A few years and dozens (if not hundreds) of innings later, Jeurys Familia doesn’t have the same All-Star status or the same job as the Mets’ closer or even the same Citi Field-shaking entrance music.
But he might be just as good.
As the Mets beat the Diamondbacks, 4-2, on Saturday night, Familia recorded his 10th straight scoreless appearance, lowering his ERA to 0.93. He has not allowed a run in more than a month.
"The guy is electric," said Trevor May, the eighth-inning man promoted to closer for the night with Edwin Diaz unavailable. "Watching guys swing at fastballs like they’re sliders, it’s something I haven’t seen ever."
That makes four wins in a row for the Mets, the second time this year they have accomplished that feat. They didn’t do it at all last season. On Sunday, with ace Jacob deGrom back on the mound, they will look for their first five-game winning streak since Aug. 17-22, 2019.
Familia got five critical outs in the sixth and seventh innings, a bridge from the middle to the late innings on another bullpen-heavy night for the Mets (15-13).
He escaped Joey Lucchesi’s one-out, man-on-second jam in the sixth via swinging strikeouts of Asdrubal Cabrera and Eduardo Escobar. Then he evaded trouble after a series of soft and/or ground-ball singles in the seventh, stranding the bases loaded.
Familia had to work for it, though, throwing 37 pitches in all. The final out came on Christian Walker’s hard grounder to shortstop, bobbled and thrown slightly wide of first by Francisco Lindor but corralled by Pete Alonso, who fell to the ground but maintained contact with the first-base bag.
A fired-up Familia received a hug from Lindor as they walked to the dugout. The reliever didn’t have too many chances to exhibit that kind of emotion last year (3.71 ERA) or the year before (5.70 ERA).
"Familia is throwing the ball so good," said manager Luis Rojas, who credited his revival to his ability to throw strikes, as well as his sharper slider and occasional four-seam fastball. " has been the special pitch for him his entire career . . . The sinker is always going to be there. It’s always in play. But the other stuff is making it play better too."
The Mets held the Diamondbacks hitless into the sixth inning, when Josh Rojas led off with a firm single to center.
Righthander Tommy Hunter, in his first major-league start since 2012, tossed the opening two innings. It was his second two-inning outing in as many days, something Rojas called "definitely something special."
"It’s easy. Anyone can do that, right?" said a smiling Hunter, who joined the team Thursday. "I walk into the dugout [after the first inning] and they ask me if I wanted to go back out. I’m like, ‘I got a no-hitter going. Yeah, I want to go back out.’ "
Lucchesi, a lefthander, followed suit, cruising for three innings against a Diamondbacks lineup that began the day with a majors-leading .854 OPS against lefthanders.
When things began to look iffy for Lucchesi — consecutive hits and an RBI groundout to start the sixth — Rojas didn’t push his luck, opting for Familia.
That piecing-it-together pitching strategy stemmed from the Mets’ preference not to commit to Lucchesi, the purported No. 5 starter. "We’re mixing and matching," Rojas said before the game.
The Mets scored three runs in the third inning in a team effort from Jeff McNeil and Francisco Lindor, one day after their heated exchange in the tunnel connected to the Mets’ dugout.
McNeil walloped a two-run homer to right-center.
Lindor created another run after drawing a walk. With two outs, he swiped second base, the 100th steal of his career and first with the Mets. Carson Kelly’s throw deflected off Lindor’s foot and into shallow left-center, allowing him to hustle home without a throw.
During McNeil’s postgame video news conference, Lindor made a point to interrupt to hug McNeil on camera.
"They were the sparkplug of our offense," Rojas said. "It was all McNeil and Lindor."
McNeil added: "We have a very good relationship. It’s only going to grow from here.''