Jose Valverde retired all four batters he faced, including three via strikeout. The rest of the bullpen performed miserably.NEW YORK -- Mets relievers suffered 31 losses last season, tied for fifth most in the majors. With the exception of Jose Valverde’s performance in his Mets debut, there was a déjà vu feeling on Opening Day 2014.
Carlos Torres and Scott Rice issued consecutive four-pitch walks to force in the tying run in the seventh, Bobby Parnell suffered a blown save in the ninth and Jeurys Familia and John Lannan combined to allow four runs an inning later as the Mets lost to the Washington Nationals, 9-7, in 10 innings.
The combined relief corps line Monday: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 1 HR.
A look at the relievers' performances on Opening Day.
The Mets failed to hold leads of 4-2 and 5-4.
“We’re trying hard. It definitely wasn’t our day today,” said Parnell, who was making his first regular-season appearance since July 30, after which he underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. “So we’ve got a little work to do. We’ll get better. We’ve got the off-day tomorrow to recuperate and gather ourselves.”
Said Terry Collins about the pitchers’ lack of strike-zone command: “We ran into some of that in spring training. Certainly it’s got to be addressed at this level. If you’re going to pitch here, you’ve got to be able to throw strikes, and you can’t walk guys. You’ve got to make them swing the bat.”
“I was just overthrowing,” Torres said. “My shoulder dipped a little bit. I saw it on film.”
Rice, who had 73 relief appearances last season before requiring surgery for dual sports hernias in mid-September, then issued his own four-pitch walk to Denard Span as the Nats evened the score.
“I just didn’t get the job done, hands down,” Rice said. “That’s the bottom line. I thought I threw some pitches that were pretty close. But they weren’t good enough.”
Rice, a rookie at age 31 a season ago, insisted he is not suffering the initial aftereffects of extreme usage last season.
“Not at all,” Rice said. “I feel great. I feel strong. You obviously don’t want to start the season this way, but there are good games and bad games, and unfortunately I didn’t get the job done.”
Said Collins: “Scott Rice was outstanding all of last year. And talk about shock, the biggest shock was Carlos Torres. I mean, this guy is a strike-throwing machine.”
Parnell, whose velocity sagged this spring training as he worked back from the herniated disk, failed to hold a one-run lead in the ninth, a half-inning after Juan Lagares’ homer again put the Mets ahead.
“I’m still getting back right now to what I want to do,” said Parnell, who blew four saves in 26 chances last season, including two in which his fielders had critical misplays behind him.
Said Collins: “We saw it in spring training, and Bobby said, it’s a work in progress. He’s got to build it up. He hit 95 mph in spring training. He hit 94 mph today. He’s going to get there.”
Familia surrendered the Nats’ go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly in the 10th. Lannan then complicated things by walking Adam LaRoche, the lefty batter he was summoned to face, and then surrendering a three-run homer to Anthony Rendon on a two-seam fastball.
“That ball to Rendon just cut right across the middle of the plate,” Lannan said.
Lannan exclusively had been a starting pitcher throughout his career. He acknowledged there is some learning curve involved with the transition to the bullpen.
“I just keep on getting thrown out in different situations. And as those situations increase and I get used to those, my experience will grow,” Lannan said. “I’m not worried about it. I feel comfortable out there. Today was just another experience, something I can learn from.”
He added that the issue is not about preparing quickly to enter a game as opposed to when he served as a starting pitcher. It’s about making sure he approaches the game the same way as when he starts games, which partially means continuing to incorporate both his slider and curveball.
“It’s not getting ready -- it’s pitch selection at times,” Lannan said. “I’ve got to make sure I do what I do. Whatever it is, starting or relieving, I can’t become a different pitcher.”