Since it was Star Wars Day at Citi Field on Saturday, let’s go with this image:
Like Luke Skywalker the first time he held a lightsaber, Mickey Callaway had a new weapon he really wanted to try out.
The Mets manager didn’t have a space-age sword that shoots out laser beams. He had closer Edwin Diaz, who Callaway announced earlier this week would be available for four-out saves after the Mets started the season with an etched-in-stone, self-imposed ban on using the 25-year-old for anything other than a one-inning appearance.
It was a flip-flop that would have made any politician proud.
So when the Mets had a one-run lead on the Tigers with two outs and a man on third in the eighth inning, Callaway pulled Robert Gsellman in favor of Diaz, who was 12-for-12 in save opportunities.
You don’t have to be a Jedi master or Sith lord to know how Callaway’s maneuver turned out. Diaz gave up a game-tying RBI single to JaCoby Jones and the game eventually stretched deep into extra innings.
The Mets ended up with a 5-4 victory on Tomas Nido’s leadoff home run in the 13th.
We’ll give Callaway an A for effort, but an F for timing. Just because you can pull out the lightsaber doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes you have to leave it on your belt.
Of course, this is the same manager who said on Monday that he was going to treat every game like it’s the playoffs. Considering the lukewarm vote of confidence Callaway got from general manager / frequent clubhouse visitor Brodie Van Wagenen on that day, it’s no surprise he’s going to be inclined to manage as if his professional life depends on it — because it probably does.
That’s not the best recipe for the ballclub, though. Van Wagenen should have either fired Callaway or said he was safe for the rest of the season.
The good news is the Mets had won four of five since Callaway was not fired and were leading Saturday’s see-saw game 4-3 thanks to Wilson Ramos’ go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth.
Ramos, who drove in the first four Mets’ runs (he also had a solo shot in the second and an RBI single in the fourth), had all of the team’s hits until Todd Frazier singled with one out in the ninth.
Gsellman had pitched a scoreless seventh and allowed a one-out hustle double to Josh Harrison in the eighth. Grayson Greiner grounded to second with Harrison moving to third. That brought up Jones, a .183 hitter going into the game who, in Friday night’s 9-8 Tigers victory, went 2-for-5 with a home run and a career-high four RBIs.
Gsellman had thrown 27 pitches and hadn’t pitched since Thursday. There was no reason to think he couldn’t get out Jones. The two had never faced each other. They still haven’t.
“Once you get [Diaz] up, you get him ready, and you’ve got a runner in scoring position and you get that second out, you’ve just got to pull the trigger,” Callaway said. “Otherwise, why did you have him up? You’re not going to wait until they tie it up . . . You’ve got to go for it.”
Diaz fell behind 2-and-0 and worked the count back to even. On 2-and-2, Jones floated a single to right in front of Aaron Altherr as the crowd of 40,691 groaned. Diaz finished the inning with a strikeout and was double switched out of the game in the ninth.
“Obviously, we were bringing him in for a four-out save,” Callaway said. “It didn’t work out. He ended up throwing 13 pitches. The game stayed tied, so it would have been tough to send him back out in tied game and make him throw, what, 38-40 pitches?"
The appearance in itself probably knocks Diaz out of consideration for a four-out save on Sunday.
Callaway made one other curious move that ended up affecting the outcome. He double switched Pete Alonso out of the game in the ninth. Alonso had been 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, but keeping a hitter with 17 home runs and a knack for late-inning heroics in a tied game might have been the wiser move.
Still, it ended up working out for the Mets. When Nido came up in the 13th, he was batting in Alonso’s spot. The Force was with Callaway on that one.