NEW YORK — In another age, 114 pitches might not seem like much. Who knows how many Old Hoss Radbourn or his cronies may have thrown back in the day? As recently as the early aughts, the hardiest of pitchers routinely threw 120, 130 or even 140 pitches.
But these are not those times — not with all the baseball industry has learned about arm care and injury prevention. Taken within the context of this era, the eight-inning, 114-pitch effort that Chris Bassitt produced in a 5-1 Mets win over the Reds on Monday was not only laudable, but also a fine display of teamwork. With New York’s bullpen still recovering from five long games against the Braves this past weekend, Bassitt performed nearly all of the pitching labor in guiding the Mets to their fourth straight victory at Citi Field.
Bassitt now owns the five highest pitch counts for the Mets this season. He’s the only Met to reach 110 pitches in a game, and he’s done so twice.
“I think, genuinely, that’s why they brought me over here,” Bassitt said. “I’m not afraid to go over 100 pitches.”
It was clear from the outset on Monday that Bassitt would go deep, though early in the evening, that was mostly because of his efficiency. He threw 30 pitches over the game’s first three innings, before a barrage of weak contact thrust him into constant trouble. From the fourth through the seventh, Bassitt allowed 10 baserunners on a mix of singles, control lapses and multiple errors, including one that resulted in an unearned run. Of the rest, Bassitt stranded eight and erased the other on a double play.
He finished the seventh at 95 pitches and easily could have called it a night there, having lasted six-plus innings for a ninth consecutive start. When manager Buck Showalter offered him the eighth, however, Bassitt gladly accepted.
“I want to go 115, 120 pitches every start,” Bassitt said, “but Buck don’t let me.”
On this night, the manager acquiesced, and not simply because the Mets were short on bullpen arms; to the contrary, Showalter insisted he never makes pitch-count decisions based upon the state of his relief corps. Instead, Showalter credited Bassitt’s sound mechanics, his arm strength and his physical fitness as the attributes that make him comfortable using the right-hander deep in games.
Bassitt figures his late-inning effectiveness hinges more upon his six-pitch repertoire, which allows him to give hitters different looks the third or fourth time he sees them. To prove it, Bassitt threw mostly curveballs, cutters and sinkers to the final four batters he faced. At that point, the Mets’ only offense had come on a Starling Marte two-run homer off former New York farmhand Justin Dunn in the first inning, and a Daniel Vogelbach RBI single in the third. So when Bassitt allowed a two-out single in the eighth, he permitted the potential tying run to step to the plate.
Bassitt then threw nothing but hard stuff to Aristides Aquino, striking him out on a 95 mph, hit-it-if-you-can fastball down the middle with his 114th and final pitch of the night.
“Give him a lot of credit,” Reds manager David Bell said. “That was a big key to get that deep into the game with Bassitt.”
Afterward, the Mets could not gush enough about the 114-pitch effort, which was the second highest of Bassitt’s career behind a 116-pitch start for the A’s in 2019. All weekend, the Mets had depleted their bullpen, beginning when Edwin Díaz recorded a six-out save Thursday for the first time in his career. The next night, starter Taijuan Walker lasted only one-plus inning in a loss to the Braves, forcing the Mets to ask their relief corps for eight more.
Plenty of roster moves followed, as the Mets shuffled pitchers in and out of Flushing to keep fresh arms available to face the Braves. When team officials asked Max Scherzer which half of Saturday’s doubleheader he wanted to start, he chose — as he usually does — the nightcap, so he could operate with knowledge of how taxed the bullpen was.
Bassitt sees things in a similar light and has earned his manager’s trust in the process. He may never approach the workloads of previous eras, but for his own place in history, Bassitt provides a much-needed service.
“Going into tonight, the goal is to try to get us back into somewhat of a rested manner,” Showalter said. “Today was a big step that Bass gave us to get there.”
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