Closing Time, or Not
Philadelphia Phillies‘ Closer Hector Neris took the mound in the 9th inning on Friday night holding a 1-0 lead against the New York Mets. Here we go again.
A closer is a team’s best reliever. Their job is simple: get outs and don’t blow the lead.
Closers are supposed to strike fear in an opposing lineup. When they step onto the field, or their walkout music plays, the wind goes out of the opposing team’s sails. The idea of a comeback becomes a longshot based solely on the presence of a dominant closer. A closer isn’t just the guy on the mound who throws hard and keeps hitters guessing he is also the mindset instilled in the other team, a little voice in their heads that says, “We’re screwed.”
When Enter Sandman played, the Yankees were going to win. When Jonathon Papelbon came in for the Red Sox or Trevor Hoffman for the Padres their teams were going to win. Brian Wilson, beard and all, with the Giants. Craig Kimbrel or Kenley Jansen. Those are just recent dominant closers; the list goes on and on.
Then there’s the 2018 Philadelphia Phillies’ closer. Enter Neris, and let the hanging split fingers, and four-pitch walks begin.
There is absolutely no sense of fear instilled in any team when Neris trots out of the bullpen and takes the mound with a lead. As a Phillies’ fan, my heart drops as the foreseeable blown save unfolds in front of my eyes.
Another Blown Save by the Phillies’ Closer
Against the New York Mets on Friday night, the Phillies entered the 9th inning holding a small lead, and Neris took the mound. Here we go again.
After getting the first batter to pop out to Maikel Franco, Neris gave up a base hit thus putting the go-ahead run at the plate.
With an ideal closer on the mound, you’re thinking, “No problem, get a ground ball, turn a double play, and get out of here with the win.” With Neris on the mound, no such confidence exists.
Instead, it’s maddening to watch and the following pitch sequence goes against every instinct a baseball player has.
First pitch, the ineffective splitter falls in for a strike high in the zone. Second pitch, back to the splitter again, which gets absolutely crushed foul. PHEW. Dodged a bullet there. Time for something soft and away, right?
Nope, third pitch, a fastball down and in for a ball. The following pitch went like this:
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 12, 2018
Same pitch, same spot. Blown save, lead gone, 2-1 Mets.
Alright, time to get a couple outs and rally back in the bottom of the 9th, right?
Wrong. Next pitch, a fastball right down the middle to Devin Mesoraco who as a result ropes it into the seats in left field and puts the Mets up 3-1.
Again, only a 2-run deficit, so the comeback is still a possibility, right?
Wrong again. Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia entered the game and shot the Phillies down, doing what a closer should do. Strikeout ground out, fly out. Game over, Phillies lose 3-1.
Get the Hec’ Out of Here
Neris now has 3 blown saves consequently tying him for the league lead. He is tied for the second-worst ERA among closers in the MLB posting an abysmal 5.17 ERA.
Is this entirely his fault? I would say no because he simply does not have the stuff or the intimidation factor to be the Phillies’ closer. This is on the manager for putting him in a spot he cannot succeed in.
Manager Gabe Kapler needs to make a change. While it’s only May, the closer situation is proving to be the most glaring problem for the Phillies in the early part of the season because of Neris’ inability to slam the door in the 9th. Kapler has to find a solution soon before it’s too late.
In his postgame press conference Kapler said, “If (Neris) is the best option, we will go to him.” Well, he’s not, so go to someone else Kapler.
Despite 2 Blown saves and a 16.88 ERA over his last 4 appearances, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler is NOT closing the door on Hector Neris closing out games @6abc #Phillies #gabekapler#hectorneris #BeBold pic.twitter.com/7fbbaCIPwZ
— Jeff Skversky 6abc (@JeffSkversky) May 13, 2018
Featured image by Tom Hagerty via Flickr.
Statistics for this article from espn.com.