There was more questionable – and costly – bullpen maneuvering by Terry Collins on Friday
There’s just no seventh heaven for Terry Collins and the Mets, and there may not be at all down the stretch of the season.
The seventh inning continues to serve as a black plague for the Mets, as they once again failed to keep the opposition at bay on Friday night with their relief corps.
Once again, Collins was taking a bullpen – now deeper with options thanks to roster expansion on September 1 – and putting it’s cast in uncomfortable roles.
On this night, he used Sean Gilmartin, the clubs trusted long reliever, as a left-handed specialist in the seventh inning, something which has proven unsuccessful throughout the 2015 season, holding them to a .243 average in 80 plate appearances.
Nevertheless, he was asked to get Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich – who Terry Collins felt were both susceptible to the, “soft stuff” – to start the seventh inning just after the Mets had taken a 4-3 lead thanks to a two-run home run from Yoenis Cespedes.
“I thought I’d start [Gilmartin],” Collins said about Gilmartin. “And if we got to Prado, then have [Addison Reed] ready.”
He failed to get them out, instead yielding consecutive singles to set the table for Martin Prado.
So Collins inserted Reed, who yielded a run scoring single to Prado to tie the game. He then walked Marcel Ozuna to allow the go-ahead run to score.
It seemed like a good opportunity to try out Dario Alvarez instead of Gilmartin. Yes, it would have been his 2015 debut, and he would’ve been thrown right into the fire with an assignment to protect a one-run lead in a low scoring game. But he was more or less dominant against left-handed hitters in the minor leagues this year.
Alternatively, Collins could have gone with Erik Goeddel for the seventh inning entirely, who with his new splitter has been an effective all-around cross-over reliever and save the mixing and matching for a more critical situation. That way, Gilmartin would’ve been saved for long relief if needed.
But Collins went against the grain with Gilmartin, essentially on a hunch, and got burned.
The Mets showed their trademarked character by fighting back in the ninth inning after the Marlins retired the first two batters by tying the game at five apiece.
But the Marlins bullpen stymied the Mets bats in the 10th and 11th innings.
With Goeddel in for a second inning of work in the 11th, he allowed a leadoff single to Cole Gillespie in the 11th, but retired Gordon on a popped up bunt. That’s when Collins inserted Eric O’Flaherty to face Yelich, and he actually retired him on a groundball to first.
But then Collins left O’Flaherty in the game to face Prado, who already had four hits on the night.
The idea was to hopefully retire or limit Prado to a single to get O’Flaherty to face Justin Bour.
O’Flaherty never got to face Bour.
Instead, Prado laced a game-winning double up the right field line. The game was over and the Mets lead in the National League East was down to five games with 28 games to go.
“You just don’t want him to get something good to hit because you’ve got Bour on deck,” Collins said. “You’re starting to get a little thin down in the pen. So you think, ‘Hey, at least let him face Bour with the slider.’ That’s who we were trying to get to.”
The problem is, O’Flaherty has been more or less ineffective since joining the Mets, especially against right-handed hitters.
“The goal there is to get a ground ball, [Prado] is not going to beat you with a homer to the opposite field,” O’Flaherty said. “So you figure any ground ball he hits is going to be a single and he happened to sneak it down the line.
“I was trying to get a ground ball from him, and if he gets a single you get Bour,” O’Flaherty concluded.
It was another night filled with questionable bullpen maneuvering by Collins, and another night the Mets lost in part because of it.
Better execution can certainly make the manager look like a genius for these bold rolls of the dice. But when players are put in a position where they’re more likely to fail than succeed, it’s hard to comprehend why those gambles are being made to begin with, especially in a pennant race.
It’s that thought process which might be the greatest concern for the Mets over the final month of the season.