Winning five straight games by one run apiece adds up to plenty of usage from high-leverage relievers.
Adam Ottavino and David Robertson began to show signs of faltering under the workload Sunday, but Brooks Raley’s relative freshness helped to rescue the Mets.
With a heavily taxed bullpen, Raley became the second reliever in MLB this season to pitch in both ends of a doubleheader, earning the save in the Mets’ 2-1 victory over the Guardians at Citi Field in the nightcap.
Raley threw nine pitches Sunday afternoon in a scoreless seventh inning before he alerted pitching coach Jeremy Hefner he could bounce back for the nightcap’s ninth inning. The lefty had not pitched since Thursday and felt good.
He only needed five pitches — and one excellent fielding play — to save a game in which Justin Verlander shut down Cleveland for the first eight innings.
Raley’s first pitch resulted in a nice bunt from Steven Kwan in between the mound and first base. Raley dashed, gloved it and glove-flipped to Pete Alonso just in time.
“I can thank Buck [Showalter] for that one,” said Raley, who joined Washington’s Jordan Weems as the only players to pitch in both ends of a doubleheader this season. “We ran through that about 1,000 times in spring.”
The rest of Raley’s night would be drama-free, but the Mets’ afternoon was filled with bullpen anxiety.
Ottavino — pitching for a fourth time in six days — and Robertson — a fourth time in five days — struggled to close out the eventual 5-4 win over the Guardians in the matinee.
The Mets’ two best relievers were given a 3-0 lead in the top of the eighth inning and proceeded to allow four runs on four hits.
Ottavino was summoned first and immediately surrendered a double to Tyler Freeman before ground outs from Bo Naylor and Myles Straw scored Freeman. Kwan doubled before Amed Rosario’s infield single scored a second run of the inning.
“Things don’t snowball with this guy,” Showalter said of Ottavino, who allowed five runs in his first 16 innings but has given up five in his past two innings. “He’s competing, he’s trying to figure out a way.”
Robertson came in and served up a go-ahead home run to Jose Ramirez. But the Mets closer got out of the inning and, after Starling Marte’s own go-ahead, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, got the final three outs in the ninth.
“Guys like [Ottavino] and Robbie and those more veteran guys,” Showalter said, “they have to have a short memory and a thick skin.”
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