ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Mets left San Diego Wednesday battered, bruised, and in desperate need of an off day and a respite. They got the former Thursday and, if things go just right, they may get the latter, too.
Though Chris Bassitt was baffled as to why he’d been hit so hard, and the offense, without the injured Pete Alonso and Starling Marte, scuffled against the Padres, the Mets travel to Anaheim with a few arrows in their quiver.
For one, Friday will likely mark the return of Tylor Megill, who hasn’t pitched since May 11 because of right bicep tendinitis. For another, the Mets are hoping for good news on Alonso (hand) and Marte (quad), who have so far dodged the injured list and will have an extra day of rest and treatment before the team decides on its next move. Finally, they take on the Angels, who recently fired Joe Maddon and entered Thursday’s game against the Red Sox losers of 14 straight.
“Sure, let’s be frank here,” Buck Showalter said when asked if the off day came at just the right time. “Just to get Starling and Pete closer to being healthy without playing a game. We’ll get them back at some point. I’m hoping they have a good treatment day, and we start continuing to make good strides for them to get them back, including all the guys we have on the IL.”
That becomes especially important as Atlanta continues to heat up; going into Thursday, it was winners of seven straight, shrinking the Mets' lead in the NL East from double digits to seven games. All of which means the Mets, maybe for the first time this season, are looking vulnerable. There’s still a big chasm between early June and early July, when Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer are expected to make their returns, and the rotation has struggled to make up the difference. They’ve pitched to a 5.28 ERA since Scherzer was sidelined with an oblique strain, going 11-9, mostly on the back of their MLB-best offense (.263 batting average).
The hope is that Megill, who was pitching to a 2.43 ERA before getting shellacked by Atlanta in his final start before hitting the IL, can continue to be the revelation the Mets needed when deGrom was lost with a stress reaction in his shoulder. Then there’s the case of Bassitt, who started the season with a 2.34 ERA over his first seven starts before pitching to a 7.62 ERA over his last five, including giving up eight runs against the Giants on May 24 and seven runs (six earned) against the Padres Wednesday in the Mets' 13-2 loss.
“I’ve never dealt with it,” Bassitt said of his recent swoon. “I’m beyond embarrassed and really upset that I’m putting my bullpen guys in positions to basically clean up the rest of the game but it’s something I’ve literally never [gone] through . . . To say it’s frustrating would be a big-time understatement.”
Previously, Bassitt said he was struggling with his cutter command, and Showalter said Wednesday that he noted command issues in this latest outing as well. Bassitt, though, said that wasn’t the issue, and seemed particularly frustrated by the fact he couldn’t exactly pinpoint what was going wrong.
“The result — that’s basically it,” he said when asked about what’s been different recently. “The body feels great. I feel great . . . I’m a little bit at a loss for what happened.”
At least Wednesday, he might have just run into a little misfortune: He had a 1.34 FIP in that game, which was among one of his best marks this season, and the batting average against him on balls put in play was .583.
Which leaves the rest of the rotation: Carlos Carrasco will pitch Saturday and Taijuan Walker will go Sunday, as the Mets skip David Peterson, who didn’t look sharp in his last start against the Dodgers.
Carrasco pitched well Monday against the Padres, throwing seven innings of two-hit ball, and though Walker didn’t fare as well Tuesday, he did settle down after the second inning. With Megill only stretched out to about 70-75 pitches, Trevor Williams will be in the bullpen Friday to back him up, Showalter said.
Either way, it will have to be enough to deal with the latest challenges, with the knowledge that likely more will come.
"Tylor was pitching real well for us for the most part when he went down, and so was Max and we know what Jake is capable of," Showalter said. "We all know what usually happens — the way baseball works . . . You get one thing back and something else goes away."