Bullpen spoils big nights from Reyes, deGrom

April 21st, 2018

ATLANTA -- When the Mets drew up their bullpen blueprint this winter, everything centered on four names. One was , their closer for most of the last three seasons. One was AJ Ramos, a former ninth-inning man whom the team acquired last July. One was , one of the steadiest lefty specialists in the Majors. One was , the Mets' key free-agent addition.
Yet the Mets' early bullpen successes have revolved less around those pitchers than , , and other ancillary arms. Swarzak has spent all of April on the disabled list. And Familia, Ramos and Blevins each saw their struggles deepen Saturday night in the Mets' 4-3, walk-off loss to the Braves at SunTrust Park.
Beginning with the Mets' bullpen meltdown on Monday against the Nationals, those three pitchers have faced 33 batters over 5 2/3 innings this week, allowing 10 hits, six walks and 11 runs. Before the first of those games, the Mets owned the Majors' best bullpen ERA.
"It's a rollercoaster, but you don't want it to be so high and so low," Ramos said. "You want to be more consistent. With it being early, we're working on that. I think we're going to be more consistent as we go."

Staked to a three-run lead in the eighth, Ramos took the first steps toward giving it back when he walked two of the three batters he faced. In came Blevins, who served up a two-run double to Freddie Freeman. Although Blevins recovered to strike out in a one-run game, he has let 10 of the 20 batters to face him this season to reach base.
"If they're getting hit, they're not that good of pitches, I guess," Blevins said. "That's a tough one. I feel like that loss is definitely on me."

Familia, though, staked his own claim in the ninth, walking the leadoff batter and allowing a game-tying triple to . A line-drive single that was knocked down by third baseman  then put runners on the corners with one out for , who dropped down the type of squeeze bunt Mets manager Mickey Callaway called "a really tough play to defend." No infielder had much of a chance to throw out Camargo as he dashed home with the winning run.
"He made a good adjustment, a good bunt," Familia said. "That's what he was looking for."

The late rallies stuck with a no-decision despite 10 strikeouts in seven shutout innings, while also removing some of the luster from ' three-hit game. Given a chance at his third victory when singled home two runs in the eighth, deGrom could only watch from the dugout as the Mets almost immediately gave it back.
"Unfortunately, it kind of comes in bunches," Blevins said. "We can't let it get to that point again. We've got to iron it out. Usually, we pick each other up. One guy has a rough game, you've got another guy coming in and saving his butt. We've just put them together in the wrong spots."

The mercurial nature of baseball surfaced early Saturday, after Reyes singled in the third inning to snap an 0-for-20 season-opening funk. Two innings later, Reyes singled again. Then he added a bunt hit in the eighth, finishing 3-for-4 with a stolen base and a run scored. All told, Reyes increased his batting average 125 percentage points on the night.
"I had three hits tonight, but that doesn't really mean anything because we lost the game after the unbelievable job Jacob deGrom did there," Reyes said. "It's good to get the first one out of the way, but at the same time, we want to win the game, too."

Perhaps Reyes can offer some tips to , who remains mired in one of the deepest slumps of his career. Finishing 0-for-5 on Saturday, Cespedes fell to 1-for-12 this series, and 10-for-61 (.164) with a 46 percent strikeout rate over the past two weeks. Cespedes' lone hit in Atlanta was the decisive single in the 12th inning on Friday, but a day later, he flied out to shallow right with the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth. Although Cabrera bailed him out a batter later with his single, the Mets had a chance for even more offense in their three-run eighth.

"Everybody's out here giving 100 percent, trying to win games. Our guys just didn't have it tonight. Back at it tomorrow. Nobody likes to lose, whether I give up runs or they give up runs. It's part of it, though. We're not perfect. We go out there and give it our all."
-- deGrom, on the bullpen blowing a lead for him two starts in a row
The Mets' early-season inability to control the running game nearly cost them a run in the sixth inning, when Inciarte singled, stole second base and then attempted to steal third with no outs. Although third-base umpire Dan Iassogna initially ruled Inciarte safe, the Mets successfully challenged the call. That loomed large later in the inning, when Freeman hit a two-out double.

That the Mets chose to move Matt Harvey to the bullpen is at least partially a testament to their faith in Zack Wheeler, who will start the team's series finale Sunday at SunTrust Park. Wheeler has delivered two consecutive quality starts since joining the rotation, most recently holding the Nationals to three runs in six innings. He'll oppose right-hander Mike Foltynewicz in a 1:35 p.m. ET matinee.