Last night, the Mets lost 2-1 after a ninth inning sacrifice fly by Ryan Zimmerman. It was the ninth time this season that the Mets have suffered a walkoff loss on the road. A hefty number considering they have just 23 losses on the road overall.
On Tuesday, Jerry Manuel had no problem bringing Frankie Rodriguez, his best option, in the eighth inning of the game. However, he opted against bringing in Rodriguez in the ninth inning of a tie game. Both times he gambled and lost.
Adam Rubin of ESPN NY, reported on the situation, Manuel’s explanation and justification, and a few quotes.
Manuel insisted closer Francisco Rodriguez was not the right person to summon with the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, one out and the bases loaded. Instead, Ryota Igarashi entered to face Ryan Zimmerman and surrendered a game-ending sacrifice fly.
“That’s not what a closer does. That’s not his role,” Manuel said, a belief reiterated by pitching coach Dan Warthen.
Manuel then appeared to make the case that the Mets need a bona fide back-end-of-the-bullpen-type reliever more so than a starting pitcher. He suggested the Mets’ inordinately high number of walk-off losses — nine — is tied to the lack of a legitimate eighth-inning pitcher.
The Mets had hoped in spring training Kelvim Escobar and Igarashi would team for that role, but Escobar will never throw a pitch for the organization because of a shoulder injury and Igarashi has underwhelmed. The most trusted eighth-inning pitchers at this point are Pedro Feliciano and Elmer Dessens.
“All the walk-off losses on the road is indicative of an eighth-inning guy. That’s where an eighth-inning guy pitches. It’s basically that simple,” Manuel said. “If that eighth-inning guy is the guy, he pitches the tie game on the road. At home, the closer pitches the tie game because you get a chance to bat. That’s just the way that works. I mean, that’s baseball.”
I believe the Mets need a bona fide setup man as much as they do a frontline starter. The nine walkoff losses could have meant 4-5 more wins for the Mets if Manuel had any sort of effective bridge to his closer.
We knock Manuel a lot for his end-game bullpen management, but truth be told, he hasn’t been playing with a full deck all season.