Mickey Callaway Has A Very Mets Reason For Overworking His Most Reliable Reliever

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Mets ace Jacob deGrom was electric Tuesday night against the Atlanta Braves. Coming off a dispiriting 12-3 loss Monday to open the series, and having lost five of seven to drop four games below .500, the Mets needed deGrom to do the ace thing, and he delivered, pitching 8.1 innings and striking out 10 Braves in a cathartic 10-2 win.

This wasn’t just your everyday dominant deGrom performance. Tuesday night marked the first time he’d gone past the seventh inning this season, and just the second time he’s pitched into the ninth inning since 2017. And his stuff Tuesday night was overpowering, hitting triple digits on the fastball and averaging 94 miles per hour on his slider. Just a mean, filthy, downright rude pitching performance from one of the very best in the sport:

Given deGrom’s dominance, it was not surprising to see Mets manager Mickey Callaway send him back to the mound for the ninth inning, even sitting at 101 pitches-deGrom was working on a complete game shutout, with a 10-run lead, and the only Braves base hit since the fourth inning didn’t make it out of the infield. Ill-advised, perhaps, and drearily consistent with a franchise tradition of overworking dominant starters, but not surprising. What was surprising, though, was seeing heavily used reliever Robert Gsellman up and warming in the Mets bullpen, in the ninth inning of a blowout. No Mets reliever has thrown more innings this season than Gsellman, who, at 38.2 innings pitched entering Tuesday, is the most worked reliever in the NL East. The last half-inning of a 10-run game would seem an opportune time to give the guy a night off.

DeGrom didn’t wind up finishing the complete game. With one out, he gave up a first-pitch home run to Freddie Freeman, and then Josh Donaldson took him yard at the end of a seven-pitch at-bat. Because Gsellman was the man who’d warmed up, Gsellman was the man who got the call to collect the final two outs, which he did with consecutive strikeouts. The game had a happy ending, but the question remained: why use an overburdened reliever when, for example, young Stephen Nogosek is chilling in the bullpen, waiting to make his first ever appearance? Isn’t a 10-run game exactly when you hope to give a young reliever a taste? What danger did Callaway sense headed into the ninth that made it worth putting additional work on the arm of the team’s workhorse?

That’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to say aloud, man. On the other hand, it’s great to see the Mets have their priorities in order.