WASHINGTON -- Mets manager Terry Collins has been around these parts long enough. He has won his share of games. He has lost even more. He understands as well as anyone what would have happened had his decision gone awry, had Bryce Harper cracked a Josh Edgin slider into the
WASHINGTON -- Mets manager Terry Collins has been around these parts long enough. He has won his share of games. He has lost even more. He understands as well as anyone what would have happened had his decision gone awry, had Bryce Harper cracked a Josh Edgin slider into the night toward Capitol Hill.
"It's New York," Collins said late Friday night, as if that explained everything in the world.
Read between those words to imagine the headlines, the talk-radio screamers, if Collins' most daring decision of the 2017 season had backfired. Collins tried to ignore all that, removing closer Jeurys Familia from a ninth-inning, one-out jam with Harper at the plate. He tried to push it toward the recesses of his brain as Edgin induced a game-ending double play to seal the Mets' 7-5 win over the Nationals.
"The way things have been going, that's a big weight off our shoulders," Collins said. "That was a big pitch for us."
For most of the game's later innings, it seemed as if the Mets would cruise to victory, riding Travis d'Arnaud's two home runs and Jacob deGrom's seven strong innings at Nationals Park. But when setup man Addison Reed served up a two-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman in the eighth inning, it created a save situation for Familia, who has struggled with control -- six walks in 3 2/3 innings -- since returning from a 15-game domestic violence suspension.
The first three Nationals to face the closer all singled to load the bases, before Familia struck out Trea Turner for the inning's first out. Out marched Collins, entrusting the game -- and a significant chunk of his remaining capital with fans, considering the club's 10 losses in 11 games -- to a 30-year-old lefty specialist with a 5.23 ERA last season.
"Right now, they're in a desperate situation where they've got to try and win every game they can," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "So no, I wasn't shocked. I mean, Bryce is hitting .750 off of left-handers so that wasn't a great move, but it was necessary move that they had to make."
Edgin attacked Harper with sliders, burying the third of them low enough in the strike zone for Harper to beat it into the ground. As the pitcher fielded it and fired home, Collins held his breath. He exhaled only after d'Arnaud pivoted and threw to first base, completing a double play to end the game.
"That's what we're there for," Edgin said. "That's my job."
Yet had Edgin not succeeded against one of the best hitters in baseball, few would have heaped blame on him. The majority of vitriol would have fallen upon Collins, who often takes heat for his bullpen management. If losing 10 times in 11 games had not already made Collins' seat feel warm, certainly he would have experienced that following another defeat. Fairly or not, Collins would have faced a hurricane of criticism.
It was with that as a backdrop that he stepped into his office after the victory, heaving a deep sigh.
"Once in a while, you've got to make a decision," Collins said. "Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.