Innings limits and bullpen problems are clashing for the Mets
What happened in the sixth inning and what did not happen in the seventh inning on Wednesday night in Baltimore serves as a direct example of something which simply cannot happen down the stretch of the season.
After Noah Syndergaard allowed a game-tying, two-run home run to Jonathan Schoop, Terry Collins lifted his starter and replaced him with Logan Verrett, who proceeded to retire the next three batters he faced.
But in the seventh inning, with the Mets leading 4-3 after Wilmer Flores homered in the top half of the inning, Collins replaced Verrett with Hansel Robles, who allowed a game-tying home run to Adam Jones.
It’s not the home run Robles allowed. He actually made a pretty good pitch, and a really good hitter put a good swing on the ball and hit what would have been a routine fly ball in most other venues. It happens, especially at Camden Yards – if a pitcher makes even the smallest mistake, it can result in damage.
It’s the fact the Mets decided to limit Verrett because he may start on Sunday in place of Matt Harvey at Coors Field.
“He was just going an inning anyway,” Collins said about Verrett after the game. “That’s what we had planned on today so that’s what we did.”
And that’s the problem with the whole operation of limiting innings and skipping starts. Every game is unique as are their pitch-to-pitch situations. They needed Syndergaard to go six innings, but he didn’t. So, they needed Verrett to bridge that gap at least with outs in the seventh inning, and try to get this to Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning.
Here’s the clear cut difference, just on Wednesday. If the Mets were not planning on dealing with this innings situation with Harvey three games from now, perhaps Verrett would have been able to make more than six pitches in the sixth inning to get more outs in the seventh inning.
Would he have succeeded? Who knows, but it was the obvious call under normal circumstances.
Because of what they’re planning for later, they gambled on the present and probably lost because of it.
It’s a situation which needed to alter their game plan to give them the best chance to win today, and they didn’t because they’re worried about three days from now on a day they lost ground to the Nationals in the National League East race.
It doesn’t just affect one day, or one person on the pitching staff. It impacts the entire pitching staff and the days before and after that skipped start.
That was the case on Wednesday, and that was the case at the end of the 2007 season as well when they decided to rest Pedro Martinez as well.
There’s no need to get into that story, again.
It also impacts their ability to use Verrett on Friday and Saturday as well. They’re essentially playing a man short in their bullpen everyday leading up to the day they’re playing a man short in their rotation.
How does that give them the best chance at winning everyday, especially with a bullpen that features a sudden gap in the sixth and seventh innings?
Would it be better to play a man short on the bench in this case and bring in an extra arm for the bullpen? It may not be the popular choice since it would likely impact Michael Conforto, but this already compromised the pitching staff and a questionable bullpen, and it’s about to do it again.
It’s totally understandable what the Mets are trying to do with Harvey. As well as he’s performed, everyone needs to be reminded this is his first year back after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, and he has had every anticipated up and down expected. They don’t want him to get hurt, run out of gas, or both. He has been a huge part of their success story in 2015, and they want to make sure he is a part of what might be an even greater success later in the year.
But they have to get there, first. And if they start messing with what makes the team great at this time of year, when, “it’s crunch time,” as Terry Collins put it earlier this week, it’s going to be very difficult to withstand any amount of winning from the Nationals when the Mets are knowingly and willingly not putting their best foot forward to win on an everyday basis.
Perhaps they should have employed this strategy earlier in the year, rather than during the final 40 games of the season when they’re in their first meaningful set of late season games since the last time they tried to skip starters in a pennant race.
Winning trumps all, even innings limits.
Worry about tomorrow when it arrives.