With one gutsy move in the bottom of the ninth in D.C., manager Terry Collins now controls the narrative for his 2017 New York Mets.
Bottom of the ninth. One out. Bases loaded. The two-run lead in Washington D.C. with one of baseball’s most feared hitters at the plate in Bryce Harper.
Mano-y-mano with New York Mets closer Jeurys Familia.
The tension couldn’t be more taught with the injury-plagued Mets desperate for a victory after losing six straight.
The only thing left was the first pitch.
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Terry Collins marches out of the dugout. He promptly tells his struggling closer to, “Give me the ball,” and smacks him on the backside, not to crush his confidence too severely. Familia can only shake his head as he leaves the mound, pondering what just happened.
For Familia, a man who saved 51 ballgames a season ago and who’s seen the heights of success in the National League Championship Series, this was unforeseen and uncomfortable territory. T.C. opted for Josh Edgin, the lefty who’s pitched very well against Harper in the past.
Edgin promptly forced Harper to hit a weak one right back to the mound for the unconventional yet pretty 1-2-3 double-play.
Game over. More importantly, the season has officially started.
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What Terry Collins did during his Mets 7-5 victory on Saturday afternoon against the NL East-leading Nationals wasn’t just a managerial move that should just hide within the cracks of the box score. Collins actually made a difference. He showed the entire clubhouse that he wasn’t afraid of managing baseball the way it’s supposed to be managed.
He went with his gut (despite those sparkling career numbers in favor of Edgin over Harper), and pulled the trigger.
More importantly, he changed the narrative for his ballclub.
Nobody is hurting more than the Mets at this moment. Six straight losses (prior to Saturday), Yoenis Cespedes now on the DL, Noah Syndergaard scratched due to an elbow issue (hold your breath), and a combination of nagging injuries to the likes of Wilmer Flores, Lucas Duda and more is just part of the issue for this ballclub.
They’ve played recently as if the club’s soul was missing.
Collins, unafraid to be criticized, appropriately mixed it up.
“If we’d have won seven in a row, I probably would have left Jeurys out there, because that’s what he’s here to do,” Collins said, via Stats, LLC.
“I know we’re going to look up in a month and he’s going to have 20 saves and he’ll be OK,” Collins said in reference to his all-star closer. “But as he’s getting his feet back on the ground here, I just didn’t like the matchup.”
“The way things have been going, that’s a big weight off our shoulders tonight,” Collins said. “That was a big pitch for us.”
He even made the move after Familia showed a semi-bounce back in striking out speedy Trea Turner with the bases loaded.
In today’s day and age, the move to take out your bonafide closer in a situation like this just doesn’t happen. Egos and confidence are brought up, fearing a downward spiral shortly thereafter.
In a situation the New York Mets were in, Collins rose to the occasion. Not only did his move win the game, but it put every single player on notice that they can, indeed, be replaced in a game at any given moment.
Perform, or be replaced.
The only thing left is to see if it translates into success during the weekend.