With Zack Wheeler‘s season officially over, the Mets decided to test the waters of their rotation with a few more starts from Corey Oswalt. While he definitely hasn’t been as sharp as he was through July (.949 opponent OPS and 7.37 ERA over his last 28.1 innings), Oswalt still managed to keep a lid on the Washington Nationals over five innings in yesterday’s 6-0 loss.
Much like his two slices of starting work against the Phillies and Red Sox, there wasn’t a lot to write home about in terms of dominant stuff. With four strikeouts contrasting four hits and two walks, Oswalt was able to work to contact, eventually limiting line drives and hard hits altogether after a loud first three innings.
The only tangible damage Washington managed against Oswalt came in the third inning, when Trea Turner launched a two-run homer to left field to get the Nationals on the board first. Up to that point, Oswalt had thrown an acceptable 22 of 33 pitches for strikes, but only had one swing and miss. Five of his first 11 batters faced swung at the first pitch, for that matter. As their three hits and two walks leading up to the homer, there was a clear game plan in Washington’s dugout, and in some respects, Oswalt was fortunate to have only been tagged for the home run.
In any case, Oswalt’s change in approach yielded much better results following the at-bat. Especially relative to the note he went out on two-thirds of the way through his third inning in Boston, the bounceback was certainly a nice sight. The rookie right-hander fought his way ahead of Bryce Harper in a 1-2 count before jamming him for a soft lineout to short, and again versus Anthony Rendon, who fell behind 0-2 before lining out to right.
As the fourth inning came around, Ryan Zimmerman led off with an infield hit, and Matt Wieters worked ahead 3-0, another blowup and subsequent pitching change seemed imminent. Nonetheless, Oswalt worked his way back into a two-strike count, induced a flyout to right, and – after Zimmerman was caught stealing second – extorted a weak groundout from Wilmer Difo with a much-improved 1-2 curveball.
Oswalt worked a three-up, three-down fifth, striking out Michael Taylor and Trea Turner in an efficient frame dictated by a smart sequence of changeups and nibbling four-seam fastballs. Having lowered his ERA to 6.08, it isn’t clear by any means how much trust will be put in Oswalt going forward as the Mets try figuring out the back-end of their starting rotation. Nonetheless, his resourceful and steadfast ability to pitch to contact and limit walks definitely warrants some degree of consideration as the offseason looms closer.