Mets' bullpen has become a strong point

LaTroy Hawkins of the Mets catches a ground

LaTroy Hawkins of the Mets catches a ground ball for the final out in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. (Aug. 8, 2013) (Credit: Mike Stobe)

It wasn't long ago that the Mets' bullpen was among the team's biggest weaknesses. In the first month of the season, the relievers blew four saves and had a 5.09 ERA.

"They had struggled early in the year," manager Terry Collins said. "A lot of things were written -- 'the worst bullpen.' "

But since the horrid start, the bullpen has emerged as a strong point. Three relievers combined for 1 1/3 scoreless innings in a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rockies Thursday at Citi Field.

The strong work continued a trend, as the bullpen has a 2.10 ERA since July 1. For the season, the Mets' bullpen ERA has dropped to 3.70.

"We've all been going out there and we've all been getting our work done," reliever David Aardsma said. "We're working hard. No matter what role we're in, we're just trying to execute our pitches. That's really all that matters."

Aardsma came in to face All-Star Michael Cuddyer with two outs and runners on first and second in the eighth inning and induced a fly ball to leftfield. LaTroy Hawkins worked a flawless ninth for his second save of the season, both coming in the series sweep of the Rockies.

Hawkins, 40, has been pressed into closing duty because of the neck injury that landed Bobby Parnell on the disabled list Tuesday. The Mets also are without setup man Josh Edgin, who was placed on the DL a week ago with a fractured rib.

"I'm still mentally hurt that those two guys went down," Hawkins said. "But it happens on every team. You have to have guys to pass the baton and pick other guys up. Hopefully we can continue to do that."

Hawkins has 90 career saves but entered the season with only one since 2009. The Mets have no concerns about leaning on the 19-year veteran of 10 teams.

"The guy has more years in the big leagues than I probably have in my life," said Dillon Gee, who pitched 7 2/3 innings for the win. "He's a true veteran. He's been a great leader for us and a guy to really watch how he does his business."

Hawkins isn't the only reliever to take a long path to the Mets' bullpen. Aardsma has pitched for seven teams in his eight-year career. Scott Rice toiled in the minors for 14 years before making his big-league debut this season.

"We've got some saltiness down there right now," Aardsma said. "It's a great group. We're all meshing really well. We're paying attention to the game and taking our job serious, but along with having fun and understanding what it takes to do it."

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