Mickey Callaway did not succumb to pressure, even with a series sweep of the Washington Nationals on the line.
The Mets expertly danced around an imposing Nats lineup throughout extra innings. And once Yoenis Céspedes gave them the lead in the 12th inning, the Mets were able to lock down a victory despite Jeurys Familia being unavailable.
Thus far, what has set Callaway apart from his predecessor is the trust he’s showing in his arms. Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and Jacob Rhame did not come into the season as the go-to guys in the bullpen, but Callaway has put them in positions where they can succeed, and they’ve paid him back with quality innings that have either kept the Mets in ball games or allowed them to hold late leads.
On Sunday, Gsellman replaced Harvey, and despite giving up a run in his second inning of work, Mickey left him to work out of trouble. He did, and he shut the door on the Nats in the seventh. Lugo, who has been lights-out thus far, got into a jam in the 9th with Bryce Harper on third and one out. Callaway again showed his trust (and intestinal fortitude) by intentionally walking the bases loaded and letting Lugo work out of it. It’s the right call on paper, but it’s not the easiest decision to make in-game. Lugo struck out the next two batters to end the inning and make his manager look like a genius, but ask yourself: Would we have seen that gutsy move last year?
Callaway then stuck to his guns regarding Familia’s availability, and gave Rhame a clean 12th inning to attempt to get his first career save. Rhame did just that, and Callaway’s decision received high praise from Twitter’s new best account: Keith Hernandez. Hernandez loved the way that Callaway got Rhame work earlier in the week to build his confidence, which in turn prepared him for the save situation. This tweet says it all:
Im sure Rhame felt like he was the 13th man on this staff, & certainly the 8th man in that bullpen going into this series. Not anymore. I was so pleased. This one is on Mickey. Great job.— keith Hernandez (@kher8286) April 9, 2018
Confidence in your ability can go a long way for a pitcher, and Rhame feeling like an important part of the staff gives the Mets yet another arm they can throw at their opponents.
But another benefit of not managing for just last night’s game? The pen is still in decent shape going into their series against Miami. Familia will be available, and AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins saw limited work (three batters and one batter, respectively). That presumably gives the Mets their top three arms for the series opener. And the Mets will more than likely need it, as Noah Syndergaard has yet to work very deep into a game so far this season.
The trust Callaway has shown his staff, and his ability to manage its workload, has brought out the best in his relievers. The Mets’ success will hinge on this bullpen continuing its stellar start. New York currently have one of the top bullpens in the league, and if Mickey can continue to work his magic, there’s a great chance they’ll remain up there.
Not only did it seal the victory, Yoenis Céspedes' monster grand slam taught Mets fans a lesson worth remembering this season: Don't panic over a couple of losses. Not with this team.