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Why the Mets are worrying about tomorrow today with the starting rotation
The Mets have hinted they will only throw Jacob deGrom in a do-or-die situation in the Wild Card Series against the Padres
All year long, the Mets have dreamt of a postseason scenario of having both Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom pitching in back-to-back games, akin to the Scherzer/Stephen Strasburg and Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling dynamic duos that pitched both of their clubs to World Championships.
But as the Mets fell from the second to fourth seed over the last week and faced the possibility (and now the reality of) playing in a three-game wild card series, the Mets have thought long and hard about such a scenario, at least out of the gate, and have more or less indicated who follows Scherzer in the rotation in this series will be determined by the outcome of game one tonight.
There are two schools of thought here.
One is to go for it now with the best possible starting pitching combination in Scherzer and deGrom now. Stick to the formula they’ve built and worry about Los Angeles later. After all, these are the playoffs and the most important game is today, and they should worry about tomorrow when and if it gets here.
But the three-game wild card series changes the calculus a bit, especially for the Mets, which is why they are in a wait-and-see mode with their rotation, which is the other school of thought.
This is a best out of three wild card series, meaning either the Padres or Mets could advance to Los Angeles by tomorrow night. So in the Mets case, if the Mets win tonight, they would hold deGrom in reserve and throw Chris Bassitt tomorrow instead. If they lose tonight, deGrom would go tomorrow with Bassitt on Sunday should they be in a do-or-die scenario by then. If the Mets split the first two games, deGrom would pitch game three in a do-or-die scenario.
What that more or less means is deGrom will only pitch in an effort to save the Mets in this series.
Why is this important?
Simply put, if the Mets are going anywhere in the playoffs and getting by the Dodgers in particular, they’re going to need both Scherzer and deGrom pitching as many playoff games in each series as they can (and at peak performance). If they were to go with Scherzer and deGrom in this series and sweep in two, that means neither Scherzer or deGrom could start on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Instead, it would be Bassitt in game one and then Scherzer again in game two on Wednesday followed by deGrom in game three next Friday, but that means Taijuan Walker or Carlos Carrasco would have to pitch game four before turning over the rotation to Bassitt.
In other words, going with Scherzer and deGrom in the opening round of the playoffs only allows for one turn each in a five-game series against the best team in the game in the next round (and not out of the gate, either), whereas playing a wait-and-see game now could result in the Mets getting their dream scenario of deGrom/Scherzer back-to-back to open the series against the Dodgers and having deGrom available twice if that series goes five games.
In that scenario, Scherzer and deGrom would combine to pitch three times in a five-game series, which is what they envisioned playing out had they won the division (albeit against a different team, of course).
This move could also serve as a benefit for deGrom, who seems to still be building stamina and working on his precision. If this works out and deGrom is starting against the Dodgers next week instead of the Padres this week, he would get 10 days in between starts, rest which might benefit him as he starts this postseason journey.
And so, worrying about tomorrow right now might be the Mets best shot for a deep run into October (and November).
But here’s the real rub in all of this.
In order for this to work out at all for the Mets, they must obviously win this series against the Padres, but win it in two. Otherwise, deGrom will pitch in this series no matter what in a do-or-die situation.
Is this risky for the Mets? Absolutely. But they wouldn’t even consider doing it this way if not for Bassitt, who is their number three starter but has an ace-like pedigree and can absolutely be trusted with this assignment, should it unfold for the Mets in this manner.
Bassitt has made two career postseason starts, both coming in 2020 while with the A’s. He delivered a seven inning gem against the White Sox in the Wild Card game, although he was hittable in his only start against the Astros in the Division Series.
That outcome - and perhaps the fate of the Mets in the tournament as a whole - lies in the hands of Scherzer tonight who insists his oblique is not an inhibitor for him at all at this point. He takes his 3.22 lifetime ERA over 26 postseason appearances to the mound for the Mets tonight.
He’s here for this reason - to pitch in the pressure cooker of postseason baseball in New York.
And if he delivers, then worrying about tomorrow today will be well worth it for the Mets.
Mets announce roster for wild card series
The Mets announced their roster for their three-game wild card series against the Padres on Friday morning.
Starling Marte - who has been on the injured list with a fractured finger since early September and has been unable to perform baseball activities until recently - is active and on the roster, although how much he will play in the wild card series remains to be seen.
In addition, top prospect Francisco Álvarez will be active for the wild card series, as is speedster Terrance Gore who can be used as a late-inning pinch runner.
In addition, the Mets are carrying Tylor Megill, who struggled down the stretch with both his velocity and command as he transitioned into a relief pitcher after coming off the injured list.
Trevor Williams - who pitched six innings for the Mets against the Nationals on Wednesday - has been left off the roster for this round. In addition, the Mets did not add Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker (neither are available to pitch in this series), Mark Vientos or Tyler Naquin to the roster.
As such, the Mets are opting for a relief heavy staff among the 12 pitchers they’re carrying in this round. The Mets would conceivably use David Peterson as an emergency long reliever this weekend if needed and then re-add Williams next week if the Mets move onto the Division Series.
RHP Chris Bassitt
RHP Jacob deGrom
RHP Edwin Díaz
RHP Mychal Givens
RHP Seth Lugo
RHP Trevor May
RHP Tylor Megill
RHP Adam Ottavino
LHP David Peterson
LHP Joely Rodriguez
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Drew Smith