Carlos Carrasco and the recent heat wave have both been oppressive of late, the Mets righthander on opposing hitters and the weather on the rest of us. One finally broke Tuesday night. You can turn down your air conditioner a bit now.
The elusive Carrasco was on his "A" game once more as the smoldering Mets went up against the listing Reds. He took a shutout into the seventh, got the support of home runs from Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil and moved into a tie for the NL lead with his 13th victory as the Mets downed Cincinnati, 6-2, before 30,816 at Citi Field.
The NL East-leading Mets have won five straight and 14 of 16 and will be looking for a three-game sweep on Wednesday afternoon with Taijuan Walker on the mound.
After the start of the game was delayed 51 minutes because of rain, the Mets went up 2-0 in the third inning as Lindor hit his 20th home run with one out and Mark Canha aboard via a leadoff walk. McNeil’s seventh home run opened the Mets’ fourth and he added a run-scoring single in the sixth inning to give Carrasco a 4-0 lead entering the seventh.
Carrasco unraveled a bit there, allowing a two-run homer to Jake Fraley as the Reds halved the margin. Mychal Givens got the final out in the inning. Then the Mets got a two-run single in the bottom of the inning from Darin Ruf to push the lead to four. It was the club’s eighth consecutive game scoring five runs or more.
Trevor May loaded the bases in the eighth but didn’t allow a run and Seth Lugo pitched a scoreless ninth..
Carrasco (13-4) gave up two runs, seven hits and a walk and whiffed nine. Over his last seven starts, he is 5-0 and has pitched 42 2/3 innings to a 1.69 ERA with 42 strikeouts.
Carrasco called this stretch “one of the best” of his career and referenced a pair of seasons when he won a combined 35 games for Cleveland. “I feel like a long time ago, like 2017 and ’18,” he said. “I feel strong. . . and that’s a good way to feel.”
Added manager Buck Showalter: “It’s one of the things we thought could happen this year [and] be a real shot in the arm.”
Carrasco also extended an amazing run by Mets’ starters.
The Mets envisioned a rotation to be reckoned with when they added Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt to join Jacob deGrom, Carrasco and Taijuan Walker. It finally materialized in full when deGrom returned from injury on Aug. 2. The reality may actually be more impressive than the original idea.
In the eight games leading into Tuesday, .the group averaged an MLB-best 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and had 0.96 WHIP, which was second-best in the NL. Opponents batted an anemic .214 against them.
“It’s only been a week so let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Bassitt said before first pitch. “But it’s as good as you could probably make it.”
Carrasco, a 13-year veteran, called this the best collection of starters he’s been with and added “it feels really good to be a part of it.”
Scherzer threw seven scoreless frames in the Saturday doubleheader sweep of Atlanta, deGrom finished that series by taking a perfect game into the sixth Sunday and Bassitt allowed one unearned run over eight innings in Monday’s win over the Reds. Now this effort from Carrasco.
“[We’re] just trying to pass the baton on – it’s like a relay race that we’re running,” Bassitt said.
Each pitching performance stands on its own, but to hear them explain it, the Mets starters see it all as a combined effort for a crucial unit on the club.
“I look at it as kind of all of us together . . . feeding off each other, seeing what works with different guys and having the rotation be together,” Scherzer said. “That's what makes a team tick. I've always said the starting rotation is the backbone of the team – we aren’t the strength, but if you don't have a backbone, you don't have a team.”
The starters scrutinize each other’s outings and share the accumulated wisdom with a mind toward improvement. The discussions cover everything from mechanics to pitch sequencing.
“It’s some tough love with the six of us,” Bassitt said, including David Peterson. “Just being brutally honest with each other is the way to go. And I think we have five guys or six guys that can really handle that.”
“I’ve not been around something to the level of this,” Bassitt continued. “Who has a Max Scherzer and a deGrom? Cookie [Carrasco] has the experience from being around forever. [Walker] is an All-Star and been around. This level of experience and skill? There’s a lot to draw on.”