Mancuso: Mets Are Riding Unexpected Pitching To Wild Card

This was not envisioned in April for the New York Mets: Gabriel Ynoa, Logan Verrett, Josh Smoker, Erik Goeddel, Josh Edgin and Hansel Robles winning a ballgame in a late September pennant stretch for one of two wildcard spots in the National League.

But the unexpected, and because there was no other option, put the Mets with eight games remaining a step closer to being one of those wildcard teams and more baseball in October.

“I tip my hat to all those young kids,” said manager Terry Collins after his team had that less than dramatic win over the Philadelphia Phillies Friday night at Citi Field. “We’re putting them in a tough spot.”

And tough it is, because this was supposed to be a start for Steven Matz. But his continued issue with shoulder stiffness had Matz off the mound again, and there is no telling if he throws another pitch this season. Tough also, because Saturday night, Noah Syndergaard misses another start, and it’s due to a strep throat and not an arm issue.

Jacob deGrom will not be on the mound again until next spring, Matt Harvey, the supposed ace was shut down months ago, and the survivor of this rich Mets pitching core, 43-year old Bartolo Colon could be a possible starter for a wildcard game a week from next Wednesday,

This was not the plan in April, and always it was said the Mets would survive with one or two injuries to that prosperous pitching, young arms that were instrumental to their success of a National League championship last season.

But Collins comes to the ballpark this season and it has always been the unexpected. As the old saying goes, “Who wrote the script?” and that has certainly pertained to this Mets 2016 season, and it is simply amazing that they are ahead as one of the two top wildcards at this juncture.

So for now, it is a healthy Bartolo Colon and hopefully,l Syndergaard will be healthy enough to make his next start Tuesday at Miami, assuming there are no other issues with his throat or the arm because as this season transpired it has always been, who is next to go down in the rotation?

Collins and the Mets go with more youngsters that are available. He praised the Mets farm system that delivered Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, two of the unexpected who have delivered during this run of winning 22 of their last 32 games.

And, Robles, who has had his share of struggles came up big Friday night delivering 2.2 scoreless innings and his first career save. Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed were not available having worked a great amount of innings in the Braves three-game sweep that could have decimated the Mets. Fernando Salas could have been the closer, though the righthander admitted that would have been a test.

Salas was not asked to start Saturday night, and he admitted “It’s something I have never done before.” So another bullpen helper, Sean Gilmartin, with 18 pitches thrown since coming back from Triple-A in late August, will get the spot start.

“When we found out Noah’s not available, I guess you just brush it off,” Collins said. “But you play through it . We played through it tonight and we’ll play through it again tomorrow.

The manager is being criticized for going to the pen often, as he has this past week. But this is September and the expanded rosters enable him to make the moves. But the roster expansion does come at a good time with the unexpected injuries to this prosperous pitching staff that has been beset with more injuries and resembles an infirmary at Citi Field.

He said, “I know one thing. You come to the park these days, you know you’re going to get in a game. I was pretty happy I only had to use seven tonight,” referring to the extra arms that are available in that busy bullpen that has kept this run going for the Mets. Collins said, he had eight or nine ready to go.

But good all of them were not used. Ynoa did not last long Friday night, 2.0 innings, two runs and five hits. So it was beginning to get out of hand and then the Mets offense took over and beat up a bad Phillies bullpen after Jeremy Hellickson left the game.

It’s up to Gilmartin to give the Mets some innings Saturday night. It’s not Noah Syndergaard on the mound or any of the other walking wounded of the pitching staff. And if things get out of hand early in another crucial game, as they all are at this point, expect those other unexpected pitchers to be walking out of the gate and to the mound.

“We got some innings out of some guys, certainly, that kept us in the game,” Collins said. “Then the offense got it going.”

The unexpected has happened and who knows? Maybe Sean Gilmartin adds his name to that list when play concludes Saturday night.

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About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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