Pressure blurred the line between desperation and recklessness. There could be no other explanation. Later, Terry Collins admitted as much.
Yes, the Mets beat the Marlins, 2-1, on Wednesday to end a four-game losing streak that triggered the season’s first wave of panic. But in the process, the Mets nearly tore themselves apart.
Yoenis Cespedes played with no regard for the future, risking his body with a futile dive three rows into the stands for a foul ball he couldn’t reach. David Wright made sure he was in the lineup, even with the Mets hoping to manage his back condition.
And Collins managed as if it were September, stretching the limits of his burned-out bullpen. He admitted his judgment had been swayed by harsh reaction stemming from the Mets’ slow start.
“It made me sick to my stomach,” Collins said, one day after insisting that the season was a “marathon.”
In the short term, it was worth it. Backup catcher Kevin Plawecki rolled a two-run single through a drawn-in infield to break a scoreless tie in the seventh, arguably the Mets’ biggest hit in the first eight games of the season.
“Definitely, there was a sense of urgency to get a win today,” said Plawecki, who delivered the only runs generated by an offense that has stumbled out of the gate.
The hit came after Logan Verrett delivered zeros in his first spot start of the season. Working in place of the injured Jacob deGrom, Verrett tossed six scoreless innings before ceding to Collins and his game of managerial roulette.
If there is ultimately a toll for one April victory, it will be paid by the arms of Jim Henderson and Jeurys Familia.
“This is a game we had to have,” Collins said. “We weren’t going to sacrifice another game.”
The veteran Henderson has spent two years recovering from shoulder surgery. Yet, one day after throwing a career-high 34 pitches, he entered a scoreless game in the seventh. His fastball touched just 91 mph, down from 95 mph the night before.
Addison Reed had pitched three straight games and Collins hoped to stay away from Hansel Robles, who threw 52 pitches on Monday. Antonio Bastardo threw 39 pitches in that game when Steven Matz was knocked out in the second inning, and has yet to pitch in a high-leverage situation.
Rafael Montero had to be saved in case of extra innings. With the starter Verrett tiring, that left Henderson, who assured Collins before the game he could pitch.
“We were out of options,” Collins said.
But Henderson loaded the bases with no one out, before Robles (two strikeouts) and Jerry Blevins (flyout) extricated Collins and the Mets.
After Plawecki gave the Mets the lead with his single, ending the team’s scoreless streak of 14 innings, Cespedes showed how much he wanted to protect it.
Leading off the eighth, Ichiro Suzuki sent the 10th pitch of his at-bat against Blevins toward foul ground. Playing leftfield, Ces pedes gave chase. He reached the side wall and cleared it with his leap. Momentum sent his knees crashing into a fan, and then into a plastic seatback, all for a ball that was out of his reach.
Trainers jogged onto the field. After a few tense minutes, Cespedes emerged from the stands, fortunate that he apparently did little more than bang his knee.
“I’m OK,” Cespedes said. “Just sore.”
With a lead to protect, Collins leaned on Familia to nail down a five-out save. The request came even though he had pitched in consecutive games. Familia obliged. The gamble paid off.
The Marlins scored once in the eighth to cut the deficit, but Familia held them to nothing more, pitching a perfect ninth for his second save. Despite another middling offensive performance, the Mets (3-5) stopped the bleeding.
“It’s nice to be able to scratch one off when you score two runs,” Wright said. “But you just want to try to end the home stand on a positive note, especially going into an off day. It makes for a horrible off day, playing poorly especially at home.”
That relief, of course, may have come at great cost.