3 decisions that changed tenor of Mets' loss

September 8th, 2019

NEW YORK -- This city has a way of amplifying things. When Mickey Callaway removed from the fifth inning of a tie game on Sunday, hoping could give the Mets a lead and the bullpen could hold it, the move was likely going to define Callaway’s afternoon one way or the other.

Given that the bases were loaded and the Mets needed at least one more run to win the game, the move was not entirely unconventional. But with Syndergaard at 78 pitches, capable of going deeper into the game, Callaway’s decision placed extreme faith in a bullpen that has ranked somewhere between 25th and 29th in the Majors in ERA for almost the entire season.

That faith proved unfounded. Frazier struck out to strand the bases loaded, Mets relievers allowed six more runs and the team -- with Syndergaard watching from afar -- dropped a 10-7 game to the Phillies to further dent its Wild Card chances. The loss was New York’s 10th in its last 15 games.

“It’s been crunch time for the last month, month and a half for us,” Syndergaard said. “With these losses, it just makes it harder to dig ourselves out of this hole.”

For Callaway, other debatable decisions would occur throughout the four hours and 29 minutes at Citi Field, the longest nine-inning game in franchise history. Here are the three most prominent in the Mets’ defeat:

No more Noah

By the fifth inning, the only sure thing was that to win, the Mets were going to need to score again.

Frazier, despite a difficult season, represented their top right-handed bench option to face lefty Ranger Suarez. He also represented one of their best clutch options, period. In what Baseball Reference defines as high-leverage situations, Frazier entered Sunday’s play batting .293 with an .865 OPS. His OPS with runners in scoring position was .905, more than 200 points higher than with no one on base.

Syndergaard was also at something less than his best, allowing hits to three of the five batters he faced in the top of the fifth. It was feasible to think that if Syndergaard continued to struggle, he might only give the Mets one more inning.

“Noah had just given up four runs and they had scored in three consecutive innings,” Callaway said. “He was at 78 pitches. You’ve got to try to take the lead right there.”

But removing Syndergaard ensured the Mets’ bullpen would need to record at least 12 outs. That Callaway’s first relief option was Paul Sewald, who allowed four runs and recorded one out in his previous outing, spoke volumes about the status of that bunch. Had the Mets taken the lead, Callaway said, he would have used Justin Wilson for one inning and Seth Lugo for two.

“I get it,” Syndergaard said. “It’s a managerial position. I’m not much of a threat offensively, especially with the opportunity to take the lead. So I understand it.”

Left on right

No Phillies hitter has hurt the Mets this season as much as Maikel Franco, whose sixth-inning homer was his seventh in 15 games against them this season. Although Callaway had right-hander Brad Brach warm in the bullpen when Franco came to the plate, he stuck with lefty Luis Avilan because he did not want the Phillies to counter with Bryce Harper, Jay Bruce or any other home run threat stashed on their bench.

The problem? Entering Sunday, Avilan had allowed right-handed batters to tag him for a .979 OPS, versus a .245 mark for lefties. Franco increased the former mark with his two-run homer.

“Avilan has been pitching pretty well and Brach’s really struggled against lefties,” Callaway said. “You’ve got somewhere to put him. You try to execute pitches and you just didn’t.”

Bring on Bryce

The Mets were trailing by three runs when Phillies backup catcher Andrew Knapp stepped to the plate with two men in scoring position and two outs in the seventh. Rather than face Knapp, a career .219 hitter with a .585 OPS this season, Callaway asked Tyler Bashlor to walk him intentionally. The Phillies countered with Harper, who had missed parts of all three games this series due to a bruised right hand.

Even if Harper had been unavailable, the Phillies had Bruce and righty J.T. Realmuto waiting on the bench -- both more potent weapons than Knapp. Because there were two outs in the inning, there was also no need to load the bases to set up a potential double play.

Callaway, however, wanted to force the Phillies to remove reliever Mike Morin, who owned a 10.50 ERA in his last seven appearances. So he walked Knapp to bring up Morin’s spot. Harper ended up drawing an RBI walk to extend Philadelphia’s lead.

“I thought since they didn’t have anybody [warming], that maybe the pitcher would hit,” Callaway said. “And if they do pinch-hit, then we get their one quality reliever that they had left other than [Hector] Neris out of the game, and we have a chance to score some runs.”