Mets manager Mickey Callaway defended his decision to not bring in Edwin Diaz for a five-out save in Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Cubs.
"We're not going to use him for five outs," Callaway said of Diaz. "That's the bottom line."
Instead of bringing in Robert Gsellman or Diaz, who had made one pitching appearance since last Saturday (12 pitches), to face Javy Baez in a two-on, one-out jam in the bottom of the eighth with the Mets up 3-2, Callaway opted to stick with Seth Lugo.
Though Lugo got ahead in the count 0-2, Baez launched Lugo's 42nd pitch of the outing, a hanging slider, 374 feet to right field to give the Cubs a two-run lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Entering the inning, Baez was 2-for-7 with two singles in seven career plate appearances against Lugo. Against Gsellman, Baez was 1-for-3 with a home run. And against Diaz, Baez was 0-for-1 with a strikeout.
"Lugo was going to face Baez either way, and Gsellman was going to step up if he didn't get Baez," Callaway said. "But we didn't get Baez out."
Sunday's game isn't the first time Callaway didn't bring in his closer Diaz in a crucial eighth-inning jam.
In an April 15 game against the Phillies, Callaway brought in Gsellman with two outs in the eighth inning in a one-run game after Jeurys Familia walked the bases loaded. Gsellman walked in the game-tying run before pitching out of trouble in a game the Mets won in 11 innings.
Then, Callaway said he wouldn't bring in Diaz for more than one inning or have him pitch in a tie game on the road. He reiterated the same after Sunday's game.
"We've said it all along," Callaway said, "that Diaz is our closer and we're going to make sure he stays in that comfort zone. ... Again, no we're not going to use him for five outs. ... My answer's going to stay the same."
Lugo pitched around a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh by getting Robert Almora Jr. to ground into an inning-ending double play. Despite throwing 20 pitches in the seventh, Callaway said he thought Lugo had "good stuff" in the eighth inning as well.
"He's our best reliever," Callaway said. "We were up one run. We know that when he has the opportunity to go the seventh and the eighth, he's going to do it. He squeaked through the first one, made some big pitches and we had the confidence he was going to do it again the next inning. We had the guy that hit the homer 0-2, we executed two really good pitches to him, and he just hung a slider.