Four relievers hold Mets hitless over final three innings
By Danny Knobler
Special to MLB.com |
NEW YORK -- David Hernandez knows it started with him. He was the Phillies reliever who was handed a one-run, eighth-inning lead on Opening Day, the guy who helped turn it into a five-run inning and the first of what became four straight defeats to start the season.
"We kind of let it snowball," Hernandez said Saturday night, after the snowball stopped rolling in the Phillies' 1-0 win over the Mets.
The bullpen with the highest ERA in baseball (12.66) turned it around, at least for a night. Handed another one-run lead after starter Vince Velasquez's outstanding Phillies debut, the relievers delivered the nine outs that gave the Phillies their first win of the season.
"It feels good to finally lock one down," Hernandez said.
It wasn't easy.
Hector Neris walked pinch-hitter Alejandro De Aza after getting the first two outs of the seventh, and needed left-hander Daniel Stumpf to get Curtis Granderson to get out of the inning. Hernandez pitched a 1-2-3 eighth against the middle of the Mets' lineup, but went to three-ball counts on all three batters.
Finally, new closer Jeanmar Gomez finished it off with a six-pitch ninth inning, for his second big league save and first since 2014.
"I knew we were going to win -- as soon as [shortstop Freddy Galvis] caught that ball, that last ball," manager Pete Mackanin said.
That last ball, the last out of the game, he meant.
Mackanin has been frustrated by the early bullpen struggles, but he said Saturday afternoon that he still trusts the relievers he has.
"I know we're better than we've pitched," he said. "We'll give it a little time. If not, then we'll make changes."
He made the first change a couple of days ago, saying that he would begin using Gomez in the ninth after Dalier Hinojosa couldn't hold a ninth-inning lead in the second game against the Reds. The 28-year-old Gomez has never been a closer in seven Major League seasons, with his only save coming in an extra-inning game with the Pirates.
"It goes to show you don't have to throw 96 [mph] to be a closer," Mackanin said. "If you make quality pitches with good stuff, you've got a chance."
The Phillies won't consider their bullpen issues solved after one good game, but it was certainly better than the alternative.
"I think we were putting too much pressure on ourselves," Hernandez said. "I let the first one slip away, and we kind of let it snowball. Now maybe we can get it going in the other direction."
For one night, it did.
Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.