Righty reliever caps remarkable season in first year as a closer
By Joe Trezza
NEW YORK -- Jeurys Familia spent 2015 climbing rungs, first up the Mets' depth chart and then its historical leaderboard. His season-long ascension from intriguing back-end piece to ninth-inning necessity reached its statistical pinnacle Sunday, when Familia tied the Mets' single-season saves record by locking down New York's 1-0 win in the regular-season finale against Washington.
Familia notched his 43rd save, becoming just the second Mets reliever to reach that number, alongside Armando Benitez in 2001.
Thrust into the closer's role after Jenrry Mejia's suspension in early April, Familia profiled first as an unproven ninth-inning option. He posted a 2.21 ERA in 2014 mostly in the eighth inning, improving upon but not abandoning the control problems that plagued his early career. He walked almost four batters per nine innings in 2014, while striking out 8.5 per nine. Dominant stuff if he could command it. If not, the Mets were hopeful Bobby Parnell or Vic Black would return to past form.
"He was thrown into that closer's role," third baseman David Wright said. "And he never looked back."
Familia converted his first 13 saves and 27 of 29 before the All-Star break, bringing a 1.25 first-half ERA into it. That number stands at 1.85 at season's end, tied for the fourth lowest among NL relievers with at least 50 innings pitched.
Familia allowed 2.2 walks per nine and struck out 9.9 batters per nine, in essentially the same amount of innings as last season.
"He stepped up and did a tremendous job all year," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Here are some of Familia's season highlights:
The first (April 12)
Familia recorded his first save of 2015 and seventh of his career after entering a 4-3 game in Atlanta with nobody on and one out in the 9th. He struck out Jonny Gomes and got Phil Gosselin to fly out to end it.
The scariest (June 12)
Familia escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation to lock down a 5-3 win over the Braves, while his first child, Jeurys Jr., was being born in a nearby hospital.
The roughest (July 30)
For all his excellence, Familia was human at times as well. It bears mentioning his role in the Mets' most devastating loss of the season, a rain-soaked 8-7 heart-breaker to San Diego. Familia recorded two outs before a 44-minute rain delay, then allowed three hits, including Justin Upton's go-ahead homer. After another delay of almost three hours, the Mets lost.
"Nobody can hit that." -- David Ortiz (Aug. 30)
Familia joined Benitez, Francisco Rodriguez, Billy Wagner and John Franco as the only Mets closers to reach 35 saves when he closed out a 5-4 win over the Red Sox. Afterward, Ortiz marveled at Familia's splitter and Boston infielder Brock Holt called him "the nastiest pitcher in the world."
The week in Washington (Sept. 7-9)
Familia recorded saves in all three wins of New York's early September sweep over Washington that all but clinched the National League East. Familia allowed one run in 12 1/3 innings against the Nationals in 2015, striking out 15.
The icing (Sept. 26)
Not a save situation, but Familia recorded the final out of the Mets' 10-2 division-clinching win. That put him square in the center of the dog pile that resulted with New York officially headed to its first postseason since 2006.
Joe Trezza is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.