SAN FRANCISCO — A combination of extra-inning games and shortened starts by pitchers has pushed Mets relievers to the limit lately.
Whether it was two maddening 10-inning losses to the Dodgers over the weekend or abbreviated outings by Carlos Carrasco and Rich Hill in consecutive games, Sunday and Monday, the Mets had exhausted their bullpen in recent days.
“It’s been tough, they have been working a lot,” manager Luis Rojas said before the Mets faced the Giants on Tuesday at Oracle Park. “We are aware of their usage.”
A look at how the key bullpen components have fared as the Mets look to keep a sinking season afloat:
The right-hander was a significant piece of the bullpen in the season’s first half, but August has been a different story. Familia entered play with two blown saves and two losses in a month he had posted a 6.75 ERA.
When Familia has struggled previously it’s usually been because of walks. In this case he’s been knocked around somewhat, surrendering 11 hits over 6 2/3 innings. Another potential sign of fatigue: he had produced more fly balls (12) than grounders (10). At his best Familia pounds batters with his hard sinker, inducing grounders.
Familia had a strong July, but he also threw 203 pitches in a month that was also shortened by the All-Star break. Familia hasn’t thrown as many as 185 pitches in any other month.
A bullpen savior early in the season, Castro slumped in June and July before rebounding in recent weeks. Even so, he wilted on Monday when he allowed a go-ahead homer to Kris Bryant in the fifth inning after the Mets had taken the lead in their previous at-bat. Castro was pitching for the third time in four days and finished with 28 pitches in his stint of 1 1/3 innings.
Rojas cited overuse for Castro’s inconsistency in the middle of the season, so Mets officials will carefully monitor the right-hander’s workload.
The Mets’ big offseason bullpen splash appeared to have his season on track until his last two appearances, both of which ended with him allowing three earned runs.
But unlike in his appearance against the Nationals last week in which he surrendered three runs over only one-third of an inning, the Mets couldn’t rebound Monday against the Giants. In that game, May allowed consecutive homers to Brandon Belt and Bryant in the seventh.
“[May] has been one of our best relievers post All-Star break, so that’s why he got the ball in that situation,” Rojas said.
Other than one awful performance in Pittsburgh to begin the second half (he allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning) the right-hander has been his usual dependable presence in the late innings. Of all the Mets relievers he might be the freshest at this juncture of the season given his late start — he missed the first two months after rehabbing from offseason elbow surgery — and the Mets’ vigilance in trying to ensure he doesn’t pitch consecutive days.
Lugo entered Tuesday with a 1.35 ERA in five appearances this month and had allowed only four baserunners over 6 2/3 innings.
The veteran left-hander has been close to untouchable, allowing only one earned run since May 21. But that success has largely been predicated upon finding the right matchups for Loup, who had pitched only 4 1/3 innings over his last seven appearances, entering Tuesday.
In his last appearances combined, Loup had thrown only 10 pitches. Rojas indicated he might look to expand Loup’s usage.
Workload hasn’t been much of an issue for the right-hander in recent weeks simply because of the scarcity of save opportunities for the team. Diaz had thrown only 46 pitches in August as Tuesday’s play began. The flip side is the worry that Diaz won’t be sharp when he’s needed — he has indicated a preference for pitching at least every third game to prevent rustiness.
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