The first hint that Tuesday night would go the Mets’ way came in the opening, scoreless moments of the first inning of their 4-0 win against the Brewers.
Brandon Nimmo, their leadoff hitter, fell behind Milwaukee righthander Adrian Houser, 0-and-2. But he wound up working the count full and scorched a double to right-centerfield, punctuating the nine-pitch at-bat with an exclamation point — and forcing Houser to throw as many pitches to his first batter as Mets starter Chris Bassitt did in his entire first inning.
That proved to be telling. It was Bassitt (eight shutout innings) and Nimmo (2-for-4, ignited two rallies) who led the Mets to the series- and home-stand-opening win against Milwaukee, a perennial playoff team that has lost 11 of its past 13 games. The Brewers are 34-29; the Mets are 41-22.
Bassitt followed his worst start of the season, last week against the Padres, with his best. He allowed three hits — all singles, all followed by an inning-ending double play from the next batter — struck out seven, walked one and averaged fewer than 14 pitches per innings.
That marked a significant improvement from the 7.62 ERA he posted over his previous five outings.
The difference, according to Bassitt, was greatly improved communication with catcher Tomas Nido. He worked mostly with James McCann during spring training and into May, when McCann broke his hand, and he has mostly worked with Nido since — coinciding with his struggles.
“When it came to pitching itself, I didn’t make many adjustments,” Bassitt said, adding that he was “relieved more than anything” to pitch well again. “Me and Nido were completely off in recent weeks]. We weren’t on the same page at all. The more and more I fought, the worse and worse I did. We spent the last week just getting to know each other better in the game, so when we’re in some crap it’s easier to compete out there.
“That should’ve been such an obvious thing to do, but I just didn’t do it . . . Tonight early in the count we were on the same page, late in the count we were on the same page. It was freeing.”
Manager Buck Showalter said: “We’ve seen the level he’s capable of pitching at. I know how frustrating it’s been for him here lately. But guys like him, you just trust the moxie.”
Bassitt felt so strongly that the poor game-planning/catcher relationship was “100% all on me” that he apologized to Nido and Patrick Mazeika, the third-string backstop, for not talking things out earlier.
“It goes both ways,” Nido said. “We’re both to blame there. Thankfully it’s in the past and we learn from that. It’s better to happen now . . . He was on point tonight. It was awesome.”
Aiding Bassitt was Nimmo, who made a pair of pretty plays on Brewers drives to the gaps. Hunter Renfroe rocketed a line drive to left-centerfield in the third inning, but an airborne Nimmo made the diving catch. Willy Adames sent a long fly ball to right-centerfield in the fourth inning, but Nimmo — on his feet this time — tracked it down near the wall.
The Mets reached Houser for four runs in 4 2⁄3 innings. Most of that damage came in a 37-pitch first inning, when Pete Alonso (first of two RBI singles), Jeff McNeil (RBI infield double) and Eduardo Escobar (sacrifice fly) drove in runs.
All that came after Nimmo’s double.
“To be able to take him into the 30s, Nim led the way,” Showalter said. “Sometimes regardless of how the inning turns out with runs scored, you can win a game in the first inning with a couple of at-bats like that.”