ATLANTA — Maybe Mickey Callaway can get a good night’s sleep now. With Amed Rosario giving the Mets manager hopes of a future with solid infield defense and Jason Vargas making the recent injury hits to the pitching staff just a little more bearable.
After a month of finding a fire to put out with every decision and everywhere he turned, everything finally worked again Wednesday night. The struggling Vargas, called to start on three days rest because of an injury to Noah Syndergaard, put together five solid innings. Rosario gave the Mets a much needed defensive play and offensively contributed as the Mets ended a brutal road trip with a 4-1 win over the Braves at SunTrust Park.
Rosario’s play in the eighth inning stopped the seemingly daily nightmare of watching the Mets bullpen blow a lead. He smothered Nick Markakis’ ground ball and started an inning-ending double play.
“It’s the play we’ve been lacking. We had a similar play the other day, we didn’t get it turned,” Callaway said. “That was probably the difference in the game.”
The Mets (27-26) split the four-game series with the Braves (32-23), and after a road trip in which they were handed three walkoff losses and watched the bullpen implode five times, return to Citi Field still clinging to an above .500-record.
The trip has taken its toll.
Injury-wise, the Mets lost reliever AJ Ramos (shoulder tendinitis), Wilmer Flores (lower back soreness), and Syndergaard (right index finger strain) to the disabled list. In addition, Steven Matz, who left Tuesday night’s game in the fourth, is now day-today with a slight strain to his middle left finger.
The team has lost games and lost confidence.
And the manager has lost sleep trying to figure out how to guide this team through a 10-17 month of May.
“I haven’t slept in a week, or not slept well at least,” Callaway said. “We’re just trying to get us out of this: What can we do? What can we stress? How can we react today? What conversations can we have with which players to help us continue to try and get out of what’s going on?”
Callaway said in his career in baseball, he has never been through a stretch like this.
“No. I’ve been in baseball a long time I don’t think seen this in my entire career, this is a stretch that’s rare, it seems,” Callaway said. “As far as I…from what I’ve seen.”
But it’s not just injuries that are costing Callaway to lose sleep. “We have to communicate in the outfield; we have to put the ball in play with runner in scoring position. We have to give ourselves a chance to win when we are on the mound and not walk the leadoff batter,” Callaway said. “All those things, it’s not just giving up a run. When we’ve blown the leads, we’ve walked the leadoff batter of the inning. That has been consistent. We can’t do that, no matter who you are. I don’t care if you are a guy who has 45 days in or 10 years, can’t come in and walk guys, you are giving the other guys a chance.”
This all may be new to Callaway, but for Mets fans this is a familiar refrain.
Some of it is just incredulously weird — like the small fire that broke out in the rotunda at Citi Field Wednesday afternoon.
And then some of it is self-inflicted with their lack of organizational pitching depth being exposed. The bullpen issues had magnified every decision Callaway this last week.
But Wednesday, it all fell into place.
Vargas gave the Mets five scoreless. Tim Peterson, making his major league debut, held the Braves to a solo home run over two innings. Callaway brought closer Jeurys Familia in to pitch to the dangerous top of the Braves lineup in the eighth and Robert Gsellman closed it.
Before the game, Callaway made it clear that this team’s spiral has been awful for him.
“We’re not happy with what’s going on. Just because we try to approach it the right way doesn’t mean we’re accepting it. We’re pissed,” Callaway said. “But we just don’t think that showing that negativity…. is going to help – us us get out of it.”