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Trevor May walks off mound after brutal eighth inning in Opening Day loss to Phillies

Trevor May walks off mound after brutal eighth inning in Opening Day loss to Phillies

It was all going so well through seven innings and considering the Mets (almost) never lose their season opener, a win felt all but certain — to a glass half-full guy, anyway.

When it comes to the Mets’ bullpen, however, the glass all too often seems to be half-empty, and until proven otherwise you can never presume any lead to be safe, Opening Night or not.

In truth, many teams have bullpen problems, but it does seem uncanny how often the Mets have been doomed by their issues in the late innings, especially over the last several years, going back to the days when Sandy Alderson was signing every Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco he could fit in his budget without much success.

New faces, old faces, it doesn’t seem to matter. Even when the Mets made it to the World Series in 2015, at least partly thanks to a brilliant season from Jeurys Familia, it was his ill-timed quick pitch that Alex Gordon walloped for the game-tying home run in Game 1, perhaps changing the course of the Series.

But let’s not get crazy just yet. It’s only one game so it’s silly to make too much of what happened in the eighth inning of Monday night’s 5-3 loss to Phillies in Citizens Bank Park.

Trevor May might prove to be the dominant set-up man the Mets thought they were getting when they moved quickly to sign him as a free agent last December. Indeed, the two-year, $15.5 million deal was applauded in the industry as smartly aggressive, locking up a guy who’d transformed himself into a high-strikeout reliever with the Minnesota Twins.

Same with Aaron Loup, one of the top lefties on the market after a strong season — and post-season — with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Yet the two newcomers combined to blow a 2-0 lead for Jacob deGrom — I know, I know, what else is new? — and offer Mets fans reason to fear that this could be yet another year of a poison pen.

And with that let’s get the deGrom decision out of the way here. It did seem overly cautious to take him out after 77 pitches when he was cruising, ending his night by throwing a 100 mph fastball past Bryce Harper in the sixth inning.

Yet it’s also true that deGrom hadn’t pitched in 10 days because of the delayed start to the season, and the Mets’ ace seemed to agree with the decision to take him out.

But more to the point, it really didn’t matter as to the outcome because even if deGrom had pitched the seventh inning, the only difference is that Miguel Castro, who threw a scoreless seventh, wouldn’t have pitched.

It still would have been May in the eighth. The Mets got him to be the primary set-up guy, and for one hitter he looked as good as advertised, getting No. 8 hitter Adam Haseley to chase a 3-2 slider.

A single, walk, and single later, however, the bases were loaded and with Bryce Harper coming up, Luis Rojas had little choice but to go to Loup, who promptly plunked the Phillies’ slugger with a curve ball way too far inside.

The inning unraveled from there, with the help of a bad throw to the plate by the usually reliable Luis Guiillorme, just inserted for defense at third base in place of J.D. Davis. (In truth, it wasn’t a terrible throw, perhaps handled for a force-out if James McCann hadn’t stretched too early, as pointed out by Keith Hernandez, but it wasn’t what you expect from Guillorme).

One thing about May, as scouts pointed out over the off-season: his slider is his out pitch, and at times his fastball is flat and hittable, even at 96 mph. For all of his strikeouts last season, he did give up five home runs in 23 innings of work.

In any case, the loss was especially deflating because May, in particular, looms as crucial in a bullpen full of question marks. Let’s face it, if Familia and Dellin Betances weren’t making big money on guaranteed contracts, they’d likely be down the road by now, so that doesn’t leave a lot of dependable options for Rojas, at least until Seth Lugo comes back from surgery to remove elbow bone chips.

And Edwin Diaz still has the most to prove as the closer, after wrecking the 2019 season almost single-handedly.

Still, there’s a chance Castro will emerge as a nice find, coming over from the Orioles last season at the trade deadline. He has a big arm and scouts have always said that with a little more command he could be dominant, so we’ll see.

And it doesn’t seem unrealistic to expect Lugo to come back in the next couple of months and regain some level of the dominance he’s shown in the bullpen the last couple of seasons.

So there’s no reason to lose hope in this bullpen just yet. No matter what your glass-half-empty instincts may be telling you.

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