Two games into the season, the Francisco Rodriguez games-finished watch is officially underway.
Saturday night,Rodriguez was brought in to close out a 3-2 game but gave up a run and the game went into extra innings. The Mets put up three runs in the top of the 10th and Rodriguez was the eighth batter of the inning. Manager Terry Collins sent up Scott Hairston to pinch hit and for the second time in two games, Hairston struck out with a runner in scoring position.
Under normal circumstances, no one would bat an eye over what happened. Rodriguez threw 27 pitches, or close to two innings worth, and there was no reason to subject the closer to a 40-pitch outing in his first game of the regular season.
But there is now doubt. Was Rodriguez removed to keep a game finished from appearing in his stat line? In case you have been living under a rock, Rodriguez’ $17.5 million option becomes vested if he finishes 55 games this year. That’s too much money to pay a closer in the best of times and let’s just say that the Mets owners are much closer to the French aristocracy in “A Tale of Two Cities” than they are to England.
Blaine Boyer came on and recorded the save, just the second of his major league career. Fortunately, Boyer had a 3-run cushion so when he gave up a run like Rodriguez did – it didn’t matter.
One of the most entertaining things in an extremely good ballgame was watching how Collins handled the final inning. Boyer was not exuding confidence with his stuff and when lefty-hitting Scott Cousins came to bat as the tying run, Collins sprung out of the dugout to bring in the lefty Byrdak.
Either Collins suddenly remembered or one of his coaches reminded him that the Marlins still had power bat Mike Stanton on the bench. Now, Stanton didn’t start as he tweaked his hamstring. No one knows for sure how serious Stanton is injured, but Collins made the (correct) call that bringing in Byrdak to face a righty, even a potentially one-legged righty, with the game on the line was perhaps not the best way to win the game.
Boyer induced a grounder to short to end the game.
So, the Mets under Collins have their first win. A strong pitching performance from Jonathaon Niese, a good day at the plate by both Josh Thole and David Wright and a save and game finished by a pitcher other than Rodriguez. Most fans will call that a win-win-win.
Perhaps just as importantly, the first discretionary usage of Rodriguez to close a game came to pass without any controversy.