The trade deadline came and went last Tuesday without the Mets addressing what many pegged as their biggest need: a left-handed reliever.
But Sunday, when the Mets needed a quality — and extended — relief outing, left-hander Joely Rodriguez delivered.
On another day when the Mets’ bullpen was shorthanded, Rodriguez relieved Jacob deGrom and provided 2 ¹/₃ scoreless innings in a 5-2 win over the Braves at Citi Field.
“Joely was as key to the game today as Jake was,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Was that a stretch? I don’t think it’s a stretch.”
Showalter did need to stretch Rodriguez, though, for his longest outing of the season.
When the game started, Showalter knew he had five relievers who he wasn’t going to use after the first four games of the series had taxed the bullpen. That left just Rodriguez, closer Edwin Diaz and the recently called up Adonis Medina to carry the load once deGrom had exited the game.
A spectacular outing from deGrom accounted for 5 ²/₃ innings before Rodriguez entered to protect the three-run lead against the heart of the Braves’ lineup.
After getting lefty Matt Olson to ground out to end the sixth inning, Rodriguez gave up a leadoff single to Austin Riley in the seventh. But he buckled down and got Ronald Acuña Jr. to fly out to the warning track before striking out William Contreras and Robbie Grossman.
Rodriguez then punched out two more batters in a perfect eighth inning, then handed the game over to Diaz.
All four of Rodriguez’s strikeouts came on his changeup.
“To be honest, yeah, the changeup today was the best I’ve thrown it all year,” Rodriguez said through an interpreter. “It was excellent for me.”
Rodriguez, who lowered his ERA to 5.12 on the season, has thrown three straight scoreless appearances, offering hope he can give the Mets a reliable lefty out of the bullpen down the stretch.
“I’m just focused to do the best I can,” Rodriguez said. “The same way that I’m expected to do my job, everybody else is expected to do their job. What we want to do is perform, go out there and continue to win games and provide the best of our ability.”