Backend of Bullpen Is Frontline Concern For Mets

MLB Awards 2013 All Star Game to Mets

BY JOE RINI

Sometimes timing and perspective are everything. If some casino owning, roulette swinging, baseball genie asked manager Terry Collins before the season if he’d take a 4 and 2 road trip this past week against the Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins, he undoubtedly would have said yes. If the Mets three game sweep of the Phillies had occurred after the Mets bullpen squandered two ninth inning leads in dropping two out of three against the Marlins, they still would have soared north on the New Jersey Turnpike riding the wave of a stirring sweep in Philadelphia.

Unfortunately for the Mets, the Marlins series followed the Phillies series, so a road trip filled with late inning comebacks was negated by Frank Francisco twice not being able to nail down the ninth inning, leaving the Mets to lament what might have been. More significantly, many began to question Francisco’s role as the Mets closer, especially after Collins removed him from Sunday’s game when he allowed the first three Marlins to reach base and then had to separate Francisco from arguing with the home plate umpire in the 8 to 4 loss.

With a record of 1-3 and nine saves in 11 opportunities, Francisco has looked dominant at times, twice earning three saves in three consecutive games this season, but he also allowed runs in six out of seven appearances during a stretch in April. The nine for 11 stat is somewhat deceptive, as he clearly was responsible for blowing the game on Sunday, but did not get credited with the blown save.

Following the loss Sunday, Terry Collins opted not to make an emotional decision and change his closer, and brought Francisco into the game Monday night to close out the Mets 3 to 1 win against the Milwaukee Brewers. After allowing a run and putting the tying runner on base, Francisco retired the last two Brewers for his ninth save of the season.

In sticking with his closer, and speaking of the bullpen in general, Collins said, “I don’t want to do is turn our bullpen inside out even though we’ve had a few blown saves. Everybody has. The minute you start changing everybody’s roles, it’s very uncomfortable for some of the pitchers in that bullpen.”

In splitting the two game series against the Brewers this week, highlighted by seven shutout innings by 41-year-old Miguel Batista in the Mets victory on Monday, the Mets ended play on Tuesday with a record of 20 and 16, having won 7 out of their last 10 games, in third place, 2 1/2 games behind division leading Atlanta. Despite losing two of three to Miami this past weekend, the Mets have played exceptionally well against their Eastern Division counterparts with a 14-7 record within the division.