Setting the tone – Mets hierarchy is deciding to let “Big Four” starters lead the way this season by going “old school” with higher pitch counts and more innings per outing for the foreseeable future.
By Scott Mandel
Noah Syndergaard became a dominant pitcher again at Citi Field today, as he allowed just one hit to the potent Colorado Rockies lineup as the Mets won the rubber game of this weekend series, 6-1.
Todd Frazier, the well-traveled, veteran third baseman, led the Mets, driving in four runs with a home run and a double.
But, make no mistake about it. If this Mets team has any designs on competing for a championship, it’s going to come down to what has historically been the strength and the legacy of this franchise, namely, its starting pitching.
Some organizations have always been known by how many power-hitting bashers they produce, seemingly from year to year. Other organizations are better known for developing great pitching or, speedy, athletic, heady players.
Any success the Mets, in their 57-year history, have enjoyed, has always been predicated on their pitching staff, particularly its young, talented, fireballing starting pitchers.
Boppers? No, it’s never been the Mets “thing.” But, arms? Those have been a thing of beauty in the Amazin’s legacy.
This is the franchise of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Jon Matlack, Dwight Gooden, and for a brief, shining moment, Matt Harvey. Those were the guys this franchise historically depended on to win championships, or get them into contention to grab the brass ring.
The current Mets possess four talented starters in Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz, along with surprising fifth starter, Jason Vargas, who pitched a complete game shutout on Wednesday. The first four all throw the ball very hard, very consistently. Each of them can sprinkle in curve balls or changeups, but, by and large, these guys are bringing 95 mph plus heat to every start, forcing opposing hitters to cheat a little with their swings to catch up to the velo.
When these guys are “on,” they are dominant major league pitchers. It’s Callaway’s job to put them in dominant mode, and he believes it starts now with confidence-building. They have been told their success will dictate how this Mets season goes. That they, all in their primes right now, are the Core Four of the Mets.
But, up to this point, these pitchers have been mostly babied by this current Mets regime, for fear of developing the types of arm injuries that could derail a career, as what happened to Matt Harvey.
But, if you listen to Mets manager Mickey Callaway now, those days are over. Partially because of a bullpen that has been wildly inconsistent and unreliable, especially when holding leads in the late innings, and
partially, because somebody in the Mets hierarchy seems to have awakened recently and asked itself the question, “where and who is the strength of this team and how can we win a championship, today?”
The answer seems to have come to Callaway and his pitching coach, Dave Eiland, over the last four games, after the bullpen lost leads on the Mets recent road trip to the West coast.
Today, Syndergaard (4-4) struck out seven and walked two to pick up his first win in five starts, dating back to May 14. He was sharp from the get-go, working his 97-99 mph velocity to both sides of the plate. The Rockies didn’t look comfortable, as Syndergaard allowed just one hit in his tidy, 98-pitch outing, a Nolan Arenado single to right, just past the reach of Mets second baseman, Adeiny Hechavarria.
“He was on,” said Rockies outfielder, David Dahl. “His fastball is 98, 99 with movement. We were late on that and then we try to kind of cheat to it or get to it and he throws the changeup or the curveball,” Dahl said. “He had everything working.”
New York has homered in 16 straight home games, setting a club record.
All very nice when the Mets’ offense holds up its end of the bargain but make no mistake, this up and down Mets season will evolve into a memorable one if the Big Four succeeds at old school baseball and does what is now expected of them.