Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz — the duo that was supposed to make the Mets bullpen an impenetrable dam in the eighth and ninth innings. The pieces that were supposed to shorten games and help the Mets dominate in an uninspiring National League East.
But best-laid plans haven’t worked out so well for the Mets this season, and Friday was a dispiriting reminder of that. First there was Diaz, taking the mound to pitch in the game that was suspended in the ninth inning Thursday. And, like Thursday, when he gave up two runs that tied the score, Diaz blinked, allowing a run in the 10th as the Cardinals won, 5-4.
And then there was Familia, on to pitch in the eighth inning of Game 2, which the Mets finally had wrested from the Cardinals. Instead, he blew the lead, allowing a solo homer and a three-run shot that cost the Mets their second game in four hours, this time a 9-5 defeat.
So, in a familiar narrative this year, the impenetrable dam once again proved itself to be a leaky sieve, and instead of eking over .500 on Friday, the Mets fell to three games below mediocrity. It’s the fourth of their last five losses in which the Mets at one point had the lead. The bullpen has 16 blown saves, the most in baseball, and since May 29, they’re 1-5 with an 8.84 ERA. What’s more, there’s no help on the horizon. Mickey Callaway said they don’t even necessarily need more arms. They just need the arms that they have to produce how they’re supposed to.
“We’ve got to continue to improve,” Callaway said of the bullpen. “We’re just not getting the job done as a collective group. We’re not going to give up on them.”
Maybe, but the season may soon give up on the Mets.
Friday’s foe came in the form of Paul DeJong. His single in the 10th inning of Game 1 drove in the winning run, and the toothless Mets offense went down in order in both the ninth and 10th to make the extra baseball a quick affair. DeJong also hit a game-tying homer in a four-run eighth inning by Familia in Game 2. The Mets had taken the lead the previous inning on Wilson Ramos’ two-run single, which made it 5-4.
Familia, though, grooved a hanging slider on his second pitch and DeJong blasted it to left to tie the score. Two outs later, Yadier Molina doubled, and then Familia walked Harrison Bader, to set it up for Dexter Fowler, who hit his sixth homer to put the Cardinals up 8-5.
Kolten Wong homered off Hector Santiago in the ninth to make it 9-5.
“I have been frustrated at times when a teammate of mine does his job and then when they turn it over to the pen I blow the game or the bullpen blows the game for them,” said Familia, who’d shown signs of improvement before Friday’s regression. “That’s what has me frustrated.”
Those few, disastrous pitches capped an immensely frustrating two days for the Mets.
First there was that Thursday game, which looked as if it was going to be suspended with the Mets leading 4-2, but the team lobbied to finish it — a move that backfired thanks to Diaz’s third blown save of the year (he only had four last season). Then, on Friday, the Mets got a mostly solid start from Steven Matz, who hit a solo home run, but one bad inning — the fifth — undermined him.
Matz walked Fowler with one out, and then Tommy Edman smacked a hard-hit grounder to Todd Frazier, who couldn’t field it for an error., Pinch hitter Jose Martinez then jumped on a hanging curve, blasting it 383 feet to rightfield to give the Cardinals the 4-1 lead.
Matz got one back in the bottom of the inning, hitting the third home run of his career off Tyler Webb to make it 4-2. The Mets showed spunk in the seventh, though, loading the bases and scoring one run on a fielder’s choice, and another on Ramos’ two-out, two-run single, which gave the Mets the 5-4 lead.
But that’s when that supposed strength — increasingly a weakness — reared its head again. The Mets really have no option, Callaway said. They just need to get better. Familia will remain “the guy” in high-leverage situations. Diaz will keep going out there to close the door.
“This guy is with us for three years,” he said of Familia. “We’re going to not give up on him, he’s not going to give up. We’re going to continue to work to help him improve…We’re committed to that.”