New York Mets (@Mets) March 28, 2019
With the ball not being hit quite hard enough and with Jeff McNeil having to hesitate a slight second to keep the runner from breaking right away, Cano was smart in catching Victor Robles making a rookie mistake breaking to home on the play. Robles’ mistake took the 1st and 3rd one out situation and turned it into an inning ending double play.
Basically, deGrom took it from there. If there was any question deGrom was going to repeat his 2018 Cy Young season or if the extension drama affected his preparation for the season, they were quickly dispensed. In six shutout innings, deGrom just walked one and would strike out 10 batters. He ramped up his game when he needed.
For example, in the sixth, Trea Turner led off the inning with a single, and he would quickly steal second (his second steal of the game). With Turner’s speed, Wilson Ramos never really had a chance against him. That was evident when Turner stole third after an Anthony Rendon ground out. With a runner on third and one out, deGrom would just embarrass Juan Soto:
Jacob deGrom, Unhittable 88mph Changeup. 😮
Soto = 😡 pic.twitter.com/UaNe8TPQIn
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 28, 2019
What was curious about that top of the seventh was Nationals Manager Dave Martinez would leave in Scherzer to strike out to end the inning. This meant Scherzer would go one inning too far.
Dominic Smith would get the rally started with a one out walk against Scherzer. Scherzer was lifted after striking out Brandon Nimmo for the third time, and Pete Alonso would get his first career hit with a single off Nationals reliever Justin Miller.
Martinez would go to they lefty Matt Grace to face Cano. Cano proved he still is a platoon neutral bat sending an RBI single to left scoring Smith to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.
Callaway would then go through some mechanations to set up the final two innings.
After his first career hit, Alonso was lifted for Keon Broxton. Broxton then stayed in the game for defense replacing Conforto in right. With Alonso out of the game, Smith would stay in the game at first for defense. After that, it was Jeurys Familia getting through a scoreless eighth in his new role as Mets set-up man.
Edwin Diaz would make his Mets debut in the ninth with a two run lead to protect. He’d get the Nationals in order to preserve the 2-0 lead and register his first save as a Met. Interestingly, the first two outs were fly balls to right with Broxton fighting through the tough sun to record the out.
All in all, the Mets have once again won on Opening Day continuing their MLB best winning percentage on Opening Day. They’re now 38-20 (.655) on Opening Day. That’s not the only impressive record from today.
With his performance today, deGrom had his 25th straight quality start putting him one behind Bob Gibson for the all-time record. At the same time, deGrom extended his own MLB record with his 30th straight start allowing three earned or fewer.
Today, Brodie Van Wagenen looked like a genius. Cano delivered the only two RBI in the game. Alonso delivered a hit in a rally giving the Mets an insurance run. Diaz had the save. And of course, the pitcher he long advocated to extend pitched like an ace. Really, this is as good a start to the Van Wagenen Era as he could have hoped.
Game Notes: For the first time in Mets history six players were taking part in their first ever Opening Day (Alonso, Smith, McNeil, Luis Guillorme, Tomas Nido, Tim Peterson). Conforto and Lagares were the only two Mets not to reach base safely at least once in the game.