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Mets’ Carlos Mendoza gets dose of harsh MLB reality after controversial Christian Scott decision



Mets’ Carlos Mendoza gets dose of harsh MLB reality after controversial Christian Scott decision

Managing a baseball team is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. There are dozens of elements to every work day, sometime hundreds. A few years ago, Buck Showalter admitted that even after managing more than 3,000 games he’d often find himself dealing with stuff he’d never had to deal with before.

Carlos Mendoza managed his 89th game in the big leagues Monday afternoon at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. It did not go well for the Mets, who lost 8-2 to the Pirates and finished an eight-game swing through Washington and Pittsburgh at 4-4 when they probably should have gone at least 6-2.

And it didn’t go so great for Mendoza either. With Christian Scott pitching the finest game of his young career and cruising, Mendoza went and got him after he retired the first two batters in the sixth inning. Scott, pitching on four days’ rest for the first time in his career (and scheduled to pitch against the Rockies in four days on Saturday) was at 77 pitches after throwing 99 in Washington last week.

Christian Scott was pitching the best game of his young career Monday against the Pirates. AP
Carlos Mendoza, pictured earlier this season, removed Christian Scott after 77 pitches. Robert Sabo for the NY Post

“I knew [Sunday] they wanted to keep me to 75 or so,” Scott said later. “I trust him. He’s done an amazing job and I’m grateful for the opportunity to compete.”

Said Mendoza: “It’s a tough spot. The kid’s too important.”

Mendoza may have only 89 games under his belt, but he knew he was going to get interrogated about that decision because of what happened next: He summoned righty Eric Orze, who had never before thrown a major league pitch, to face the Bucs’ three best hitters — Brian Reynolds, Oneil Cruz and Rowdy Tellez.

He got none of them. Reynolds walked on a 3-2 change that sure looked like it clipped the bottom of the zone — “Borderline pitch,” Orze said, “I would’ve liked to have gotten that” — and after Cruz slashed a single to left, Tellez — think Daniel Vogelbach, minus about three ham sandwiches — somehow beat Mark Vientos’ throw to first on a ball cued off the end of his bat to give the Bucs the lead.

Then Mendoza summoned Adrian Houser, and for the first time since becoming a reliever two months ago, Houser forgot to leave his gasoline tank in the bullpen. Before long it was 7-2 and the plane home was already taxiing to the gate.

Tough debut for the kid, Orze. Tougher still to look at the newspaper Tuesday morning and see that his lifetime ERA now sits at -.–, or infinity.

Toughest for Mendoza, who on Sunday got away with making an ill-fated decision to bring Edwin Diaz into the eighth inning and saw Diaz promptly give up the lead; he was rescued by a two-out, two-run rally and by the fact that Aroldis Chapman was determined to have one of the most Aroldis Chapman innings ever.

There was no salvaging his choice Monday. Thus the bright lights in the interview room. And the blazing torches and pitchforks among Mets fans on social media.

“We’re talking about finding a soft spot [to break in Orze] but that rarely happens,” Mendoza said. “Sixth inning, two out, nobody on, he’s really good against lefties so …”

Carlos Mendoza, pictured earlier this season, has been questioned for his recent pitching decisions. Charles Wenzelberg

We’ve been singing this song all year long. The Mets started with a thin bullpen and by now it’s damn near emaciated. This is a remarkable stat: Since June 23, the Mets bullpen has allowed 41 runs in 46 innings. That’s a 7.85 ERA, unacceptable in any context.

Somehow, the Mets are 8-6 in that stretch, thanks mostly to playing lousy teams (and the two against the Yankees certainly qualify), a stretch they’d hoped might launch them into playoff position. That hasn’t happened yet, though there’s plenty of softies ahead. As long as the pen is a tire fire, consistent playoff-level play remains a pipe dream.

Which brings us back to Mendoza. Look, given his options Monday (his top three relievers were all unavailable), it’s possible that even if he’d done what managers used to do with pitchers and have a commitment to Scott’s heart, the Mets would’ve lost Monday. You could actually say that’s likely. He still should’ve given him another batter.

And yes: If he’d done that, Mendoza would have had to explain to his bosses why he’d put the Mets’ prized pitching prospect at risk. To David Stearns and the decision-makers, Christian Scott is about trying to make as close to 180 starts over the next six years as possible, far more than getting one batter out in a sixth inning in June.

That just increases the degree of difficulty of a difficult gig. As does this: A month ago, it sure seemed like Mendoza would be able to serve this rookie apprenticeship far from the glare of a playoff chase. It’s to his credit the Mets are back in the hunt. But that means more eyeballs watching, and more eyeballs rolling when his choices don’t work out.

A week ago, he left Scott in one batter too long in Washington. Monday he removed him a batter too quickly in Pittsburgh. Hard job. It’s supposed to be hard.

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