The Mets have lined up Carlos Carrasco, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander to start in a crucial three-game series against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves that begins on Tuesday evening at Truist Park.
It’s good timing since those three are pitching well. The Mets will need this trio, especially Scherzer and Verlander, to be reliable if they are going to make it to the playoffs this season and achieve their objective of winning a championship.
We can moan about the team’s hitting woes, especially after this past weekend against the Toronto Blue Jays, but hitting fluctuates in a long season. The Mets will go only as far as their starters go. When these guys pitch well, as they did against the Philadelphia Phillies, they will win and go far. If they pitch as they did at the start of April, they are not going to make the playoffs.
What we saw from the starters against the Phillies is what they need to keep doing while the hitters figure it out.
In the three-game sweep against the Phillies, Kodai Senga, Carrasco and Scherzer combined to pitch 20 innings and give up two earned runs. On Friday night’s Mets’ 3-0 loss against the Toronto Blue Jays, Verlander gave up a run in six innings on a 117-pitch performance. On Saturday, Tylor Megill gave up a run over 5 ⅓ innings.
This is what the Mets envisioned from the starting rotation this season. It was the starters who pitched well last season that had the Mets in the playoffs. Of course, Scherzer and Chris Bassitt bombed in the postseason last year as the Mets lost in the wild-card series against the San Diego Padres.
The Mets need to get more out of Scherzer. He is their co-ace with Verlander. They need him to go six or seven innings for them to win, and most importantly, they need him healthy. At the age of 38, that’s a question mark whether he will be healthy with his ongoing back and neck issues.
Scherzer may be coming along now after pitching well in his last four starts. In his start against the Washington Nationals, he gave up a run on two hits in five innings in the Mets’ 8-2 victory. Then against the Cleveland Guardians, he pitched six shutout innings while allowing three hits in the Mets’ 5-4 victory. Against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, he allowed a run on six hits in seven innings in the Mets’ 5-2 victory. In his last start against the Phillies, he gave up two runs on five hits in the Mets’ 4-2 victory.
It sure looks like his back and neck are functioning fine for him to pitch well, but again things can change in a long season, especially at his age. Basically, the Mets need to hope for the best when he is out there that he is healthy and in one piece. This remains to be seen. His health will dictate how he is going to pitch this year.
Verlander is still trying to find his groove after being on the injured list to start the season with a low-grade strain in his upper arm. He has had his ups and downs as one would expect. We really don’t know what to make of him yet. We still need to see him make a few more starts before judging him.
It has to be encouraging that he pitched some gems against the Cincinnati Reds, Blue Jays and Guardians, so he provides hope that he can be the money ace the Mets envisioned when they signed him this offseason.
As long as he remains healthy, he should be fine. He has been durable for most of his career. He may be one of the few bright spots of the Mets’ inconsistent season so far.
No one expects Carrasco to be an ace, but he has to be serviceable as has been the case during his last two starts. Since returning from the injured list, he’s made three starts. In his first start back from the injured list, he allowed five runs on five hits in five innings against the Guardians. However, in his last two starts, he pitched well by only allowing one run on five hits in 6 ⅔ innings against the Cubs and followed it up by allowing a run on six hits in six innings against the Phillies. That’s allowing only two runs in 12 ⅔ innings.
Another good start against the Braves would be another step in the right direction for him.
Senga has been good, but not great. He pitched well at Citi Field by pitching to a 1.93 ERA, but struggles on the road by pitching to a 6.12 ERA and allowing five home runs. Based on getting shelled by the Blue Jays in his last start by allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks that included him throwing 31 pitches in the second inning , he has yet to make adjustments on pitching on normal rest as he is used to pitching once a week in Japan. To his credit, he goes deep in games when he is out there.
The Mets can feel good that he will give them quality starts when he is out there. They are going to need to get more out of him since it’s unknown how healthy and effective Scherzer and Verlander can be in a long season.
Megill is who he is. A No. 5 starter that can pitch well and be awful. He is still trying to find his way.
As disappointing as this weekend was for the Amazins, they have shown signs they are about to turn it around. It starts on the mound. If the starters can go six or seven, the Mets can use their setup guy Adam Ottavino or Brooks Raley in the seventh and eighth innings and David Robertson to close out. That’s the formula to win games based on them going 16-0 when the Mets starters go at least six innings with their best relievers closing out.
Once the weather heats up with summer starting in a few weeks, the hitters will start hitting and the pitchers will continue to pitch well as they keep finding their way.
For the Mets to end their inconsistency, it starts with the starters performing and being healthy.
It remains to be seen if the rotation can keep this up as well as it’s going right now.
You can read Leslie's Jersey Sporting News columns on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
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