Choose whatever superlatives you like to describe what the Mets’ pitching staff did this weekend at Citi Field.
But the numbers say it best. The Phillies scored two runs in 28 innings, and zero in the last two games, with the Mets winning Sunday’s finale, 6-0.
It was the fewest runs allowed in a three-game series by the Mets in eight years. And really, the Phillies’ entire offensive output should have been half that, considering they benefited from the automatic runner in the 10th inning to deliver Friday’s 2-1 win.
But no need for the Mets to gripe about that. Buck Showalter & Co. made their point by squeezing another division rival into submission.
Chris Bassitt wasn’t his most dominant self Sunday after the 114-pitch, eight-inning win over the Reds earlier in the week, but he still kept the Phillies off the scoreboard for a solid five, allowing four hits with two walks and five strikeouts. He hasn’t surrendered an earned run in 24 innings and held the Phillies hitless (0-for-6) with runners in scoring position. He has limited opposing batters to a .179 average (17-for-95) in those situations, which is fifth-best in the majors among qualified starters.
Bassitt combined with Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom to post 18 scoreless innings with two walks and 21 strikeouts. Sunday’s shutout was the Mets’ 16th, the most in the majors, and their rotation is 8-0 with a 1.11 ERA in the team’s last nine games.
“I think there’s no secret how good our pitching staff is, especially when you have Jake and Max,” Bassitt said. “It’s hard to score on us — that’s kind of what we’re built for.”
Bassitt took things a step further, mentioning the good lineups they’ll see “hopefully in the playoffs” while suggesting there’s no better weapon than the arms at the Mets’ disposal.
He’s right, of course. Now that the ageless Scherzer has shaken off his oblique-related absence and deGrom looks even more unhittable since coming back from his shoulder issue, the Mets are shaping up to be a nightmare, likely deep into October.
As much as Bassitt is pitching like an ace, he’s got five Cy Young Awards ahead of him in the rotation. And with opposing teams already demoralized from seeing those two, it’s not as if Bassitt’s change-of-pace, baffling attack is any easier to handle.
The contrasting styles, as you might expect, work to his advantage in a short series.
“It’s awesome, but at the same time, it’s just different,” Bassitt said. “Jake’s throwing 102-mph four-seamers, I don’t have that in the bag, I’ll tell you that. I think it’s really good for me just because obviously you’ve got Max who’s unbelievable and then you’ve got Jake throwing 100 mph.
“It’s definitely a big mix when it comes to how we pitch,’’ Bassitt said. “But I’m watching greatness every time they come out. Jake is unbelievable — it’s a joke. Everyone knows Max, but Jake’s an alien.”
But as Bassitt has shown, along with rotation-mates Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker, the Mets aren’t just a two-man operation. And as long as the starters are able to set the tone by pushing deeper into games and crushing the spirit of opposing lineups, that’s going to be a huge plus for the bullpen, too. Showalter gets to pick his spots with the high-leverage relievers and make sure they stay rested for the long haul.
The Mets haven’t allowed more than two runs since Aug. 6, in the 8-5 win against Atlanta in Game 1 of a doubleheader pitched by David Peterson (who was sent to Triple-A Syracuse shortly afterward). And for a homestand billed as a showdown with their biggest NL East rivals, the Mets went 6-2 against Atlanta and Philly at Citi Field — they’re 19-8 overall — before facing both on the road this week.
There’s no reason to expect anything different next time either. The Mets are rolling, and the pitching staff is displaying no signs of slowing down.
For Bassitt, it’s been a joyride every night regardless of who takes the mound. When he was asked Sunday if this is the most fun he’s had playing baseball, his answer was immediate.
“Yeah, no doubt about it,” he said. “I thought we had a real chance with Oakland, but looking back at it, this is a real contender compared to the past . . . Oakland doesn’t really have veterans. It’s a lot of rookies. We don’t have Max Scherzers walking around Oakland.”
The Mets, now at full strength, have an unmatched arsenal with their rotation. And after what they did during this homestand, consider the NL East merely a test run for the arms race come October.