Aug 31

Walker’s Season Likely Over; What Of Career With Mets?

UPDATED: Walker facing surgery.

Before leaving the podium, Mets manager Terry Collins dropped the other shoe. After all, they wouldn’t be the Mets if they didn’t encore good news with bad. This time, it was the sobering news Neil Walker was facing having season-ending back surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

“This is a big disappointment,” said a dejected Collins. “He’s had a big year for us.”

The announcement came moments after Kelly Johnson‘s three-run double in the eighth inning proved the difference in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over Miami. The other two runs came on Wilmer Flores‘ two-run homer. Ironically, Johnson and Flores figure to get the lion’s share of the time at second base with Walker gone.

WALKER: Status unknown. (AP)

WALKER: Facing surgery. (AP)

With the victory, the Mets have won nine of their last 11 games to climb back into the wild-card race. They are in it, also in large part, because of what Walker gave them in April with nine homers and 19 RBI and his hot streak in early August.

In April, there were numerous reports about the need to bring Walker back for 2017, because with Yoenis Cespedes expected to opt out, the Mets couldn’t afford to lose both.

With Walker’s season over, one must wonder if the same can be said of his Mets’ career. Walker can leave as a free agent this winter, but the injury takes away whatever leverage he had because a bad back represents a terrible credit report.

As good as Walker played, perhaps an even longer-lasting impression is David Wright. Looking at how long Wright struggled might have been a deciding factor in Walker’s decision. After all, having surgery now might enhance his chances of playing next season considering a six-month recovery time.

Somebody will sign Walker, but it will likely be a one-year deal with incentives based on games played. Considering what they’ve gone through with Wright, I’m not sure they’ll go in that direction with Walker.

Walker was having a tremendous season, hitting .282 with 23 homers and 55 RBI. In 23 games since July 27, Walker was batting .440 with seven homers, 15 RBI and 19 runs scored. That’s a significant loss for a team in a pennant race.

For the short term, the Mets are in decent position at second base with Flores and Johnson.

When Daniel Murphy left, there was speculation Flores could inherit second base, but that notion was quickly dashed when the Mets signed Walker. Then, when Wright went down, Flores was to play third, but that changed when Jose Reyes was signed.

Now, with Walker gone, Flores might finally be getting his chance.

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Aug 31

Mets Today: Young Pitching Steps Up; Walker Update

There was a lot to like about the Mets’ victory over Miami Tuesday night. After winning the first two games of this series with Miami, the Mets moved ahead of the Marlins and are tied with Pittsburgh 2.5 games behind St. Louis.

“We’re trying to get into the postseason,” manager Terry Collins said after Tuesday night’s 7-4 victory over Miami. “We know where we stand. We know we have to take care of our own business and try to win as many games as possible.”

The Mets won the first two games of the series with Rafael Montero and Seth Lugo as the starters. Montero outlasted Jose Fernandez Monday.

“Our young guys have stepped up,” Collins said. “These guys have literally saved us.”

The Mets have Bartolo Colon (tonight) and Jacob deGrom (tomorrow) in the last two games of the series before Washington comes in this weekend.

Later today I’ll look at Neil Walker’s injury and the possible impact it will have in the future, including whether it will preclude him coming back next season. Collins said he doesn’t know if Walker will play or whether Wilmer Flores will be in the lineup again.

Today is the last day the Mets can make a waiver trade and have that player eligible for the postseason. They are not expected to make a major acquisition.

ON DECK: Looking at Neil Walker’s back situation.

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Aug 30

Three Mets’ Storylines: Lugo Gives Big Effort

On a day the Mets received sobering injury news on left-hander Steven Matz, they also got a positive outing from Seth Lugo in his third career start.

Lugo gave up two runs on five hits in six innings Tuesday night in a 7-4 victory over Miami to help the Mets leapfrog the Marlins in the wild-card race.

LUGO: Gives big start. (AP)

LUGO: Gives big start. (AP)

Lugo has averaged just under six innings in his three starts, which means he’ll stay in the rotation.

The Marlins got to Lugo with Christian Yelich’s two-run homer in the first, but the Mets responded for three in their half of the inning on Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run homer and Wilmer Flores’ RBI single.

“It was really big,” manager Terry Collins said of the quick response. “Just getting on the board was important.”

Lugo said the three runs allowed him to look at the rest of the game from a different perspective.

“That was big time,” Lugo said. “It helped me with my confidence. I looked at it as a 0-0 ball game.”

Lugo worked out of jams in the third and fourth innings and retired the last seven hitters he faced.

With Matz injured and Jacob deGrom needing to be skipped for rest, Lugo has been terrific with three straight strong starts. Lugo left his previous start with a cramp in his right calf, but showed no ill-effects. He is on schedule to pitch Sunday against the Nationals.

I chose Lugo as the main storyline because of the Mets’ current pitching situations. The two others were the resurgence of Curtis Granderson and Hansel Robles’ positive appearance.

GRANDERSON SHOWS A PULSE: Granderson hit for Lugo in the sixth and homered, and also homered in the seventh. He became the third Met to hit two homers in a game he did not start. The others were Scott Hairston in 2011 and Hawk Taylor in 1964.

Granderson hasn’t had a good season according to his expectations but still has 22 homers with 38 RBI, not a good ratio.

If Granderson is getting on track, it will give Collins leverage as he sorts out his outfield alignment down the stretch. Yoenis Cespedes’ strained right quad limits him to playing only left field and Jay Bruce – despite a double Tuesday – continues to struggle.

Cespedes will need a rest eventually.

Things will get tighter when Michael Conforto is brought up from Triple-A Las Vegas.

ROBLES MUCH BETTER: Robles was superb in June and July, but gave up 15 runs in 13 innings this month before giving the Mets two strong innings Tuesday.

Robles gave up one hit in two scoreless innings for a positive sign the Mets desperately needed. Robles in perhaps their most versatile reliever, and by going two innings, it enabled Collins to avoid using the overworked Addison Reed.

EXTRA INNINGS: With the victory, Collins had to use Jeurys Familia when the Marlins got to Jim Henderson for two runs in the ninth. … Jose Reyes continued to rake with his second four-hit game of the month. Reyes, along with Cabrera (who had two hits) are forming a formidable 1-2 combination at the top of the order. … With the victory, the Mets moved to four games over .500, their best record since they were 56-52 after beating the Yankees, Aug. 4. … Bartolo Colon starts against David Phelps Wednesday night.

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Aug 30

Matz Won’t Pitch Thursday; Is Having Surgery Now Best Option For Mets?

Let’s face it, they wouldn’t be the Mets if bad news didn’t follow the good. It has been that kind of season and appears it will continue that way with Tuesday’s announcement Steven Matz won’t make Thursday’s start with an impingement in his left shoulder.

MATZ:  Is it best to shut him down now? (AP)

MATZ: Is it best to shut him down now? (AP)

Matz said everything is structurally fine and this isn’t a surgery issue, but many Mets pitchers said the same. He’s currently on the disabled list with soreness in his left shoulder, and also has a bone spur that will require off-season surgery.

Sigh …

“[It’s] just a little irritation … it’s still bugging me a little bit,” Matz told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t quite feel like I can let it go yet. … `I felt like I was making progress, and then I threw off the mound a little bit, and I felt OK coming out of the there. And then [on Monday] I tried to throw and it was kind of barking at me a little bit again.

“For me to get on the mound and throw a bullpen and tell them I’m ready for a game would just be unrealistic in my mind.’’

Good for him.

Robert Gsellman will take Matz’s spot in the rotation, although Jacob deGrom – who was scratched Monday in favor of Rafael Montero because it was believed he was fatigued – will start Thursday against the Marlins. When the rosters are expanded Thursday the Mets will bring back Montero and can afford to go day-by-day with Matz.

But, is that the best thing for Matz?

At most, he would get four more starts, but would a better option be to shut him down completely, have the elbow surgery immediately, which would give him another full month for recovery and rehabilitation?

The obstacle to that thinking is the Mets are only 2.5 games out of the wild-card race. The playoffs are a possibility, and if the Mets get there they’ll want Matz.

But, will they really have him, and at what capacity?

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Aug 29

Three Mets’ Storylines: Cespedes Makes Statement

It is hard to say what was the more deafening sound, the Citi Field crowd after Yoenis Cespedes’ game-winning homer or the cash register in Jeff Wilpon’s mind ringing up what the Mets might have to pay to bring him back next summer and beyond.

Cespedes has two years remaining on his contract, but can opt out after this season. The contract calls for him to make $27.5 million this year and $25 million in each of the next two seasons.

CESPEDES: Flexes Mets to win. (AP)

CESPEDES: Flexes Mets to win. (AP)

Cespedes said he’d like to stay with the Mets, but stopped short of saying he will come back. If stands to reason that the better Cespedes performs – he had three hits, including his 27th homer in the 10th inning to beat Miami, 2-1 – the greater his leverage.

To bring Cespedes back, they’ll have to increase both dollars and years. It’s easy to say, “well, just give him the money,’’ after what he did Monday, but the Mets will then have to make a decision on Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, and what to do with Michael Conforto.

Bruce has done little since coming over from the Reds. They could buy out Granderson. And, in April, Conforto was penciled in to be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter for the next decade.

However, none of them have what Cespedes does, which is the ability to jumpstart and carry a team with one swing. The Mets have had only a handful of players that no matter, they force you to watch and not look away when they come to the plate. Dave Kingman was one, then Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza. Finally, there is Cespedes, who carried the Mets last season into October, and has been doing it again since coming off the disabled list.

“He’s that kind of player,” manager Terry Collins said. “You expect to see big things from him each and every time he comes up. People pay to see him. They want to see what he can do.”

Cespedes can be infuriating, such as not running out a pop-up that fell for a hit in the first. Against Jose Fernandez, you knew runs would be at a premium and not hustling into scoring position could have bitten them in the end.

Even with his tight right quad, he should have been on second. However, that gets filed away when he takes control of a game as he did facing off against Nick Wittgren with two outs in the tenth.

“In big moments I really try to focus and deliver,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I know they were pitching me away, but I was looking for something in.”

Cespedes’ game-winning drive was clearly the top storyline of the night. Jose Reyes stealing a run in the eighth and the pitching from Rafael Montero and the bullpen were the other two.

A REYES RUN: When the Mets signed Reyes at the end of June, they sold the fan base on the premise he would bring energy and speed to their station-to-station offense. What they had in mind was the eighth inning.

Down by a run, Reyes lead off the eighth with a line double into the right field corner. When it appeared Alejandro De Aza failed to advance him on a fly to left, Reyes tagged and moved to third, then scored on a head-first slide following A.J. Ramos’ wild pitch.

Reyes appeared to be hurt on the play when Ramos fell on the Met infielder’s head and left shoulder. Reyes remained in the game, but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.

MONTERO FILLS BILL: Montero made the spot start because the Mets believed normally scheduled starter Jacob deGrom – who gave up a combined 13 runs in his last two starts – was fatigued. Montero, brought up from Double-A Binghamton, gave up only two hits in five scoreless innings, but threw 100 pitches in large part because he walked six.

If Collins wanted to see if Montero could respond to a challenge, his concerns were answered in the positive. Montero was in constant trouble and left the Marlins stranded with RISP in the first, fourth and fifth.

Montero left the bases loaded in the fourth and needed a double play to get out of the fifth. With how he pitched, Montero will stay after the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1.

While Montero was the unexpected, the bullpen was something they counted on.

Addison Reed gave up a run in the eighth on doubles by Ichiro Suzuki and Xavier Scruggs. The Mets also received scoreless innings from Sean Gilmartin (6th inning), Jerry Blevins (7th), Jeurys Familia (9th) and Josh Smoker (10th).

Combined, the bullpen gave up one run on three hits, one walk and six strikeouts.

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