Eickhoff hit hard, allows 10 runs to Braves

July 28th, 2021

NEW YORK -- The Mets’ only connection to Tuesday’s batch of Trade Deadline rumors was their reported removal from consideration to acquire Max Scherzer. As a buzzy day of rumblings -- Scherzer to the West Coast? Kris Bryant to the Giants? Joey Gallo to anywhere? -- came to a close, the Mets found their roster mostly unchanged.

That’s not to suggest inaction on the part of the front office, which still expects to add at least one arm prior to Friday’s Deadline. But the longer that process takes, the more the Mets will have to rely on pitchers they did not expect to use in meaningful second-half games. Tuesday, it was , who allowed 10 runs before the Mets could take a breath in a 12-5 loss to the Braves at Citi Field.

“We didn’t have another option,” manager Luis Rojas said.

Already twice designated for assignment by the Mets this season, Eickhoff returned earlier this week on a new Minor League deal -- his third with the organization since December. The Mets knew they had rotation openings on both Monday and Tuesday, and they understood the likelihood that they wouldn’t acquire a more prominent starter in time to fill them. So when Tuesday morning dawned, Eickhoff received the call.

It did not go how either party envisioned. After throwing 11 of his first 17 pitches outside the strike zone, Eickhoff allowed a two-run double to Dansby Swanson in the first inning, a two-run homer to Ozzie Albies in the second and another two-run shot to Abraham Almonte in the third. Desperate for innings after using seven relievers in Monday’s doubleheader, Rojas had little choice but to stick with Eickhoff for as long as he could go, despite the early struggles. But shortly after Austin Riley hit a first-pitch grand slam to make it 10-0 in the fourth, Eickhoff’s night -- which he called “completely unacceptable” -- was finished.

His final line included seven hits, five walks and 10 earned runs, making him the seventh pitcher in Mets history to allow at least that many in a game -- a group that includes such greats as Johan Santana and Al Leiter, and now Eickhoff as well.

“I’m so frustrated I let these guys down,” Eickhoff said, brushing aside the notion that his disjointed recent schedule might have played a role in his performance. “You’re playing the Braves. Obviously, they’re right behind you in the hunt for the division here. So it’s frustrating. It’s embarrassing. It’s frustrating. Regardless of the circumstances, I feel like I have the stuff and the ability to navigate that, but I was not able to do that tonight.”

To pin Tuesday’s loss on Eickhoff, however, would be to ignore the front office’s slowness in finding rotation help. Team officials have been adamant about their desire to add more pitching before the Deadline, with plenty of names -- José Berríos, Kyle Gibson, Jon Gray, Zach Davies and others -- potentially still available to them. The Mets did acquire Rich Hill late last week, but he represented more of a stopgap addition than a long-term solution. Carlos Carrasco should return this weekend following four months on the injured list, but he stretched out to only 38 pitches in his final Minor League rehab outing -- hardly an indication that he can provide significant innings over the next few weeks.

The Mets hope Jacob deGrom can come back in August as well, but his health has been a question all season. And so the Mets will continue to search for rotation help, all while looking forward to avoiding the constant string of “TBAs” that have populated their recent pitching schedule. If Carrasco, deGrom and a trade acquisition all enter the picture soon, Rojas said, that’s “a good problem to have.” And so the Mets could at least leave Citi Field on Tuesday convinced that the worst of their pitching woes may be behind them.

“Looking ahead, there’s no blank spot right now,” Rojas said. “There’s names on each day. There’s no TBDs. I know we’ve been talking, ‘TBD tomorrow, TBD tomorrow, TBD Game 2,’ and right now, there’s guys filling the spots, days ahead. … It feels better that way.”