For the past two games, the Mets have suffered heartbreaking losses. Twice, they held a lead going into the eight inning and twice the bullpen, which had been so solid for so long, coughed it up. While there certainly needs to be execution on the part of the pen, there were a couple of questionable managerial decisions made by Terry Collins in the eighth inning of last night’s game.
Not that Collins is to blame for the loss (managers rarely are), but there were some different decisions he could have made that might’ve changed the game’s outcome, in my opinion. The skipper was correct in removing Mike Pelfrey from the game when he did. At that point, Big Pelf had thrown 116 pitches and looked spent after seven and two-third terrific innings. With Jimmy Rollins on first, Collins wanted to reduce the possibility of a stolen base (something that Pelfrey has had difficulties with in the past) so he brought in the lefty Mike O’Connor to face Chase Utley. O’Connor has pitched well this year in limited action, allowing just two hits and two walks in six and two-third innings while fanning eight going into last night’s affair, with lefties just one for ten. However, I would’ve elected to go with the veteran Tim Byrdak.
It’s true Byrdak’s year hasn’t been stellar. In twelve and two-thirds, Byrdak had allowed eight earned runs on thirteen hits and six walks with 17 strikeouts, with lefties going eight for thirty. At the time though, Byrdak had an important stat in his favor: only one out of seventeen inherited runners had scored (O’Connor had only inherited three runners this season, with two of them scoring). Furthermore, over the course of his long career, Byrdak had only allowed nine stolen bases, while runners were caught eight times. By contrary, in his short career, O’Connor had allowed eighteen stolen bases. Also, for what it’s worth, Utley was just two for ten off Byrdak in his career, while he was four for eight against O’Connor. Given the high pressure situation, Byrdak and his ability to hold lefties to a .206 lifetime batting average seemed like the better choice. But O’Connor had pitched well in his short time in the majors this season, which included some high leverage situations, so I can at least understand this choice. As it turns out, Rollins stole second base and Utley singled in the tying run after falling behind 0-2.
The next choice made by Collins I have a more difficult time understanding. With Placido Polanco batting, Collins went to a right hander, which was a smart move. However, he called upon Jason Isringhausen. Izzy has had a fantastic year, but he had a couple of factors working against him. The first was that he had pitched two days in a row, and the second was that he wasn’t particularly effective in either outing. On Thursday in Chicago, he faced four batters and threw thirteen pitches, surrendering three hits and one run while recording one out. On Friday against the Phillies, Izzy faced six batters and threw 25 pitches, allowing one run (the tying run) on two hits and one walk. At no other point this season had Isringhausen worked three, consecutive games (which makes sense given his history of injury), but he was brought in any way and walked Polanco. What other direction could the Mets have gone?
My first thought was Taylor Buccholz. In 24.2 innings this season, Buccholz has allowed just eighteen hits and seven walks while punching out 25. He had been a little shaky of late, allowing runs in three straight appearances, but retired the only two batters he faced during Thursday’s game against the Cubs. He’d also struck out eighteen of 57 right handed batters while allowing just one walk and holding them to a .154 batting average. Buccholz also didn’t pitch the day before and was fresh after throwing only nine pitches on Thursday.
The other option was bringing in Francisco Rodriguez for the four-out save. He too had pitched consecutive days before last night, but unlike Isringhausen, K-Rod doesn’t have a history of elbow trouble and is 29, not 38. His struggles on Friday were more of an anomaly. Despite allowing 25 hits and 12 walks in 25 innings, Frankie has only surrendered five runs this season, three of which came on Friday and the other two in separate appearances in early April. But the more impressive stat is that Rodriguez hasn’t allowed any of his nine inherited runners to score. K-Rod was going to be brought in the game anyway had the Mets gotten out of the inning, so why not use him in the eighth instead of Izzy?
We all know what happened next (including Byrdak allowing a double to Ryan Howard), and given the Mets inability to hit as of late, coming back against Ryan Madson seemed like an impossibility. Second guessing a manager rarely does any good and like I said earlier, the guys who are brought in have to do their job. Iin my angry and heartbroken state, however, I can’t help but wonder though how things would’ve been different.