There may be only one resolution for the New York Mets’ bullpen woes: Score more runs.
After snapping a three-game losing streak and their slump at the plate, the Mets hope Johan Santana can give their beleaguered bullpen a break as they conclude a four-game series with the last-place Washington Nationals on Thursday night.
New York (84-67) had lost four of five to fall out of first place in the NL East, scoring two runs or less three times during that span. The Mets were held to a total of two runs in this series’ first two games before beating the Nationals 9-7 on Wednesday night to stay one-half game behind Philadelphia in the division while holding on to a one-half game lead over Milwaukee for the wild card.
“We’re approaching these games like playoff games, because they are playoff games,” said Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, who homered from both sides of the plate and drove in three. “There’s no more options for us. Basically, every game counts.”
With its lineup apparently breaking out, New York was able to overcome another poor effort from its bullpen. Seven Mets relievers combined to give up five runs in four innings.
New York’s bullpen has a 9.56 ERA in its last seven games, and a 4.99 ERA in 52 contests since the All-Star break. The Mets have blown 27 save chances, including 11 in the ninth inning.
With closer Billy Wagner out for the season, and no help on the horizon for the Mets’ bullpen, they need another strong effort from their offense.
Another strong outing from Santana (13-7, 2.70 ERA) would also help. He’s fourth in the majors with 210 1-3 innings pitched, giving New York’s bullpen limited duty in most of his starts.
The left-hander has been particularly dominant over the last two months, going 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA and a .221 opponent batting average in his last 11 starts. On Saturday, Santana gave up two runs and nine hits in seven innings as New York lost 3-2 to Atlanta in the opener of a doubleheader.
Santana is 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA in two starts versus the Nationals this season, and 3-1 with a 2.79 ERA in four career starts against them. The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner has gotten two runs or less to work with in three of his last four starts, but the Mets may be ready to change that.
“You can only keep those … guys down for so long,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said. “When those guys are on, you just can’t stop them.”
New York will now face Tim Redding (10-9, 4.54 ERA), who has allowed a career-high 25 home runs this season for Washington. He gave up four runs and five hits - including two homers - in six innings as the Nationals lost 4-2 to Florida on Saturday.
The right-hander is 0-1 with a 4.82 ERA in four career starts against the Mets.
Washington has lost eight of 12 after winning eight of its previous nine.