Relying on heaters, Bastardo shows worth

Mets lefty retires three in a row after coming in with bases loaded

May 9th, 2016

SAN DIEGO -- Antonio Bastardo had nearly completed the most impactful moment of his nascent Mets career when catcher Kevin Plawecki popped up from his crouch, confused. The veteran reliever had retired consecutive batters on nothing but fastballs with the bases loaded Sunday, but was shaking off every sign Plawecki flashed at him.

So Plawecki jogged out 60 feet, 6 inches to talk things over with Bastardo. The pair quickly settled on another fastball. Alexei Ramirez swung clean through it. And from the improbability of that eighth inning, the Mets preserved a 4-3 victory over the Padres to move into sole possession of first place for the first time this season.

"They were waiting for something else, but we still got them with the fastball," Bastardo said. "I just feel comfortable with my fastball. I don't even check the velocity or whatever. I just feel a lot of confidence with my fastball."

It was a brand of brashness that on this Sunday afternoon, the Mets sorely needed. Clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth inning, Mets manager Terry Collins turned first to reliever Jerry Blevins and then to Addison Reed, who combined to allow three straight singles. Those loaded the bases, prompting Collins to call upon left-hander Bastardo despite the right-handed batters stacked in San Diego's lineup.

"I just said, 'Well, I'm going to bring in somebody who's fresh," Collins said. "If he throws strikes, he's got a chance to get a popup or a strikeout and get out of the inning."

First up was pinch-hitter Derek Norris, who fouled off three pitches before missing a 91-mph fastball over the plate. Then came Melvin Upton Jr., who popped up the third of three consecutive fastballs. When Ramirez stepped to the plate with two outs, Bastardo changed nothing, peppering the zone with low-90s heaters. He elevated the sixth of them above Ramirez's bat, as his catcher whooped and pumped his fist.

"You've got bases loaded, nobody out," Plawecki said. "It was just one of those situations, a big situation to get out of. Obviously, we were pretty fired up."

For Bastardo, it was easily his most significant moment since signing a two-year, $12 million contract with the Mets last winter. Coming off a poor Spring Training, Bastardo went mostly unused in tight spots early in April, with Collins preferring to lean on fellow setup men Reed and Jim Henderson.

Perhaps now, with Sunday's magic act on his resume, Bastardo will move into a more prominent role.

"The goal is to not [let them] get a hit, a base hit, a double, whatever," Bastardo said. "I just try to throw every pitch with intensity and not leave anything in there for the hitters."