Campbell, Mejia help Mets close out Dodgers
Rookie makes diving catch in eighth; righty notches second save
NEW YORK -- Hanging on the wall of Terry Collins' Spring Training office was a depth chart listing every player in camp. As spring progressed, the Mets manager made edits, accounting for every contingency.
Yet even Collins could not have predicted this. Thursday, Jenrry Mejia closed out the Mets' 5-3 win over the Dodgers, in a game that newly-minted outfielder Eric Campbell helped save.
This was never supposed to happen. Mejia was not supposed to pitch in relief. Campbell was not supposed to be here at all, and he certainly was not supposed to be coming up with game-saving catches in the outfield.
The Mets were not supposed to be playing in late May with a roster including just 17 of the players they took north from Florida. But they are. From Mejia and Campbell to Wilmer Flores and Bobby Abreu, the Mets are making do with a motley crew. They are losing more often than they'd like, still four games under .500 after Thursday's victory. But they are pleased by the adaptability of their team.
"We have to adapt," Collins said. "That's exactly what this game is all about. You have to make adjustments all the time."
Campbell is the quintessential example. A natural corner infielder, Campbell worked hard throughout his Minor League career to develop skills across the diamond. So when Collins asked him to start in left field on Thursday, hoping to receive an offensive spark, Campbell contributed on defense instead.
With the Mets leading by a run in the eighth and Yasiel Puig leading off second base, Hanley Ramirez hit a sinking liner to left. Campbell, who did not know he would be playing the outfield until he saw Collins' lineup card a few hours before game time, sprinted in and made a diving catch, easily doubling up Puig to end the inning.
"Off the bat, I thought it was going to be a one-hopper," Campbell said. "I was charging hard, trying to make a play at the plate because that's the tying run. I guess he hit it too well. It stayed up a little bit longer and I was able to get my glove under it."
Asked if he thought Campbell would catch the ball, Collins wrinkled his face into a grin.
"Not necessarily," the manager said.
Still, work remained for a Mets team that has run through four closers already this season. The fourth is Mejia, who won the fifth-starter's job in Spring Training only to lose it to Rafael Montero earlier this month.
Initially resisting relief work, Mejia feared its effects on his fragile right arm. But he has since come to embrace it, pumping his fist and dancing off the mound after striking out Scott Van Slyke to end a perfect ninth. Mejia earned the save by pitching in back-to-back games for the first time in two years.
"That's very important," Mejia said. "It's very important for me and for the team."
The Mets need such contributions from wherever they can find them, even if it means dipping into the unorthodox or the unexpected. To combat Dodgers starter Zack Greinke, for example, the Mets relied on an RBI double from their own pitcher, Jon Niese, a sacrifice fly from Campbell and a fielding error from one of their former employees, Justin Turner. Though the Mets have struggled mightily on offense for most of the season, Greinke saw a different side of them.
"That was the best any team has taken quality sliders and quality changeups all year," said the Dodgers pitcher, who snapped a streak of 21 consecutive games allowing two runs or fewer.
Niese was his typical quality self, allowing three runs -- two of them on a Turner homer -- in seven innings. Juan Lagares put Niese in line for a victory with his RBI single in the seventh, Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched a scoreless eighth thanks to Campbell, and the Mets added an insurance run on Curtis Granderson's triple in the bottom of that inning. Mejia then closed things out in the ninth.
It was hardly how Collins and his staff drew things up in his Florida office, but these Mets are nothing if not adaptable. After the win, Collins floated the idea of using Campbell at shortstop next, talking about how the rookie put in extra work earlier this week in case he was needed as an emergency catcher.
That wasn't on Collins' Spring Training list of contingencies, either. But the Mets long ago broke glass in case of emergency, dipping into Triple-A Las Vegas for seven new players and free agency for one.
"Our team," Collins said, "is resilient."
At this point, the Mets have little choice.