Rookie manager Luis Rojas made three crucial bullpen decisions on Wednesday. The final one cemented another brutal New York Mets loss.
The New York Mets are only six games into the season, but they’ve already suffered two bullpen blowups. The first was an Edwin Diaz blown save in game two of the season and the second came on Wednesday night against the Boston Red Sox. First-year manager Luis Rojas had his first “uh, oh” moment of the season.
Let’s break down Rojas’s management of his bullpen—or better yet, mismanagement—down into three crucial decisions.
Relieving Jacob deGrom With Seth Lugo
Rojas backed up Jacob deGrom‘s six strong innings of two-run ball with his best reliever—Seth Lugo. The bullpen ace gave up a solo home run that tied the game at three, but we can’t fault Rojas for going with Lugo.
Again, he’s the bullpen ace and he was almost unhittable in his two prior appearances. He hung a breaking ball that Christian Vazquez smoked deep into the empty seats in Citi Field. That happens from time to time—even to the best relievers. This was the right decision.
Leaning On Justin Wilson Again
Following Lugo’s one inning of work, Rojas turned it over to lefty Justin Wilson. Normally, Lugo is a guy who the Mets like to stretch out for multiple innings, but Wilson is another one of the team’s go-to guys in the pen. On its face, this move made sense.
But when you dig a little deeper, the decision to go with Wilson is a little stranger. Wednesday marked Wilson’s second consecutive night of work and fourth appearance in six days.
“He’s a competitor, a fearless competitor,” Rojas said of Wilson via Joe Pantorno of amNewYork. “That’s why he pitches in situations like that.”
Sure, Wilson is a competitor, but even the most cutthroat relievers reach a breaking point. The obvious counterpoint here is that in a shortened season there isn’t much time to waste. Wilson is one of the best in New York’s bullpen and Rojas was trying to secure a precious win with a guy who had yet to give up a run this season. Going with the lefty in relief of Lugo was a bit of a head-scratcher, but we understand the logic.
Waiting Too Long To Go With Dellin Betances
The crucial moment for Rojas in this game came after Mitch Moreland’s swinging bunt with the bases loaded tied the game. It made sense to leave in the lefty to face the lefty. But with the right-handed Vazquez coming to the plate, going with Dellin Betances was the obvious choice. After all, Betances was waiting patiently in the bullpen for his opportunity.
Instead, Rojas chose to stick with Wilson and he was punished for it. Vazquez lined a single to right field, plating two and giving the Red Sox a 6-3 lead that would prove insurmountable. Allowing the right-handed bat to face the overworked lefty hurler was the decision that cost the Mets.
The Mets would rally in the last two frames and almost pull off the comeback, but it was too little, too late. The damage was done. All in all, this felt like a very Mickey Callaway-esque moment for Luis Rojas.
On one hand, this is just one game and it’s unfair to beat Rojas into the ground for mismanaging his bullpen. On the other hand, in a 60-game sprint, every loss is magnified.
In Rojas’s defense, outside of Lugo, Wilson, Betances, Diaz, and Jeurys Familia, there aren’t many reliable arms in his bullpen. He’s going to have to lean on these five if the Mets have any chance of making some noise in 2020.
This one came back to bite him. Next time it might not.
“[They] blew the lead but we trust our guys so much,” Rojas said via Tim Healey of Newsday. “We know they’re going to come back tomorrow ready. To take on tomorrow’s game. Something you’ve got to do in a season like this is recover quickly because the next thing you know, you’ve got to be good.”
The Mets will wrap up the season series with Boston on Thursday night (7:07 p.m. ET). Steven Matz (0-0, 1.50 ERA, 7 SO) is set to take on Boston’s Martin Perez (0-1, 7.20 ERA, 2 SO).