PHILADELPHIA — Through their many doubleheaders last season, the Mets deployed a certain strategy, one used routinely throughout baseball: The more experienced starting pitcher received first dibs on which game he wanted, almost always choosing the first, and the other guy would get the less-predictable second game.
But this year, the Mets have done the opposite: Save the more veteran pitcher for the later contest. Consider it among the changes made by manager Buck Showalter.
“That’s Buck,” pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said. “Buck really likes that. And I do too, but Buck is the one who brought the idea.”
As of Saturday afternoon, the Mets hadn’t announced their pitching plans for a single-admission doubleheader Sunday against the Phillies, the result of the teams’ second postponement in a row. Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt, in some order, are the scheduled starters. The first game will start at 12:35 p.m.
Showalter’s philosophy is mostly about the bullpen. With his preferred rotation arrangement, he can use his relievers as necessary in the first game. Then the second starter can take that knowledge and adjust his game plan accordingly, mentally bracing to last deeper into the game if necessary or pitch more to contact for the sake of a lower pitch count.
“The elite of the elite will tell you that they want to throw in the second game,” Hefner said. “Because they want that. They know when they go into the game what happened in the first game and what they need to do. It gives some internal motivation: ‘It’s on me right now.’ They can take their game to the next level in a lot of ways.”
Through two doubleheaders, the Mets have found success with that approach.
On April 19, Tylor Megill faced the Giants first before Scherzer took a no-hitter into the sixth (and tossed seven innings in all). Last Tuesday, spot starter David Peterson got the opener and Carlos Carrasco went eight innings in the second game, his longest outing in more than three years.
The Mets are 4-0 in doubleheader games this year.
There is, of course, a flip side. If the veteran starter saved for later ends up with a short outing, an already-tired bullpen could end up even more overused.
“You set yourself up for not a fun day,” Hefner said. “With every decision in baseball, there’s risk. It’s worked so far.”
It might not matter much this time. The Mets’ bullpen will be well rested after consecutive days off, and the team has a scheduled off day Monday. So Showalter and Hefner can push their relievers as necessary.
Adonis Medina’s first major-league win, which came Thursday via the Mets’ seven-run ninth inning after his 2 2⁄3 scoreless innings of relief, came with a proper clubhouse celebration.
In the go-to ritual for the Mets and others after career firsts or other landmark accomplishments, they stuck him in a laundry cart, wheeled him into the shower and covered him with beer, eggs, condiments and whatever other liquids or sort-of liquids they had handy.
“Everything,” Medina, still smiling wide, said Saturday.
Teammates also awarded him the pitcher-of-the-game belt — a replica WWE championship belt — given out to one hurler after each win. With his win followed by a pair of rainouts, he maintained custody into Sunday. But it didn’t come with him during his messy laundry-cart ride.
“It stayed in the locker,” said Medina, pointing proudly.
The Mets claimed infielder Gosuke Katoh off waivers from the Blue Jays and sent him to Triple-A Syracuse. Katoh, 27, made his major-league debut in April with Toronto, nine years after the Yankees drafted him in the second round. He had a .306/.388/.474 slash line in Triple-A last season.
The Mets at least discussed not pitching Scherzer in the cold, wet, windy conditions Saturday if the game had been played, Showalter said . . . They also considered calling up righthander Stephen Nogosek, considering Medina likely was unavailable. Nogosek has been the Mets’ only extra player in town this weekend, so he is a prime candidate to be their 27th man for the doubleheader Sunday. He would need to be added to the 40-man roster.