A mid-April loss can’t be given great importance, but the bullpen management of manager Mickey Callaway is a bad sign for the New York Mets.
The importance of a mid-April game can be overstated, but every game within what looks sure to be a tight NL East race will matter. The New York Mets wound up beating the Philadelphia Phillies 7-6 in 11 innings Monday night, but on the idea of “process over results” Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway should draw some scrutiny.
In the eighth inning, as the Mets clung to a one-run lead, reliever Jeurys Familia was not at his best. A single and a walk, then two more walks with a fortunate double play via a great play by Jeff McNeil at third base in-between, proved it. Robert Gsellman took Familia’s place in the game, and promptly walked in the tying run on four pitches.
The Mets made a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Mariners during the offseason, which got them second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz. Diaz had a major league-high 57 saves for the Mariners last year, and entering Monday he had allowed one run with five saves in seven outings so far this season. He also had not pitched since last Thursday. A high leverage situation in the bottom of the eighth inning would seem to be the time to use your best reliever, who also happens to be pretty well-rested.
Speaking to the media after the game, Callaway explained why Diaz didn’t come in for the final out of the eighth inning.
He’s not going to get four outs. He’s going to get three . . . When we get to the playoffs, he’ll be available for more than three outs.
Diaz has dealt with bone spurs in his elbow before, so some caution can be in play in terms of overworking him. But Callaway has shifted away from his previous preaching of using the best relievers in the most important situations, in favor of old school methods and rigid roles. Oh but, “when we get to the playoffs”, Diaz will be able to pitch more than an inning.
Gsellman came back out and pitched a clean ninth inning, while Luis Avilan allowed two hits in the 10th but was able to escape without allowing a run. The Mets took the lead in the top of the 11th, with the help of an error by Phillies’ first baseman Rhys Hoskins, which led to Diaz coming in for the bottom half and securing a clean save with three strikeouts.
Had the game remained tied, Callaway said Drew Gagnon would have been summoned for the bottom of the 11th inning. Why? Callaway added that his closer will never pitch in a tie game on the road.
The Mets are 10-6, with a half-game lead over the Phillies and the Atlanta Braves entering Tuesday. But Callaway’s misuse of the bullpen stood out Monday night, and probably would have caused a loss if not for some batted ball luck going the Mets’ way twice. Those kind of things tend to even out, and Callaway will have to re-modernize how he manages the bullpen to minimize the impact of random occurrences.