NEW YORK — Throughout the Mets season, David Peterson thrived as the stress escalated.
From pitching during the extended wait for the birth of his first son to floating between class AAA Syracuse and the big leagues, Peterson has managed to rise above adversity.
Through no fault of his own, Peterson was fired with the return of Jacob deGrom in late July. But when his number was called to start the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Braves, Peterson continued to prove why he’s such a valuable cog in the Mets machine.
He finished with 5⅓ innings of scoreless work with five strikeouts and three hits and three walks allowed and came out to a standing ovation after knocking out Matt Olson for the final off his start after 81 pitches in the 8- 5 Mets to jump-start a double sweep on the Braves on Saturday at Citi Field.
“These games, the double games, when the guys got hurt, I think it’s time for me to step in and make it feel like a seamless transition for when they come in and out,” said said Peterson. “It’s about showing up at the ballpark every day, doing my job and controlling what I can control. I can’t control what the front office does, what happens with the team. I can control the days when I’m told I’m ‘taking the ball and going out there and doing my job.”
Max Scherzer got up in Game 2 and went seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts to close out a claimed 6-2 victory in the nightcap. With two wins, the Mets improved to 69-39 and edged the Braves 5.5 games for first place in the National League East.
“You play the game to play against the best, especially deep into the season,” said Scherzer, who improved to 8-2 with a 1.98 ERA. “You work here in Eastern Newfoundland. You face so many tough opponents that you want to go out there and match them and beat them. It’s rewarding when that happens.”
A day after the Mets’ bullpen was strained after Taijuan Walker’s early exit in the second inning, Peterson set the tone with a big start for the doubleheader. Peterson has a 2.39 ERA over his last seven starts with 54 strikeouts over that span.
After picking up his sixth win of the season, the 26-year-old left-hander was opted for class AAA Syracuse, but that likely won’t be the last time he’s seen in the big leagues.
Up and down
With no openings in the starting rotation, the Mets will look to Tylor Megill to fill in as a heavy hitter in the bullpen when he returns from injury in late August or early September.
Peterson has also worked in two relief appearances over the past month, giving up three earned runs in 1⅓ innings in half relief, and would enjoy a role in the bullpen.
With Drew Smith and Tommy Hunter injured, the Mets could also test Peterson’s ability out of the bullpen. But he will first have to prove that he can adapt in the middle of games. The only other left-hander among Mets relievers is Joely Rodriguez.
“The first two times in my career that I came out of the bullpen, it was a piggyback thing or a multi-inning thing early in the game,” Peterson said. “It was nice to have a few different experiences really out of the bullpen under my belt. The goal is for this team to win and for us to achieve our ultimate goal. Any way I can help, c is what I’m here to do.”
Peterson continues to be a critical depth element for the Mets rotation as he filled in effectively when injuries hit Megill, Scherzer, Walker and illness in Chris Bassitt. The Mets have another doubleheader against the Phillies on Aug. 20 where Peterson could be used.
Saturday’s start was a rough one from Peterson, who struggled with his command as just 59.3% of his throws were strikes. He made the critical takedowns, starting in the first inning when Francisco Lindor landed a line drive from Robbie Grossman with the bases loaded.
He also featured a slight increase in speed that could play well out of the bullpen. He hit 98.9 mph with his lead in the opening frame and averaged 95 mph with that pitch in the game.
Peterson was helped by Lindor’s defensive acumen once in the top of the fourth inning when Orlando Arcia made a change to start a late-inning play with runners in the corners. In the frame, Peterson also rallied from a 3-1 count to freeze Grossman for a strikeout and the inning opener.
“For me, I was just trying to get as far in the game as possible,” Peterson said. “I felt really good and I felt like I had more, but they made a change. I think my goal was to throw as long as possible and throw until Buck (Showalter) take the ball.”
Francisco Lindor locked up
There hasn’t been a better hitter on the Mets roster than Lindor over the past month.
The Mets shortstop continued to provide in major fashion in Saturday’s opening win. He went 3 for 4 with a double, two runs and three RBIs. He has 77 RBIs on the season.
He helped widen the Mets advantage to 5-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning with a two-run double off Tyler Matzek that hit the thin orange line atop the center field wall. He cruised through another run on a sacrificial fly in the bottom of the seventh to push the Mets ahead 8-2.
Lindor added a single as part of a three-run third inning in the night game, extending his on-base streak to 14 games.
“We want to be recognized as the team that grinds down pitch after pitch and won’t give up no matter what the score,” Lindor said. “Even if the last two innings, where we’re up or down. Grinding always helps us.”
Over the past 30 days, Lindor has led the Mets with a slash of .354/.425/.616 — all team highs. He has scored 23 runs, hit six doubles and had 21 RBIs and 16 walks since early July.
The Mets scored 14 runs in the two wins without hitting a home run. Pete Alonso was 3-for-4 with a run and his 93rd RBI leading the major leagues in Game 2.
“Having a great collective effort, having a great team approach, it’s great,” Alonso said. “The way we headed the bases, the way we were able to attack opposing pitchers was great. We got the clutch up when we needed it. I felt like our guys did an amazing job in delivering big hits, whether it’s doubles into the spread or drawing walks or just hitting those big hits with guys in scoring position.”