Chris Bassitt is approaching his start in the winner-take-all Game 3 of the National League Wild Card Series on Sunday night with the same advice your grandma would tell you before asking out your crush.
“You have to be yourself as best as you possibly can,” he began. “Obviously, the moment is going to be pretty big but I think whichever team can be themselves the most will have the advantage.”
That means trying not to do too much in a high-stakes situation, which of course is easier said than done considering just what’s at stake for the Mets.
A win means they move on to the NLDS to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. A loss sends them home much earlier than anyone expected even two weeks ago when they were still favored to win the National League East.
No pressure, right?
“Anyone that says [there’s no pressure] is a liar. I’ve told a lot of guys on the team that haven’t been in the playoffs that whoever can be themselves the most has the biggest advantage,” Bassitt said. “The adrenaline is already massive, you don’t need Red Bulls anymore… Whoever can make the moment not as big as it is will have the advantage there.”
But this is what was expected when the 33-year-old righty was acquired by the Mets via trade over the winter.
“When I got traded over, it was like ‘OK, here we go.’ The reason I say that in my opinion, there isn’t a harder city in our country to play a sport,” he said. “New York is an absolute gauntlet every night. Mentally, I thought I was mentally tough enough to handle New York. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be playing for a team like the Mets because I’ve proven to myself that I can handle it. You can handle the scrutiny, you can handle the boos, all that stuff.”
In his first year with the Mets, Bassitt already has some experience with the brighter spotlight. Apart from two playoff games back in 2020 with the Oakland Athletics, he got a taste of postseason intensity when he got the ball for New York’s division-deciding series finale against the Braves down in Atlanta.
Needing a win to hold the tiebreaker, Bassitt was smacked for four runs on three hits in just 2.2 innings of work as the Mets were swept. Consider it a lesson learned.
“I think I tried a little too hard in that game,” he said. “Instead of pitching my game and being myself, I thought I was overthrowing at times, not attacking the zone, not being in the zone, walking too many guys. I just think it was me trying too hard instead of just trusting your ability, trusting your stuff, and pounding the zone.
Against a Padres lineup that shelled Max Scherzer for seven runs in Game 1 before getting shut down by Jacob deGrom on Saturday, Bassitt is going to provide a different look compared to his two predecessors. He’s a hurler that pitches for contact and navigates his way through traffic.
It’s a formula that works for him. He went 15-9 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.145 WHIP this season.
“Whatever happens, happens. That’s who I am,” Bassitt said. ” I’m a contact pitcher and walking guys isn’t acceptable for me.”
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