By: Paul DiSclafani
Mets manager Terry Collins wasn’t fooling around in the 8th inning as his Mets were clinging to a 2-0 lead over the Miami Marlins. The Mets (3-5) had lost four straight and needed to win this game, not only to avoid a sweep, but to get back on track after a miserable 2-5 start to the season.
With one out in the eighth and Christian Yelich on first, Collins came out for reliever Jerry Blevins and summoned closer Jeurys Familia for a five out save. That raised a number of eyebrows, not so much because the move seemed a little panicky, considering it is only the eighth game of the season, but Familia pitched two days in a row (36 pitches in total) and was now being summoned to save what should be considered a meaningless game just 11 days into the season.
Was it panicky? Tell that to the New York Media or the New York Fans, who have been struggling with their emotions as the Mets have stumbled out of the gate, hitting just .186 as a team and ranked 29th in runs scored with just 18. Everyone needed the Mets to win this game. Everyone.
”We’ve gotten off to a slow start. It happens. It happens. It’s part of the game,” Collins said. ”There’s a lot of teams that get off to great starts and falter. There are teams that get off to slow starts that have huge second halves and run away with stuff. I just thought it was important today for our fan base to stay excited.”
Fans have been lighting up social media since spring training about the Mets lack of urgency and possible lack of preparation as they lost 13 straight Grapefruit games and just continued to shrug off the results, pointing to the “real” games when the season started. Well, here we are, seven games into the season, and the Mets have looked exactly as they did during the spring – punchless at the plate and clueless on the field.
”I’m not worried about the confidence. I’m worried about the perception is that there’s no energy here, which is completely not true, that we’re not prepared, we’re overconfident or we’re not taking things seriously,” Collins said. ”I heard that last night and it made me sick to my stomach, that people actually think that this team, that accomplished what they did last year, would have any semblance of that type of makeup.”
The players and coaches are certainly taking notice of what is happening and they are plenty aware of what is being written and said about their low energy start. After the incredible high of the playoffs and World Series last year, compounded with seeing the start the Washington Nationals are having, winning exciting games late and coming out of the gate 5-1, Mets fans are a little nervous and a little impatient.
”I’m not deaf, and I’m not blind. I listen. I see how people are reacting. I hear what’s going on,” Collins said. ”I read the stuff, and I read between the lines of what’s being said.”
David Wright knows the expectations in the clubhouse as the Captain said, “This isn’t the start that we thought about and planned to have.”
Backup catcher Kevin Plawecki rescued the Mets with a two-out single in the 7th, driving home both Wilmer Flores (making his major league debut at first base) and Asdurbal Cabrera, giving them a 2-0 lead. A lead that Collins felt was so worth protecting, he made the call for Familia with five outs left.
”If you start saying games are must wins, I think there’s some pressure that really is not needed,” Plaweicki said, ”but definitely there was a sense of urgency to get a win today.”
Lost in the Familia shuffle was Logan Verrett, who tossed six shutout innings in a spot start for Jacob deGrom, allowing just three hits. And in the seventh inning, with the game still tied 0-0, Collins went to reliever Jim Henderson, who threw a career high 34 pitches about 17 hours prior. Henderson was awful, allowing a leadoff single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. Henderson’s velocity is 89-91, way down from 95-97 in his previous appearances.
Hansel Robles came to the rescue, striking out Miguel Rojas looking and Derek Dietrich swinging. Blevins finished the job by getting Dee Gordon to fly out to left and end the inning. But after getting the first out in the eighth, Blevins allowed a single to Yelich that ended his night and started the inquisition of Collins as Familia came into the game to face Giancarlo Stanton.
Familia snuck two fastballs by Stanton to get ahead 0-2, then got him to fly out to center for the second out. Martin Prado then singled, moving Yelich to second. Familia got ahead of Justin Bour 1-2, but Bour singled to left to make it a 2-1 game. Although Familia got JT Realmuto to hit it back to the box on the next pitch to end the inning, he still needed to go out there again in the ninth to secure the win.
In the ninth, Familia (S, 2) took care of business, just like Collins drew it up, finishing with a strikeout of Gordon to end the game and the Mets losing streak at four games.
”We’re talking about something now that’s going to be written up tomorrow like we’re on the cutting edge here, we’re walking that razor blade,” he said. ”We’re not. We just wanted to win today.”
So did everyone else.
Mets have the day off on Thursday and head out on a nine-game road trip, beginning with a weekend set in Cleveland as Bartolo Colon (0-1) gets things started on Jackie Robinson Day in MLB.
POSITIVES: Blevins got the win (1-0) … Yoenis Cespedes went flying into the stands in the eighth inning to try to snag a ball, crashing into a fan and hitting his knee. He stayed in the game and was later rewarded by being hit in the elbow by a pitch … Cabrera had two hits … Flores, making his debut at 1B, turned a nifty 3-6-3 DP
NEGATIVES: Jacob deGrom may be headed to the DL … Mets were 3-9 W/RISP, but scored both runs on the same AB … Gordon snapped a 19-game hitting streak against the Mets