No use philosophizing this one. The Mets snapped a three-game losing streak thanks to a stellar bullpen performance. Mets 2, Royals 1.
Discussion and Analysis
Bartolo Colon assisted on the first play of the game, a Whit Merrifield liner that deflected off Colon’s right hand directly to Neil Walker, who threw to James Loney for a 1-4-3 putout. Colon immediately left the game to undergo an X-ray exam; thankfully his thumb was not broken. Hansel Robles earned his pitcher-win with a career-high 3 2/3 innings of one-run relief, striking out six and walking one in the process.
The Mets pushed their luck by sending Robles out for the fourth after Robles had already pitched 2 2/3 innings, given that he’d never pitched more than three innings in a game. That looked like a terrible choice when Alcides Escobar opened the fourth with a double to right-center. But Robles followed the Escobar at-bat by whiffing both Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain on sharp sliders and getting Salvador Perez to fly to right. This was the fairy-tale Hansel in all his glory, delivering pristine long relief when the Mets needed it desperately. But that, as they say, is not all.
The Mets really pushed their luck by sending Robles out for the fifth inning, given that he’d already thrown 51 pitches and his career high was 52. Right on cue, Paulo Orlando singled to left to start the inning, then Robles walked Chelsor Cuthbert and gave up a three-hopper in the hole between third base and shortstop to allow the first Royals run of the game. Finally, belatedly, that brought Terry Collins out of the dugout to bring in Eric Goeddel. Robles threw 65 pitches last night in a bullpen-saving appearance. Time will tell whether Robles’s unprecedented performance will affect his health going forward.
Notably, Gary, Keith and Ron mentioned Jim Henderson during the broadcast, kvetching that Big Hendo “finds himself” on the disabled list, when the Mets could use him tonight. As Patrick Dubuque wrote so well at the main BP site yesterday, a player is not to blame for his injury — let alone when a reliever’s overuse is dictated by his manager. Collins directed Henderson to pitch in 12 of the Mets’ first 22 games, never on more than two days’ rest; in only three of those 12 outings did he throw fewer than 10 pitches. Henderson was only available to the Mets as a free agent because he’d suffered a torn labrum and rotator cuff in 2014. Is it any surprise Henderson’s now on the disabled list with a shoulder impingement? Will it shock you if Robles suffers a similar fate?
Terry Collins restated the time-honored theorem “Lucky > Good” with his reliever usage last night. After Robles was pulled with a run in and runners on first and second, Goeddel immediately allowed pinch-hitter (and regular Royals DH) Kendrys Morales to drive a fly ball that escapes most MLB parks (98 mph batted ball speed, 376 feet away, per Statcast). Then Goeddel struck out Whit Merrifield on a fastball that missed its target by literally two feet, and he caused Alcides Escobar to ground to short to end the inning. Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia closed out the game with three more innings of spotless relief.
The Mets’ offense continued its three-true-outcome tendencies. Asdrubal Cabrera hit his seventh home run of the season in his first at-bat of the game. Yoenis Cespedes hit the second pitch of the fourth inning nearly to the Home Run Apple (one of Citi Field’s best features). These were the 17th and 18th(!) home runs Kennedy’s allowed in just 81 2/3 innings pitched. Kennedy has allowed more home runs than any big-league pitcher save his tall teammate Chris Young, infamous slowballer Jered Weaver, and, uh, Max Scherzer, who is otherwise pretty good.
Of course, the bats managed merely four hits all game that were not home runs. That’s a winning formula when the bullpen allows one run over 8 2/3 innings, but it reinforces the Mets’ need for another position player. With luck, the Mets’ private Yulieski Gourriel workout is so impressive that the team immediately writes a check to Cespedes’s former Cuban teammate rather than cheaping out with alleged domestic abuser Jose Reyes. (Disturbingly, 56% of fans responding to SNY’s Twitter poll had voted in favor of a Reyes reunion when Gary, Keith, and Ron relayed the results.) There’s a move to be made to upgrade the hitting, whether for popular choice Danny Valencia or lesser lights like Yangervis Solarte, let alone promoting Dilson Herrera. However it’s accomplished, the Mets need to act soon to shore up an anemic offense.
Bartolo’s was not the only injury news. The Mets updated us on Lucas Duda, if only to say that there’s no update — he’s still unable to resume baseball activities due to the stress fracture in his back. The team also announced that Zack Wheeler ceased his Tommy John rehab after experiencing elbow pain when throwing. Wheeler will undergo testing later today. With three key positions players missing most of the season to date, it feels like the Mets have suffered injuries out of proportion to their competition. But two injury databases show the Mets are merely midpack in all three key injury measures: players on the DL, player-days lost to injury, and salary paid to injured players. Pray for Hansel Robles to avoid joining the medical report.
Important: When Asdrubal Cabrera hits a home run, Rene Rivera removes his helmet. #Mets
— Scott D. Simon (@scottdsimon) June 21, 2016
“[Bartolo] is a feel pitcher. It’s all about the feeling of the baseball, the pressure on the baseball to move it. It will hurt him more than it would hurt others, like a pure power pitcher.” — Ron
“I am the central scrutinizer.” — Keith, from his ad hoc seat beside the Mets’ dugout
Did you see some of the swings from [Giancarlo] Stanton? It looks like he’s getting untracked.” — Ron [sic]
Noah Syndergaard was scheduled to start last night but was swapped for Bartolo at the last minute. Imagine the outcry if Thor had been hit with that liner. Instead, Syndergaard will face Danny Duffy in this afternoon’s series finale.
Photo credit: Noah K. Murray — USA TODAY Sports