Things haven’t gone quite as well for the New York Mets ever since they lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Washington Nationals just over a week ago. Is this a temporary issue or is there more to it?
There are so many games during the MLB season that a successful team doesn’t have time to examine each contest. However, there are certain outcomes—like the New York Mets loss to the Washington Nationals on April 16—that can linger and take away good or bad momentum, swinging the pendulum.
Back on April 16, the Mets and ace Jacob deGrom took a 6-1 lead over the Nationals into the eighth inning at Citi Field. After allowing two of the first three batters in the top of the eighth to reach base, manager Mickey Callaway pulled deGrom and called upon Seth Lugo.
Lugo lasted just one batter, throwing nothing but balls and walking Trea Turner to load the bases. Callaway then went to left-handed specialist Jerry Blevins, who promptly served up a two-run single to Bryce Harper.
Callaway once again went to the mound and replaced Blevins with A.J. Ramos. Ramos struck out Ryan Zimmerman but then allowed a single to Pedro Severino and walked pinch-hitter (and former Met) Matt Reynolds, making it a 6-4 game.
Having seen enough of Ramos, Callaway went to his closer, Jeurys Familia, to get a four-out save. Such a situation separates the true closers from the phony ones. Callaway had already used Familia two previous times in the eighth inning this season.
He had been unhittable up to this point, totaling 10 innings, saving seven games, allowing just four hits, not allowing a run and striking out 12. However, on this day, he was off. Familia allowed his first three batters to reach base, turning a 6-4 lead into a 7-6 deficit.
As the Mets came to bat in the bottom of the eighth, they saw a possible 13-2 record and seven-game lead over the defending National League East champions slipping away. The Nationals added a run in the top of the ninth to defeat the Mets 8-6.
Mets fans were interested to see Callaway, a rookie manager, would handle his first failure as skipper. After all, up until that point, most of his pitching changes worked.
Is the bullpen being overused?
Before deGrom’s start against Washington, Zack Wheeler was the only Mets starter to go longer than six innings in a game. That the bullpen imploded in an outing that saw a Mets starter go deeper than any of his rotation-mates was ironic.
Could Callaway be using his bullpen too much? Monday’s loss to the Nationals was a perfect example of over-managing. Using four pitchers trying to hold a five-run lead seemed a bit desperate.
Including that loss to the Nationals, the Mets bullpen has gone 2-2 with a 9.00 ERA, 1.84 WHIP and blown two saves over their past six games. Prior to that, the Mets bullpen was 6-0 with a 1.52 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and had blown just two saves in 14 games.
We’ve yet to reach May and already, four relievers have appeared in at least 50 percent of the teams’ games. Three have appeared in over 60 percent. How long can that hold up? Jeurys Familia has already been asked to record a four-out save four times.
Unfortunately for Callaway, this is the result of being a manager. When you are winning, all your moves make you look like a genius that re-invented the game. When you are losing, you have no idea how to manage a game.
New managers can tend to put too much emphasis on each game and manage like it’s the postseason. While it’s never acceptable to give away games, sometimes a win at all cost mindset isn’t good for the team over the course of 162 games. How Callaway handles his pitching changes the rest of the season will be interesting to see.
As the Mets prepare for their series at St. Louis starting on Tuesday, they finally have a few days to rest their beleaguered bullpen, as their rainout on Sunday has given them two days off.
With their abundant young arms in the rotation, the Mets should start to see their starters stretch out their innings as the weather gets warmer. If that doesn’t happen, the Mets bullpen could face what happened last season with guys being burned out by June.