Mets' David Robertson throws during the ninth inning of the...

Mets' David Robertson throws during the ninth inning of the team's baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Cincinnati, Wednesday, May 10, 2023. The Mets won 2-1. Credit: AP/Aaron Doster

WASHINGTON — For David Robertson, a veteran of 15 major-league seasons, 746 games, 164 saves and one start with six teams, Friday night was special.

His strikeout of the Nationals’ CJ Abrams in the ninth inning was the 1,000th of his career out of the bullpen (and 1,001st overall). He became just the 14th pitcher to reach that milestone as a reliever.

“It’s a big number I’ve been chasing for a while,” Robertson said Saturday afternoon. “I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to go to it or not. Especially after a few years ago [when he had Tommy John surgery in his mid-30s]. But yeah, it’s a big number for me.

“I look at it as a number that’s like the accomplishments that [Justin] Verlander and [Max] Scherzer got when they got to 3,000. I feel like getting to 1,000 as a reliever is a big deal.”

A decade and a half later, Robertson can still remember his first strikeout, too. He debuted at Shea Stadium for the Yankees on June 29, 2008.

“I faced Oliver Perez, the pitcher,” he recalled accurately. “Nine pitches — it took a long time. I was a nervous wreck.”

Robertson, 38, has been superb as the Mets’ primary closer in the absence of Edwin Diaz, who is expected to miss the season because of a knee injury. Robertson entered Saturday's game against the Nationals with a 0.53 ERA and 0.88 WHIP and 7-for-7 in save opportunities.

He nearly had an eighth Friday against Washington but petered out late, getting pulled after 1 2/3 innings and 40 pitches. That meant he was unavailable Saturday.

Buck Showalter had asked him for a two-inning save — for the second time in less than two weeks. The manager said he doesn’t intend to make that a regular thing. But the Mets were desperate for a win, just as they were May 1 against Atlanta, and Robertson hadn’t pitched much in the week prior.

“We have to pick our spots,” Showalter said. “It’s not something you like to do.”  

Robertson is no stranger to tossing multiple full innings, but it isn’t exactly a common occurrence.

He did it three times last year — once in June, once in July and once in August (with the latter two coming against the Mets). He didn’t have more than one such appearance in any of his previous three seasons before that.

Robertson downplayed that type of workload, describing it as “just a few more pitches” that requires him to “stay mentally focused a little longer.”

He nearly blew it Friday by walking a pair of batters and throwing a wild pitch. Showalter turned to Drew Smith, who got his first career save, for the last out.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Robertson said of the two-inning appearances. “I just ran out of gas the other day. I was not willing to give in and give up a hit there. We’ve been struggling, everybody knows it. Every win is really hard for us right now.

I wasn’t going to give it up yesterday. I was going to force them to hit something they didn’t want to or I was going to walk them and go to the next guy. Thankfully, they had Drew right behind me and he came in, perfect situation. Four pitches and it’s over.”

Robertson is sort of the Mets’ bullpen version of Scherzer and Verlander, highly accomplished elder statesmen brought in as free agents to help anchor a pitching staff that has few homegrown staples.

But Robertson said he hasn’t talked much with his starter counterparts about staying effective late in their long careers.

“We don’t really think of ourselves as being old,” he said. “We’re competitors. I still feel like I’m at the top of my game, and I think they do too. We’ll continue to pitch until the game lets us know or till our wives tell us we can’t do it anymore.”

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