Step right up and meet the New York Mets, a baseball team from Queens with perhaps the best front rotation in baseball. Indeed, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey are three superbly talented pitchers — and they have their work cut out for them. Over the weekend, the Mets played the final three of a four game set against the Miami Marlins, a team that never ceases to give them fits, after taking the first game in a 16-inning thriller.
In those three games, the Mets looked poised to do some real damage, as they sent out their three star pitchers to shut down their opponents. Each man lived up to his billing as the trio gave up a combined four earned runs in 19 innings pitched, striking out 22 Marlins and walking just three.
Yet all three pitchers registered a no-decision, and the Mets lost all three games. Both Syndergaard and deGrom exited their respective contests with the Mets clinging to a one run lead, only to watch from the dugout as the bullpen erased their solid performances.
Poor Harvey was not as lucky, as the Mets offense was unable to score a single run before his exit. If not for Asdrubal Cabrera’s game-tying single in the ninth, Harvey would have been credited a loss despite pitching well. Oh, and the bullpen blew that game too, with Addison Reed giving up a walk off home run in the bottom half of the ninth.
This past weekend serves as a perfect microcosm for what will likely be a frustrating season for Mets fans. Despite receiving three quality starts from their three best pitchers, the Mets were unable to record a single victory.
The Mets seem to be anemic when it comes to scoring runs without hitting the ball over the fence. This was painfully obvious this weekend, when the Mets combined for just eight runs over three games. Noticeably absent from these contests was the power of the Mets offense, which leads the MLB with 22 home runs on the season. They mustered just a pair of solo shots, one from Lucas Duda on Friday and one from Cabrera on Saturday.
But there is another glaring hole in the Mets formula: their woefully understaffed and inept bullpen, which is struggling through the first weeks of the season in the absence of all-star closer Jeurys Familia. Familia is currently serving a 15-game suspension for violating the MLB’s domestic violence policy.
Familia, who is eligible to return this Thursday at home against the Phillies, would provide some much needed assistance to this struggling bullpen. When Familia returns, the ideal situation should be to have Reed and Jerry Blevins, who has pitched well thus far, split the setup man duties and have the other relievers work up through the seventh when necessary. This would ideally take some of the pressure off this struggling relief staff.
The challenge presented to manager Terry Collins may ultimately prove to be one that he is unfit to handle. He is notorious for his misuse of the bullpen, and when Familia is back in the mix Collins will have to make adjustments accordingly. Familia’s return alone is not enough to keep the Mets from losing. Collins needs to manage his relievers properly.
But the Mets’ offensive struggles are likely just beginning, and we should expect them to continue on an inconsistent basis. Inexplicably, Collins has been allowing limited plate time for outfielder Michael Conforto, who is one of the Mets’ biggest assets on offense. This is a small example, but it is indicative of a bigger problem. It is not just his bullpen practices that need to improve, Collins needs to get better at managing his lineup, too.
There will be stretches where Yoenis Cespedes and other power hitters heat up at just the right time and the Mets will appear to be a dominant team, but Collins cannot rely on hot streaks alone as he has in the past. If the Mets are going to make a run for the pennant and Collins wants to keep his job, he must craft a winning formula and he must craft it soon.
But until that happens, and the Mets prove that they can hit consistently and score runs when it matters, Syndergaard, deGrom and Harvey will have to get used to no-decisions. At this rate, they will be lucky to win 30 games combined.