If it was up to Chris Bassitt, he’d pitch 115-120 pitches every time he toed the rubber for the New York Mets.
“But Buck don’t let me,” he jokingly accused manager Buck Showalter of keeping the proverbial leash a bit too tight at times.
Bassitt toughed out eight innings of one-run ball — an unearned run, too — on 114 pitches with eight strikeouts and eight hits allowed in the Mets’ 5-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night at Citi Field. It was the ninth consecutive start in which he went at least six innings and the second time this season that he completed the eighth.
“Everyone’s role is basically different in the aspect of what they do. My job is always to eat innings,” Bassitt said. “It’s not to punch guys out or things like that, it’s just eat innings.
“My mindset hasn’t changed from any outing. I try to go nine every time. I’m not trying to strike anyone out really. Just kind of want to give the bullpen a day off. That’s what I’ve tried to do the last couple years and it seems to work.”
From theory to execution, it was a considerable boost for a Mets team that was looking to give its relievers a break with 15 games over the next 15 days beginning Tuesday night. Only Adam Ottavino was called upon to finish off the ninth inning for Bassitt.
“This is a guy who likes to compete and do what’s asked of him,” Showalter said. “It’s big. The goal is to try and get us back into some sort of rested manner… today’s a big step that Bassitt gave us to get there.”
The 33-year-old right-hander’s workload isn’t all that common in the majors nowadays. Strict pitch counts hovering around that magic 100 number have often limited starters for years now as managers and management alike look for ways to preserve their most valuable arms.
But Showalter doesn’t hesitate to leave Bassitt out just a bit longer. In fact, the four longest outings owned by a Mets starter this season belong to Bassitt. He also leads the team in innings pitched (130) and batters faced (532) — 42 more than Cals Carrasco, who has faced the second-most.
“Everyone’s role is basically different in the aspect of what they do. My job is always to eat innings,” Bassitt said. “It’s not to punch guys out or things like that, it’s just eat innings.”
“I’ve done that for years,” Bassitt said. “I think genuinely that’s why they brought me over here, for that reason. I’m not afraid to go over 100 pitches. It really doesn’t affect me. I’m confident going past 100. I don’t think my stuff declines so I’m fine with that.”
What makes Bassitt’s work all the more impressive is that there’s no drop-off in his stuff when he gets deep into games. In fact, it appears to improve as the workload increases. During this nine-start streak of recording at least six innings, his ERA is at a 2.19, lowering his season mark from 4.01 to 3.39.
“Work your butt off. That’s it,” he said trying to explain how he’s able to maintain his high-performance levels late in games. “Don’t slack in between starts. Just conditioning-wise make sure you’re ready to go… I could go three pitches at you one or two at-bats and then I could go three different pitches at you the next two at-bats. It makes it easy for me.”
It only helps that he has a manager who continues to show the kind of confidence that allows him to replicate these sort of outings.
“[There is an appreciation for Buck]. I take a lot of pride in it,” Bassitt said. “And him kind of giving me that nod of approval makes it a lot easier to work your butt off.”