Chatelain: Familia, Cespedes Come Up Small When Mets Need Them Most

Closer, Outfielder Were Basically No-Shows Against Giants, Continuing Rather Alarming Postseason Trends

By Ryan Chatelain
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Maybe now Terry Collins remembers why Matt Harvey was able to talk his way into staying in Game 5 of last year’s World Series.

As dependable as Jeurys Familia has been over the past two seasons, the Mets’ closer had sparked doubt in his manager’s mind by blowing two saves in the Fall Classic — which became a record three by the time the Royals were popping champagne in the visitors’ clubhouse at Citi Field.

Despite a stellar regular season, Bad Jeurys returned with a vengeance in Wednesday night’s National League wild card game against the San Francisco Giants, wasting Noah Syndergaard’s gem in the process.

The postseason is when greatness is solidified. Some rise to the occasion. However, some others — athletes who are generally world-beaters — are prone to flop when the stakes are high.

Giants ace Madison Bumgarner yet again proved to be the former, while Familia provided more supporting evidence that he’s not so clutch after the leaves start changing colors.

That’s not to say Familia has been hopeless in the postseason. He was dominant in last season’s NLDS against the Dodgers and NLCS against the Cubs. But when he found himself on the biggest stage, the World Series, he faded like an old pair of blue jeans.

PHOTOS: Mets Vs. Giants Wild Card Game

You have to wonder if that choke job seeped into Familia’s head when he took the mound in what was a scoreless game in the ninth inning against the Giants. Because it didn’t take long for baseball’s saves leader to hand the game — and the Mets’ season — away. In a span of just four batters, Famila allowed a lead-off double to Brandon Crawford, walked Joe Panik and then surrendered a three-run homer to Conor Gillaspie.

Yoenis Cespedes strikes out during the NL wild card game

Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes walks back to the dugout after striking out in the sixth inning of the NL wild card game against the San Francisco Giants on Oct. 5, 2016, at Citi Field. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

But Familia is not solely to blame. In fact, maybe he would have found himself in a more familiar and favorable save situation had the Mets’ best hitter delivered at some point during the game.

Instead, Yoenis Cespedes had yet another disappointing playoff performance. Through 15 postseason games as a Met, the $27 million man is now batting .207 with two home runs and eight RBIs.

Yes, the Mets ran into a buzz saw facing the great Bumgarner, but Cespedes is supposed to be great, too. And like Familia, he’s proving to be most special when the games don’t matter as much.

Consider this: Over the past two years, Cespedes has averaged one homer every 16.9 at-bats in the regular season. For his career, come playoff time, he homers once every 32.3 at-bats.

Cespedes went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Wednesday night. The Mets didn’t produce many base runners, but Cespedes actually was in prime position a couple of times, going to the plate in the fourth and sixth innings with a runner on and just one out. He whiffed both times.

After Gillaspie’s bomb in the top of the ninth, Cespedes led off the bottom half with a chance to get a rally started against Bumgarner, whom he had seen three times already and, I think, had to be tiring at least a little bit. But Cespedes let his teammates and fans down again, flying out in what may have ended up being his final at-bat as a Met.

Some players just don’t have that X-factor vibe in October. The great Clayton Kershaw has struggled to find it. David Price, too. Former Astro Jeff Bagwell was among the great hitters who vanished in October.

Daniel Murphy didn’t have that problem last season. We’ll soon see if that was an aberration or if that is something in the Met-turned-National’s DNA. If it’s the latter, the Mets will have another reason to regret letting him walk.

Bumgarner surely doesn’t have that problem, either. He’s the opposite of Familia and the anti-Cespedes. With his four-hit shutout Wednesday, the Giants’ southpaw lowered his career postseason ERA to 1.94. And in three elimination games — over 23 innings — he has yet to allow an earned run.

That’s insane. You can’t coach that.

Even though his team fell short, Noah Syndergaard appears to have that Bumgarner trait, too. “Thor” put on a display that Mets fans might have talked about for decades if it had been attached to a win — seven innings, no runs, two hits, 10 strikeouts. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Denard Span singled to center field.

Syndergaard is now 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA in the postseason.

The only thing Syndergaard did wrong all night was not work as efficiently as his counterpart. Syndergaard threw 108 pitches over seven innings, forcing Collins to call on his bullpen. Bumgarner was still at 94 pitches after seven innings, allowing him to stick around to ensure no one desecrated his masterpiece.

Of course, one might argue the result Wednesday night might have been different had the Mets not resembled a MASH unit this season. Perhaps they would have had more firepower in their lineup that could have helped make a difference against Bumgarner.

Or maybe not. Second baseman Neil Walker and David Wright are career .065 and .198 hitters in the postseason, respectively.

You simply cannot win the Super Bowl with a bunch of Tony Romos.

And while it’s too early to declare them lost playoff causes, Familia and Cespedes, especially, have done nothing to suggest they’re not headed in that direction.

Follow Ryan on Twitter at @ryanchatelain


One Comment

  1. Jim Herbst says:

    Familia is this Mets team’s Armondo Benitez. He also would build up impressive numbers during the season and then choke when they needed him. Familia’s performance in last years WS and again last night prove he is not a big game pitcher. Really, statistics can be misleading, he struggled all season with leadoff hits and walks.

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