Familia can't duplicate regular-season success

Familia can't duplicate regular-season success

NEW YORK -- Jeurys Familia reached into his locker late Wednesday night, rooting around the top shelf as he began the process of cleaning out his belongings. He grabbed a cigar, still wrapped in plastic, took a brief glance at it, then snapped it in half. He dropped the entire package to the floor.

There was no celebration in the Mets' clubhouse following a 3-0 National League Wild Card Game loss to Madison Bumgarner and the Giants. There was no champagne, no reason to smoke that cigar, no early-morning bus ride to the airport. Familia, who blew three saves in the 2015 World Series, gave up Conor Gillaspie's go-ahead three-run home run in the ninth inning on Wednesday, ending his record-breaking season on a decidedly dour note.

"It's not my first time playing baseball, playing in the Major Leagues," Familia said. "I know those things are going to happen sometimes. This is a game."

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It was a game in which, Bumgarner aside, the Mets felt comfortable heading into the later innings. Entering the night, manager Terry Collins was hopeful that he'd have to use only his best pitchers against the Giants: Noah Syndergaard, a fringe NL Cy Young Award candidate; Addison Reed, one of the most successful setup men in baseball; and Familia, an All-Star closer who saved a franchise-record 51 games this season.

Few have been better than Familia, who allowed one home run all season, posting a 2.55 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 77 2/3 innings. No one has saved more games since the start of the 2015 season.

Collins on Familia's outing

But in a scoreless Wild Card Game in the ninth, Familia allowed a leadoff double to Brandon Crawford. With one out, he walked Joe Panik, which transformed the complexion of the inning. No longer could the Mets intentionally walk Gillaspie, forcing the Giants either to use Bumgarner as a hitter or pull him from the game. Instead, Familia had to pitch to Gillaspie, a reserve infielder who began the season in the Minors.

Familia threw a strike and a ball, and then a mistake: a 96-mph sinker that Statcast™ measured three feet off the ground, his most elevated pitch of the night. Though Gillaspie swore he didn't see the ball well enough to know where in the strike zone it was, he crushed it into the bullpen area in right-center anyway. Only a few minutes later, the Mets' loss was complete, however puzzling it may have seemed to them.

"If you tell me that we're giving Jeurys Familia the ball in the ninth inning, I like our chances every time," outfielder Jay Bruce said. "He was lights-out all year."

In a quiet postgame clubhouse, many echoed that statement. But Familia still must spend his offseason chewing on the uncomfortable notion that for the second straight October, he could not replicate his regular-season success. Last year, against the Royals, he blew three saves, allowing Alex Gordon's game-tying homer in Game 1 before the Mets' defense unfolded behind him in Games 4 and 5.

Familia discusses tough outing

In a win-or-go-home Wild Card Game, Wednesday's loss tasted just as sour for one of the best regular-season closers -- that's a qualifier he must bear, for now -- in Mets history.

"He made one bad pitch," catcher Rene Rivera said. "They got lucky that he left one up, but that's part of the game. He did a great job for us all year long, and he's one of the best closers in baseball. If we're in that situation again, I want Familia out there."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.