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Familia territory: Closer picks up first save

After getting pulled Friday night, righty hurls 1-2-3 ninth
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

WASHINGTON -- Hours after Jeurys Familia trudged off the mound with a game on the line, his boss untrusting of his ability to escape a bases-loaded jam against the Nationals, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson offered a scathing review of Familia's early-season performance.

"As of right now, do we have a closer?" Alderson asked. "You tell me."

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WASHINGTON -- Hours after Jeurys Familia trudged off the mound with a game on the line, his boss untrusting of his ability to escape a bases-loaded jam against the Nationals, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson offered a scathing review of Familia's early-season performance.

"As of right now, do we have a closer?" Alderson asked. "You tell me."

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The implication was clear: Familia, like so many Mets, needed to be better. So it did not go unnoticed when Familia barreled through a perfect ninth inning Saturday at Nationals Park, earning his first save in the team's 5-3 victory.

"It was very important for a lot of reasons," manager Terry Collins said. "He went back out and pitched like we know he can. Certainly, we're very excited to get him on the right track."

When the Mets and their closer parted ways at the end of March, Familia looked unbeatable, running his sinker up to triple digits in Spring Training games. But when Familia returned from a 15-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's joint domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy, something was different. Familia wrestled with his control, walking six batters in 3 2/3 innings. He struggled to retire hitters. In turn, Collins lost confidence in Familia, replacing him with Josh Edgin in Friday's win over the Nationals.

Rarely has Collins had to consider such a move; postseason issues aside, Familia has been dominant throughout the past three regular seasons. He led baseball with 132 games finished from 2015-16, setting a Mets franchise record with 51 saves last year. Despite heavy usage, Familia had established himself as one of the game's best and most consistent closers.

So it was jarring to see Familia walk off the mound on Friday, the trust between him and his manager breached. He understood -- "This is part of the game," Familia said, noting that the Mets' six-game losing streak created a desperate situation for the team. But that doesn't mean he had to be happy about it.

Even when Familia and Collins spoke about the situation Saturday, both men knew words could only mean so much. So Collins made sure to back his up later in the day, turning to Familia in the ninth inning of a two-run game.

Once again leaning more heavily on his slider than his trademark sinker, Familia induced a flyout of Adam Lind and a groundout of Trea Turner, then whiffed Michael Taylor on an 88-mph slider to end the game.

"I felt great," Familia said. "I think today I felt the same as yesterday. Just today, I was able to throw my breaking balls for strikes. My sinker, I thought was the same."

If this is the start of a better run for Familia, it is coming at an important juncture. While Familia was suspended, the Mets leaned heavily on top setup men Addison Reed, Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins, resulting in unsustainable early workloads. Reed in particular has struggled of late, serving up a 470-foot Ryan Zimmerman homer on Saturday to push his ERA to 4.15.

Familia now has an opportunity to steady that group -- a bullpen that, earlier Saturday, Alderson called unsettled.

"I've been in that situation before," Familia said. "I know when I have a bad outing, I can forget it and come the next day with a different mind and be better. That's the only thing I can do: work hard and try to get my opportunity."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Mets, Jeurys Familia