PHOENIX — After the Mets’ Saturday night devolved from dazzling to decent, the bullpen turned it into a disaster.
Tyler Bashlor gave up a walk-off single by Tim Locastro in the 11th inning as the Diamondbacks beat the Mets, 6-5, after trailing by four runs entering the bottom of the eighth.
Pinch hitter Kevin Cron led off the 11th with a double and was bunted to third by Nick Ahmed. After Bashlor intentionally walked Alex Avila, Locastro hit a long fly ball over centerfielder Juan Lagares' head.
Todd Frazier had a two-run homer off Zack Greinke in a three-run fourth and Dominic Smith gave the Mets a 5-1 lead with a homer in the eighth. It traveled an estimated 431 feet, landing on the concourse above the tall wall in centerfield.
But Mickey Callaway’s reliable late-inning relief options have been minimal — if not nonexistent — of late. And his unreliable options have been used a lot. This was the bullpen’s ninth blown lead in 13 games.
“Somebody has to get outs in the eighth,” Callaway said. “People have to step up and get an out. We just didn’t get it done.”
Jeurys Familia (three runs) and Robert Gsellman (one run, homer) tag-teamed the eighth-inning meltdown. When Familia struggled, Callaway turned to Gsellman, who pitched for the fourth time in five days (and 10th time in 17 days).
Callaway said he considered using closer Edwin Diaz, who had the previous two days off, for a five-out save but decided not to because “we got to take care of Diaz, too.” Diaz later made a four-out appearance, his first with the Mets, as he finished the ninth and struck out the side in the 10th, needing only 15 pitches.
“We had a rule that we kind of went against and started going four outs,” Callaway said. “Then we go to five, we go to six. We’re not going to throw him three innings. It’s got to stop somewhere. The way to stop it is to get outs from somebody else before him.”
Callaway didn’t want to have to use Gsellman, either, but he felt Familia left him with no choice.
“Gsellman, I didn’t really want to pitch him tonight, but when Familia wasn’t getting the job done and didn’t look like he had it, we had to get Gsellman up,” Callaway said.
Gsellman said of his frequent use lately: “I’m feeling fine. If I wasn’t feeling fine, [the coaches] would know. When they put me on the mound, I got to do the job. I didn’t get the job done.”
Familia, who allowed three of his four batters in the eighth to reach base, has a 6.56 ERA. Gsellman (3.82 ERA), who yielded a tying two-run homer by Adam Jones, has allowed at least one run in five of his past six appearances and has as many blown saves as he does holds (four) this season. Seth Lugo seemingly was unavailable Saturday after pitching Friday, his first game back from the injured list.
The Mets (28-30) had to go to the bullpen earlier than they anticipated because deGrom exited with a right hip cramp in the seventh. He felt the slight discomfort after squatting down as he watched Ildemaro Vargas’ two-out single.
DeGrom’s cramp triggered a visit from Callaway and head athletic trainer Brian Chicklo. He threw three more pitches, the third becoming Ahmed’s ground-rule double, before Callaway and Chicklo returned.
Angry about being taken out, deGrom said his cramp was “gone” by the time he left.
“He looked like it was still bothering him a little bit,” Callaway said. “We can’t leave him out there with anything bothering him. He’s too important to this franchise. He’s here for a long time. We can’t get him hurt just to try to get another out or another inning.”
Said deGrom, “I said I was fine and I wish I could have stayed out there.”
Before that, deGrom dominated. He finished 6 2/3 innings with one run, five hits, one walk and seven strikeouts, throwing 89 pitches.
He retired 15 consecutive batters between Jarrod Dyson’s single in the first and Avila’s single in the sixth. He didn’t throw more than 10 pitches in an inning until the sixth (19 pitches). He didn’t allow a run until his penultimate batter, when Adeiny Hechavarria’s throwing error plated Jones (double) with two outs.
“That’s the best I’ve felt all year,” deGrom said.
But he could only watch as the bullpen blew another game.
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