(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)
Terry Collins went to his closer for a five-out save in the eighth inning at Citi Field Wednesday afternoon. Jeurys Familia was battling flu like symptoms before the series finale with the Miami Marlins and the manager did not have him in the plan. But this game became an urgent one the Mets had to win.
Urgent in April? Collins would say yes. His team needed a win after losing four straight to the Phillies and Marlins on the opening home portion of the homs season and those are the teams the Mets dominated last season en route to their divisional title and eventual run to the World Series.
Familia had to close the door, his third appearance in as many games and his second save of the season. After all the Mets had this need for urgency and denied there is panic eight games into the season. But you do panic after eight games with the lowest batting average as a team in baseball at .187 and ranked 29th in runs with 18.
Panic? The Mets would say the word does not exists with them. After taking the series finale, 2-1 over the Marlins the urgency to win was more likely because they depart for a three-city nine game road trip to Cleveland, Philadelphia and Atlanta as a 3-5 team instead of 2-6.
For the fan base a loss Wednesday afternoon would have been panic. To the Mets, urgency was the situation because expectations are high for the defending National League champions.
But you have to listen to the manager about how urgent this win was. You have to listen to Collins and his players about that sense of urgency and not one of panic. This is April and plenty of baseball to be played before the dog days of August and a hopeful pennant stretch into September.
“This is a game we had to have,” Collins said. “We couldn’t sacrifice another game.” He knows the importance of winning baseball games in April, because it is those losses this time of year that sometimes come back to haunt you in September.
But the manager does not want to hear about his team having a lack of energy or being overconfident. He said “That made me sick to my stomach.” The fan base was in panic and in an urgent state of mind because they have become a part of those expectations to win again this year and this was the first slate of a long home season.
Don’t tell Yoenis Cespedes that there is a lack of energy, or a need to panic. The prized free agent is off to that slow start, seven hits in 30 at bats, and a home run in the first eight games. But he stayed in the game, bruised after hitting his right knee into a seat and a fan in going after a foul ball beyond the tarp around the third base line in the eighth inning.
Panic? Not to Cespedes, but that play showed the urgency to get a win. He said through an interpreter, “I was trying to get the team a win. It’s eight games.”
“I said we got to win this game,” Collins explained. “We’ve got to show people we mean business.” Again there was no panic. It is April and plenty of time to get the bats going and give that bullpen some rest with an off day Thursday.
Had Steven Matz not had that brief and ineffective first start Monday night, a game where Collins had to stretch out his pen, perhaps the urgency would not have been the word of the day. But the need to panic?
“If you start saying games are must wins, I think there’s some pressure that really is not needed,” Kevin Plawecki said. His first hit and RBI of the season came with a go-ahead two-run single in the seventh inning.
“But definitely there was a sense of urgency to get a win today,” he said. Not the start the Mets envisioned, and they know that. The good thing is there is plenty of time to get on the right track and one thing is certain, the manager as seen so often last year won’t use the word panic.
Instead, Collins said, “We’ve gotten off to a slow start. It happens. It’s part of the game. There’s a lot of teams that get off to a great start and falter. There’s teams that get off to a slow start that have huge second halves and run away with stuff. I just thought it was important today for our fan base to stay excited.”
And in a nutshell that explained it all. The panic mode was in full effect with a base full of fans that wants that same winning mentality of last year. They got Cespedes back in the lineup and until that play in the eighth inning, and because of the slow start, he was hearing the boos.
The fans know this team has expectations, and have a chance to win each start from the arms of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and when Matz is effective. One difference, with the exception of David Wright, there is no veteran presence in the clubhouse that was seen in September and October with Michael Cuddyer, Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.
Baseball economics and the retirement of Cuddyer leaves that void of a veteran presence that was so important. But the Mets know they are better than what has been seen on the field the first eight games, with or without the veterans.
“This isn’t the start we planned to have,” Wright said. But there was no panic and just the need of urgency to get a win. The Mets got that win and there are plenty of more games before September arrives.
Yes, September, if there are no wins than it is time to panic!
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