MILWAUKEE — In one way, Jeurys Familia has been perfect. The closer has converted all 21 of his save opportunities this season, the longest such streak to begin a season for a Met since Armando Benitez nailed down his first 24 chances in 2001.
Not since Aug. 1 has Familia blown a regular-season save — a club-record streak of 37 games.
But reality has painted a far different picture of Familia’s season, which has been pockmarked with the kind of tension-filled ninth innings that were rare a season ago.
“I know it’s been a little bit of a struggle this year,” he said Friday, hours before the Mets beat the Brewers, 2-1, in 11 innings, with Familia pitching a perfect inning for his 21st save. “I’ve been working every day, trying to be what I’m supposed to be.”
Consider his last three outings, a representation of Familia at his best and his worst this season.
On Wednesday, he walked a tightrope to save the Mets’ tense 6-5 win over the Pirates. He survived three walks to come away with the save.
“It looked like he was forcing stuff and I know he was trying to throw hard,” manager Terry Collins said. “He was kind of forcing stuff and spiking balls.”
But one night later, in Thursday’s 5-2 victory over the Brewers, Familia looked more dominant than perhaps at any other point this season. His sinker appeared to be the same devastating weapon that it was last year, its sharp downward movement making it almost impossible to make solid contact.
“That’s the best sinker I’ve seen him have all year, consistent,” Collins said. “From the side, it looked like that ball was sinking 10, 12 inches, and easy. That’s the guy we know . . . It was nice and easy, landed soft, and boy, it came out great.”
Then he struck out two in closing out Friday night’s victory.
Emboldened by the sharpness of his sinker, Familia said he felt comfortable attacking the zone. Regaining the consistency on his primary weapon has been a priority during his work with pitching coach Dan Warthen and bullpen coach Ricky Bones.
It’s part of the reason that Familia said he has shied away from his splitter, a weapon that he refined last season.
“I’ve been working more on my sinker because this is the best pitch that I have, my sinker,” Familia said. “So that’s why I’m using my sinker more in the game, trying to get it the way it’s supposed to be.”
After Thursday night’s outing — a perfect inning against the Brewers — Familia hopes he’s found something to build on.
“As a player, I know everybody’s going to go through hard times,” he said. “I know that I’ve been struggling a little and I’ve just tried to work a little bit more on my delivery, trying to get my confidence back, trying to get into a rhythm. That’s what I’ve been doing all year . . . I think right now, it will be different.”
Notes & quotes: Yoenis Cespedes homered in the sixth Friday night to tie the score at 1-1. Jim Henderson worked his way out of a second-and-third, one-out jam in the ninth . . . Travis d’Arnaud (rotator cuff strain) is expected to begin catching as soon as Saturday. Thus far, he has been limited to DH duty during his minor-league rehab . . . Kelly Johnson was activated Friday and started at second. “I’m happy to be here again. I’m happy with the way this worked out,” said Johnson, who was traded from the Braves to the Mets for the second straight year . . . Neil Walker was out of the lineup one day after he was struck in the chest by a hard one-hopper. Though he could have played through lingering soreness, Walker said the Mets wanted to “err on the side of caution.”