Jenrry Mejia didn’t allow an earned run over five innings of pitching Sunday to lead the Buffalo Bisons to a 9-3 win over the Pawtucket Red Sox in the opener of a two-game series at Coca-Cola Field.
There was a time for the Bisons when Mejia was the biggest story in town, the Mets’ hottest young prospect.
That was before he had Tommy John surgery last year, before his stint as a relief pitcher, and before new top prospect Zach Wheeler came to town.
One night after Wheeler allowed just two hits and one run over six innings in his home debut, Mejia took the mound against Pawtucket before 7,745, ready to prove he wasn’t an afterthought with the Mets’ rotation seemingly crowded already.
With manager Wally Backman standing next to him, Mejia said he doesn’t feel extra pressure with Wheeler pitching well.
“No, I feel happy because he’s a top prospect,” Mejia said. “When they pitch really good [I’m happy]. If I see something wrong with them, I tell them. I say, you know, you have something wrong and let him know this is how you pitch right here, because [Wheeler is] coming from Double-A.”
Aided by a few great defensive plays, Mejia shut out the Red Sox through four innings before two throwing errors in the fifth allowed two unearned runs to score. He struck out two while giving up six hits and a walk over 70 pitches.
“He showed signs of having pretty good command and then he struggled a couple of innings where he fell behind some hitters,” Backman said. Mejia has had good movement on his pitches while struggling with control at times, but Backman added, “overall, he pitched a pretty good ballgame. Threw all of his pitches for strikes. We had him on a pitch count tonight. We had him between 70 and 80. He got to 70 then we had that long inning, so instead of letting him go out and face two hitters, we just shut him down.”
It was Mejia’s longest outing in his three starts since returning from the bullpen and his longest outing - starting or relieving - since June 4. His longest stint since returning from the surgery in May is six innings.
There doesn’t seem to be a place for Mejia in the big league rotation, which is why was sent to the bullpen, to see if he can work as a reliever. But as a starter this year, he owns a 0.95 ERA. In relief, it’s 5.48.
“I have to keep working hard never think about it,” Mejia said of his preference on relieving or starting. “I feel better like a starter, but if the Mets want me as a reliever, that’s what I have to do.”
Lucas Duda went 3 for 5 with two doubles and three runs scored in his return from a double root canal. Adam Loewen was 2 for 5 with two runs and Josh Satin was 1 for 3 while extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
The Bisons scored twice in the second inning and never lost the lead, adding two in the fifth, three in the sixth and another in the seventh.
Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey was set to be Boston’s major-league closer at the start of the season before injuring his thumb in spring training. He is close to a return to the majors. Bailey came in with two outs in the seventh, down by 9-2.
Bailey retired all four hitters he faced, getting a strikeout, two ground outs and a pop up.