Criticized — sometimes heavily — throughout this season for his bullpen usage, Collins has decided over the season’s final fortnight that he is not going to enter the offseason with regrets. He is treating every game like a postseason game, which is how he found himself in the position he did in the second inning Friday: his rookie spot starter struggling and due up at the plate.
Rather than let Ynoa hit, Collins removed him from the game, spinning his bullpen carousel into motion. This was not unusual for Collins, whose relief corps has run 12-deep for most of September. But after using 10 pitchers among a franchise-record 27 players in Thursday’s 11-inning walkoff win over the Phillies, Collins was desperately trying to avoid warming closer Jeurys Familia and setup man Addison Reed.
That task became several degrees more difficult when Ynoa left the game six outs after he began it. But Verrett offered his two innings and Smoker and Goeddel did their jobs before Josh Edgin allowed a hit to the only batter he faced in the seventh. The bases were loaded with just one out.
Laid out before Collins was his most significant predicament of the night, the Mets leading by only two runs at the time. This was where the game hung in the balance, where talk radio promised to roast Collins if he chose wrong.
With that as a backdrop, the manager turned to Hansel Robles, who coaxed an inning-ending double-play ball from pinch-hitter Tommy Joseph. Then Collins rode Robles for another two innings and his first career save.
Robles’ first MLB save
PHI@NYM: Robles retires Rupp for first career save
Hansel Robles strikes out three in 2 2/3 perfect innings of relief to notch his first Major League save
“It’s a sense of pride for me to be able to do that,” Robles said through an interpreter.
Collins understands this type of hair-raising bullpen management is not a viable long-term strategy. But the Mets are in their end-game now. The Giants and Cardinals are both faltering on a near-nightly basis, putting the Mets in an enviable position with eight games to play.
The rotation may be tattered. The bullpen is on fumes. But the Mets can see the finish line, and they are committed to doing whatever they can to cross it before they collapse.
“Even if it’s the ninth inning or the second inning, we’ve got to treat it like it’s Game 7 of the World Series,” Smoker said. “Because right now, every inning matters.”
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Source: Mets News / Collins’ bullpen shuffle paying off for Mets