Manager Mickey Callaway said Friday night after the Mets 7-4 loss to the Cubs at Citi Field, “We are not snake-bitten. We are not playing the game the right way and have to do better at it.” Perhaps not snake-bitten with three straight respective starts from the pitching rotation but a bullpen and on the field play need a more descriptive element to what has been going on.
And the blame could be the architect of this, the “Master” known as the GM Sandy Alderson, who believed an 11-1 start was the indicator of a rebuilt pen that he put together during the off season. Simple to see that the outcome again Friday night, and the Mets seventh loss in the last nine is the result of a snake-bitten bullpen.
The results also of a GM, one who stays in place, that is more difficult to understand than the boxing promoters who try and appease their fans with good fights.
However the latest implosion of the Mets bullpen, this after starter Zack Wheeler tossed six innings and two runs, has put the Mets below ,500 for the first time this season at 27-28 and the schedule does not get easier with two more against the Cubs, three with the cross-town Yankees next weekend and sandwiched in between two with the last place Baltimore Orioles.
And at this rate, the way this bullpen is performing, there is no guarantee that the Mets will make things easy with the Orioles who have their share of bullpen issues.
But you hear and feel the mood in a Mets clubhouse. They are quiet, looking for answers and still believe they are a good team, But that bullpen over the last nine games is 1-7 with a 8.42 ERA, 38 earned runs in 36.1 innings, and with that you can understand why this team could be snake-bitten.
“Nobody wants to blow games down there,” Paul Sewald said. Yet, the right-hander was responsible for four runs that let this game get away after Wheeler turned in another good outing. Then he said, “it’s frustrating when we have to tell the starting pitcher ‘sorry over and over again,’”
Wheeler had his fifth quality start of the season and seems to have turned the corner on the right track. He appeared frustrated as much as the 37,183 who left the ballpark with the realization this was another implosion of a bullpen that can’t do anything right.
And as much as there is plenty of more time to get this corrected, and Callaway the pitching conscious manager believes it will happen, each and every time a starter fails to go past six innings there is that uncertainty about this unreliable bullpen that can’t do nothing right.
Which gets back to the snake-bitten comment from the manager, and what Mets fans want to see is that starter going another inning or two before the pen takes over. This is about pitch counts and analytics and that means the bullpen taking over and preserving a lead which leads to a win.
It also means making the right plays. Michael Conforto, with a bad throw to home that went past the cutoff man in the seventh inning, led to a three-run Cubs inning, a play that the manager said is learned “when you’re 18.”
But is wasn’t all on Conforto, The bullpen opened the door and for the first time Callaway went into the clubhouse after this loss and had a team meeting. He said these meetings do not make a pitcher throw strikes or a position player to make the right play.
So snake-bitten many not be the proper term here. Grant the excuse of this injury hex and soon Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier will be back in the lineup. Steven Matz with a better finger should be able to make his next start and Noah Syndergaard is not far behind. Jay Bruce left the game in the fifth inning with lower back soreness and should be available Saturday night.
Said Bruce, “I really don’t anticipate it being serious.” But this is a serious time for the Mets, 16-27 since that 11-1 start and fourth in the National League East as they see the Phillies, Braves, and Nationals battling for for the top spot.
And if this sort of revamped bullpen can’t turn it around, and real soon, there will be more bad outcomes like this one. But the GM, who put this together, can’t find the solutions and snake-bitten can only apply to his moves and strategy as the “Master” of a minor league system that needs to be revamped.
It starts at the top and again there is time to get this right. However the manager may be wrong in his assessment because this Mets team does resemble one that is snake-bitten.