NEW YORK – In another era, 114 parking spaces might not seem like a lot. Who knows how many Old Hoss Radbourn or his cronies thrown back into the day? In the early days, the toughest pitcher routinely threw 120, 130, or even 140 pitches.
But these aren’t those times — not with everything the baseball industry has learned about arm care and injury prevention. Seen in the context of that era, the eight-inning, 114-pitch performance that Chris Bassitt put on in Monday’s Mets 5-1 win over the Reds was not only commendable but a fine demonstration of teamwork. While New York’s bullpen was still recovering from five long games against the Braves last weekend, Bassitt did almost all of the pitching work to lead the Mets to their fourth straight win at Citi Field.
Bassitt now owns the five highest yardage counts for the Mets this season. He’s the only Met to hit 110 pitches in a game, and he’s done so twice.
“I really think that’s why they brought me here,” Bassitt said. “I’m not afraid to walk 100 pitches.”
It was clear from the start on Monday that Bassitt would go deep, although that was largely thanks to his efficiency early in the evening. He threw 30 pitches in the first three innings of the game before a barrage from weak contact got him into constant trouble. From fourth through seventh, Bassitt allowed 10 baserunners a mix of singles, control errors, and multiple errors, including one that resulted in an undeserved run. Of the remainder, Bassitt pinned eight and erased the other in a double.
He finished the seventh with 95 pitches and could easily have called it a night there after lasting more than six innings for a ninth straight start. However, when manager Buck Showalter offered him the eighth, Bassitt gladly accepted.
“I want to go 115, 120 pitches every start,” Bassitt said, “but Buck won’t let me.”
That night, the manager agreed, and not just because the Mets lacked bullpen guns; on the contrary, Showalter insisted he never makes pitch count decisions based on the state of his auxiliary corps. Instead, Showalter credited Bassitt’s solid mechanics, arm strength, and physical fitness as the attributes that allow him to use the right-hander deep in games.
Bassitt reckons his late-inning effectiveness is more dependent on his six-pitch repertoire, which allows him to give batsmen a different look the third or fourth time he sees them. To prove it, Bassitt primarily threw curveballs, cutters, and sinkers to the last four hitters he faced. At this point, the Mets’ only offense was a two-run Starling Marte-Homer in the first inning by former New York farmhand Justin Dunn and an RBI single by Daniel Vogelbach in the third. So when Bassitt allowed a two-out single in eighth place, he allowed the potential tie to step onto the record.
Bassitt then threw nothing but hard stuff at Aristides Aquino, hitting him in the middle with his 114th and final pitch of the night with a 95-mile hit-it-if-you-can fastball.
“Believe him a lot of credit,” said Reds manager David Bell. “That was an important key to getting so deep into the game with Bassitt.”
After that, the Mets couldn’t rave enough about the 114-pitch performance, which was the second-highest of Bassitt’s career after a 116-pitch start for the A’s in 2019. All weekend, the Mets had been exhausting their bullpen, beginning with Thursday’s recording of Edwin Díaz, a six-point save for the first time in his career. The next night, starter Taijuan Walker only lasted more than an inning in a loss to the Braves, forcing the Mets to ask their auxiliary corps for eight more.
Many roster moves ensued as the Mets shuffled pitchers in and out of Flushing to have fresh weapons available for the Braves. When team officials asked Max Scherzer which half of Saturday’s doubleheader he wanted to start, he – as usual – chose the nightcap so he could operate with the knowledge of how busy the bullpen was.
Bassitt feels the same way, earning his manager’s trust. He may never match the workload of previous eras, but for his own place in history, Bassitt provides a much-needed service.
“The goal for tonight is to get us reasonably rested,” Showalter said. “Today was a big step that Bass gave us to get there.”