Terry Collins pressed the right buttons with his bullpen and shutdown Game 2 on the Cubs
Throughout the entire postseason, the Mets have been depending upon two things: their starting pitching to go deep and for Jeurys Familia to bridge the gap, however long it is on a game-by-game basis.
Ok, three things – Daniel Murphy belongs in that group too.
But that formula can only take the Mets so far. Eventually, the Mets need consistent contributions from the rest of their bullpen, and to utilize those tools appropriately while protecting their weakness.
Their time came on Sunday night in game two of the National League Championship Series.
Noah Syndergaard was lifted with a run in and two outs in the sixth inning. Anthony Rizzo was due up, so Terry Collins turned to Jon Niese to get the final out of the sixth.
That sent fans into an uproar. But little did they know, it was a matchup Collins had been waiting for.
Why? Because Rizzo was 2-for-17 lifetime against Niese. It was an out Collins was banking on from his starter-turned-reliever based not so much on intuition and a gut feeling as is often the case with Collins.
Instead, he depended upon the science of baseball to see the club through a rocky inning.
Just like it was proven that the earth was round, science prevailed once again as Niese struck out Rizzo to strand Kris Bryant at second base and the score 4-1 in favor of the Mets.
Collins then turned to the formula the club intended to use in the event their starters went six innings. He didn’t have the power-armed Syndergaard available, and presumably he didnt feel comfortably giving Matz an inning in what was still a close game, instead having him get his work in the bullpen while inserted Addison Reed for the seventh inning.
“I haven’t used Jon as a primary to get a lefty out. He came in tonight and got a huge out for us,” manager Terry Collins said.
Reed had no problems with the Cubs in his inning of work, inducing a lineout from Starlin Castro and two meaningless popups from Chris Coghlan and Miguel Montero.
“I felt good. Just trying to get ahead in the count and work quick. It was cold out there so I was trying not to be out there too long,” Reed said. “We played the game the way we knew we could. Our bullpen we know what we’re capable of. We have all the confidence in the world in each other. From watching in the regular season we know what everybody can do and we’re executing to the expectations we talked about.”
Tyler Clippard took the baton in the eighth inning, and allowed nothing more than a two-out single to Dexter Fowler.
“I was itching to get out there,” said Clippard. “It was nice to get in a game like that. It felt good. Made the pitches I needed to make got through the inning and we won so everything’s good.
On came Jeurys Familia for the ninth inning for a smaller assigment than what seemed like mainstream – he was asked for three outs, and he got them with no problem to notch his second save in as many nights in the NLCS and fourth save in the playoffs.
“I feel like first day of the season. Tomorrow is a day off so I’m ok,” Familia explained. “But Jon Niese, Addison, Clippard, everybody they all pitch great.
For Familia, he’s now faced 26 batters in the playoffs and retired 23 of them in a span of 7 2/3 innings.
But for the Mets, in a postseason which has seen unconventional use of their bullpen while arguably overworking their star closer, it was a relief for Collins knowing he could turn to the formula they outlined for success during the regular season when it matters the most.
And Collins knew he just could not ask Familia for yet another multiple out save. He can only go to the well so many times without being burned or without burning his star closer’s arm out with games left to play in the postseason.
Fortunately, he was able to turn to his outpitch and get 10 outs from the bullpen to secure a game two which gave the Mets a commanding lead on this playoff series.
And while the game could certainly be credited once againt to Syndergaard’s electrifying 5 2/3 innings of work, Murphy and Curtis Granderson, the bullpen’s performace was a primary key to success on Sunday night, with Collins pressing all of the right buttons to secure a tremendous win in the NLCS.
“We have so much confidence in our whole bullpen,” Familia said.
Why not at this point, since it’s all going right for the Mets, anyway.