Megill hurt by Giants' homer attack

August 25th, 2021

NEW YORK -- In another reality, might be winding down his season, perhaps looking at a September shutdown as the Mets managed his workload with ample alternatives to replace him. Megill has long since proven his worth, stepping into a rotation void during a summer in which the team never intended for him to reach the Majors. Over his first seven starts, he was dynamic.

But as his innings have piled up, Megill has begun to struggle, allowing seven more runs Tuesday in the Mets’ 8-0 loss to the Giants at Citi Field. Since posting a 2.04 ERA over his first seven outings, Megill has produced a 7.03 mark in his last five.

“You could just see it,” Megill said. “I didn’t have command of my stuff, and then you get exposed for that, and they do what they do when you don’t have your stuff.”

Megill’s latest issues came courtesy of the long ball, which San Francisco used liberally in knocking him out of the game in the fourth inning. Brandon Belt homered in the first to give the Giants a lead they would never relinquish, before Mike Yastrzemski hit a two-run shot in the second, and LaMonte Wade Jr. and Belt went back-to-back off Megill in the fourth.

The Mets could not come close to matching that sort of output, despite Francisco Lindor’s return to the lineup after nearly six weeks on the injured list.

“I would have loved to start that rally today,” Lindor said, “but I didn’t come through.”

Nor did any other Met on either side of the ball. From the start, it was clear that Megill’s command was far less than perfect. Belt’s first home run came on an 84 mph slider that hung over the heart of the plate, while Yastrzemski hit his on a 95 mph fastball that caught far too much plate.

Of greater concern may not be the individual misses, but the potential reason behind them. Megill has thrown exactly 100 innings between the Major and Minor Leagues this season, after appearing only in instructional league last year. Prior to that, Megill’s career high was 71 2/3 innings back in 2019 -- a number he’s long since blown past this summer.

While Megill’s velocity continues to hover in the mid-90s, with one fastball on Tuesday hitting 96 mph, fatigue can often affect command before it does anything to diminish radar-gun readings. Megill downplayed any notion that he might be feeling the effects of his career-high innings total, but the correlation is nonetheless stark. Before passing his 2019 innings mark, Megill was drawing comparisons to Nolan Ryan for his ERA as a rookie. Since that time, he has allowed earned runs more than three times as frequently.

When asked about his energy level at this point in the season, Megill replied: “Great, body feels great, so we’ll just keep going forward.” His manager later corroborated that evaluation.

“I don’t want to really attribute tonight’s rough start to [fatigue],” Luis Rojas said. “The stuff was there. The velo was there. He just mislocated, and a good-hitting team is going to make you pay when you mislocate. I think this outing is just going to get him better.”

As Rojas noted, Megill is not only a rookie, but one with virtually no experience above Class A ball coming into the season. The Mets’ 23rd-ranked prospect at the time of his callup, Megill wasn’t a significant part of the Mets’ 2021 plans until he pitched his way into the picture.

Now, the Mets intend to continue relying on Megill every five games almost regardless of his performance. With Noah Syndergaard trending toward a bullpen role and Jacob deGrom unlikely to return until late September (if he does at all), the Mets have few obvious options to replace Megill in the rotation. Trevor Williams, a Trade Deadline acquisition who pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings of relief behind Megill, could start if the Mets need him to. So could Jordan Yamamoto, who threw two scoreless innings Tuesday in his second Minor League rehab outing.

But Megill’s ceiling is higher than both of theirs, giving the Mets incentive to keep feeding him innings.

For as long as the Mets remain within reasonable striking distance of the Braves in the NL East, they’ll continue chasing the division title with the best players that they can.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” Lindor said. “It’s time to go. It’s been time to go. We’ve got to find a way, continue to compete, continue to grind, not make excuses. We’ve just got to go out there and battle.”