In the Mets’ 5-1 win over the Pirates that wasn’t as close as the score might suggest, Chris Bassitt tossed six scoreless innings, Eduardo Escobar hit a three-run home run to give them a comfy early lead, and they tacked on a couple of runs once they got to the bullpen.
In other words, the game Saturday night played out about how one might expect. The Mets did what they were supposed to do in picking up their third consecutive win against a last-place team and maintaining their one-game lead over Atlanta in the NL East.
That left a few fleeting moments in the late innings as the most interesting — and most relevant, in the context of their playoff plans — development. Making his first appearance since a longer-term reassignment to the bullpen in recent days, lefty David Peterson cruised through 2 1⁄3 innings (one run) on just 26 pitches.
“I love the way he was in attack mode,” Showalter said, adding that Peterson preferred to pitch soon after lasting just one out in his start Wednesday. “You could tell he had a good look in his eye about wanting to get out there and compete.”
Showalter and other Mets decision-makers are curious about Peterson’s ability in this role for a bunch of reasons. Among them: Their rotation is healthy and full again, so it is either this or the minors for Peterson; he has been one of their better pitchers overall this season (3.91 ERA); they passed on adding a lefthanded reliever at the trade deadline; and the ones they have internally have not inspired confidence.
Hence, this experiment, which in this small sample size was promising. He has the opportunity to earn more trust.
“It’s very exciting. With the guys we have in the starting rotation, we couldn’t ask for much more,” Peterson said. “The most exciting thing is being able to contribute in a different way and help this team win . . . It’s about making that switch. It’s a different mentality, you’re coming in in different spots in the game. You’re starting out and creating your own pace. It’s good to get up, warm up and get in the game.”
Easing Peterson in, Showalter called on him to face the bottom of a bad team’s lineup. His seventh inning was perfect: lefthanded hitter Cal Mitchell flied out, righthanded hitter Michael Chavis struck out and righty Diego Castrillo popped out.
When he came back for the eighth, which included the top of the order, it was another 1-2-3: flyout (righty), strikeout (lefty), strikeout (righty).
It wasn’t until Showalter stuck with Peterson for a third frame that he allowed a hit, a homer from Rodolfo Castro (a switch-hitter batting righty). After he struck out lefty Ben Gamel, Showalter turned to Adam Ottavino to finish it off.
The velocity on some of Peterson’s offerings — especially the slider and curveball — tick up in a way that is not uncommon for starters who move to the bullpen. And even in that short spurt, he mixed in four of his five pitches (everything but the sinker).
“He’s got some above-average pitches when he’s facing lefthanded hitters,” Showalter said. “Being able to defend himself (with other pitches) against some righthander hitters (is important). Nowadays, that left-right-left (sequence), that right guy in between is a hairy guy that can hurt you.”
Peterson added: “It’s good for me to have five pitches to use.”
Prior to Peterson, Bassitt made it look easy despite being questionable for this start due to a sickness in the days leading up to it.
“A 24-hour stomach thing,” he called it. “I couldn’t move Thursday.”
He allowed three hits, two walks and a hit batter, holding Pittsburgh to 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position. Although it seemed like he would pitch deeper, he seemed to tire during a 26-pitch sixth inning. Bassitt struck out Ke’Bryan Hayes to strand runners on second and third.
Mark Canha, Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil (twice) got hit by pitches, bringing the Mets’ season total to 101. The modern-day record of 105 is held by the 2021 Reds. (Several Orioles teams from the 1890s got plunked even more).
Escobar’s long ball came off righthander Bryse Wilson (four runs, 5 1/3 innings). He has a 1.230 OPS in September.
“I’m getting the results that I want,” he said through an interpreter, “at the most pivotal time.”