The Mets have enough problems filling a rotation that includes Seth Lugo. Without Lugo’s transition from the bullpen, this starting pitching mess would be piled higher and deeper.
Saturday night the right-hander completed his buildup, reaching five innings for the first time and giving the Mets hope they have a respectable No. 2 behind Jacob deGrom for this stretch run.
Lugo’s solid outing coupled with a strong bullpen performance led the Mets to a third victory in four games, 5-1 over the Phillies at Citi Field.
Justin Wilson got the biggest out of the night, striking out Phil Gosselin in the seventh after Brandon Nimmo had dropped a flyball to center field that loaded the bases with two outs. Jeurys Familia, Wilson, Miguel Castro and Edwin Diaz combined on four scoreless innings behind Lugo.
“I think we played all-around good baseball tonight,” Lugo said. “It was a good team win. The whole team contributed today and it showed on the scoreboard.”
Lugo received precautionary X-rays that were negative after the final batter he faced, Bryce Harper, hit a bouncer off his pitching hand that went for an out to complete the fifth. Harper was ejected following the half-inning after he jawed with first-base umpire Roberto Ortiz.
The Mets (18-22) will have their ace deGrom on the mound Sunday, on extra rest, as they continue to chase for a wild card. They began play Saturday two games behind in the race for the second wild card and trail the Phillies by 3 ½ lengths for second place in the NL East, which carries an automatic postseason berth. The Phillies lost for only the second time in 12 games.
Beyond deGrom and Lugo, the Mets have rookie David Peterson back in the rotation for Monday, but it’s unclear which of struggling Michael Wacha and Robert Gsellman might be entrusted with the ball on Tuesday. The other member of this rotation, Rick Porcello, gave the Mets a solid outing on Friday but hasn’t been as dependable as the Mets would have hoped when they signed him last offseason.
“Seth, every fifth day he will be just fine,” manager Luis Rojas said. “I think he’s building up really good. It’s been a job well done and to get him to this point where he can give us five innings and I think next start maybe more.”
Lugo tied a career high with eight strikeouts over five innings in which he allowed one run on four hits and two walks over 81 pitches. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 2.05. Lugo pitched 3 ²/₃ innings Sunday in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Five days earlier, in his first start since 2018, he went three innings against the Marlins.
This was Lugo’s first time throwing to new catching addition Robinson Chirinos.
“I thought we worked really well together,” Lugo said. “We had a really strong plan going in and after we came back and scored a couple of runs, he came out there with two outs and I thought that was really important for us, to settle in and figure out what we wanted to do, and it really helped me make a couple of big pitches to get out of the inning.”
After scoring just three runs the previous night, the Mets rebounded against right-hander Spencer Howard, receiving two RBIs from Andres Gimenez and two doubles from Jeff McNeil.
Alert base-running by Todd Frazier helped the Mets take a 3-1 lead in the fourth. After Frazier was drilled by a pitch and reached third on McNeil’s double, Gimenez hit a pop up to shallow right. Harper deferred to second baseman Neil Walker backpedaling, allowing Frazier to tag up and score.
McNeil’s double leading off the second led to the Mets tying it 1-1 on Gimenez’s RBI single through the first-base hole. Michael Conforto poked a two-out single to left that gave the Mets their second run.