The questionable maneuvering by Terry Collins intensifies many concerns going forward
The sixth inning during Tuesday night’s forgettable 14-8 loss to the Phillies was as perplexing as it was disappointing.
Just a half inning before the Mets bullpen pulled the drain on this contest, the Mets had just rallied for four runs against Aaron Harang thanks to an RBI single from Kelly Johnson, an RBI groundout from Curtis Granderson, and a mammoth two-run home run from Yoenis Cespedes.
It was now 6-4. A 6-0 clunker which the Mets seemed certain to lose just 15 minutes before was very much in reach, especially against a Phillies bullpen which has the ninth-worst ERA in the game.
But instead of using Sean Gilmartin in long relief, or turning to either Erik Goeddel or Addison Reed to try and shutdown the Phillies and get this game to the later innings, manager Terry Collins curiously injected Bobby Parnell into this game.
Parnell allowed the first three hitters to reach and a run to score before being lifted. But instead of Collins going to one of the aforementioned relievers, he turned to Eric O’Flaherty to face lefty Cody Asche, and Phillies manager Pete Mackanin predictably countered with righty Cameron Rupp, who O’Flaherty promptly walked.
That was it for O’Flaherty, but in came Carlos Torres in the middle of an inning, who got absolutely mauled by the Phillies.
At the end of all of this decision making – which left many of the Mets better relievers unused – the Phillies had put up eight runs against Parnell, O’Flaherty, and Torres.
“It was the bottom of the order, and I thought if we get him back out there after what he’s been through, I thought it might be a lift for him,” Collins said about using Parnell in a 6-4 game. “He just didn’t throw any strikes.”
No he didn’t. If he had, maybe the conversation is different. But is a 6-4 game in the sixth inning – in which the Mets clearly had gained momentum in – the best time to use a pitcher badly struggling to return from neck and elbow surgery, someone who has hardly pitched in two years?
Remember, the club considered designating Parnell for assignment just two weeks ago. Now here he was in his first day of roster eligibility pitching in a close game.
“It’s been a long two years,” Parnell said in frustration after Tuesday’s loss.
The loyalty and faith Parnell and Collins have for each other can certainly have significant value if Parnell resembled the pitcher he was before these injury problems. But right now, Parnell is a project at best, and just can’t be counted on for now.
It’s a blind faith right now for Collins, and he keeps getting burned by Parnell.
Then of course he chose to use O’Flaherty in a spot the Phillies could (and ultimately did) clearly counter with an unfavorable match-up. It’s a questionable and concerning decision by Collins which unfortunately has a track record, and it arguably lost the game for the Mets on Tuesday despite Jon Niese having another terrible outing and putting the Mets in a 6-0 hole early.
To be fair, in a game which might matter more later in the year, it’s quite probable neither of these three pitchers used in the sixth inning on Tuesday will be on the menu for Collins. A playoff roster will be based on a meritocracy and whoever is pitching well at the time, and as of now, neither of these three pitchers can be considered for a roster spot after October 4 unless they’re injury replacements.
Now, there’s nobody in that room hungrier than Terry Collins. He’s in his mid-60s, he’s in the last year of his contract, he wants to win and wants to win right now. He has that chance, as his team is in fantastic position to do something very special in the immediate term. He deserves a ton of credit for keeping his clubhouse together during some very lean times over the years, staying true to the philosophy which has righted the franchise, and staying seated at the poker table despite some massive injuries which broke his roster early in the season.
And make no mistake – Parnell has worked tirelessly to get himself back into form and be a positive contributor on the field, too. But he’s clearly a limited pitcher right now, be it physically, mentally, or perhaps both are causes for his ineffectiveness.
This isn’t a lack of effort. This isn’t lazy managing, or anyone who is conceding one pitch in any count during a game. That can be assured.
It’s a thought process which must change if the Mets stand any kind of chance in the intensity of the moment of a playoff game.