In Sunday’s 7-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, four Mets pitchers combined to tie the Major League record by striking out 20 batters in a nine-inning game. While that ended up being a footnote to the late comeback sparked in part by speedster Terrance Gore, that is still an eye-opening performance that merits a look.
Perhaps even more incredible was that the four pitchers did not issue a single walk, and ran only five three-ball counts the entire game. It was the first 20-strikout, no-walk performance by a team since May 11, 2016, when Max Scherzer fanned 20 Detroit Tigers batters in a 3-2 win.
5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 13 K
Without looking, if you were to guess who would start a 20-strikeout game, deGrom would be one of two immediate names that come to mind. The other, Scherzer, is obviously on the sideline right now, so with deGrom you’d be right. DeGrom’s K% this season is an absurd 44.1% in 54.1 innings, while he has walked just 2.1% of batters. Now 34, it seems pretty unfathomable that he keeps getting better, but that is a topic for another day.
On Sunday, deGrom had the strikeout pitch working early and often. After a leadoff double by rookie superstar Oneil Cruz, he struck out the next five batters he faced before getting Greg Allen to pop to third to end the second inning. DeGrom struck out the side in the third and fanned two in the fourth before striking out the side in the fifth. With 13 strikeouts through five innings, he went back out for the sixth where he allowed back-to-back singles to Zack Collins and Jason Delay before a three-run homer by Cruz ended his day.
Ten of deGrom’s 13 strikeouts where swinging strikeouts, though of his season-high 101 pitches, 19.8% were whiffed on, a few percentage points below his season average.
- IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K
Lugo cleaned up the sixth inning after the Cruz home run. His lone strikeout was a called third strike on Calvin Mitchell. Lugo has seen his strikeouts tick down a bit this season, though he is still punching out 25.3% of batters faced. That being said, that would be his lowest K% since his breakout 2018 season. The good news is that with that Lugo’s groundball rate has rebounded to 45.1%, his hard-hit contact rate is at a career-low, and his walk-rate has dropped to 6.9% after hovering near 10% in 2021. It’s been a solid bounce-back year for Lugo after a few tougher campaigns.
- IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K
Rodriguez came in out of the bullpen to start a clean inning in the seventh, striking out the side of Jack Suwinski, Allen and pinch-hitter Michael Chavis. He then punched out lefties Cruz and Bryan Reynolds in the eighth to cap off two perfect innings to keep the game tied 3-3. Acquired in an offseason trade with the Yankees, Rodriguez has seen both his strikeouts and walks sharply increase in 2022. His K% is up to 27.6% from 22.7%, but his walks have risen in concert from 8.7% to 13.1%. You can kinda live with that, especially given a sharp decline in contact quality leading to a BABIP that is nearly 40 points lower than last year.
- IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K
After the Mets four-run rally in the bottom of the eighth to take the lead, May came in to close out the win. He allowed a two-out double to Ke’Bryan Hayes, but struck out Suwinski to end the game for the 20th and final strikeout of the game. It was the fourth time in four plate appearances that Suwinski was struck out. May has had a rough year when he has been healthy this season. Since peaking at 39.6% in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, his K% has plummeted to 25.3% in 2022. His walk rate has dipped as well, but not so much to fully compensate for a lack of strikeouts and a largely unchanged batted ball profile.
While it may not have been the cleanest performance ever, it was still a historical performance by the Mets staff on Sunday. We should appreciate that for what it is – another special game down the stretch of a special season.