It’s a phone call that usually doesn’t come in the ninth inning, not with Jeurys Familia on the mound. But with the reeling Mets in a tailspin, and about to absorb a Bryce Harper torpedo that might very well tank their season before Memorial Day, Terry Collins was done caring about feelings, or reputations, or optics.
With Familia in the process of loading the bases and perhaps flushing a 7-5 lead in a game that very much felt like a must-win for the Mets, Collins wanted lefty Josh Edgin ready if this budding catastrophe reached Harper, who just happened to be, at the moment, the most dangerous hitter in the sport.
So Edgin started getting loose. Three straight singles by the Nationals, the last a weak grounder by Adam Eaton that Jose Reyes failed to cut off and resulted in an infield hit, loaded the bases. Familia had shown little resemblance to the 51-save closer of last season, and that person was nowhere to be found again Friday night.
The only glimpse was a 98-mph fastball that whiffed Trea Turner for the first out of the ninth, with Familia firing a chest-high bullet that even the super-rookie couldn’t track. And that was it. As soon as that pitch popped in Travis d’Arnaud’s glove, out came Collins. With Harper up next and the bases full, the ball was going to Edgin.
If this were any other inning, the move would be shrugged off, perhaps debated. But to dismiss the Mets’ closer in this spot was Collins admitting that he had lost faith in Familia. Whatever words he used later didn’t matter.
The Mets entered Friday night losers of six straight and 10 of 11. They finally had earned a lead for the first time in 57 2⁄3 innings, fell behind again, yet seized it back on d’Arnaud’s second home run off Max Scherzer. This was a late September game. On April 28.
“The circumstances played into it,” Collins said. “I probably wouldn’t have done that if we had won seven in a row, I probably would have left Jeurys in there. I just didn’t like the matchup.”
That was all the explanation needed. Did Collins really need to spell it out for anyone? The Mets were desperate for a win. Capital D. The rotation had been a mess the past week, with Noah Syndergaard sidelined by some semi-serious biceps tendinitis, and Jacob deGrom had gutted his way to 12 strikeouts Friday night in savagely protecting an early 5-3 lead.
After giving up home runs to Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Wieters in the second, deGrom stranded a pair of Nats in the third, then retired 13 of the next 15, striking out eight along the way. He appeared to get stronger against a Nats team that was leading the majors in nearly every offensive category, including runs (139), average (.284) and OPS (.842). When deGrom had 101 pitches through six, he told Collins he was going back for the seventh. He finished with 112.
That was the urgency the Mets displayed. And for Edgin, the manager’s confidence was like an added dose of adrenaline. Harper was 2-for-11 lifetime against Edgin, with one home run and four strikeouts. After working the count to 1-and-1 on a pair of sliders, Edgin threw a cut fastball that broke late enough to find the end of Harper’s bat, which slapped a grounder straight back to the mound for a 1-2-3 double play.
For a Mets team that has done precious little right, Edgin delivered the dream result, the perfect ending. The big downside was that Collins had to dump Familia and commit all of his confidence to a lefty Hail Mary. “I’m glad he did,” Edgin said.
It’s too soon to predict any long-term ramifications. The Mets already look tired, and who knows how long Familia will take to return to his ’16 form. But those are things to worry about later. For the crisis-mode Mets, tomorrow can wait.