The Mets have somehow gotten themselves into playoff contention, which is both good news and bad news for them. The good news, obviously, is that they may yet have a successful season after a very lame first half. The bad news is that now people are actually paying attention to the Mets, and that means any Mets-flavored cock-ups that occur from now until the end of the season will have a big bright light on them.
Take last night’s 6-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Mets starter Steven Matz was cruising, and made it through six innings while allowing one run and throwing just 79 pitches. With the Mets down 1-0, Callaway allowed Matz to hit for himself in the top of the seventh, and that decision paid off. Matz singled and was later driven home in a two-run rally that gave the Mets the lead heading into the bottom half of the inning.
Having pitched wonderfully and helped himself gain the lead, Matz was all set to return to the mound in the seventh and get himself a win. He never got the chance to do that, though, because Callaway pulled him for Seth Lugo, who proceeded to give up five runs while recording just one out. Oops!
When Callaway was asked about his decision to pull Matz on such a low pitch count, he said he’d make the same move “100 times out of 100” because Lugo is the “best reliever in baseball.”
Seth Lugo has indeed been good this season, and particularly so over the last month, but he is not the best reliever in baseball. Also, Lugo told reporters after the game that he only started warming up right after the Mets had taken the lead in the top of the seventh, which meant that he had only a few minutes to get loose.
As always, it’s extremely easy to second-guess a manager with the benefit of hindsight, and a pitching change yielding poor results is not the most uncommon occurrence. But getting judged for those decisions comes with the territory when you manage a baseball team that actually matters. Callaway certainly prefers this to the alternative, but now there are meaningful consequences behind his decisions, and both he and Mets fans have to learn to live with that.