The Mets are playing out the string at this point, but at least they’re keeping things interesting.
Matt Harvey limited the Reds to one run in 7 2/3 innings and struck out eight in the Mets’ 8-4 win on Thursday. He also had a two-run double off Homer Bailey in the contest.
Frank Francisco put a seemingly finished game into doubt in the ninth for the second time this week. On Sunday, he allowed two walks and a double to the only three Braves he faced. He entered with the bases loaded, so the end result was four runs scored in a game the Mets held on to win 6-5.
Tonight, Francisco entered an 8-1 game after gave up three runs before Jon Rauch again bailed him out. Thanks to Francisco, Rauch has picked up a pair of one-out saves this week.
Francisco also engaged in some odd behavior after the game, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Brian Costa:
Anyway, back to Harvey. He had a remarkable seventh inning tonight, throwing just five pitches in the frame, yet giving up two hits and a run. Brandon Phillips, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier and Xavier Paul all put the first pitch into play, with Phillips and Bruce coming away with doubles. The other three batters made outs.
Finally given ample run support for the first time in five major league starts, Harvey improved to 2-3 with a 3.00 ERA. He’s up to 34 strikeouts in 30 innings.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.