Finally, the starting pitching is at least beginning to carry its weight, and maybe even live up to expectations, offering a reminder it’s way too early to count out these Mets, as ugly as April and May have been overall.
There is more of it on the way, with Steven Matz and Seth Lugo one more rehab start from rejoining the rotation, even if Robert Gsellman finally has found the sinker that made him such a revelation late last season.
Meanwhile, out of nowhere, perhaps desperation has uncovered something of a bullpen savior in Paul Sewald, a reliever with a deceptive delivery who gets great movement on an otherwise pedestrian fastball.
So … was that some honest-to-goodness momentum I felt at Citi Field on Monday, as the Mets defeated the Brewers, 4-2?
It has been such a fleeting element in this season that it’s hard to tell if it’s real, or whether it will last, but certainly the feeling is dramatically different from just last week when the Mets lost two of three here at home to the dreadful Padres.
If Addison Reed hadn’t blown a ninth-inning lead on Saturday in Pittsburgh, they would be riding a four-game winning streak built on the best turn through the rotation in over a month, as Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, and Gsellman here Sunday delivered starts ranging from solid to dominant.
The reality check, however, is that on Tuesday the Mets will trot out rookie Tyler Pill, a finesse righthander who will have to be precise with his command to succeed in the big leagues, as his rather unsuccessful relief debut on Saturday night demonstrated.
With that in mind, as well as their ongoing bullpen issues, I was fairly sure the Mets would be ready to plug at least one of their two rehabbing starters, Matz or Lugo, into the rotation after both threw 70-plus pitches in minor-league starts on Sunday.
However, Sandy Alderson said they prefer to have each of them make at least one more rehab start and stretch their pitch count to 90 or so before bringing them back to the big leagues.
Ideally, sure, that makes sense, but considering the situation, why waste more bullets from Matz and Lugo in the minors?
Especially Matz; he threw five perfect innings in Vegas on Sunday and, according to reports the Mets’ hierarchy received, threw “free and easy,’’ which is code for: he finally seems to feel good about his elbow.
If that’s the case, get him up here. Obviously he was sharp on Sunday, and even if Matz can only go five innings, that still figures to be better than the other options.
On the other hand, keeping Matz and Lugo on their rehab assignments means that Pill will have to make a second start on Sunday.
If getting length out of Matz and Lugo is the concern, bringing both of them up would mean moving Gsellman to the bullpen, which would provide greatly needed quality and depth to the ballclub’s weak link.
As it is, Gsellman’s strong seven innings on Sunday, combined with a solid six in his previous start, are enough to make a case for keeping him in the rotation.
The Mets are concerned about keeping Lugo on a pre-determined schedule as he comes back from a partial elbow ligament tear, and that’s the right way to go.
In addition, Gsellman has shown he can be effective in the pen. Actually, it may have been his couple of stints there recently, as he was skipped in the rotation, that helped him regain his form.
In any case, this was the Gsellman that Collins has been raving about since spring training, declaring again on Sunday what a bright future he has as a starter. “He’s got his confidence back,’’ Collins said.
Which, of course, brings us back to last week and what seemed to be the Mets hitting rock bottom, with the manager taking heat for pulling Gsellman after six innings and 84 pitches, only to have the bullpen blow a 5-3 lead.
On Monday, Gsellman was at 89 pitches after six innings, as the Mets clung to a 3-2 lead, and Collins not only left him in, he let him hit in the bottom of the inning with the bases loaded and a chance to break the game open.
You could see how this might backfire on Collins as well, but instead Gsellman drew a walk to force in a run and then went out and threw a scoreless seventh, allowing Sewald and Reed to close out the win.
Collins said the difference was that last time he was trying to rebuild the young pitchers’ confidence, which was why he took him out after six. He smiled when asked about the criticism over the move and said, “It’s part of the job. You take the body blows.”
Collins paused and then delivered the punch line: “I do my ab work every day.”
Yes, it all made for quite a contrast to last week. As such, there is reason to believe that, ever so slowly, the gloom and doom seems to be lifting around the Mets.