Terry Collins became the Mets’ all-time leader in games managed last night, and the Mets celebrated as only they could: putting five straight Angels on base in the ninth inning to face Mike Trout. I fully expected another bullpen implosion, but Trout only hit a sacrifice fly and the Mets were able to escape 7-5. It’s a win, and wins are always good, but Saturday’s game also reminded everyone of how Collins drives fans nuts.
· Did a starter get used for “one more inning” but fail to get an out that inning? Yup. Zack Wheeler didn’t give up a run through five innings. At times he was dominant, attacking the strike zone and putting away hitters. The rest of the time he was pre-surgery effectively wild. Wheeler walked Trout to start the sixth, and it felt like he just wanted to avoid the one dangerous Angels hitter. Then he walked Luis Valbuena (.288 OBP this year) on five pitches. No one was up in the bullpen, so Wheeler gave up a bloop hit, then hit Jefry Marte with a fastball to bring in the Angels’ first run.
· Did a struggling player get more playing time in order to “get him going?” Robert Gsellman came in as a setup guy, throwing both the seventh and eighth inning. Since the Mets have Monday off, they are skipping his rotation spot. Gsellman looked good in the bullpen, getting ahead early and only allowing one baserunner. It’s the rare time when Terry Collins’ vote of confidence went to a rookie, and the rare time it feels like it may pay dividends.
· Did a veteran stay high in the lineup despite poor performance? Jose Reyes continued to hit second in Asdrubal Cabrera’s absence and got on base four times. He’s finally batting above .200. Curtis Granderson hit fifth to ensure a lefty/righty balance, but went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. It looks more and more like Granderson should be the odd man out when Yoenis Cespedes comes off the disabled list next week, but who knows if that’s what the Mets will do.
· Did an easy win suddenly turn in to hair pulling? Of course. It’s the Mets bullpen! New Met Neil Ramirez came in with a 7-2 lead and promptly showed why five different teams have released him in the last calendar year. All three runners got on base and eventually scored. Addison Reed came in to the save situation and promptly issued his first walk of the season. He let all three inherited runners score, but gave a sigh of relief as he got the last out.
The Mets’ first three hitters all reached against injury callup Alex Meyer, but the team could only get one run on a Neil Walker sacrifice fly. Conforto and Reyes each got on again in the third, but the Mets could only get a sacrifice fly. When Michael Conforto and Reyes each got on again to lead off the fifth, the Angels helped the Mets out with an error on an easy double play ball, leading to two more runs. Saturday’s game reminded me of how I used to watch a lot of college baseball. The teams combined for 14 walks, sloppy fielding, and a general sense that each team could find a way to choke away victory.
Wheeler ran out of gas incredibly quickly in the sixth, so Collins turned to former Angel Fernando Salas. When a team has the bases loaded and no outs, they score another 2.3 runs that inning, on average. The Mets scored below that average in the first, and now it was the Angels’ turn. Chad Pennington flew to left and Anaheim didn’t test Conforto’s arm as he threw a laser. Ben Revere hit an RBI groundout, then Martin Maldonado flew out. Salas has been either good or really bad, and yesterday he was good.
The Angels had their own cringe-worthy collapse in the eighth. With the Mets already up 4-2, Lucas Duda hit a two-out double. Anaheim walked Rene Rivera to face a pinch hitter. Wilmer Flores doubled in a run. Rivera overran third and was caught in a rundown, but the slow-footed catcher drew a bad throw and dove to safety. Conforto got an intentional pass – his third walk of the day – and Reyes hit a two-run single. The Mets needed both gift runs to survive the ninth.
The Mets look for a sweep, with Tommy Milone facing Jesse Chavez. No word on whether the teams will hold a joint bonding session over their massive injury problems after the series is over.
Photo credit: Brad Penner – USA Today Sports