Manager Terry Collins' late-inning calls to the Mets' bullpen have gone from problematic to downright painful.
Several hours after the Mets placed closer Frank Francisco on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle, Collins had few options in Sunday night's 6-5 loss to the Yankees in the Subway Series finale.
After righthanded reliever Miguel Batista entered in the seventh inning and retired the top three batters in the Yankees' high-powered lineup, Collins asked him to get the team through the eighth, too. That meant having him open the inning against Robinson Cano, the cleanup hitter, who had ripped a long home run off Batista in the Mets' 6-4 victory Friday night.
Cano did it again, pouncing on Batista's 2-and-0 delivery and smoking it over the apple in centerfield to snap a 5-5 tie.
"Miguel is a guy we think keeps the ball in the ballpark because of his sinker," Collins said. "He got a changeup up."
It is possible the outcome would have been the same no matter which reliever Collins summoned. The blazing Cano has gone deep in five of his last seven games. But the manager didn't have too much choice in matching up against the lefthanded-hitting Cano because Tim Byrdak is the only lefthanded reliever in the bullpen.
Wouldn't it be sweet to have a second lefthanded option?
"We answer that every week," Collins said. "Yeah, it's nice. But it isn't easy to come by."
Collins has often emphasized the dearth of quality lefthanded relievers in the major leagues.
The 39-34 Mets fell to 15-30 when their bullpen allows a run compared with 20-4 when it does not. Their relievers began the day tied for second in the majors with 16 losses. Only Milwaukee's bullpen, with 18 losses, has more than the Mets in the major leagues.
It sounded as though Collins sensed trouble ahead for his closer-less team even before the latest heartbreak against the Yankees. "You kind of like to know your bridges to get to [Francisco]," he said before the game. "When you lose that, now it disrupts all the little pieces you had to get there. It puts guys in different roles and different situations. It can really affect you, but we're going to have to deal with it."
Francisco is fourth in the National League with 18 saves in 21 opportunities. At his best, he was overpowering in totaling 31 strikeouts in 29 innings.
The move for Francisco's replacement underscores how little depth the Mets have in their system. Righthander Ramon Ramirez was promoted from Triple-A Buffalo despite allowing six runs in 22/3 innings during three rehabilitation appearances. He went on the 15-day disabled list June 5, retroactive to May 31, after suffering a strained right hamstring while running in from the bullpen to celebrate Johan Santana's June 1 no-hitter.
In another transaction, shortstop Ruben Tejada was recalled from Buffalo. The team created a roster spot for him by optioning promising utilityman Jordany Valdespin to the Bisons.