Familia thriving with increased workload

Mets closer earns save in NLCS Game 1, his third of postseason

Familia thriving with increased workload

NEW YORK -- Sticking with the script that helped his club knock the Dodgers out of postseason play two days earlier, Mets manager Terry Collins turned to closer Jeurys Familia early on Saturday night. Familia wasn't perfect -- expecting him to continue to pitch without a blemish is unreasonable -- but he was again more than good enough.

Familia closed the eighth inning for starter Matt Harvey, and then covered the ninth for the Mets, who celebrated a 4-2 victory over the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. Thirty-six of the previous 58 teams to take the first game of a best-of-seven LCS have advanced to the World Series.

Game Date Matchup
Gm 1 Oct. 17 NYM 4, CHC 2
Gm 2 Oct. 18 NYM 4, CHC 1
Gm 3 Oct. 20 NYM 5, CHC 2
Gm 4 Oct. 21 NYM 8, CHC 3

"I don't have the words to say how special this has been," Familia said, after recording his third save of the postseason. "I trust my stuff. I'm just going out there, trying to throw strikes and believe in my pitches."

Familia entered the NLCS following a sensational NL Division Series showing in which he retired all 16 batters he faced. That run ended when he opened Saturday's appearance with a two-out walk to Kris Bryant, but he foiled any Cubs comeback bid by inducing an inning-ending groundout from Anthony Rizzo.

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Familia then worked around a two-out single in a 12-pitch ninth.

It was the third time in five postseason appearances that Familia was asked to garner more than three outs. He had saves of an inning-plus five times during the regular season, but only once after June 14. Now, it's become his norm. On Thursday, it was a six-out save against the Dodgers. In this one, he retired four.

"You know what? In certain games, the games that you've got to have, I'm telling you, maybe it's just me, but I don't think you can end the game with your star -- your best relief pitcher -- standing on the mound in the bullpen warming up, waiting for a one-inning save," Collins said afterward. "So we'll just see how it goes."

It's gone quite well for the Mets, whose ability to win three postseason games by two or fewer runs is in large part due to the shutdown closer who entered the year planning for a different bullpen role. He was going to be a late-inning reliever until the closer's job opened because of Jenrry Mejia's suspension for a positive performance-enhancing drug test. He seized his new role, and, including his three saves in the postseason, has converted his last 19 opportunities.

Both Collins and Harvey asserted postgame that their club currently boasts "the best closer in the game."

"My mind is prepared for whatever inning they use me, for whatever situation," Familia said. "I'm just going out there to enjoy it and do my job, get the hitter out."

How the extended outing may affect Familia's availability for Game 2 is worth watching. Collins acknowledged after Saturday's win that 42 pitches over three days might leave Familia unavailable for Game 2.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.