Keidel: Sunday A Reminder That Bullpen Could Be What Ends Mets' Dream Run

Jason Keidel
August 12, 2019 - 11:38 am
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The baseball gods have performed CPR on the flatlining Mets, turning a lost season into a luminous summer. Going into Sunday's game against the Nationals, the Mets were on a stirring 15-1 run since July 25, with the best record in Major League Baseball since the All-Star break. 

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They've done it with starting pitching. They've done it with offense. They've done it with stars and subs and scrubs. They've done it with (or despite) Mickey Callaway, the very Dead Man Walking manager who was soon to suffer his corporate reckoning at the end of this lost season. Until they were redirected, revived and reborn by some higher power. The Mets have gone from eulogized to energized in one short month. In fairness, I was one of the blowhards who shoveled those first grains of dirt on the team and their 2019 season. Shame on us. 

They proved they can win without their best position player, Yoenis Cespedes. They proved they can win without one of their most expensive players, Robinson Cano. They can win with their rotation, with role players and with their satirized manager. They can add a frontline starter (Marcus Stroman) when everyone had them selling their stars, if not their souls. 

As the Mets steamroll their way back to relevance, they also bumped into reality, as they fell a whisker short of a 7-0 homestead and failed to leapfrog the Nationals for a wild-card spot. If the rotation is the wind in their sails, then their bullpen is the anchor around their neck. 

The Nationals' Victor Robles rounds the bases after hitting a ninth-inning, two-run home run against Edwin Diaz of the Mets on Aug. 11, 2019.
Al Bello/Getty Images

It feels like the Mets host a gaggle of variables in relief. If the rotation is strong enough to get them six innings, then they are a crapshoot from the seventh inning onward. 

While Jacob deGrom wasn't exactly his customary, masterful self Sunday, he did toss five scoreless innings, giving his club a clear shot at victory, with a 1.97 ERA in 15 starts since May 22. But as the Mets have so often done this season, their bullpen shifts the focus from ERA to EKG, belching hits and runs and wins, breaking the heart and spirit of a team that has finally found its mojo.

One game does not a season make. The Mets have been so good, with a .750 winning percentage over their last 28 games, that one balky bullpen performance doesn't stain this run. But it does remind you why the Mets were so far under .500 that many of us already penned their 2019 obit. During this streak, the Mets won games they should have lost, then on Sunday lost a game they should have won.  

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The Pollyanna could point out that the Mets are in the hunt despite being the only team in MLB history to blow eight saves in consecutive months. If the Mets win half of those lost games, they could be tickling the Braves for first place, instead of clawing at the Nats for second place. It's a fair thing to contemplate. 

Sunday also reminded us that the Mets made a woeful trade in acquiring the other player in the Cano trade. What made the aging second baseman easier to digest was the dinner mint of a closer, Edwin Diaz -- a 25-year-old flamethrower who led the world in saves last summer. Yet something has happened to Diaz. Like a stock "Star Trek" story, Diaz seems to have transported to a location with his atoms intact, yet his will to win lost in space. 

Diaz is not Matt Harvey, a fallen star so awful that no team wants him. But he's a sliver of the closer who bagged 57 saves for Seattle in 2018, which made him the jewel of the blockbuster trade that landed him in Flushing. He has allowed four homers over his last six appearances, with an 11.12 ERA over that span, making him an ugly page in a comic book resurgence. (Diaz has also yielded 11 round-trippers this season, six more than he gave up last season.) We are told that the Mets just aren't the same if they don't have Seth Lugo to shield them. It's hard to imagine a World Series team saying something so odd. 

Right now, the Mets (61-57) are the redemption story of the summer, soaring toward contention after plunging to 11 games below .500, forcing the Big Apple to take its eyes off the Yankees for once and focus on their forgotten, Flushing cousins. 

There are 44 more games for the Mets to turn a forgotten summer into an unforgettable season.

If they don't, you can bet the bullpen will be the reason. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel.