Because this is a Matt Harvey World, and the Mets just happen to be living in it since the heartbroken pitcher went AWOL, we can partly blame Wednesday’s 6-5 loss to the Giants on the residue from his club-hopping fiasco over the weekend.
And here’s why. The Mets were fearful of using Harvey for the series finale out of concern for how the Citi Field fans might treat him coming off his three-game suspension. They’re so protective of Harvey, and worried about his fragile psyche, that the team’s decision-makers believed there was no other choice than to keep him away from Flushing by scheduling his start for Friday night against the Brewers at Miller Park.
Fair enough. But by doing so, that meant lefty Tommy Milone — a recent waiver claim from Milwaukee — would fill Wednesday’s gap in the rotation. And the collateral damage of that choice began to put stress on the roster the previous night, despite the Mets’ comfortable 6-1 victory. Milone was a wild card, having not pitched in more than two weeks, so Terry Collins pushed all his chips to the middle of the table Tuesday, perhaps unnecessarily.
Collins used all four of his trusted relievers to protect a 6-1 cushion, against a Giants offense that is among the worst in the majors, second-to-last with a .624 OPS and averaging 3.21 runs per game. The reason? The manager wanted to be all-in for the series win rather than bank on Milone the following afternoon.
But that strategy came under fire in the wake of Wednesday’s loss because Collins used all of them again, and got burned this time when Jeurys Familia couldn’t close out a 3-2 lead, thanks to some terrible glovework by Wilmer Flores. It had been two years to the day since the Giants last rallied to win when trailing after eight innings — a mind-boggling stat, we know — but they stung Familia for four runs.
That raised the obvious postgame question to Collins: Was Wednesday’s meltdown related at all to leaning on the bullpen the previous night, when it didn’t seem required? Collins sensed it was coming, so he explained that in addition to Familia, both Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins were deployed three days in a row, and they were fine Wednesday.
“We had to win a game [Tuesday] night,” Collins said. “I was worried about winning that game.”
It’s right from the Managing 101 textbook. Do what has to be done to win the game in hand — within reason, obviously — and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. So Collins relied on his Big Four to do the job Tuesday, figuring there was a 50-50 shot Milone wouldn’t keep the Mets afloat the next afternoon and they wouldn’t be needed. But he did and they were.
Milone piloted the Mets into the sixth inning, and handed off a 3-1 edge and two runners on base to Fernando Salas, who promptly gave some of it back on Justin Ruggiano’s sacrifice fly. Still, four more relievers delivered a 3-2 lead to Familia, who got ’16 wild-card nemesis Conor Gillaspie on a fly ball to left before everything fell apart. A walk to Joe Panik kicked it off, then Flores lit the match by bobbling a potential double-play grounder and heaving an off-line throw to Neil Walker for the costly error. Hunter Pence followed with an RBI single, and after another walk loaded the bases, rookie Christian Arroyo drove in three more runs with a bullet double to left-centerfield.
This already was the second time this season Familia had pitched on three consecutive days. Last year, the Mets’ closer did it on seven occasions, recording six saves and blowing one. After Wednesday’s ugly defeat, Familia denied this three-day stretch was a problem for him. He threw 10 pitches Monday, five Tuesday, and finally 26.
“My arm feels great,” Familia said. “I think my command wasn’t there.”
If Flores had cleanly scooped up that Eduardo Nuñez grounder, and delivered an accurate throw to start a game-ending double play, this isn’t even a discussion. But the Mets are flawed defensively, with a bullpen being taxed early, and a rotation that already is showing deep cracks. These are trends that don’t appear to be changing anytime soon, and they’re all interconnected.
Counting Adam Wilk’s hasty fill-in loss Sunday, Harvey’s antics now have indirectly led to two Mets losses. He gets his redemption shot Friday. But there’s no undoing the damage that’s already been done.