Jeurys Familia had to scramble. Just an inning before, it looked like there was no need for the Mets closer Monday night. Jacob deGrom had locked down the Nationals for 7.1 innings. This was looking like a job for the middle of the bullpen.
And then it just unraveled in unbelievable fashion. The Mets leaned on the bullpen heavily in their franchise-best start to the season, but Monday night, you have to wonder if that usage may have come back and bit the Mets in the eighth inning.
Mickey Callaway had to use four relievers to get two outs and it ended with the Mets losing 8-6 at Citi Field. Seth Lugo, Jerry Blevins, AJ Ramos and Familia blew a five-run lead, allowing six runs in the eighth.
It was an epic meltdown, but the Mets manager was quick to try and put it in perspective.
“Just unfortunate,” Callaway said. “I think they’ve done a tremendous job, so we can’t let one inning or the two or three batters each of them faced put us in a tailspin. They’ve been tremendous. It was an off night for a few of them, but we have to move on.”
But the Mets need to move on with a careful eye on how they are using that bullpen.
The relievers have logged 55.1 innings to start this season as the starters have struggled to go deep. Familia already leads the National League with nine games finished and seven saves. The bullpen went into the game with big-league leading 1.51 ERA, but dropped to fourth with a 2.28 ERA after Monday night’s disaster. They had six wins, tied for the most in baseball.
Callaway, however, suggested it was a lack of focus.
“That’s a rare thing. I was sitting there before I came in here, trying to think of reasons why it happened,” Callaway said. “The only thing I can come up with is when you have your starting pitcher just dealing like that and he goes out for the eighth, it shouldn’t happen, but maybe guys shut down a little bit mentally.
“All the sudden, things get out of control and they are in the game and they thought they had no chance at pitching. It’s 6-1 in the eighth, maybe they relaxed a little but. I am not sure.”
Despite that heavy early usage and how fast the Mets collapsed, Familia and AJ Ramos said they were locked into the game. Both said they were ready to pitch.
But Familia admitted it snowballed so quickly Monday, he got the call to run in “fast.”
After two singles, Callaway pulled deGrom with one out, up 6-1. That came as Howie Kendrick, who had struck out three times against deGrom, was coming to bat. With deGrom at 103 pitches, Callaway wanted Seth Lugo to face him.
After watching the bullpen dominate during the first 14 games of the season, deGrom was confident walking off the mound. After all, the Mets bullpen had allowed just five earned runs in the first 14 games.
“You are comfortable when those guys come in,” said deGrom with a shrug. “You know they are not perfect. It’s gonna happen. Tonight, we let one get away.”
It got away in spectacular fashion.
Lugo came in and walked Kendrick on four pitches to load the bases. Lefty-specialist Jerry Blevins gave up a two-run single to the Nationals slugger Bryce Harper to make it 6-3. Ramos was up next and got Ryan Zimmerman to strike out looking.
Familia took a deep breath, thinking at least he’d have time to get ready to pitch the ninth, but Ramos lost it.
“I should be throwing more strikes. It’s just one of those things, for whatever reason is a tad off, a touch off,” Ramos said. “Against Zimmerman, I felt good. I felt locked in. And then it fizzled out from there.”
Pedro Severino singled to left to load the bases and then Ramos walked Matt Reynolds to bring in a run. With the Mets up 6-4, Familia was hustled into the game. He gave up a two-run single to Wilmer Difo that tied the game, and then walked Michael Taylor to bring in the go-ahead run. Familia had the necessary short memory of a successful closer.
“I say it’s just one of those days,” Familia said. “Everybody has one, every relief pitcher and the only thing I can say, tomorrow is another day.”
And it will be another day the Mets are scrambling, looking to find relievers who are available for Tuesday night’s game.
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