ATLANTA — Dave Eiland is a straight shooter, not afraid to tell you or his pitchers how it is even if it sounds harsh. But when it comes to the Mets relievers’ relative struggles this past week — including two lost late leads — all he wants is what any pitching coach wants: Throw strikes, please.
“Walks are what’s beating this bullpen right now,” Eiland said. “It’s just trusting it. You can’t pitch away from contact. It’s easy to say. It has to be done. Sometimes guys don’t give themselves enough credit. Your stuff’s good. Go get the hitter. Don’t give him too much credit.”
The Mets’ bullpen started the week with the best ERA in the majors at 1.51 — nine earned runs in 53 2⁄3 innings. In six games since, the relievers allowed 19 runs in 19 innings.
Bad days happen. Bad weeks happen. Eiland knows that. What bugs him about this stretch is the way it’s happened, with so many free passes to opposing batters.
Mets relievers have tossed a middle-of-the-pack 72 2⁄3 innings this season, but as of Sunday, they ranked sixth in walks with 38 (15 of them coming in the past week). Their 12.4-percent walk rate was third-worst.
AJ Ramos has been the most egregious offender (nine walks in nine innings), but Jeurys Familia (six in 12) and Seth Lugo (six in 11) have contributed significantly.
Take Monday’s meltdown against the Nationals as an example. Lugo entered in the eighth with a five-run lead. He walked his only batter, Howie Kendrick, on four pitches.
“That can’t happen,” Eiland said.
Later in the inning, Ramos loaded the bases for Matt Reynolds, who walked, also on four pitches.
It was a similar story Saturday against the Braves. After the Mets broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the eighth, Ramos walked two of the three batters he faced to open the bottom of the inning. Both scored. Familia then walked the leadoff guy — the eventual tying run — in the ninth.
“Then people say, ‘Well, Familia’s blowing it,’ ” Eiland said. “Familia is going to be a lot better if the guys in front of him do what they’re supposed to do.”
It doesn’t always come back to burn the Mets. In Lugo’s two scoreless innings Friday, he walked the first batter of both innings.
Eiland, frustrated like his relievers, isn’t worried about the bigger picture. Don’t forget the bullpen was perhaps the biggest reason for the Mets’ historic first couple of weeks.
“It’ll shake itself out. We’ll get through this,” Eiland said. “You’re going to have days like these. You’re going to have little stretches. You get back to the basics and back to simplifying things. Attacking the strike zone, trusting your stuff and believing in it.”
The Mets’ series finale Sunday against the Braves was postponed because of rain. The teams will make up the game May 28 — Memorial Day — as part of a day-night doubleheader.
Mickey Callaway said righthander Zack Wheeler, who was scheduled to start Sunday, will pitch Tuesday when the Mets open a series in St. Louis. The other starters will be pushed back a day — Steven Matz on Wednesday, Noah Syndergaard on Thursday, Jacob deGrom on Friday — with lefthander Jason Vargas slated to make his Mets debut on Saturday.
This was the second time Wheeler, an Atlanta-area native, had a start at SunTrust Park ruined by rain. Last May, he pitched three innings against the Braves before the start of that game was wiped off the record books by a postponement.
Wheeler hasn’t had an official start in Atlanta since 2014.
Bruce, Frazier off
Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier were not in the lineup the Mets wound up not using Sunday.
For Bruce, it was a scheduled day off designed to give him an extended rest with the team off day Monday, Callaway said. Bruce and Callaway have maintained that the plantar fasciitis in his left foot has not been an issue in his 3-for-31 slump.
For Frazier, it was part wanting to get him a day off, influenced by a bruised left big toe. He is the only Met to start every game this season.