Misch hit hard in loss, may lose spot to Mejia

Misch hit hard in loss, may lose spot to Mejia

ATLANTA -- Some 900 miles from where the Braves were blasting Pat Misch in a 9-3 Mets loss Monday at Turner Field, top prospect Jenrry Mejia was busy dazzling the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs in Buffalo.

These were not unrelated occurrences. Mejia's performance meant that Misch's days with the Mets may be numbered -- if they're not already complete.

"I think you have to consider that," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said when asked about the prospect of starting Mejia on Saturday at Wrigley Field. "I think we'd like to see that."

Having given the Mets few compelling reasons to stick with him over his first three starts of the season, Misch lasted just three innings in his fourth start, allowing five runs on eight hits. Jason Heyward struck the biggest blow, launching a three-run homer -- the second of his four hits -- off Misch in the second.

At around the same time, Mejia was carrying a no-hitter into the sixth at Buffalo. In his first start with the Bisons after a lengthy stint at Double-A, Mejia struck out nine, allowing one run on five hits, walking one, reportedly reaching the upper-90s with his fastball and needing just 103 pitches to complete eight innings.

Shortly after the Mets lost to the Braves, Manuel was unaware of Mejia's performance. Upon hearing the stat line, he said simply: "Wow."

"If he was that good," Manuel said, "I'd be interested to see that."

With one game remaining before rosters expand, Mejia -- who began this season in the bullpen -- gave the Mets some rather compelling reasons to add him to the roster. The only thing that stood in his way was Misch.

Though the Mets consider the left-handed Misch little more than organizational depth, a Mets official indicated before Monday's game that he could have held onto his rotation spot if he pitched well.

He did not.

Instead, Misch served up Heyward's three-run homer in the second after giving Atlanta two runs in the first. Though none of Misch's four starts this season have been spectacular, each of the first three were at least adequate. This one was not.

"I made some pretty good pitches," Misch said. "But every time I made a mistake, they got to it and put it in play, and seemed to put it in play hard."

The Mets fought back against Braves starter Jair Jurrjens, putting the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the sixth. But Chris Carter grounded out to shortstop to end that threat, and the Mets did not threaten again.

"To win a game you need to have clutch hitting and clutch pitching," Jurrjens said. "I made my pitches when I needed to."

Striking out eight, Jurrjens ceded Josh Thole's triple off the wall, Luis Hernandez's RBI single and Angel Pagan's run-scoring groundout. And nothing else.

"We haven't, for the most part, been very good offensively all year," Manuel said.

But excluding Oliver Perez -- who made his first appearance since Aug. 1, allowing a solo homer to Brian McCann -- the Mets have pitched remarkably well for a sub-.500 team. Monday was an exception, and it carried with it a rather straightforward cause-and-effect.

Because Misch gave them no reason to do otherwise, the Mets should soon turn to Mejia -- he of the upper-90s fastball, the brazen confidence and the upside of a future ace. Now eleven games out of first place, they have unofficially begun to play for next season.

Mejia figures to be a central part of all that.

Though the 20-year-old Mejia began this season in New York, his inconsistencies -- particularly with his secondary pitches -- led the Mets to demote him to Double-A, where he promptly landed on the disabled list with a strained right rotator cuff. When he returned, Mejia dominated the Eastern League, earning a promotion to Triple-A in time for Monday's start.

He dominated there, too.

And if Mejia is to dominate for the Mets next season, they certainly wouldn't mind seeing a preview of it now. Though the Mets were worried about his innings total earlier this season, his shoulder injury worked to keep that number low. Now merely six turns through the rotation remain, and the fact that Mejia started on the same day as Misch was no coincidence.

The Mets are anxious to see what they have.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.