‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
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It’s good the Mets had a day off Monday. Terry Collins’ team could use some relief.

Relief pitching, that is.

After watching Jon Rauch give up a game-winning homer to Russell Martin and his .216 BA in Sunday’s sweep-completing end to the Subway Series, Collins is probably fit to be hogtied with his bullpen. If nothing else, at least Rauch didn’t blow a save opportunity, since he came in with the score knotted at 4-4. Bobby Parnell had already taken care of that in the eighth when, with two runs charged, he was debited with his third blown save opportunity of the season, and his second of the current stretch.

Blowing saves has become a way of life for these Mets. Be it through errors like Omar Quintanilla’s eighth-inning flub of an easy grounder, or balls flying through the atmosphere like the light-hitting No. 9 hitter Martin’s, the Mets go into Tampa Bay with 13 blown saves this year.

That’s worst in the majors if you’re keeping score, two more than the Cubs and Rockies. And those are the only three teams heading into today with double-digits in that category.

Collins can certainly point to the errors of a generally young, inexperienced lineup as the root cause behind losing six of the last seven games. And sure, their 49 errors — fourth worst in the majors — are holding them back from doing some truly great things this season.

But the bullpen has to shoulder its share of the blame, too. Despite the extra outs, the fact is the relievers haven’t been able to suck it up and get past those miscues. Errors create fires. And, well, isn’t that a reliever’s job to extinguish those blazes in the first place?

They’ve been in most of their games, as their 30 save opportunities — second highest total in the majors behind Baltimore’s 31 — indicate. Aside from Friday’s 9-1 blowout in the Subway Series opener, three of the six losses in this stretch came by one run. Two others came by two runs. So the potential for wins was certainly there.

Homers have also played a big part in all this. So far, relievers have given up 20 homers in 150 2/3 innings, which amounts to a homer every seven innings or so. Manny Acosta accounted for six of those before he was designated for assignment when they brought up Quintanilla from Buffalo on May 19, but excising him from the mix didn’t exactly solve matters.

The numbers are not what a manager wants to see if he expects his team to win more than it loses.

Still, the Mets head into Tampa Bay at three games above .500. And for some reason, despite the errors and the homers, there is hope. They have been resilient this year. So they could turn this current losing streak around with a few more quality outings from what has turned into a strong starting rotation, and a few holds by the pen.

What they really need is a new arm or two out there. That might be something for Sandy Alderson to consider well before the July 31 trade deadline.

He might do well to put together a reasonable package for someone like A’s right-hander Grant Balfour, who lost his closer’s job but can still throw some quality innings as a setup or middle reliever. A number of current closers, including Kansas City’s Jonathan Broxton, could also be consider to move into subsidiary roles behind Frank Francisco. Despite his tendancy to walk the tightrope, Francisco has done a passable enough job to to keep around.

And let’s face it, you can’t jettison a whole bullpen.

But a tweak here, a tweak there might solve some of their problems.

Should the Mets trade for some bullpen help or is the answer somewhere in Double- or Triple-A? Be heard in the comments below…


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