“It’s not my first time playing baseball, playing in the Major Leagues,” Familia said. “I know those things are going to happen sometimes. This is a game.”
It was a game in which, Bumgarner aside, the Mets felt comfortable heading into the later innings. Entering the night, manager Terry Collins was hopeful that he’d have to use only his best pitchers against the Giants: Noah Syndergaard, a fringe NL Cy Young Award candidate; Addison Reed, one of the most successful setup men in baseball; and Familia, an All-Star closer who saved a franchise-record 51 games this season.
Few have been better than Familia, who allowed one home run all season, posting a 2.55 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 77 2/3 innings. No one has saved more games since the start of the 2015 season.
Collins on Familia’s outing
NL WC: Collins discusses Familia’s tough outing
Mets manager Terry Collins talks about the 9th inning for closer Jeurys Familia against the Giants, in which he gave up the go-ahead homer
But in a scoreless Wild Card Game in the ninth, Familia allowed a leadoff double to Brandon Crawford. With one out, he walked Joe Panik, which transformed the complexion of the inning. No longer could the Mets intentionally walk Gillaspie, forcing the Giants either to use Bumgarner as a hitter or pull him from the game. Instead, Familia had to pitch to Gillaspie, a reserve infielder who began the season in the Minors.
Familia threw a strike and a ball, and then a mistake: a 96-mph sinker that Statcast™ measured three feet off the ground, his most elevated pitch of the night. Though Gillaspie swore he didn’t see the ball well enough to know where in the strike zone it was, he crushed it into the bullpen area in right-center anyway. Only a few minutes later, the Mets’ loss was complete, however puzzling it may have seemed to them.
“If you tell me that we’re giving Jeurys Familia the ball in the ninth inning, I like our chances every time,” outfielder Jay Bruce said. “He was lights-out all year.”
In a quiet postgame clubhouse, many echoed that statement. But Familia still must spend his offseason chewing on the uncomfortable notion that for the second straight October, he could not replicate his regular-season success. Last year, against the Royals, he blew three saves, allowing Alex Gordon‘s game-tying homer in Game 1 before the Mets’ defense unfolded behind him in Games 4 and 5.
In a win-or-go-home Wild Card Game, Wednesday’s loss tasted just as sour for one of the best regular-season closers — that’s a qualifier he must bear, for now — in Mets history.
“He made one bad pitch,” catcher Rene Rivera said. “They got lucky that he left one up, but that’s part of the game. He did a great job for us all year long, and he’s one of the best closers in baseball. If we’re in that situation again, I want Familia out there.”
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 / Familia can’t duplicate regular-season success