Even when everything was going right for the Mets in the weeks leading up to the All-Star break, there was still the nagging knowledge that Billy Wagner was the team’s closer. And Mets fans had developed a sort of shared understanding that while Wagner was far from terrible, he was all too often a cause for concern. But after last night’s disastrous ninth inning against the Phillies, Mets fans probably can’t wait for the injured Wagner to return to the bullpen.
Taking a 5-2 lead into the ninth, Jerry Manual called on Duaner Sanchez to close the game. Six runs and three more pitchers later, the Phillies had a 8-5 lead — they’d win 8-6 — and the second-guessing could begin. Johan Santana had gone eight great innings and thrown 105 pitches, but apparently there wasn’t much thought about his pitching the ninth, despite the lack of a real closer. (In Manuel’s defense, though, even a mediocre bullpen should be able to get three outs without giving up three runs.)
Worse still is the game reintroduces the word “collapse” to the Mets’ vocabulary. And not just against anyone, but against the Phillies, whom they’ll likely battle for the division. And not just at any time, but when the games start to become kind of, sort of important. At least it’s only July this time, so the Mets had just better hope — less than a year removed from the Great Collapse of 2007 — that the Great Collapse of 2008 has already happened. —Joe DeLessio