I have no issue with Mickey Callaway's decision to let Noah Syndergaard hit with the bases loaded in the fifth inning on Sunday, despite the game being tied.
With the Mets up one run with two outs and runners on second and third, Callaway pitch hit Jay Bruce for his starting catcher, 24-year-old rookie Tomas Nido, who was making his first start of the season. The Brewers responded by intentionally walking Bruce, which loaded the bases for Noah Syndergaard, who quickly ended the inning and potential rally with a pop out.
Syndergaard returned to pitch the top of the sixth inning, but was removed one out later. The Brewers then knocked in two runs against reliever Robert Gsellman to take a temporary one-run lead, which was erased by a Brandon Nimmo solo homer in the bottom of the frame.
Syndergaard,celebrates with teammates in the dugout after defeating the Brewers, Sunday, April 15, 2018. Credit: Kathy Willens, AP
At the time Syndergaard stepped to the plate, he had thrown only 90 pitches in the game, 30 percent of which were an hour earlier in the first inning. By the fifth inning, he was in total command and showing no signs of slowing down -- having just retired 14 of 15 batters. As runners started reaching base in the fifth inning, I'm certain he, pitching coach Dave Eiland, Nido and Callaway had a quick pow-wow to discuss Noah's strength and feel for going back out in the sixth inning.
Syndergaard told them he could keep pitching, of course. However, the decision is up to Callaway and I assume -- in that moment, based on everything in front of him -- he determined the Mets had a better chance to eventually win with Syndergaard on the mound than using a pinch hitter to hopefully, maybe drive in insurance runs with the bases loaded.
It's also worth noting the Mets are in the middle of a 10-game stretch without a day off, and about to play three against the Nationals starting Monday, so I am sure Callaway hoped to lean heavily on Syndergaard to help save his bullpen.
But, things don't always go as planned...
Instead, 11 pitches in to the sixth inning, Syndergaard recorded only one out and let up a hard-hit single to left field. It's also worth noting that during his final batter, many of the pitches he was fooling people on earlier in the game either missed for a ball or were fouled back. So, within a span of 10-15 minutes, Callaway and Eiland were looking at a pitcher losing command and possibly on the verge of giving up a big hit. As a result, Syndergaard was pulled from the game.
My hunch is that Bruce pinch hit for Nido not to avoid having Syndergaard up with the bases loaded -- because that likely would have happened in either scenario with Noah on deck. However, by using Bruce, Callaway guaranteed the situation and, at worst, cleared the pitcher's spot in the order so his top of the order could dictate the balance of the game. With Noah on deck and two runners on, the Brewers walk Bruce every time. But, had Callaway let Nido hit, it's possible Milwaukee may have at least pitched around Nido in hopes of getting the young catcher to squib an easy out, which in turn would've meant Syndergaard having to lead off the next inning.
Basically, when considering all of the in-moment evidence, I think Callaway looked at the situation around him toward the end of the fifth inning and bet Syndergaard's arm would allow his bench and bullpen to protect the win. In the end, thankfully, only one of those two things happened, but such is baseball.
There are times when the right move doesn't work out and it's later deemed wrong because it didn't, and there are times when the wrong move works out and no one remembers it was the wrong move at the time. The only way to judge is to judge the moment the decision was made and, given what was in front of him, I believe I would have made the same choices as Callaway... of course, it's easy to write that today because the Mets eventually won the game...
The Mets have a really bizarre travel schedule coming up...
The team begins a three-game series Monday against the Nationals, after which they fly to Atlanta for four games with the Braves. From Atlanta, the Mets will fly to St. Louis to play three against the Cardinals. In between Atlanta and St. Louis they have an off-day. However, after St. Louis, they fly to San Diego to play just three games on West Coast time before flying cross-country to welcome the Braves for three games in Queens.
It's not terrible, it's just weird and with a lot of switching time zones, two off-days, varied competition, and no real routine. I'd love to see them win each series and return home 20-7, though a split would still leave them several games above .500, which, at this point in the season, is most important...
Yes, I feel better knowing ESPN has the Mets ranked fourth on their current MLB Power Rankings, which is also good for best in the National League. This makes sense considering they have the best record in the NL, as well. I realize this shouldn't matter to me, but -- for whatever reason -- it does.