After just one night in the nation’s capital, it’s already abundantly clear that Chris Bassitt would have fit in just fine with the gritty, relentless 1986 World Series-winning New York Mets — providing an underlying edge and tenacity that this franchise’s version needed heading into 2022.
The 33-year-old toughed out a six-inning, eight-strikeout, scoreless gem on Saturday night to get a win in his Mets debut with no at-bat more indicative of his gumption than a first-inning confrontation with Juan Soto.
Washington’s superstar and early NL MVP frontrunner got ahead 3-0 before Bassitt came all the way back to strike him out, blowing a fastball up in the zone past him.
“I don’t care who you are, I’m coming after you,” Bassitt said after the Mets’ 5-0 victory in his first start since being acquired from the Oakland Athletics this winter. “I faced [Shohei] Ohtani a lot, I faced [Mike] Trout a lot. I don’t care about the name on the back of your jersey, I’m coming.
“That’s been my mentality no matter who I face. I know he’s probably the best hitter in the world, but I don’t care.”
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It’s more confidence than braggadocio on a team that needed an injection of both after failing to live up to expectations last season. A roster on paper that looked destined for a legitimate playoff push fell woefully short behind uncertainty in the clubhouse or the man filling out the lineup card.
“It kind of verified what we had heard, and thought, and saw in the spring,” Mets first-year manager Buck Showalter said. “Good teammate, really good teammate… There’s a real unity there with those guys.”
Showalter’s Mets already look abundantly different — not just in the win-loss column early on, either.
They’re playing freely for a manager that has their back, never more so evident than when Francisco Lindor became the fourth instance of a Mets player getting plunked by a Nationals pitch in just two games on Friday night — the skipper bounding out of the dugout screaming toward the Washington mound and dugout after his star shortstop took a fastball off the C-flap of his helmet.
Lindor and Pete Alonso — whose grand slam was the decisive blow on Saturday night to give the Mets the win — were each hit near the head area by Nationals pitching during the opening series. And while there were plenty of opportunities to retaliate, Bassitt instead mowed down his new division rivals instead.
OK, so maybe it’s not exactly how the 1986 Mets would have handled things. But it was just as effective, and the mindset relayed by the right-hander certainly hearkens back to such winning philosophies.
“We’ve got two guys with completely busted mouths, and they’re in the lineup the next day,” Bassitt said. “To be on a team that wants to grind as hard as this team, good luck. There’s a lot of guys, a lot of teams where it’s all or nothing. This team is not that.
“We’re just going to grind you until you break.”