After the Mets lost to the Dodgers 3-2 today, the fan base grumbled about how Terry Collins managed his bullpen. Scott Rice was brought into the game in the top of the 8th with two outs to face Carl Crawford. Rice retired Crawford to end a scoreless frame. And then the top of 9th began.
Collins chose to leave Rice in, instead of going to closer Bobby Parnell. The game was tied 1-1, and the Dodgers were sending the switch-hitting Nick Punto to the plate, to be followed by lefty Adrian Gonzalez, righty Matt Kemp, and lefty Andre Ethier. Collins had the following to say about his decision:
This guy [Rice] gets so many ground balls… And he hasn’t given up a hit to a lefty all year. I mean, like one hit to a lefty all year. We tried to get a ground ball from [Andre] Ethier to get out of the inning.
I’m trying to keep from having to use Bobby [Parnell] in tie games every time. If I start the inning with him and he has a 20-some-pitch inning, I don’t have him for tomorrow. I said, ‘Well, if I have to, maybe we can just use him against one hitter to get out of the inning.’ It just didn’t work like that.
Punto doubled, Gonzalez grounded out, Kemp was intentionally walked, and Ethier produced the tie-breaking run with a single. Parnell then came in and allowed the Dodgers’ third run on a Juan Uribe infield single. That run was charged to Rice.
Collins is in a tough spot, having a bullpen that has gotten a lot of work in the early going of 2013. His decision to leave in the lefty Rice, when the Dodgers were sending up mostly lefthanded hitters, makes sense to me. Rice does not throw as hard as Parnell, but Parnell had worked Wednesday night, throwing 17 pitches. If Bobby had come back today to start the inning, he would likely have been unavailable for tomorrow night. What if tomorrow presents a true save situation, who would get the ball? The point, is that other members of the pen have to step up and handle situations like tie games at home in the 9th. Collins has to avoid burning out Parnell or any other member of the relief corps.
Collins did not make a mistake today. He has to think beyond today, and manage a 162-game season. Scott Rice did not execute, and the Mets lost.