The New York Mets are in first place in the National League East with a record of 32-25. They lead the division by three games over the Philadelphia Phillies. They have done it with a rash of injuries and at one time they had 17 players in the Injured List (IL). Manager Luis Rojas has done a very good job this year. All of that is fact.
While the club took two of three in a weekend series from the San Diego Padres, they had a chance to sweep the Padres on Sunday, but some odd managerial decisions cost the Mets the game and has me scratching my head as to whether or not Luis Rojas is the guy to lead this team to a deep post-season run.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s one loss and it’d be silly to be overly concerned about the Mets after one loss. They have 105 games left in the season and are in a really good spot. I don’t think Sunday’s loss means the Mets won’t make the post-season or what they have done so far is not relevant.
However, after Sunday the trust from Met fans in their manager should have taken a hit on Sunday. Rojas is in just his second season as manager of the Mets and the fanbase has yet to see their manager make key decisions in a pennant race. Sunday’s game was about as close to a playoff atmosphere as he has been in and the way he managed his bullpen on Sunday was alarming. His reasoning for his decisions make you even more alarmed.
The Mets were leading the Padres 2-1 in the top of the 7th inning at Citi Field. Starter Joey Lucchesi had pitched brilliantly through five innings and was yanked after throwing just 72 pitches, which was another questionable decision.
For the sixth inning the Mets turned to Jeurys Familia. Familia had been great all season, so the move to go to him was not a bad one. The idea was to use him for two innings, if they could. He struggled with the first two hitters of his outing but then got a double play ball in the 6th to help him escape trouble. He started the 7th and found trouble again, loading the bases with two outs. He then walked pinch hitter Jurcksion Profar to tie the game at 2.
There was no doubt that Familia was tiring. He worked almost two innings, got into trouble in both of them and it raised his pitch count up. He threw 40 pitches, so after the walk a change needed to be made.
One thing was clear. Rojas was limited with his choices in the bullpen. Aaron Loup, Seth Lugo and closer Edwin Diaz were unavailable due to their recent workload. Reliever Miguel Castro was unavailable due to neck tightness.
The available pitchers in the Mets bullpen were Trevor May, Drew Smith, Robert Gsellman and Jacob Barnes. Rojas admitted in his post-game presser that the team viewed May as their closer on Sunday, because he is the most trusted pitcher that was available in the bullpen. So essentially, he wasn’t an option for the team in a tie game in the 6th.
Then Rojas totally contradicted himself and said that there are no roles in the bullpen and the Mets use their bullpen pieces based on matchups, meaning that a pitchers’ repertoire may work better against a certain hitter.
Instead of going with Drew Smith or Robert Gsellman, both of whom have been clearly better than Jacob Barnes this season, Rojas decided to go with Barnes to face the Padres most feared hitter, Fernando Tatis, Jr with the bases loaded and two outs in a tie game.
Coming into this weekend and including his 18 outings in 2021, Barnes had an ERA of 6.59 since the beginning of the 2019 season. Barnes is best served for mop-up duty. Yet Rojas brings him in in a 2-2 game with the bases loaded with 2 outs in the 7th inning. Bringing in the worst pitcher in the bullpen into the highest of leverage spot in the game is ridiculous and dumb.
Promptly, Tatis hit a grand slam to give the Padres a 6-2 lead. And just for good measure, the next batter Manny Machado also went deep to give the Padres a 7-2 lead before he got out of the 7th inning.
His explanation in which he completely contradicted himself, is even more worrisome. It makes me wonder if Luis Rojas has the tools as manager to lead a team through the tough part of the schedule and through the playoffs.
Rojas’ decisions were inexcusable and ultimately cost the Mets the game on Sunday. It won’t be a huge deal if he learns from his mistakes and cleans up the errors. Until then though, Met fans have the right to worry about Rojas’ bullpen management. It certainly needs an improvement from Sunday.