Francisco gives up lead again as Mets lose
MIAMI -- After an especially brutal loss Friday night, Terry Collins was asked if he felt the need to encourage closer Frank Francisco, who had blown the lead. The manager said he did not. After a few of those hang-in-there monologues, he said, a pitcher just doesn't want to hear any more.
In that vein, Collins Sunday had one more big reason not to talk to Francisco. The pitcher quickly and dramatically let another lead get away in the ninth, setting up Giancarlo Stanton's walk-off grand slam against Manny Acosta in a staggering 8-4 loss to the Marlins. Collins again said he would wait to speak with Francisco, but they'll probably chat Monday.
And before long, the subject might get around to the idea that the Mets need to try someone else as the closer.
"I've got eight options," Collins said, "or however many guys are down there. But I'm not going to address that right now. The emotions are running a little high tonight and it's not a very good time to make a decision."
Francisco's emotions were running higher than anyone's, considering he vehemently argued with plate umpire Todd Tichenor, earning himself an ejection -- though he had been yanked anyway after allowing a triple, walk and single with none out.
There is no getting around these facts: Francisco is 1-3 with an 8.56 ERA and has squandered three of 11 save opportunities, including two gut-wrenching defeats here in three days.
"He's the boss. He can do whatever he wants," Francisco said of Collins. "I'm here to help the team and I guess I'm not doing that. Whatever decision he makes, that's fine with me. But I'm here to fight."
Everyone knows how important a closer is for an elite team. But baseball people will tell you that the role is at least as vital to a team on the margins of being good. A club that has to scratch and claw to get ahead all the time can get dispirited by a few ninth-inning collapses.
The Mets twice took and lost two-run leads Sunday. The latter was pinch hitter Justin Turner's exhilarating two-out, two-run double in the ninth against struggling Marlins closer Heath Bell. The seven-pitch at-bat was a reprise of the 13-pitch walk Turner drew against Bell at Citi Field last month, one that led to a giddy win.
"We're fighting a lot of odds here," Collins said. "We're fighting against the people who wonder whether we can be successful or not. After games like this, it's 'I told you so, I told you so.' That's not the way we're looking at it."
The problem was, it did not look good in the ninth when Emilio Bonifacio led off with a triple, John Buck walked and Greg Dobbs, who had the winning hit off Francisco on Friday, made it 4-3 with a pinch single. Collins came out to get his closer and the closer went after the umpire, feeling he had been squeezed during the walk.
"I asked him, 'Where were those pitches?' He didn't say anything," Francisco said. "I expect him to say something, 'low' or 'away' or something. Give me a reason."
The batter insisted that only one pitch had been questionable. "Trust me, I was hacking," Buck said.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen said, "If a guy is struggling a little bit, he is going to be more emotional anyway."
When asked about a change in roles, Warthen said, "We came in with Frankie as our closer and as far as I know, until I'm told differently, he will be the closer."
Turner summed up teammates' attitudes toward Francisco, saying, "He's got some frustration built up, but he's still our closer. We all believe in him. Let him do what he has to do to forget about today and I'm sure he'll be back out there tomorrow."
Or will he?
"Right now," Collins said, "is not the time to have a conversation with anybody."