Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Mets had come back late again, this time turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead against the Braves in the seventh inning in Atlanta on Wednesday night. And then Mickey Callaway made a move that pulled defeat from the jaws of victory.
With Steven Matz cruising -- having retired 14 Braves in a row -- he was pulled in favor of Seth Lugo entering the bottom of the seventh. That move alone was curious enough, but when you dig deeper, things look so much worse than they do on the surface. Here are four reasons why...
Matz had thrown just 79 pitches
"I'll make that move 100 times out of 100," Callaway said after the game about removing Matz for Lugo. "That's the right move in my mind."
Well, it wasn't.
And most people -- including yours truly -- first-guessed it, wondering incredulously why Matz had been removed and adding that the only valid reason for removing him would've been an injury (it wasn't an injury).
Yes, Matz had given up some hard contact in the sixth inning. But he was cruising, and the hard contact was to Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman -- two of the best hitters in baseball.
Matz said after the game that it was Callaway's call to remove him and he didn't fight it. But Matz also suggested that he wanted to stay in. And if he had stayed in, he would've been facing the 4-5-6 in the Braves' order. But Callaway had other plans.
There was no concrete ninth inning plan
Removing Matz at just 79 pitches after having retired 14 in a row was bad enough, but going to Lugo there meant that the Mets (as Callaway confirmed after the game) had no actual ninth inning plan.
If Lugo had done his job, he would've breezed through the seventh and eighth innings, setting things up for the top of the Braves' order to take their hacks in the bottom of the ninth against -- who, exactly?
"You don't know what the situation is going to be two innings from then," Callaway said after the game, mentioning Justin Wilson and alluding to the badly struggling Edwin Diaz as two of the three pitchers who would've likely been options to finish the game off had Lugo put up zeroes.
Fair enough, and if this was a tie game on the road in the 11th inning, going to Lugo for two innings and hoping for the best after that would have made sense.
But the situation on Wednesday night screamed for the Mets to get another inning out of Matz and then turn to Lugo to close it out.
Lugo arguably didn't have enough time to warm up
As I speculated in real time, Callaway only decided to remove Matz and turn to Lugo once the Mets took the lead. Yes, Matz had run the bases before being pulled. But Callaway didn't get Lugo up until after the Mets took the lead on J.D. Davis' two-out, two-RBI single.
Translation: Matz was going to stay in despite running the bases. And then everything changed when the Mets went ahead.
Beyond the two reasons stated above, the third -- and arguably most costly -- mistake made by Callaway while pulling Matz for Lugo was that Lugo didn't begin warming up until after Davis delivered his big hit. The inning then ended when Pete Alonso made the third out.
Lugo said after the game that he had enough time to warm up, but he sure didn't seem to be on his game. Yes, there were a bunch of bloopers and bleeders that turned into hits against him, but he looked out of sorts -- issuing a leadoff walk to open the frame and having zero command over his curve for the entirety of his outing.
J.D. Davis was double-switched out of a one-run game
Almost completely lost in the shuffle was that while lifting Matz for Lugo, Callaway double-switched Davis out of the game and replaced him in left field with Aaron Altherr.
Double-switching is par for the course in the National League when looking to get multiple innings from one of your relievers, but Callaway needed to do better here and should have been considering the game situation, how hot Davis has been, and how depleted the lineup and bench are.
The easiest thing would've been letting Matz pitch the seventh and then turning to Lugo and simply inserting him in the 9-hole. He's a former starting pitcher used to hitting, so who cares if he gets an at-bat? Especially if doing so means keeping Davis in the game.
Davis' spot came up as the tying run in the ninth inning and Luis Guillorme did deliver a hit in his place. But had the Mets tied it or taken the lead, the removal of Davis would have meant Amed Rosario (!) playing left field in the ninth inning.
It was an all-around disastrous turn of events for the Mets on Wednesday night. At worst, it was caused by Callaway. At best, it was helped along by him. Either way, they can't afford many more of these if they want to stay in the Wild Card race after fighting like hell to claw all the way back.