I said yesterday that the Mets need Billy Wagner healthy. Last night was why.
Manager Jerry Manuel was informed before the game that Wagner needed the night off to give his shoulder some rest and allow the spasms he’s ben diagnosed with to subside. Due to a very good start by Johan Santana in which Santana pitched 8 innings the Mets didn’t need to go to the bullpen until the 9th with a 5-2 lead. Four pitchers and eleven batters later the Mets went to the bottom of the 8th with an 8-5 deficit that they could not recover from.
Though this was just one game and it could easily have turned out better it serves as an example of how important a good closer like Wagner is for a team. If Wagner needed last night off so he could get healthier and be ready for the stretch run that’s fine. It’s wiser for him to sacrifice a game in July so he can be ready for August and September than it is for him to pitch and risk hurting himself further. But the other members of the bullpen, who have really been pitching well lately, need to be able to pick up the slack on nights that Wagner is unavailable.
The obvious question last night was why didn’t Santana pitch the 9th inning? I was watching the game and saw how Santana was pitching in the 8th inning. Through most of the inning I was thinking he should come back for the 9th. But after Pat Burrell hit a two out double I wasn’t so sure. Santana got the next batter, Ryan Howard, to fly out to center so the Burrell hit didn’t mean much. I still would have liked to see Santana pitch the 9th but I wasn’t so sure it would have been the wisest decision. So I don’t blame Manuel for going to the bullpen at that point.
However after the game Santana said that after the 8th Manuel told him they’d be going to the bullpen for the 9th. The way Santana said it was that Manuel had made the decision and he wasn’t going to go against it. It seems like Santana was very passive about this decision. I’d like to know if he lobbied at all to pitch the 9th. For all the money he’s making and the ace billing he’s getting I’d like to see that he at least tried to talk Manuel into letting him complete the game.