Starting pitching wasn’t supposed to be an issue for the Mets this season.
But with three weeks left in the abbreviated regular season, manager Luis Rojas is at a loss for who he’s giving the ball to much more often than not.
Before Rick Porcello’s solid outing in Friday’s 5-3 loss to the Phillies at Citi Field, Rojas wouldn’t commit to Robert Gsellman or Michael Wacha remaining in the rotation — though it’s almost certain one of the underachievers must stay.
The easy solution would be reinserting rookie David Peterson to fill one of the spots. Peterson threw four scoreless innings out of the bullpen in Baltimore on Wednesday.
Beyond that, Rojas has ample reason for concern, since the Mets are in need of a hot streak if they plan to play into October.
“That’s been one of the biggest challenges we have and right now it’s a real challenge,” Rojas said when asked about the rotation. “It’s a big key for us in the last 22 games we have of the season, so we are looking for consistency and every possible length that they can give us.”
Gsellman was dreadful in his Thursday start against the Yankees in which he surrendered four earned runs over 1 ²/₃ innings and boosted his ERA to 7.84. That came a day after Wacha struggled in his start against the Orioles, lasting only three innings with Peterson as his piggyback. Wacha owns a 7.20 ERA this season. Another disappointment has been Steven Matz. He is sidelined with left shoulder bursitis, but was demoted to the bullpen and owns a 9.63 ERA.
Compared to that group, Porcello — who lowered his ERA to 5.54 by allowing two runs in six innings on Friday — has been a booming success. He fanned six, gave up three hits and walked two in his 100-pitch performance.
“The bullpen has been doing an unbelievable job of picking up the load,’’ Porcello said. “We’ve had some injuries [in the rotation] and we haven’t pitched deep into games. It’s time for us as starters to start doing that on a consistent basis and help those guys out.”
The Mets moved Gsellman to the rotation after subtracting Matz, but the right-hander hasn’t provided the Mets with the length or quality that has been needed.
Rojas pointed to an ineffective sinker as one of Gsellman’s issues.
Further taxing the bullpen, Seth Lugo is still stretching out as a starter as he transitions from a reliever. Jacob deGrom is the one constant in the Mets’ rotation.
The reinforcements were needed after Marcus Stroman opted out of the season, which followed the loss of Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John surgery this spring.
And with Friday’s loss, according to Elias Sports Bureau, the Mets tied a franchise record set in 1980 of going 19 consecutive games without a win by a starter. Peterson was the last starter to pick up a victory, which came on Aug. 13 against the Nationals.
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