PHILADELPHIA — Every day earlier than the Mets play, Buck Showalter checks in with each reliever on his roster. He talks to them to see how they’ve recovered from current outings. He asks whether or not they can pitch that day. Then he makes his choices — taking the participant’s suggestions under consideration however not counting on it completely.
Earlier than the Mets suffered one among their worst losses of the season on Sunday, a 7-6 defeat to the Phillies that pushed them a season-high 15 video games out of first place, setup man Adam Ottavino instructed Showalter that he was obtainable. He hadn’t felt excellent the evening earlier than in throwing 26 pitches to document two outs, however he was able to go if wanted. Showalter responded that he would solely use Ottavino if the sport went to further innings.
Equally, nearer David Robertson had recorded 5 outs on Saturday however achieved so on an ultra-efficient 13 pitches. Showalter supposed to make use of Robertson for a most of 1 inning. Left-hander Brooks Raley, who had pitched on consecutive days, was unavailable. The Mets have by no means used him three video games in a row.
That was the state of affairs that introduced rookie Josh Walker to the mound with a three-run lead within the backside of the eighth. Walker didn’t retire any of the three batters he confronted. Subsequent out of the bullpen was Jeff Brigham, who had posted a 5.19 ERA in June. Brigham induced the bottom ball he wanted, however third baseman Brett Baty double-clutched and threw wildly to second base, the place Jeff McNeil couldn’t glove it.
As Ottavino sat within the bullpen feeling responsible about his idleness, Brigham issued a bases-loaded stroll, then hit consecutive batters to pressure within the game-tying and go-ahead runs. He joined Óliver Pérez as the one Mets pitchers to hit two batters in a row with the bases loaded.
Solely in any case this unfolded did Robertson start warming for an look that by no means occurred. By then it was too late; the Mets had misplaced for the fifteenth time in 20 video games with out enjoying the underside of the ninth.
“What else might we do?” Showalter mentioned of his reliever utilization. “That was type of the place we had been.”
The state of affairs evoked comparisons to the 2016 American League Wild Card Recreation, when Showalter — then Baltimore’s supervisor — left Cy Younger candidate Zack Britton within the bullpen as lesser relievers pitched and, in the end, misplaced that recreation. Afterward, Showalter defined that he didn’t wish to use Britton in a tie recreation as a result of he would have had nobody to shut if his workforce took the lead. His logic for avoiding Robertson was similar.
The urgency of Sunday’s contest couldn’t match that of a win-or-go-home playoff, however for the Mets, it was nonetheless a rubber recreation in opposition to a division rival at a vital juncture of their season. Over the previous three weeks, the Mets have seen their possibilities of making the postseason dim significantly. A collection win over the Phillies might need represented a turning level.
As an alternative, the Mets misplaced behind Carlos Carrasco, Dominic Leone, Grant Hartwig, Walker, Brigham and Vinny Nittoli. Mixed, these pitchers maintain a 5.25 ERA. Two of them weren’t within the group firstly of Could. Hartwig, to his credit score, pitched two scoreless innings.
“They’re able to doing the job,” mentioned Showalter, who was ejected within the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes. “They simply didn’t do it at this time.”
In his postgame press convention, Showalter mentioned a number of occasions that he didn’t perceive the road of questioning surrounding his bullpen utilization. He reiterated his need to steer clear of Raley or Ottavino, and to carry Robertson for a save state of affairs within the ninth.
“I don’t get it,” Showalter mentioned. “What am I lacking?”
A part of the issue is that Mets starters corresponding to Carrasco haven’t routinely pitched deep into video games. A part of it’s that with Edwin Díaz on the injured checklist and Drew Smith serving a suspension, solely three of the 5 high-leverage relievers the Mets dropped at Spring Coaching are lively. Over the course of this season, common supervisor Billy Eppler has made a slew of waiver claims, free-agent signings and trades, however he has but to import one other top-tier arm.
Maybe that can change earlier than the Aug. 1 Commerce Deadline. Maybe not. Proper now, the Mets run the danger of reaching that time with a poor sufficient document to make a shopping for spree imprudent.
“Hopefully,” Brigham mentioned, “there’s gentle on the finish of the tunnel.”
Showalter ought to, a minimum of, have Robertson, Ottavino and Raley all obtainable Monday when his workforce opens a three-game collection in opposition to the Brewers. No ensures exist that the Mets will maintain a lead in that one, but when they do, their high bullpen arms will probably be well-rested.