During the off-season Sandy Alderson was apparently working under the theory that the starting pitching would not be very good in 2012, so he’d better beef up the bullpen. Well, the starting pitching has been excellent and the revamped bullpen has been terrible. That was in full display Sunday in Miami when the bullpen blew yet another game to the Marlins, 8-4.
The game was scoreless until the fourth when Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off with a single, followed by a David Wright single. They both advanced on a passed ball, and Nieuwenhuis scored on a Lucas Duda ground out. Daniel Murphy, who was playing first base because Ike Davis was a late scratch with the flu, then singled to plate Wright to make it 2-0.
Jonathon Niese had that curveball working, throwing six scoreless innings. He did walk three and allow five hits, but he was able to pitch around trouble. With runners on second and third and two outs in the seventh Terry Collins pinch-hit for Niese using a weak-looking Davis. He grounded out meekly to the pitcher. Niese had only thrown 99 pitches and likely could have remained in the game.
Make that should have remained in the game — in the bottom of the seventh Ramon Ramirez promptly gave up a triple to Emilio Bonafacio and then a home run to John Buck, and just like that the game was tied and the bullpen had wasted another solid performance by a Mets starter.
Fortunately the Marlins bullpen is also prone to meltdowns. Health Bell, who already has four blown saves this season and a 10.03 ERA was called on in the ninth to protect the 2-2 game. With one out Daniel Murphy doubled and Ronny Cedeno walked. They advanced on a ground out. Collins then inserted pinch-hitter extraordinare Mike Baxter (we can call him that already — he leads the league in pinch hits with seven), but Marlins manager Ozzie Giullen chose to walk him to load the bases. Justin Turner pinch-hit the pitcher, and in another fine at bat worked the count to three-two and finally hit a double to right to score two runs to make it 4-2.
But the Mets have their own struggling closer in Frank Francisco, who came on in an attempt to save the game. Once again Emilio Bonafacio led off with a triple, and Buck walked. Greg Dobbs, who homered against Francisco to win Friday’s game, singled to cut the lead to 4-3 and put runners on first and third. Collins then pulled Francisco from the game.
He brought in Manny Acosta, who has been less-than reliable himself. Why not bring in Bobby Parnell, who has been effective all season? In any case, Jose Reyes greeted Acosta with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at four. For some reason Collins stuck with Acosta as he walked one batter and hit another to load the bases. And on the next pitch Giancarlo Stanton hit a mammoth grand slam to center to win the game.
It might be time for Collins to consider removing Francisco as the closer. He obviously is not getting the job done. Jon Rauch is the logical replacement. He has been up and down recently as well, but he looked good in pitching a flawless eighth on Sunday. And hey, he can’t possibly be worse than Francisco.
This was another terrible loss. Collins has to take some blame for leaving Acosta in the game when he was clearly struggling. He never even came out to talk to him. I would be curious to hear his explanation.
So the Mets drop the series to the Marlins, losing two games in the ninth inning. Shameful.