Logan Verrett quieted the doubters with a brilliantly approached performance on Sunday
Instead of Harvey Day on Sunday, it was Logan’s Run, and did he make a run against the Rockies at Coors Field.
It was a day Terry Collins and the front office decided Harvey Day would take a break in an effort to address his innings concern and perceived fatigued from their star right-hander. In his place, the Mets rolled the dice on Logan Verrett, a guy who was lost in the Rule 5 draft just nine months ago only to have him returned to the organization after the Orioles and Rangers waived him.
He had just 22 1/3 innings on his major league resume heading into Sunday’s start, his first at this level. He took to the mound knowing the club had to win in order to maintain it’s five game lead over the Washington Nationals for first place in the National League East.
So aside from a lot of uncertainty, Verrett was pitching with some decently high stakes, plus the daunting task of pitching in Coors Field, a stadium which had yielded 46 runs in the first two games of the series.
He was clearly nervous. It showed in the first inning, He was deliberate, he was nibbling around the strike zone. He proceeded to allow to singles to start his outing to Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu. It wasn’t looking good quickly.
But then Verrett induced a 3-6-1 double play off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez, which advanced Blackmon to third but he suddenly had two outs.
It was at this point Verrett appeared to settle down and started throwing his pitches effectively in the bottom of the strike zone.
And he didn’t look back. He would allow only a solo home run to Gonzalez in the fourth inning and a sixth inning single to Nolan Arenado in an otherwise brilliant performance for eight innings, in which he allowed four hits and one walk with eight strike outs for the first big league win of his young career.
“About the fifth inning on he just got better,” manager Terry Collins said about Verrett. “The location of his pitches got better. He was very impressive.”
Verrett, who had spent much of the season pitching in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, clearly had an idea on how to tackle the Colorado hitters in the high altitude of Coors Field. And, he thinks that experience played to his advantage on Sunday.
“I think it definitely helped pitching on the West Coast,” Verrett said. “You’re kind of used to the pop-ups always having a chance to go out. So you try to keep that ball down a little more, focus a little more on every pitch.”
As the game went on, it was clear what the rookie’s strategy and game plan was coming into the game. He threw a bevy of breaking balls and change-ups down but was clearly trying to keep the ball away from the hitters, disabling their ability to turn on his pitches. Of course, he had good action on those pitches and his change-ups in particular to the left-handers. It was diving down and away, clearly playing against the Rockies game plan, which was obviously to do nothing but swing for the fences.
“I joked with [Matt Harvey] the other day,” Verrett said. “I said, ‘Why is everybody freaking out? Don’t they know I’m a way better pitcher than you are?’ He laughed. It was just all fun. He’s a good guy. We played together a few years back in the Cape Cod summer league. I think he knew I’d be able to go out there and give us a chance to win a ballgame.”
Verrett exceeded every expectation put on him on Sunday, which was essentially to survive into the middle of the game while preserving the lead. Not only did he do that, he preserved a bullpen which has been overtaxed in recent days.
“I don’t think his job was to replace Matt Harvey today,” Anthony Recker said after the game. “We just wanted him to go out there and give us six, seven quality innings. He was able to give us eight very quality innings. He did an amazing job saving the bullpen there.”
In a series highlighted by hits, runs and poor pitching, Verrett made quality pitching the story in a place where it’s so difficult to be effective for any length of time, let alone eight innings. Whatever role he’s played in, he’s offered Collins stability and reassurance, whether it’s been in his limited relief appearances or in this start on Sunday.
He made his manager look brilliant and the naysayers look stupid, including yours truly.
For his effort, he earned his keep on the roster ahead of the club activating David Wright on Monday. He was destined to go back to Las Vegas for a week as he recovers from this start, but the club decided to reward him with a stay on the team, and demoting Dario Alvarez instead.
“It’s a good feeling. I’m not going to lie,” Verrett explained smiling. “Everybody during their rookie season for the most part goes up and down quite a bit. As far as that side, the business side, I understand completely.
“To be up here, and knowing that I’m probably going to stick for the rest of the year, it’s quite a relief and a good feeling, especially with us in the playoff hunt right now,” Verrett concluded.
Collins said beginning Thursday, Verrett will work in short relief for the club, as well as possibly serving as the spot starter for when they skip Noah Syndergaard down the stretch.