Last night’s game was not an easy one to watch. It seemed like the kind of game where three runs was going to be enough for the Mets to win the game. Michael Conforto’s two homeruns and Curtis Granderson’s RBI sacrifice fly provided the three runs for the Mets in Game 4, but more runs were needed. Although it seemed that the Mets would pull off the Game 4 victory, the floodgates opened up, and the Kansas City Royals took advantage.
We all know that hindsight is 20/20, and that Terry Collins did exactly what he was supposed to and managed according to the game plan. The seventh inning featured Addison Reed, who threw 20 pitches and retired the Royals in order. He looked sharp, which could create an argument that he should have been sent out for the eighth inning. It is untraditional to pitch relievers two innings, but the way Tyler Clippard has been pitching this postseason almost created the necessity of Reed going more than one inning, which may have been beneficial for the Mets.
Before last night’s debacle in the eighth inning, Clippard allowed four runs in 8.1 innings this postseason. As we see with the Royals, the back end of the bullpen must be strong in order for teams to succeed in October (and November).
With a 3-2 lead, Clippard came into the game, and got Alcides Escobar to ground out for the first out in the inning. The following hitters, Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain, drew walks to put runners on base for the Royals. When the opponent is a great contact hitting team, walking runners only creates a stressful situation for the fielders and pitchers, as the Royals have the potential to string together hits. Due to their relentless contact swings, the Royals have the potential to put a crooked number on the board at any time, which is exactly what they did to take the lead.
Now the media will point towards Daniel Murphy’s error, which hurt the chances of winning. Regardless of the error, the walks should be scrutinized. Even if Murphy makes that play, there is no guarantee that the Mets get out of the inning unscathed, as the Royals would have had runners on second and third with two outs. If Jeurys Familia pitched like he did in the regular season, then it would be fair to assume that the Mets could have gotten out of the inning with a lead, but teams have been hitting Familia throughout the postseason.
Overall, Familia has been solid throughout the postseason. The alarming statistic that is troublesome is the lack of strikeouts he has had. During the regular season, Familia averaged more than one strikeout an inning, as he had 86 strikeouts in 78 innings. Meanwhile in the postseason, he has recorded seven strikeouts in 11.1 innings. It could be fatigue or overexposure, but the Mets have not gotten the same Familia they had in the regular season, which hurt the team in Game 1, and led to the Royals adding on runs in the eighth inning in Game 4.
The Mets look to force a Game 6 in Kansas City with a win tonight, but last night’s game will not be easy to come back from. The backend of the bullpen misfired, and Murphy’s error certainly hurt. Walks have always been a pitcher’s worst nightmare, and that lesson was evident in the eighth inning. Maybe Reed will be used in a setup role, or maybe Collins will decide to use Familia for multiple innings. Either way it will be interesting to see how Collins handles the bullpen if the team is leading down the stretch.