The Mets pushed Steven Matz through six innings and 120 pitches Saturday night against Colorado. Then they took a one-run lead in the last of the sixth at Citi Field. Now it was bullpen time.
That generally hasn’t been a good time for this team. The reliable options for Mickey Callaway have proved to be limited. The relievers had teamed for a staggering 11.01 ERA in their previous 10 games, allowing 31 earned runs in 25 1⁄3 innings. The bullpen came in ranked 26th in the majors with a 5.19 ERA.
But the Mets used only their two most reliable options this time, and Seth Lugo and Edwin Diaz did their jobs rather well to finish off a 5-3 win.
Lugo was given a two-inning setup assignment. His margin of error expanded to two runs before the eighth. He didn’t need it.
Six up, six down, three strikeouts.
The 29-year-old righty didn’t stick around to talk about the outing, but Matz, Diaz and Callaway filled in nicely in that department.
“He’s just been electric, and we definitely have a lot of confidence in him when he comes in behind us,” Matz said.
The Mets missed Lugo while he was on the injured list with right shoulder tendinitis. He went on the IL on May 20, returned on May 31 and has a win, two holds and a blown save to show for his four outings since he came back. His record is 3-0 and his ERA is 2.59 in 23 games.
“He’s a great pitcher,” Diaz said. “I think he helps us a lot in the bullpen. I’m happy to have him back here.”
That goes for Callaway as well.
“When you use him, you have to be able to understand you might not be able to use him tomorrow,” said the manager, who was ejected in the fifth after arguing a strike call on Dominic Smith. “So if you try to get an inning and a third or you try to get two innings out of him when you can if it’s kind of a close game, he’s going to save the game for you in those innings. And he did.
“So he’s fantastic. He made great pitches tonight. His curveball was unbelievable, the best I’ve seen it in a while. And he was running [the fastball] up there as high as 97 [mph]. So he’s so valuable in that role. You can use him for multiple innings.”
The benefit of that outweighs the cost of having to go without him the following game, Callaway said.
“I think that when you’re trying to win a game, you understand what the situation is,” he said. “He’s so good at what he does, you accept that. It would be hard to do with multiple guys, having to treat multiple guys that way. But he’s valuable with what he does, and tonight he wins us a game. We’ll give him at least one day off and then see if he’s available again to help us out the next time.”
Diaz helped out for the ninth. Tony Wolters greeted him with a bloop single to left, but after Diaz got Raimel Tapia swinging on a 98.4-mph fastball and Charlie Blackmon on a foul pop, Trevor Story struck out swinging on a 90.5-mph slider.
So the new closer is 1-3 with a 2.81 ERA through 28 outings and has 14 saves in 16 tries.
Diaz was one of new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s primary acquisitions in the offseason, coming with Robinson Cano from Seattle after saving the second-most games in major-league history (57).
He has posted three scoreless outings since his debacle in Los Angeles on May 29, when he entered with a three-run lead and exited with a blown save and a loss. He allowed a career high-tying four runs and five hits, including two homers, in one-third of an inning.
“I feel good,” Diaz said. “That was a bad game. Everybody has a bad game. Nobody’s perfect. I blow that game. But I keep working hard, try to do my best every time they give me the ball.”
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