Entering the postseason, Jonathon Niese and Bartolo Colon had made a combined 667 appearances during their careers in the regular season and playoffs. Thirteen of them had come out of the bullpen. That's less than 2 percent.
But, once again Saturday night, the veteran duo got big outs out of the bullpen as the Mets tried to even the World Series with the Royals in Game 4 at Citi Field.
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"It's very, very important to have those guys, and one of the things they bring is certainly if the game is tight or tied, they can give you innings late," manager Terry Collins said. "And give you multiple innings, and that's why they're big. Tonight, we're hoping [Steven Matz] can get us through six, and then we can mix and match the next three innings."
First was Niese. Going into this postseason, the lefthander had pitched in relief five times. Four of those came in the last week of the regular season as he prepared for his playoff role.
On Saturday night, Niese relieved Matz with the Mets leading 3-2 with none out in the sixth and Lorenzo Cain on first. Cain had just singled in a run to bring Kansas City to within one.
Cain stole second on a pitch in the dirt. All the Royals had to do were typical Royals things to get that tying run in. But Niese, and then Colon, stopped them. Eric Hosmer lined out to center and Mike Moustakas grounded to third for the first two outs of the inning as Cain stayed at second.
Niese's task against the lefthanded hitters was complete. So Collins called on Colon, the 42-year-old righthander who before this postseason had pitched out of the bullpen eight times in his 18-year career.
Colon came in to face Royals catcher Salvador Perez. During the at-bat, second baseman Daniel Murphy snuck in behind Cain. A good throw probably would have nailed the runner to end the inning. But Colon's throw was a little to the rightfield side and Murphy practically tripped over second base as the ball went into centerfield. Cain moved to third on the throwing error on Colon.
From there, Colon and Perez battled in a 10-pitch at-bat. Finally, Colon threw a low-and-away breaking pitch and Perez swung through it to end the inning.
Niese. Colon. Job well done.
"Those guys really make it comfortable for you, because they're going to come in, and they're veteran guys, following certainly young pitching," Collins said. "We know what they're going to do. They're not going to beat themselves. And to have Bartolo and Jon down there makes it easier for me to maneuver the bullpen."
Colon is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in six appearances in this postseason. He was the losing pitcher in Game 1 of the Series when the Royals scored on Hosmer's sacrifice fly in the 14th inning.
Niese has no decisions and an ERA of 6.28 in five appearances.