The New York Mets got off to a very good start in Washington, winning their first three games of the season by a combined 17-4 score. They had excellent starting pitching, solid bullpen work, and they were even scoring over six runs per game.
All was well in Mets world even with Jacob deGrom on the injured list, something we couldn't say last season. Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt both looked great in their debuts, and the new bats were chipping in as well.
Things have changed in the last two games. The mood has shifted from being very positive to very negative in just 48 hours.
The Mets have lost each of their last two games in dramatic fashion late, and I believe Buck Showalter is the biggest reason why.
From the very beginning, I was hesitant to get as excited as the other Mets fans about Buck Showalter. I understand rookie managers come with a certain level of risk and don't always pan out, but Buck hasn't shown me that he can win as he has no World Series titles in those 20 years of experience. The Yankees and Diamondbacks each won the World Series the year after he left those stops.
The last we saw from Buck prior to this Mets stop he was in Baltimore managing the 47-115 Orioles. The last time we saw him in the postseason he elected to use Ubaldo Jimenez in the Wild Card Game in extra innings over Zack Britton who was historically great in the 2016 season. They lost because of that decision.
Buck's bullpen management to begin this season has been questionable at best. In the final game of the Nationals series, he decided to use Trevor Williams in the eighth inning with the Mets in front 2-1 simply because he hadn't pitched yet and he didn't want to overwork anyone. This rationale doesn't make much sense to me. I get that it's early, but if you are ahead 2-1 in the eighth inning, you try and win the game in my opinion. Games in April are worth just as much as they are in September.
The Mets had Trevor May warming up earlier in the game, he hadn't pitched since Opening Day. He could've pitched that inning. Seth Lugo threw just 11 pitches in the second game of the season, he could've pitched. Adam Ottavino threw just 11 pitches the day before the finale in Washington, he could have gone. All three of these high leverage relievers said they were ready and able to pitch.
Would that have gone well? I don't know, but all three seemed like way better options at the moment than relying on a long reliever, probably the second-worst option in the bullpen to get three key outs in the eighth.
Buck's reasoning didn't make sense to me, but it really doesn't make any sense whatsoever after what transpired in Philadelphia. Taijuan Walker unfortunately hurt his shoulder after just two innings, forcing David Peterson into the game for four scoreless innings. Trevor May pitched a scoreless seventh and the Mets had a 4-0 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth.
Buck Showalter, who had just said he didn't want to overwork anybody, decided to bring May out for a second inning. May did not pitch more than an inning once in 2021 but Buck decided in a four-run game to try that out in the cold. It did not go well and May left with an injury.
Buck then proceeded to use Joely Rodriguez against two right handed hitters. Rodriguez got the lefties out that he faced, but couldn't get the righties. Seth Lugo did implode, but he's usually someone who starts innings instead of coming in with men on base.
Overall, the Mets lost two games they absolutely should have won and it might cost them. I get that it's April, but these kinds of games are what teams that finish a game or two back in the division reflect upon. The relievers and Pete Alonso in the Washington game of course have to execute, but the players should be put in the best position to succeed. Buck has just not shown that he can do that yet.
It's April so I still have faith he can prove me wrong, but my worst fears about hiring Buck Showalter have all come true so far.