The Mets have enough problems filling a rotation that includes Seth Lugo. Without his transition from the bullpen, this starting pitching mess would be piled higher and deeper.
Saturday night the right-hander completed his buildup, reaching five innings for the first time and giving the Mets hope they have a respectable No. 2 behind Jacob deGrom for this stretch run.
Lugo’s solid outing coupled with a strong bullpen performance led the Mets to a third victory in four games, 5-1 over the Phillies at Citi Field.
Justin Wilson got the biggest out of the night, striking out Phil Gosselin in the seventh after Brandon Nimmo had dropped a flyball to center field that loaded the bases with two outs. Jeurys Familia, Wilson, Miguel Castro and Edwin Diaz combined on four scoreless innings behind Lugo.
The Mets (18-22) will have their ace deGrom on the mound Sunday, on extra rest, as they attempt to improve position in the wildcard race. They began play Saturday two games behind in the race for the second wildcard and trail the Phillies by 3 ½ lengths for second place, which carries an automatic postseason berth. The Phillies lost for only the second time in 12 games, as they continue to compete for the NL East lead.
Beyond deGrom and Lugo, the Mets have rookie David Peterson back in the rotation for Monday, but it’s unclear which of struggling Michael Wacha and Robert Gsellman might be entrusted with the ball on Tuesday. The other member of this rotation, Rick Porcello, gave the Mets a solid outing on Friday, but hasn’t been as dependable as the Mets would have hoped when they signed him last offseason.
Lugo, in his third start, tied a career high with eight strikeouts over five innings in which he allowed one run on four hits and two walks over 81 pitches. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 2.05. Lugo pitched 3 2/3 innings Sunday in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. Five days earlier, in his first start since 2018, he went three innings against the Marlins.
After scoring only three runs the previous night against Jake Arrieta, the Mets rebounded against right-hander Spencer Howard, receiving a two RBI performance from Andres Gimenez and two doubles from Jeff McNeil.
Robinson Chirinos’ RBI double in the sixth extended the Mets’ lead to 5-1. The Mets had added a run an inning earlier on Dominic Smith’s RBI fielder’s choice.
Alert base-running by Todd Frazier helped the Mets take a 3-1 lead in the fourth. After Frazier was drilled by a pitch and reached third on McNeil’s second double of the game, Andres Gimenez hit a pop up to shallow right. Bryce Harper deferred to second baseman Neil Walker backpedaling, allowing Frazier to tag up and score.
McNeil’s double leading off the second led to the Mets tying it 1-1 on Gimenez’s RBI single through the first-base hole. Michael Conforto poked a two-out single to left that gave the Mets their second run.
Lugo’s only misstep was allowing a solo homer to Rhys Hoskins in the first inning. Lugo walked two batters in the third and allowed two singles in the fourth, but escaped both innings.