Bassitt pitches gem, rushes home for birth of 2nd child

June 3rd, 2023

NEW YORK -- knew he had a plane to catch when he stepped on the mound on Friday night at Citi Field.

The 34-year-old righty planned to leave directly after his start against the Mets to head back to Toronto to be with his wife, Jessica, who went into labor on Friday for the birth of their second child. Manager John Schneider shared that Bassitt and the club knew that this day was coming -- with the event circled on the calendar and the necessary accommodations made to get Bassitt back to Toronto as soon as his start ended.

“Hopefully it’s a quick game, for the good side,” Schneider said with a laugh before the game, which started 90 minutes late due to a rain delay.

Bassitt, who pitched for the Mets last season, tried his best to make his return back to Citi Field a swift one. He pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings in the Blue Jays’ 3-0 win over New York, striking out eight batters while giving up only three hits. He was über-efficient, too, issuing no walks and throwing 64 of his 101 pitches for strikes. It was the fourth time this season that Bassitt pitched at least seven innings in a start.

“With the hour and a half delay, staying locked in, a ton of things on his mind, facing his former team,” Schneider said. “He was completely in control of his emotions and stuff tonight. It’s one of the best performances we’ve seen out of anyone, given everything that he had going on. You just can’t say enough about him tonight.”

It was Bassitt’s first time facing the Mets, and his first time back in Flushing since joining the Blue Jays during the offseason. In his lone season with New York in 2022, Bassitt notched career highs in wins (15), quality starts (19) and strikeouts (167). He was also the losing pitcher when the Mets were eliminated by the Padres in Game 3 of the NL Wild Card. When his name was announced in the starting lineup, it was greeted by a chorus of boos from 42,637 Mets fans.

Going into the outing, Bassitt also was coming off of losses in his previous two starts. The latter -- a four-inning affair on May 27 vs. Minnesota in which he gave up nine hits and seven earned runs -- was marked by inefficiency and loud contact.

On Friday, Bassitt was in total control of his repertoire. His pitch usage was balanced -- 40% sinkers, 22% cutters, 11% curveballs, 10% sweepers and 7% four-seamers -- and he produced 11 whiffs out of 46 swings.

“I think just the mix of pitches, [he] had some really good breaking balls to some dangerous hitters,” said Schneider. “I think he was keeping them off balance. He made big pitches when he had to.”

The Mets’ top four hitters -- Brandon Nimmo, Francisco Lindor, Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso -- went a combined 1-for-11 with three strikeouts against Bassitt.

“Bassitt just has a lot of different pitches,” said Nimmo. “He was hitting the corners well tonight. I didn’t capitalize on a couple mistakes that he left me, and that’s really what it came down to.”

The Blue Jays’ lineup, which went up against likely future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander, was largely quiet for the night. Center fielder opened the scoring in a hurry with a home run to center on the second pitch of the game, his eighth of the season. It was Springer’s 54th career leadoff homer, tying him with Alfonso Soriano for second most all-time (Rickey Henderson, 81).

Toronto went quiet again until the top of the sixth, when and reached base to start the inning before reached via an infield single to load the bases with two outs. Left fielder then struck out after a six-pitch at-bat against Verlander, who retired him on his 117th offering of the night.

But that strikeout wasn’t Varsho’s last stand. In the ninth inning, he crushed a 3-0 fastball from Jeff Brigham into the right-field bleachers for a two-run homer, giving the Blue Jays a 3-0 lead. For Varsho, a player who has been working to find his footing at the plate since being acquired from the D-backs, the ability to bounce back and provide some insurance spoke volumes to his manager.

The Mets celebrated Lou Gehrig Day on Friday. It made the night mean a little more for Varsho, who lost his mother-in-law to ALS in 2018.

“That’s just his mentality, he’s the same guy every day,” said Schneider. “I think tonight being kind of a special night for him and his family, it couldn’t have been a better spot for him to do [that] there. He’s going to continue to battle, hopefully this is a little bit of a kick-start for him.”