It seems the general sentiment among Mets fans is that Terry Collins should never have let Manny Acosta start the eighth inning in Houston last night with the game tied at 3. And in hindsight, obviously, they’re right: Acosta allowed an infield single to Jordan Schafer, then Schafer stole second when Josh Thole bobbled a pitch in the dirt and scored the game’s deciding run on Jed Lowrie’s line drive single back through the box.
To me, though, the most frustrating part of Collins’ bullpen management this season has been his quick hook and the frequency with which he has warmed up and used all of his relievers. The Mets lead the league in relief appearances in 2012, and it seems like for every guy that gets in a game, another is in throwing in the bullpen ready to go. That taxes relief arms and could be one of the reasons for the bullpen’s general ineffectiveness.
Acosta has been mostly awful this year, no doubt. But he threw a strong seventh inning without a ton of pitches and bringing him back out for the eighth presented Collins an opportunity to keep some of his more frequently used relievers on the shelf. Acosta was the only member of the bullpen who didn’t throw in Sunday’s 11-inning game, recall, and multiple innings from Acosta would have benefited the Mets if Monday’s game also went to extra frames.
Also, don’t forget that Acosta was (perhaps by default) pretty much the best reliever the Mets had down the stretch in 2010 and 2011. He has started off poorly in 2012, yeah, but that’s no reason to expect it’ll continue. He allowed a squib swinging-bunt hit to Schafer, retired the for-some-reason-bunting Jose Altuve, and yielded a sinking liner to Lowrie. It’s not like he was knocked around the park.
To stop the bleeding, Collins wound up using Tim Byrdak and Bobby Parnell in the inning as well, so it wound up being the worst of both worlds: Acosta starts the eighth and allows the run and Collins still needs three relievers to get through the inning.
But I think if your primary gripe with Collins’ management is his heavy usage of relievers — as mine is — you can’t also complain when he lets a guy who just threw a strong inning come out for a second.
It didn’t work out last night. Sometimes it doesn’t.