During Tuesday night’s crushing Mets loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, there were two big storylines.
The first was New York’s inability to muster much offense after the first inning and their failure to win the game in the 10th when they had runners on first and third with one out in a tie game.
The second was the bewildering management of Luis Rojas, whose multiple questionable decisions put his team in position to fail. And while defending those decisions after the game, many of Rojas’ explanations made little sense.
The Mets’ offense needs to be better, but they very likely would’ve won Tuesday night’s game if Rojas managed his bullpen properly. Instead, he showed a lack of foresight and no feel.
For good measure, Rojas made an indefensible pinch-hitting choice in the 11th inning with the Mets down to their last out and a chance to win.
Let’s dissect the moves in question…
With the Mets clinging to a 3-2 lead, Rojas turned to Familia in the eighth inning against the heart of the Cardinals’ lineup
The move seemed odd from the start, since the eighth inning has usually belonged to Trevor May this season.
And it should’ve been May’s spot, especially with Seth Lugo unavailable despite having not pitched on Monday.
Instead, Rojas went with Familia, who had struggled in his last two outings, allowing one run (on a home run) against the Miami Marlins on Sept. 9, and allowing two runs (on a home run) against the Yankees on Sept. 12.
It’s only fair to note that May also struggled in his last outing, allowing three runs (two earned) to the Yanks on Sept. 11. But he had been unscored upon in 9 of his 10 outings before that.
Unsurprisingly, Familia — after recording the first out — walked Paul Goldschmidt before allowing a mammoth two-run homer to Tyler O’Neill and a single to Nolan Arenado. He was then lifted for May, who got the last two outs of the inning.
Not pushing his best relievers a bit harder
Knowing he was without Lugo (and Miguel Castro), Rojas needed to be a bit more aggressive with his best relievers.
One example would’ve been pushing Aaron Loup to pitch the eighth inning after he needed just seven pitches to get through the seventh.
Another example would’ve been asking Edwin Diaz to pitch the 10th inning after needing just 13 pitches to get through a perfect ninth.
Instead, Rojas pulled both pitchers after just one inning, setting up a chain reaction that led to him turning to Heath Hembree in the 10th and Jake Reed in the 11th.
After the game, Rojas was asked about whether he considered pushing his best relievers a bit harder due to the importance and urgency of the game and the regular season being so close to over.
Here’s what Rojas said:
“I can’t ask any more from the guys. Right now, it would be unfair. I can’t put them in a situation where it would compromise anything else, their stuff, their health. You might run a guy out there and he might not be the same pitcher you’re asking the guy to be, as well. There’s just a lot of things that go into it.
“Ideally, the manager wants to pitch everyone every day, but there’s some other things that come into play when you talk. It’s the player’s feel, the pitching coach’s feel, my feel.”
Here’s the thing…
It’s understandable to not want to push your pitchers beyond their limits. But sometimes, pushing things is necessary. And with the Mets fighting for a playoff spot and Tuesday night’s game pretty much a must-win, that was the time to push.
A manager making a blanket statement that it would be “unfair” to ask more of any of his pitchers is ridiculous.
Jake Reed in the 11th inning
With the game tied in the 11th inning, Rojas turned to Jake Reed, who recently came off the IL and hadn’t pitched in the majors since Aug. 18.
Jake Reed, a 28-year-old rookie who has pitched in a grand total of nine games this season (three for the Mets).
Going to Reed there set the Mets up for failure, and that failure happened when Reed was blitzed for three runs (two earned) on three hits in just one third of an inning
After the game, Rojas was asked why he went with Reed over Trevor Williams, and responded that Reed is a reliever and Williams is a starter.
That explanation would’ve held water had Williams not entered just minutes after Reed, cleaning up Reed’s mess.
After the Mets scored two runs in the bottom of the 11th to cut the deficit to 7-6, they had runners on first and second with two outs.
It was then that Rojas sent Albert Almora Jr. up to pinch-hit against Cardinals left-hander Kwang Hyun Kim instead of turning to Luis Guillorme.
Almora, who is hitting .115/.148/.173 this season (six hits in 52 at-bats), grounded out to end the game.
After the game, Rojas was asked why he opted for Almora over Guillorme, and Rojas said he didn’t even consider using Guillorme there.
“Against a lefty, not the right matchup,” Rojas said.
The problem with that reasoning?
Guillorme is hitting .276 with a .344 OBP in 33 plate appearances this season against lefties.
The explanation from Rojas was one last head-scratcher in a night filled with them.