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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Time is running out on Luis Rojas and the Mets

Mets manager Luis Rojas looks on against the

Mets manager Luis Rojas looks on against the Marlins during the completion of a suspended game as part of a doubleheader at Citi Field on Aug. 31. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

On Tuesday, Mets president Sandy Alderson said manager Luis Rojas did an "exceptional job" in the first half of the season. But he wasn’t ready to say Rojas had earned a new contract for 2022.

"That’s a decision we’ll make in light of all the circumstances at the end of the season," Alderson said.

"Circumstances" like whether the Mets squeak into the playoffs?

If that’s what Rojas needs to keep his job, then Wednesday night’s crushing 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Marlins in Miami is not a game Rojas will want to add to his resume.

 

Rojas made several tactical decisions in the top and bottom of the 10th inning that backfired. In short, the decisions were about matchups, which is what managers always fall back on when a move fails – "we liked the matchup."

The easiest to first-guess was letting Edwin Diaz pinch to .336-hitting Bryan De La Cruz with the winning run on third and two outs instead of ordering an intentional walk and pitching to Lewin Diaz, who is batting .108.

De La Cruz, who was already 2-for-4, fouled off Diaz’s first pitch – a 99-mile per hour fastball -- hard to the backstop.

You know how they say on TV that when a guy fouls a pitch straight back it means he has timed the pitcher? They’re not just making that up. They say it because it’s true.

Two pitches later, De La Cruz took a 98-mph fastball and lined it off the top of the centerfield wall for a game-ending "single" as Diaz and the Mets suffered their second walkoff defeat in three days.

Did Rojas think about walking De La Cruz?

"No, not initially," he said. "We always like Diaz. You always trust your closer right there in a matchup righty-righty. Diaz’s stuff always plays well. It’s not a guy that gets hit around . . . So that’s why we went with the matchup and we trusted Diaz to get De La Cruz in that situation."

Now flash back to the top of the 10th, when Rojas made two pinch-hitting decisions that were based on – you guessed it – matchups rather than using the best hitter he had available.

Rojas was hell-bent on using only lefthanded hitters against Marlins righthander Anthony Bender, especially after he watched Javier Baez strike out as the first batter in the inning with ghost runner Michael Conforto on second.

Bender’s splits were a .174 average vs. righties and .225 vs. lefties. But it was the pedigree of the lefty hitters Rojas used vs. the righty hitters he didn’t that is highly questionable.

Rojas used pinch hitters Luis Guillorme (for Kevin Pillar) and Patrick Mazeika (for James McCann).

He did not use righthanded-swinging J.D. Davis, who had gotten hits as a pinch hitter on Monday and Tuesday.

Pillar has been a clutch hitter for the Mets. (Keith Hernandez on SNY gently questioned the move.) Guillorme, who has had four hitless at-bats since Sept. 3, walked.

McCann is a starting player who the Mets signed to a four-year, $40-million contract. Mazeika is a third-string catcher who came in hitless in his last 10 at-bats.

Mazeika grounded back to the pitcher – too hard to be one of his patented run-scoring fielder’s choices -- to end the inning.

Davis was on deck to bat for the pitcher. He never came up, because he is a righthanded batter. And because the game ended in the bottom of the 10th.

The Mets remained four games behind Atlanta, which lost to the Nationals. But they are running out of time.

Rojas may be running out of time, too.

New York Sports