PHILADELPHIA — Jacob deGrom started the season on the injured list. His absence is certainly glaring, but the Mets rotation is doing just fine without him.
Who would’ve guessed?
Following Max Scherzer’s five innings of one-run ball in Wednesday’s series finale against the Phillies, Mets starters ended their seven-game road trip with the best ERA (1.29) in the major leagues.
Chris Bassitt, who dominated the Nationals in his season debut with eight strikeouts over six innings last Saturday, will try to pick up where he left off and continue the rotation’s strong start to the season. Bassitt is slated to pitch the home opener against the Diamondbacks on Friday, which will be his first career start at Citi Field across his eight-year career.
“Going to Citi Field for the first time, playing there for the first time, I’m definitely excited,” he said.
The Mets (5-2) will be greeted by a packed ballpark for the home opener, featuring what is sure to be a rowdy crowd after the Amazin’s successful road trip to kick off the season.
But Bassitt isn’t exactly one for all the pageantry associated with a home opener. He just wants to attack hitters, get outs, and win ballgames. So he’ll be happiest when his next start is over.
“It’ll be cool,” Bassitt said. “I’m really looking forward to getting it over with. For this time of year, it’s kind of annoying with pitch counts and inning limits, and all the festivities of openers and all that. I just want to play baseball.”
Bassitt said he is “pretty good at tuning things out,” so he doesn’t envision the loud crowd noise disrupting his start. He knows he pitches best when the game is just between him, his catcher, and the opposing hitter. And he knows how to get himself locked in.
“You really have to black out the fans, as hard as that is,” Bassitt said. “You can’t let them dictate how you’re pitching.”[More Mets] Pete Alonso leads Mets to series win in Philly with 3-run homer, 5 RBI »
One thing Bassitt is still adjusting to is a new league.
After spending seven seasons in the American League pitching for Oakland, Bassitt became familiar with his opposing hitters and exactly what he needed to do to get them out. Now, instead of enjoying down time at the hotel room before games, Bassitt spends those hours watching film of the some of the best hitters in the league.
“Now I’m back to basically being a rookie, back to square one and learning everybody,” Bassitt said. “It’s been fun because I feel like I matured in the aspect of understanding what I’m truly looking for and everything like that.”
Pitching in the National League now represents a challenge, one that will require an exceptional relationship with Mets catchers James McCann and Tomas Nido, who both know the league better than him. Bassitt said McCann and Nido have so far done a great job learning his own arsenal, a tricky six-pitch tool kit.
“For me, the amount of pitches that I have, I think that relationship with the catcher is massive,” Bassitt said. “We have to know each other. We basically have to be thinking on the same page nonstop. That’s where that homework is huge. It’s like studying for a test and making sure I have the right answer. It’s been fun.”[More Mets] Where is Adam Ottavino? »
Bassitt will again try to have all the answers on Friday against a similar opponent to the Nationals, in that the Diamondbacks lineup will not pose as tough a threat. Bassitt expects that league-best rotation ERA to only decrease further.
The Mets host the Diamondbacks for three games, followed by a four-game set against the Giants at Citi Field.
“It’s going to be fun,” manager Buck Showalter said. “And a very deserving welcome to a team that played real well on the road trip.”