The Mets were three outs away from back-to-back wins over the Pirates. But shady pitching and questionable managerial calls resulted in a dreadful four-run ninth inning.
Jeurys Familia got the save opportunity to begin the inning, but what transpired was three straight hits that brought one run home. After a walk to Gregory Polanco, manager Mickey Callaway finally came out to the mound to take the ball from the struggling Familia, and Anthony Swarzak came in to clean up the mess.
Callaway backed his decision to keep Familia in the game by suggesting a closer shouldn't be on a tight leash.
"You know because when you put your closer [in], or the guy you want to close that day, you got to give him a chance to close," Callaway said after the game. "If you set that precedent, it will be tough in the long run. But we tried to get through it and as soon as we figure, 'You know what, he's not getting outs,' we got Swarzak going."
A closer getting into a jam isn't uncommon, but it was the way Familia's jam came about that made this case different. All of the Pirates hits came on two-strike counts, and it was noticeable that Familia didn't have his patented sinker with his pitches staying up in the zone.
Even Callaway agreed "the sink" wasn't there.
"I think overall when he struggles, the ball i just up a little bit and he's missing that sink that makes him a really good pitcher," he said.
So, why did it take so long for Callaway to get someone going in the bullpen as he noticed Familia's struggles? As Ron Darling pointed out on the SNY broadcast, Callaway pulled Robert Gsellman after just 13 pitches in the eighth after seeing he didn't have his usual stuff. In the ninth inning with the game on the line, it should've been even more crucial for Callaway to step in and make a change, knowing wins haven't come to the Mets easy of late.
But it wasn't until Polanco's at-bat started that Swarzak got up to throw, and he couldn't have gone through his full warmup routine when Callaway pointed his finger to the bullpen. Callaway, though, said Swarzak was ready to go.
"Yeah so how it works in baseball in the ninth inning or any inning, you get a guy going and they call down when they're ready," he said. "So, they're ready when they go in."
Swarzak said he was ready to go as well.
"I think if I wasn't ready I wouldn't have been in," Swarzak said. "It was one of those situations where as a professional you got to be watching and getting loose before that phone call comes and that's what I was doing."
Well, Swarzak was welcomed into the game swimmingly as his first pitch was lined to right by David Freese, who gave Pittsburgh their first lead of the night with a two-run single. Another run on a sacrifice fly by Josh Bell made it 5-3 before the inning ended.
And if that wasn't enough, Swarzak pitched to Josh Harrison with two outs despite Pirates' reliever Felipe Vazquez -- who has one career at-bat -- on deck. Harrison made solid contact, but luckily for the Mets, it was only a single.
It may have been the bullpen imploding in the end, but the lack of situational awareness by Callaway in the ninth spoiled what could've have been a much-needed home series win for the Mets.