On the other side of town it has been all about Gary Sanchez and other highly touted youngsters. Saturday night at Citi Field the Mets had a few that were significant in inching them closer to the second NL Wild card. And during this September stretch of games, manager Terry Collins could not ask for more.
Collins has always been supportive of a Mets organization that was building with the youngsters. After another important win,3-1, over the Washington Nationals that put the Mets one game behind the Cardinals he had every reason to praise the unexpected.
And by all means, Collins was being honest because rookie righthander Robert Gsellman tossed 6.0 innings and gave the manager what was needed.
The need was for another unexpected starter who was not in the plan back in April and Gsellman, delivered with a good sinker and fastball that limited the Nationals to their only run in the first inning. The injury bug that has hit the Mets pitching staff, Matt Harvey in particular, who was shut down for the season, and with Steven Matz on the disabled list, got Gsellman an opportunity for a second start
Add Michael Conforto to the mix. His hit and a walk were reminiscent of a brief and important tenue last September. Conforto, with limited experience in centerfield made a diving catch in the seventh inning and looked like a Gold Glove veteran.
So with the rookies, and some of the veterans, the Mets look to take the rubber game on the ESPN Sunday night game. They will dispatch Seth Lugo, 2-2, another rookie to the mound. Tuesday night, Rafael Montero gets another opportunity in Cincinnati to replace Jacob deGrom who will miss a start due to inflammation of the forearm.
Collins has been aware of the depth, and unexpected that could step in. The unexpected injuries to his valued starters and some position players, well that is the unexpected of a long baseball season. But the Mets have obvious depth, and those in baseball have said they are rich in pitching.
Except, who have known that Gsellman would be pitching in a wild card race, and coming up big, In April that was unexpected.
“We’ve asked a lot of some young players and they have stepped up,” Collins said. “If you have told me in April that i’m going to look out on the field and I’m going to have three players that were in our Opening Day lineup and four rookie pitchers to win a game, I’d tell you you’re out of your mind.”
Conforto and Gsellman helped the Mets. Now they have won 10 of their last 14 games and Saturday night it was the rookies. A week or two ago, who would have envisioned a cause about this team making a run for the wild card.
“Credit to the minor league staff,” Collins said in regard to how Gsellman threw the ball in his first career quality start. “These guys who come up here throw quality starts.” The manager was referring to how Matt Harvey,Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have been instrumental in coming up from the system and successful in their first few years.
But the rash of injuries to their pitching arms, perhaps due to throwing a significant amount of innings and pitches last season, have hindered the promising and rich Mets pitching staff.
“Just take a deep breath and don’t get too ahead of yourself,” Gsellman said. It was his first career win as a starter and showed a sinker that got him out of trouble through six innings. “Make a good pitch and see what they do with it.”
That was impressive, more so from a rookie who has pitched in at the right time.
Conforto with limited time in centerfield is adjusting. He made a diving catch in the seventh inning with a runner on base. That led to an ensuing strikeout of Bryce Harper, from rookie lefthander Josh Smoker who threw an experienced breaking ball.
“It definitely felt good to see that one,”said Conforto. “Puts us in a bad spot if it gets past me for sure.”
Then there were the veterans who the rookies say, give them that boost. Curtis Granderson and James Loney who have been struggling were key factors in this win. Granderson delivered the game winning hit with a two-run single in the third inning, and it snapped an 0-for-22 streak with runners in scoring position.
James Loney broke his 0-for 14 streak with an RBI double in the sixth inning and was placed eighth in the batting order.
Said Loney, once a rookie in a pennant chase, “We’re right there. This is what we play for. Guys have believed they can get the job done hitting third or seventh. We embrace it and enjoy it.”
And the Mets are enjoying this stretch now because the rookies on the mound have been stepping up.