Even after a 4-2 loss to the Yankees on Monday night, even with Atlanta peskily clinging to their heels, this much can be said about the 2022 Mets: They’re going to play postseason baseball.
Therefore, as much as New York’s choices over the next six weeks will be predicated on winning the National League East, they’ll also be made with an eye toward winning a pennant and a championship beyond that. And so you get decisions like the one the Mets announced Monday afternoon, that Jacob deGrom would be pushed back to later in the week with Taijuan Walker starting instead on Tuesday night in the Bronx.
How to handle their starting rotation — the strength of the team during its latest hot streak — represents one of the more fascinating dilemmas for the Mets through the end of the regular season. On the one hand, New York has a staff of veterans either coming off injuries or pushing up against innings highs.
On the other, it has Max Scherzer.
A refresher: Scherzer pitched lights out for the Dodgers down the stretch of last season. In October, he did the same thing he did in the 2019 postseason for the Nationals, coming out of the bullpen on his throw day to close out a thrilling Division Series over the Giants. In the NLCS, however, he wasn’t able to take the mound for Game 6, a bystander as Atlanta won the pennant.
The day he signed with the Mets, Scherzer said he “overcooked” his arm in the postseason. He believed he wasn’t built up to the same degree as he had been in 2019, and the unwitting cause was the Dodgers’ conservative usage of him in the final two months, when he pitched with an extra day of rest more often than not.
“It was the unintended consequences of pitching on the sixth day,” Scherzer said over the weekend in Philadelphia. “I don’t blame the Dodgers. I said it and I still to this day agree with what they were trying to do.”
Los Angeles was protecting other arms in its rotation, the same way the Mets want to protect those around Scherzer. So what has the 38-year-old learned from last year, and how is he applying it over the next several weeks in advance of another possibly deep October run?