Mets fans waited years to see the team's vaunted "Big 5" rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz make a turn together. Often, as injuries or ineffectiveness struck one member of that group after another, it seemed the odds were heavily stacked against that
Mets fans waited years to see the team's vaunted "Big 5" rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz make a turn together. Often, as injuries or ineffectiveness struck one member of that group after another, it seemed the odds were heavily stacked against that dream ever becoming reality.
But with New York riding high, winning 10 of its first 11 games of the season, that reality is here. All five starters report feeling healthy and just completed their first five-game roll as a unit, spurring the Mets to a 3.17 ERA that ranked second behind the Dodgers among National League starting rotations through Wednesday's action. Gotham's "Big 5" look poised to take at least one more turn together, as fellow starters Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have found a home in the bullpen and lefty Jason Vargas works his way back from a fracture in his non-pitching hand. Before they do, here's a quick look at how each of these five starters have fared and what could lie ahead.
• Lugo is the Mets' most pleasant early surprise
Matz (scheduled to start Friday vs. Brewers)
Manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland are looking for Matz, who has taken the Mets' lone loss, to pitch with more conviction, and the local Long Island hero appeared to take a step in that direction during his start last Saturday, when he racked up eight strikeouts and limited the rival Nationals to one unearned run over five innings. That outing cut Matz's ERA by more than half after an uneven first start against the Cardinals, and the hope is he'll continue to pound the strike zone.
Harvey (scheduled to start Saturday vs. Brewers)
Over his first weeks as the Mets' skipper, Callaway has placed a lot of focus on getting Harvey back to being a major contributor following the right-hander's major shoulder surgery and subsequent ineffectiveness last year. Optimism was high in Queens after Harvey kept the Phillies to one hit over five shutout innings in his first start, but the righty took a step back in his follow-up, allowing four runs on nine hits Sunday night against the Nats. That outing would have looked even worse had Anthony Rendon's bases-loaded flyout gone just a few feet farther instead of ending a Washington rally in the bottom of the fourth.
Harvey's diminished fastball velocity, which now hovers around 90 mph, will likely never return to its flashy radar-gun readings of several seasons ago. That means Harvey must hit his spots and induce weaker contact going forward, and his command will need to improve from where it was Sunday in Washington. Still, Callaway has projected a ton of confidence in "The Dark Knight," and regained swagger on the mound could be half the battle for Harvey.
Syndergaard (scheduled to start Sunday vs. Brewers)
Syndergaard arguably has not yet reached his peak performance level over his first three outings, but his stuff can be so overwhelming that it hasn't mattered all that much. The Mets' flamethrower remains undefeated despite allowing an uncharacteristic 15 hits and four walks over his first 16 innings. Expect those rates to diminish as he rounds into form; Syndergaard's continuing health is the much bigger concern for Callaway and company following the partial tear in his right lateral muscle that sidelined the ace for much of 2017.
deGrom (scheduled to start Monday vs. Nationals)
The steadiest member of the "Big 5", deGrom has looked as good as usual, compiling a 3.06 ERA while winning two of his first three starts. deGrom's biggest hiccup came in his last outing, when a pair of infield hits by the Marlins came back to bite him during a four-run rally, but aside from that inning, it's been smooth sailing from the eighth-place finisher in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2017. deGrom kept the Nationals to just two runs (one earned) over six innings in their first matchup on April 5, and he sports a 2.68 ERA over 13 career starts against Washington -- the Mets' biggest competitor for this year's NL East crown.
Wheeler (scheduled to start Tuesday vs. Nationals)
Wheeler has the most tenuous hold on a rotation spot among these five pitchers, but he certainly threw well enough in his first outing Wednesday against Miami to earn at least one more start. The Marlins recorded only one run on two hits over seven innings against Wheeler, who struck out seven. The righty is featuring a new delivery designed to put less stress on an elbow that has already gone through one Tommy John surgery, in addition to a host of other setbacks up and down Wheeler's pitching arm. Wheeler's injury history means no start should be taken for granted, but Wednesday's outing was certainly an encouraging night for the Mets' once-heralded prospect.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.