Terry Collins needed five outs Friday night, five outs standing between the Mets and a win over the Nationals at Citi Field. So with a runner on first, the manager popped out of the dugout and pointed toward the bullpen for someone special to guard his one-run lead.
Jeurys Familia emerged through the gate and jogged toward the mound. It's a sight that shoots a bolt of case-closed confidence through the entire team these days.
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"Yeah, I think when he comes in the game, guys have a good feeling that this game is going to get over with," Collins said.
Familia retired the two batters he faced in the eighth and, after the Mets expanded their 1-0 edge to 4-0, the three he faced in the ninth. But there was nothing to close Saturday night as the Mets lost to the Nationals, 1-0.
The best closer in the majors? At least when it came to saves entering Saturday's play, it was Familia, a perfect 10-for- 10, all in his last 10 appearances, a streak that tied a Mets record.
The hard-throwing righty, 25, has taken a large step forward so far, replacing the injured/suspended Jenrry Mejia in Week 1 and helping the Mets gain their early lead in the NL East.
"The one thing when you're young and you bring a guy like that with that kind of arm strength into the game, I think the thought process is, 'Geez, don't walk somebody,' " Collins said. "I think that's no longer even thought about. It's now 'do what you do -- pound the zone with that plus stuff.' "
Familia moved from setting up to setting the franchise record for saves in April with nine. He owns a 1.46 ERA in 12 outings, with 15 strikeouts and three walks in 121/3 innings.
"Right now, I feel like I've got more command of all my pitches, my splitter, my four-seamer, my two-seamer, my slider," Familia said.
Rookie catcher Kevin Plawecki said the slider "has been unhittable." And Familia's confidence has started to run upper deck-high.
"I think every time I go out there, my confidence is going up," Familia said. "Every time being in the game, I feel more comfortable."
The homegrown pitcher was a starter in his first five minor-league seasons, but his September call-up in 2012 marked the start of his conversion. He said it was tough at first. Then he set a Mets rookie record with 23 holds last season.
"I like being in the bullpen," Familia said.
Mejia is serving an 80-game PED suspension and former closer Bobby Parnell is on the road back from Tommy John surgery. But it will be hard to take the job from Familia if he continues to throw like this, not that he's sweating about it.
"I just like to help the team, do my job, enjoy what I do," Familia said. "It doesn't matter what inning."