If noted Mets fan Jerry Seinfeld could use one phrase to describe the team’s 8-1 win against the Pirates on Friday, he might call it a “Festivus Miracle.”
That’s because no Mets starting pitcher had recorded an out in the eighth inning since Noah Syndergaard on Aug. 21 of last season, which is a span covering 83 games. But that streak was finally snapped thanks to Jacob deGrom, who fired 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball to pick up his fourth win.
DeGrom entered the ninth inning at 111 pitches, one shy of his season high. He would end up at 118 after allowing a leadoff single to Gregory Polanco and striking out David Freese. Manager Terry Collins then called upon reliever Fernando Salas, who successfully recorded the final two outs.
In doing so, Salas ended another remarkable streak that highlights just how hard the Mets bullpen has been worked this season.
Per @EliasSports, the Mets have used 3+ relievers in a franchise-record 26 consecutive games. Their previous record was a mere 15 straight.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) May 26, 2017
Ponder that one for a moment. Throughout their entire history, the Mets had never gone a day or two over two weeks without affording the bullpen a game to relax and regroup. In this instance, they nearly went a full month.
It’s no wonder the Mets are struggling to get on track. At 20-26, they are 8 1/2 games behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East. If not for the offense pulling out a few wins, they’d be in even worse position and manager Terry Collins might find himself on the hottest seat in baseball.
As it is, Collins has drawn his share of criticism from fans and the media. While the lack of consistent production from the starting rotation is the biggest factor in Collins’ bullpen usage, most have been critical of his in-game decision making in regards to handling his pitching staff. The most recent example bridged Tuesday and Wednesday’s game.
After perusing that data and speaking to his relievers on Wednesday afternoon, Collins determined that he was going to give both Jerry Blevins and Paul Sewald, two of his more trusted relievers, a day off after both appeared in a blowout win Tuesday. But despite that shorthanded bullpen, Collins removed starting pitcher Robert Gsellman after only six innings of the Mets’ 6-5 loss to the Padres, the first of several curious choices he made in the game.
Gsellman was removed after throwing just 84 pitches. He allowed three runs on six hits over his six innings, which isn’t exactly dominating against San Diego’s offense. But with Blevins and Seward senselessly burned one night earlier, he figured to be New York’s best bet for at least one more inning. Instead, the game unraveled and the Mets let another winnable game slip away.
That can’t happen right now. Not with the team’s margin for error so slim.
The Mets are a long ways away from where they were 18 months ago, when they clearly possessed the league’s strongest rotation. Since then, the injuries have piled up. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz are currently on the disabled list. DeGrom and Matt Harvey are still working to find their ace form coming off injury plagued seasons.
That puts a lot of responsibility on a lot of people to step up, including Collins. Before Friday’s breakthrough outing, that hasn’t happened nearly enough.
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