Terry Collins: Jeurys Familia 'saved the season for us'

Will five-day layoff hurt Mets? (1:00)

MLB.com's Richard Justice joins Pardon the Interruption and explains how the Mets' five-day layoff between the National League Championship Series and the World Series could affect top players like Daniel Murphy. (1:00)

NEW YORK -- Jeurys Familia had been the third option to serve as New York Mets closer this season.

Now, the 26-year-old Dominican right-hander has earned a pair of franchise records and praise from manager Terry Collins.

"He saved us," Collins said as the Mets worked out at Citi Field on Friday, two days after securing the franchise's first pennant in 15 years. "He saved the season for us, in my opinion."

With Jenrry Mejia absent for all but three weeks in July because of a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs and Bobby Parnell stumbling in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, Familia emerged as one of Major League Baseball's elite closers to help lead the Mets to their fifth World Series in franchise history.

He matched Armando Benitez's 2001 franchise record by recording 43 regular-season saves. Familia has been even more unhittable during the postseason. He has notched five more saves -- already the career postseason record for a Mets reliever -- while appearing in eight of the team's nine games. In 9⅔ scoreless postseason innings, Familia has surrendered two hits and two walks. Collins stretched out Familia for the first six-out save of his career in the winner-take-all Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"We had Mejia. And we thought if Bobby comes back 100 percent that he'd be our second guy. And Familia was probably third," Collins said. "He still was going to be in a big spot in the bullpen. And then, when we lost Mejia, we just said, 'Listen, he's the guy with the best stuff. Let's just see how it works.' He's obviously risen above and beyond expectations."

Familia was a principal participant in perhaps the grimmest 48 hours of the Mets' season. A day after the trade with the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Carlos Gomez fell through, on a rainy afternoon at Citi Field, the San Diego Padres completed a comeback from a six-run deficit on Justin Upton's three-run homer in the ninth against Familia. The loss dropped the Amazins three games behind the first-place Washington Nationals entering a three-game showdown between the clubs.

Well, slightly more than four hours before the first pitch of the series opener against Washington, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson rebounded from the Gomez debacle by acquiring Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers. The Mets then proceeded to sweep the Nats that weekend to pull even atop the National League East. Familia and the Mets never looked back, with the club ultimately boosting its division lead as high as 9½ games.

In his remaining 30 regular-season appearances, Familia posted a 0.92 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and was 21-for-21 in save conversions.

Through July 30, opponents had 18 balls classified as "hard-hit" by Inside Edge's video-review service in 177 at-bats against Familia (10.2 percent), ESPN's Mark Simon calculated. Since the Padres meltdown, there have been 139 at-bats against Familia. He has allowed only seven "hard-hit" balls, cutting his hard-hit rate roughly in half, to 5.0 percent.

Familia can join elite (and exclusively New York) company during the World Series. With one more out recorded, provided Familia does not surrender a run during the Fall Classic, he will record the fourth postseason in major league history with at least five saves and 10 scoreless innings. The others to reach that threshold: the Yankees' Rich Gossage in 1981 and Mariano Rivera in 1998 and 1999.

"This is the best season I've had in the big leagues so far," Familia said amid the bubbly celebration at Wrigley Field after Game 4 of the NLCS. "One of the things that helped me a lot is talking with the veteran guys like Bartolo [Colon] and [coaches] Ricky Bones and Dan Warthen about confidence -- going out there and making my pitch. It doesn't matter what happened. If I get it wrong, or a homer, I have to go back to the mound and do my job. I try to move forward all the time. That's why I have success this year."

Bones, the bullpen coach, grins widely when Familia's name is brought up. He noted that Colon, a mentor all season, is now capable of helping Familia even more this postseason because the 42-year-old righty has been assigned to the bullpen.

"Emotion-wise, you can't go too high or too low," Bones said. "You have to be able to repeat and come back the next day and do the same thing over and over and over. That's where Bartolo has been really important for these young guys. Now that he's in the bullpen, it's even better because he can sit down between [Hansel] Robles and Familia and even the rest of the guys. He brings that mindset that, 'Hey, you've got to be ready. You've got to be prepared. You've got to be aggressive. But don't be too high. Don't be too low.'"

One reason Familia has taken off is the incorporation of a split-fingered fastball in August. Opponents are hitting .125 (4-for-32) against the pitch, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The pitch complements Familia's fastball and slider.

Familia also has made great strides against left-handed batters this season. They hit a modest .214 against him during the regular season, down from .293 in 2014.

"It's something that he's been working on, and this year he decided to bring it into the game," Bones said about the splitter. "It's been really great for him.

"I'm really happy about the kid. I really have to tip my hat to him because he's so young, and in such a short career as a closer, he's done so much."

Scouts who monitored Familia's early years in professional baseball marvel at the strides he has made to clean up a once herky-jerky delivery. Familia walked 74 batters and had a 5.58 ERA in 121 innings as a starting pitcher with Class A St. Lucie in 2010. He worked almost exclusively as a starter throughout his minor league career.

"I thought he would be a pen guy for sure," an American League scout said. "His delivery was very stiff and rigid -- almost a paint-by-numbers type. He always had a great arm. And if he could just loosen up a little bit in his lower half and just create some rhythm, you knew he would have success, although I'm not sure anyone saw this much success. He was such a hard worker all the way through the minor leagues, you knew he would have some success. But coming up with the two secondary pitches has helped him a ton. It is fun to watch how far he has come. I thought a seventh-inning guy, setup at best, but it became clear I was wrong halfway through last year."

Signed in 2007, Familia is one of several pitching holdovers from the regime of former general manager Omar Minaya. The group also includes Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Jonathon Niese.

Familia got a late start on baseball in his native Dominican Republic.

"Basketball was the sport I really grew up loving," he said. "I played from when I was 9 through 15. It was at that time, though, that I started to see all my friends play baseball. That kind of, I guess, drew me in -- though I couldn't say it was my passion.

"Once I really started paying attention and seeing how well the Dominican players were succeeding here in the U.S., and where that could really take you if you pursued that route, that's really what drew me in. And after I signed in 2007, I just got it in my head I wanted to be like a Pedro Martinez. I wanted to be like a David Ortiz. I wanted to push myself to get to the greatest levels of this sport, and now it's my passion and I'm so glad to be here."