There’s no need to sugar coat it, this last road trip by the Mets was a brutal one. Coors field as per usual served as a buzz saw for the Mets pitchers as they relinquished 28 runs in the first three games before salvaging the final one of the series. Miami was no respite for the team either, as the offense did their part to stifle team. The Mets managed only three runs in the three game series, including a 23 inning scoreless streak that is still alive as they prepare to start a five game home stand at Citi Field Friday night. Jenrry Mejia’s last start was probably the most alarming which has raised questions of his place in the rotation.
So can we expect a quick turnaround against the rival Phillies and crosstown rival Yankees? Well, Mejia getting off to a good start should help; actually finishing will be the key. As putrid as Mejia’s 5.23 ERA reads, it is not indicative of his overall performance which has been predominantly strong. In his five starts this season comprised of 32.2 IP, Mejia has yielded 19 earned runs, yet 16 of those runs have come in only three individual innings, most notably the eight given up at Coors Field last Saturday. Mejia has been sparkling with the exception of the innings he loses his poise and composure those final innings of his starts. That revelation doesn’t give him a pass but it seems to an error in his approach that can be easily fixed. The reason for these blow-ups is quite obvious.
Let’s take his last two starts against the Marlins and Rockies. Against the Marlins on April 26th, Mejia took the mound for the sixth inning with a 5-1 lead and only 69 pitches thrown. The next three pitches resulted in a double, home run, single; two runs across and a 5-3 game. He proceeded to walk the next batter, but the following batter cracked a hard line drive on the first pitch that was fortunately snared by Lucas Duda. After getting the next batter to groundout, Mejia gave up back to back hits on consecutive pitches to the following two batters. After the final out, Mejia’s night was done after a 5 run sixth inning, all five hits coming on the first pitch.
Fast forward to last Saturday night in Denver when Mejia took the mound for the bottom of the fifth inning staked to a 6-0 lead. With only 45 pitches, Mejia was looking to put it into cruise control for an easy win, but to no avail. Much like his previous start, the implosion escalated rather quickly. Mejia pitched to nine batters that inning, yielding eight runs on five hits, a walk and a hit by pitch. As troubling as that line is, he managed to receive that damage with only 19 pitches. The final three hits were all on the first pitch including a grand slam to Nolan Arenado that knocked Mejia out of the game.
So what can we deduce from these meltdowns? Well, it’s clear the Rockies scouted Mejia’s previous start and his tendency to lose poise thus “grooving” pitches down the middle of the plate. Mejia failed to recognize the aggressiveness of the hitters in each game, which is befuddling considering the trend was quite obvious. Whether, the coaches or catchers failed to communicate this to him or Mejia just wasn’t thinking, but he needs to manage his approach the third time around in the batting order or many of these same results may reoccur. First pitch swinging has done him in twice now, and thoughts are that he may not be credible as a starter. Those notions seem kneejerk and premature, Mejia just needs to grow as a pitcher.
The mental aspect of pitching is usually is the last component to be honed by a starter regardless of his talent and repertoire. If Mejia is going to succeed, he needs s to pay attention to adjustments batters make against him. The dilemma is a common one, and should be straightened out soon. The stuff is there to be a dominant pitcher in this league, let’s hope the Phillies and Yankees fall prey this week when Jenrry figures it out.
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