Mets need bullpen to save their season this time

Many of them know the journey.

Now all they must do is carve a radically different route. Think of it like opting for the alternate course on Google Maps.

The meandering Mets thumped the surprising Marlins on Monday night at Marlins Park, 11-4, a much-needed reboot after the Phillies swept them out of Citizens Bank Park. Luis Rojas’ group pulled off the win despite receiving only 1 ²/₃ innings from its starter, Robert Gsellman, as Chasen Shreve, Jeurys Familia, Brad Brach and Franklyn Kilome teamed to pick up the final 22 outs, allowing three runs — two of those in the garbage-time ninth.

“With [Gsellman] still getting stretched out, I think the whole bullpen knows that we need to be ready early,” said Shreve, who picked up the win by retiring all seven batters he faced, five via strikeout.

While they can’t survive on such a meager contribution every night from their starting pitcher, these Mets (10-14) surely won’t be replicating their immediate predecessors’ rotation excellence that catapulted them from summer obscurity to autumn relevance (and what would’ve been a playoff spot in this year’s postseason setup). From what we’ve seen so far in 2020, these guys will have to get it done with a loaded, superior bullpen to cover up for a starting corps more disheveled than Shooter Flatch at the start of “Hoosiers.”

“There’s much trust that relievers can help us in any given scenario, in any given situation, to win games,” Mets rookie manager Luis Rojas said of his bullpen prior to the game.

Robert GsellmanGetty Images

Here’s advocating for even more trust. More leaning on the relievers, capitalizing on the 28-man rosters and acknowledging the team’s weakness.

Look at what went down over the weekend: In all three games, Rojas stuck too long with his starters: Walker Lockett (filling in for Jacob deGrom) on Friday night, Steven Matz on Saturday night and Rick Porcello on Sunday. Monday night therefore presented a welcome contrast, as Rojas lifted the starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter Gsellman with two outs in the second inning, Marlins on first and second and the Mets owning a 3-1 lead.

“The stress on the first inning and the second inning, the struggle of the command, I thought we were seeing him almost at a point where he was getting tired by two innings of work,” Rojas said of Gsellman. “This is a guy that we’re just starting to stretch and that’s immediately when we went to Shreve.” The southpaw Shreve entered and fanned lefty hitter Matt Joyce to escape the jam, setting the tone.

“We have so many guys down there who can throw multiples,” Shreve said. “It’s actually really nice and reassuring.”

DeGrom appears ready to return to the rotation on Wednesday night, Rojas said on Monday, and the manager refused to commit to the flailing Matz taking his turn on Thursday night. Between health concerns and performance worries, things remain greatly in flux for this group. The Mets’ starters now sport a 5.54 ERA, 14th in the National League entering late action Monday, while their relievers’ 4.55 placed them seventh.

When the 2019 Mets stunningly turned their season around with a 40-21 stretch to close out the schedule, their starters tallied a 3.06 ERA, second-best in the NL, and their relievers 4.36, eighth-best (thanks, FanGraphs). That’s a better way to go, no matter how much Edwin Diaz’s meltdowns or Mickey Callaway’s head-scratchers haunt you. With Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler all gone, though, a re-enactment of that revival appears nearly impossible, no matter how much rookie David Peterson helps pick up for Gsellman’s unsteady return to the rotation, Porcello’s underwhelming numbers or Michael Wacha’s physical unreliability.

“It’s a strange year,” Michael Conforto said Monday, “but I think we all can pull things from last year when we were playing at our best. … We have to have fun out there. That part of the year was when everything kind of melted away.”

If Rojas doesn’t build on Monday’s action and sufficiently manage his club’s strengths, the Mets’ high 2020 ambitions, not to mention quite possibly the Wilpon era, will melt away in embarrassing fashion.