Was the Mets bullpen’s implosion against the Nationals a harmless blip or a sign of the team’s true colors?
It’s all felt like a dream, hasn’t it?
You know you kept thinking it to yourself:
“This isn’t real, is it? The Mets. Those Mets? With the best bullpen in baseball?”
Well, so far this season, it has been real. Entering Monday night’s game, the Mets had the best bullpen ERA in the entire league (1.51). New manager Mickey Callaway had washed away the demons of Terry Collins and his abuse of certain guys in the ‘pen. And it all felt hunky dory.
But then, faster than you could even say Hansel Robles, the Mets watched reliever after reliever bumble and stumble away a 6–1 lead in the top of the eighth inning against the Washington Nationals, their five-run cushion turning into a 7–6 deficit and an eventual 8–6 loss at Citi Field.
It was a complete abomination, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. It was an avalanche of bad outings, one relief pitcher after another.
Jacob deGrom began the eighth inning, continuing his masterful start, after surrendering only one run entering the inning. After allowing a leadoff single to Moises Sierra and then striking out Michael Taylor, deGrom gave up a single to Trea Turner and Callaway ended deGrom’s night. Up until Monday, Callaway has made all the right moves. There is no debating that fact.
But you cannot say one thing, do the other and not receive backlash. Callaway has consistently said that he is looking for some more length from his two aces in deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. So in a game in the eighth inning, with a five-run lead, you can let deGrom fight his way out of some trouble, despite him going above the 100-pitch mark.
But alas, Callaway stayed the course. The bullpen has been his rabbit out of the hat a multitude of times already this year. But on Monday, he couldn’t find an elixir of any kind.
The combination of two of deGrom’s baserunners along with the work, or lack thereof, of Seth Lugo, Jerry Blevins, AJ Ramos, and Jeurys Familia turned the game from a laugher to a stinker.
And it wasn’t just clutch hits.
Lugo walked the only batter he faced; Blevins gave up a two-RBI single to Bryce Harper; Ramos struck out Ryan Zimmerman looking, only to give up a single and walk in a run.
And that was all before the highly-combustable Familia entered the melee to surrender a two-run single, hit-a-batter, and then walk in another run before retiring the third and final out of the top of the inning.
The Nationals scored 6 runs in the 8th inning to take a 7-6 lead against the Mets. Before tonight, the Mets had allowed 6 runs in a GAME only once all season (April 10 at Marlins).
Mets relievers before tonight: 53.2 IP, 9 ER Mets relievers tonight: 1.2 IP, 5 ER
It was a sequence of Mets baseball that had you thinking all about the flammable innings of the old regime managing the bullpen, and not Mr. Callaway, who has yet to find himself in such a pickle early in his tenure.
Heading into tonight’s game, according to an in-game graphic on SNY, the Mets were 16–43 since the start of 2012 against the Nationals at Citi Field. The Mets have to be better than that in 2018.
Callaway has gone through his first real dud of a game as a major league manager. Even the greatest managers of all-time have had there blunders. It’s only natural in a 162-game grind of a season like baseball. But Callaway has learned this one the hard way. Sometimes, the guy on the mound deserves a chance to clean up his own mess. And it is why managing in baseball is so hard.
The Mets have a history of allowing performances like this to begin a downward spiral of results. Callaway has to show everyone, both in the locker room, and beyond, that he has the ability to get this team thinking about Tuesday’s game only on Tuesday — this has to be just one game, not a turning point.
Win Tuesday and you just say:
“Monday night was a crazy one wasn’t it?”
“Monday night was the beginning of a bad stretch for the New York Mets.”
Mets bullpen blows five-run lead in first true slip-up of 2018 was originally published in Gotham Sports Network on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.