Mickey Calloway was asked about Familia’s late-inning struggles Thursday, ahead of the Mets’ series-opening 5-0 victory at Milwaukee and the manager said he had no plans to make any changes to the role.
Instead, he praised Familia.
“If you look at the numbers, he’s been our best reliever,” Callaway said. “There’s no way around that. People can say, ‘Nobody else has four blown saves.’ Well, nobody else has pitched in really close games in save situations. If you look at it, the year he had 51 saves, all of his numbers are way better than that. He’s having a career year, numbers-wise.”
Indeed, Familia’s 2.35 ERA is lower than his 2016 mark and he is walking batters at a less-frequent rate, but his 76 percent save rate is second-worst among MLB closers.
Still, Callaway is standing behind Familia and hoping that his offense starts to provide more of a cushion for his late-inning relivers.
“We’ve got to score more runs,” Callaway said.
The Mets did well in that department Thursday, snapping the Brewers three-game winning streak with a 5-0 victory against a resurgent offense and one of baseball’s best pitching staffs. Brandon Nimmo reached base five by going 4-for-4 with a walk and has reached in eight straight plate appearances.
After Steven Matz pitched six solid innings, the Mets will attempt to get their sixth win in eight games when right-hander Noah Syndergaard starts.
Syndergaard held Milwaukee scoreless in 5 1/3 innings during a no-decision in New York’s 3-2 home win on April 15. He has a 2.89 ERA in his last six innings and allowed one run on six hits in seven innings of Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Syndergaard is 2-0 with an 0.49 ERA in three career starts against the Brewers.
Junior Guerra gets the nod for Milwaukee. He took a no-decision in his last outing, allowing just a run on four hits and two walks but lasted just 4 1/3 innings as in a 3-1 loss at Minnesota on Sunday.
Despite Guerra’s issues in his last outing the Brewers have had solid pitching for most of the year and while their offense has sparked their sprint to the top of the NL Central, they’ve also shown massive defensive improvement the last few weeks.
They are still fourth in the league with 32 errors but have just six over their last 18 games — compared to 26 through their first 33.
“We made some mistakes,” manager Craig Counsell said. “We’ll make mistakes again, trust me. That’ll happen. We made some mistakes early and have limited the mistakes lately.”
Milwaukee’s improved defense becomes more impressive when considering Orlando Arcia‘s recent dip in playing time. A defensive whiz, Arcia has struggled at the plate this season and is batting .194 with a 2-for-29 skid with nothing to show for his last 15 at-bats.
“We’re still trying to get Orlando going,” Counsell said. “That’s still important. He is a premium defender and has played premium defense all season, as well as any player I’ve seen this season playing shortstop.”
The Brewers got a boost with the addition of Tyler Saladino, who was acquired from the Chicago White Sox on April 19 and called up from Triple-A May 9 when Nick Franklin went on the DL.
Saladino is batting .400 (10-for-25) with a .331 on-base percentage and thanks to a double and three home runs.
His performance allowed Counsell to rest Arcia and keep a hot bat in the lineup.
“You can’t ignore a player that’s playing really well,” Counsell said. “That’s what Sally is doing. He is playing exceptionally well. It would be hard to turn away from it, really.”