December 3, 2022

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Megill continues to impress in Mets' 'time of need'

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PHOENIX — Tylor Megill answered the call when neither Jacob deGrom nor Max Scherzer could start Opening Day for the Mets. Since then, he’s been the breakout star of one of MLB’s top rotations, as the 26-year-old has kept dealing and given the club optimism for what’s to come.

On Sunday, Megill delivered 6 2/3 stellar innings of two-run ball to lift New York to a 6-2 win over Arizona. The 6-foot-7 right-hander carved through the D-backs’ lineup for much of the afternoon, striking out a season-high seven in his longest outing of the year thus far.

With deGrom (stress reaction in right scapula) still on the injured list and right-hander Taijuan Walker (right shoulder bursitis) having missed the past two weeks, Megill has given the Mets another steady presence alongside Scherzer, Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco in the rotation.

“He’s served a great need in a time of need,” manager Buck Showalter said.

Megill set himself up for a lengthy start early, as he retired Arizona in order in both the first and second, needing only eight pitches in each frame. He gave up only five hits, including a 467-foot solo homer to Christian Walker in the fourth and an RBI single to Nick Ahmed in the seventh, which came on Megill’s 92nd and final pitch of the day.

The Mets will be watching Megill’s workload this season, considering he pitched a career-high 130 innings in 2021, a year after he didn’t pitch in games due to the canceled Minor League season in ’20. But Megill’s innings and pitch counts have steadily increased this April, and Sunday, he was ready to take the mound in the seventh for the first time in ‘22.

“The situation called for it — low pitch count, and we had a three-run lead, so I would think, ‘Why not? Let him go,’” Megill said. “I wanted to go out there.”

Megill may not have completed the seventh, but he exited to a loud ovation from the large contingent of Mets fans in the stands, who were again treated to another terrific performance. Through four outings, Megill has a 2.35 ERA and 0.91 WHIP with 22 strikeouts and three walks in 23 innings. New York is 12-5 — and 4-0 when Megill has started.

Eventually, hitters will have more video to watch of Megill, who has made only 22 big league starts. He’s still facing some teams for the first time — like the D-backs — and will encounter new challenges down the line.

However, Megill is already preparing for when that may happen. He’s been working on his curveball, which he threw only five times over his first three outings while relying heavily on his fastball (55% usage). On Sunday, he still threw his heater 56 times (61% of his pitches), but he mixed in six curves as well.

“I’ve been working on it, trying to get it game-ready,” Megill said. “I threw today, I would say, probably about three or four good ones, and then one that almost hit a guy in the head. Just being able to have a pitch that starts [at the] top of the zone to get them off my fastball up in the zone — really, I guess, secondary reads in the box — will allow my fastball to play a little better.”

The Mets took two of three from the D-backs and have five consecutive series victories to open a season for the second time in franchise history, as they also won five in a row to open 2018. They’ll look to set a new record in St. Louis, where they open a three-game series Monday.

The starting rotation has been an integral part of New York’s early success. If Megill — who opened the year with an 11 1/3-inning scoreless streak — can continue to build off his recent showings, it will make one of the Mets’ top units even stronger, for both the short and long term.

“He’s been great, man. I know a lot of people underestimated him,” designated hitter J.D. Davis said. “Since Opening Day, he started turning some heads, and I think that was the real turning point in him, just making that extra step and getting better mentally. And you guys have seen it every start so far, and we’re all impressed. …

“When Jake comes back and to have our full rotation with him in there, it’s going to be scary.”

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