There are still 161 games to go, but if Opening Day is any indication, the New York Mets better hope for rain after six innings from now on. The Mets’ bullpen seemed like it would be a problem heading into the 2014 season, and they did nothing to change that perception in game one.
Starter Dillon Gee was cruising into the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead over the Washington Nationals. He struck out Wilson Ramos — the 15th consecutive National retired by Gee — gave up a well-struck infield single to Bryce Harper and then got Ian Desmond to ground into a force out. Then he suddenly looked gassed.
He dropped his arm angle and started missing high and away — a sign of fatigue in most pitchers. He walked Adam LaRoche. Manager Terry Collins decided to keep him in to face Anthony Rendon, which was the right decision. Again Gee’s pitches were up and he fell behind Rendon who responded by lacing a double down the right field line to make it 4-3. Then the bullpen took over.
Carlos Torres walked pinch-hitter Nate McLouth. Then Scott Rice came in to face lefty-hitting Denard Span. He walked Span on four pitches to force in the tying run. Jose Valverde entered the game and struck out Ryan Zimmerman.
Valverde was the lone bright spot in the Mets’ ‘pen today. Perhaps a change of scenery will reinvigorate the former closer of the Detroit Tigers. He struck out three batters in 1.1 perfect innings while throwing low-nineties gas. The 36-year-old was as demonstrative on the mound as he was in his twenties.
With the Mets up 5-4 in the ninth, Bobby Parnell came in to close the game. He struggled with his velocity early, but his fastball seemed to develop life with each pitch. That’s encouraging, and it’s a sign that he is building up strength following the neck surgery he underwent last year. This time, however, 93 MPH fastballs weren’t enough, as he blew the save. He also walked a batter which contributed to the Nats’ rally in the ninth.
Jeurys Familia was threw 95-97 MPH in the tenth inning, but he couldn’t put Nationals’ hitters away. He didn’t walk a batter, however, which is a great omen for Familia. If he can command his pitches consistently, he could become a huge part of New York’s bullpen.
John Lannan, who’s never pitched in relief in his career until this year, came in for Familia and completely messed the bed. He walked LaRoche, then gave up a three-run bomb to Rendon to effectively put the game out of reach.
The total line for the bullpen: 3.1 IP, five earned runs, one inherited runner allowed to score, four walks, five hits and five strikeouts.
Oh my, that is not going to cut it. Not at all.
Again, the Mets have 161 games to figure this out, but in the near term, make sure you have a defibrillator standing by when you watch the Mets in the late innings.