Chris Bassitt said he was sorry, and the result was his finest and longest outing of the season.
The slumping starting pitcher admitted to apologizing and making an improved effort to work with and listen to catcher Tomas Nido in the days leading up to his eight shutout innings in the Mets’ 4-0 win Tuesday night over the Brewers at Citi Field.
Bassitt had expressed his frustration after going winless with a 7.62 ERA over his previous five starts, and he explained why after allowing three hits and striking out seven on 109 pitches before Drew Smith recorded the final three outs to complete the shutout.
“Relieved more than anything. I think with the extra time we had I was able to completely break down what was going on,” Bassitt said. “Pitching itself, I didn’t make any adjustments. This was all on me. I thought me and Nido weren’t on the same page at all.
“The more I fought it, the worse I did. So we spent the last week getting to know each other.”
Bassitt, a 2021 All-Star who was obtained from Oakland in the offseason, said Mark Canha — a teammate with both the A’s and the Mets — has “seen me the most by far of anybody here” and also told him “you’re just not pitching like yourself.”
Nido admitted the miscommunication, basically over pitch sequencing, “went both ways.” Either way, Bassitt had posted a 2.34 ERA through May 18, but that figure ballooned by more than two full runs to 4.35 overall after his next five outings.
“In the spring it was basically me and [starting catcher James] McCann and when he went down [with a hand injury], I just thought in a couple of games, we’ll be on the same page [with the other catchers], but it just never happened,” Bassitt said. “I totally blame myself, and I honestly apologized to Nido and [catcher Patrick] Mazeika.
“I feel like that should’ve been an obvious thing to do, but I really regret not doing it a couple of weeks ago. I made a key judgment error that lasted a couple of weeks.”
The last couple of weeks also included a tightening of the NL East race, but Bassitt’s gem and two more RBIs from Pete Alonso kept the Mets’ cushion at five games over the sizzling Braves, who grabbed their 13th straight victory Tuesday night in Washington.
The Mets (41-21) held a 10 ¹/₂-game lead on June 1 before posting a 5-5 record on 10-game western swing. Buck Showalter certainly wasn’t surprised that the Braves have remedied their championship hangover after a 23-27 start.
“You’re all gonna seek your level in a baseball season,” Showalter said. “Everybody knew they were too good to [not] get there.”
The Phillies also have won 10 of 11 to climb back above .500 (32-30) following the firing of manager Joe Girardi this month. The Mets won’t see the rising Braves again until July 11 nor the Phils until Aug. 12, but Showalter insisted the team is looking solely at the slate immediately ahead of it, with six more games to play on this homestand against the Brewers and the Marlins.
Bassitt certainly appeared more focused than he’s been in weeks, and especially aggressive with his fastball in the early innings in permitting one hit while facing the minimum 12 batters through four.
The Mets had jumped on Milwaukee starter Adrian Houser for three runs in the opening frame, featuring run-scoring hits by Alonso and Jeff McNeil and a sacrifice fly by Eduardo Escobar.
Following a heads-up play on the bases in the fifth by Starling Marte to advance to second on Francisco Lindor’s fly ball to left, Alonso ripped another RBI single to center for his 12th RBI in nine games and his 59th of the season, tying Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez for the major league lead.
Bassitt also was aided defensively by a couple of sparkling double plays to get through the sixth, before the righty fanned two in each of the next two innings to maintain the four-run advantage through eight.
“We’ve seen the level he’s capable of pitching, and we’ve seen how frustrating it’s been for him lately,” Showalter said. “Guys like him, you just trust the moxie and the want-to that they have, and they make the adjustments. … He was the difference tonight.”
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