May 02

Mets Wrap: Colon Superb Again

I understand where Terry Collins was coming from, but personally, unless Bartolo Colon was injured, I would have liked to have seen him go after the shutout. Colon retired 16 of the last 17 hitters he faced and threw just 99 pitches in the Mets’ 4-1 victory over Atlanta.

Colon retired 16 of the last 17 hitters he faced and threw just 99 pitches. With the bullpen not taxed and Colon’s pitch count reasonable, what was Collins thinking?

“We thought about it,” Collins told reporters why he pulled Colon. “He’s got to come back in four days and he’s not the youngest pitcher on our staff. … We decided going in 100 would be his limit.”

I wanted Colon to get the shutout, but going into the season I wrote how I wanted Collins to stay true to his pre-game judgments.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #24 Record: 16-8  Streak: W 1

 SUMMARY: David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda homered in the first to back the strong pitching of Colon, who threw eight scoreless innings to earn his 220th career victory. With the win Colon passed Pedro Martinez to move into second place for victories by a Dominican-born pitcher. Hall of Famer Juan Marichal is first with 243.

KEY MOMENT: The first inning.

THUMBS UP: Colon struck out seven, gave up seven hits and didn’t walk a hitter. … Asdrubal Cabrera continues to play a stellar shortstop and added two hits. … Two hits by Wright, including his first homer this year at Citi Field. … Michael Conforto rebounded from Sunday’s 0-for-5 against the Giants by going 1-for-4.

THUMBS DOWN: Not much.

 EXTRA INNINGS: Travis d’Arnaud’s brother, Chase, appeared in the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and singled to right. … This was the first game this season that the Mets didn’t use as many as three pitchers.

QUOTEBOOK: “This lineup is deep and it can be dangerous,” – Wright on the Mets’ lineup.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5: Times the Mets have hit back-to-back homers this year. Cespedes and Duda have done it twice, and Duda was involved four times.

NEXT FOR METS: Tomorrow: Matt Harvey (2-3, 4.76) starts against Atlanta’s Matt Wisler (0-2, 4.26); Wednesday, Steve Matz (3-1, 3.86) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (1-1, 3.27).

 

May 02

Mets’ April Review And Looking At May

Just as they did last season, the Mets won 15 games in April, and again the spark was a long winning streak. Last year it was 11 games; this year it was eight.

WALKER: My Mets' MVP for April. (AP)

WALKER: My Mets’ MVP for April. (AP)

As much as the Mets like to boast about their young pitching – as well they should – the springboard this time was power. It was not, as has been suggested, Terry Collins’ knee jerk managing in the eighth game of the season.

Yes, they won that game and have gone on to win five straight series. That’s purely coincidental.

The Mets tied a club record with 33 homers for the month, which enabled them to overcome Jacob deGrom’s two missed starts because of a strained lat muscle and Matt Harvey’s 0-3 start.

A key that can’t be underestimated has been the Mets’ ability to get an early lead, as they scored first in 10 of their last 14 games in April. Overall, they are 13-3 when they scored first this year.

The Mets crushed three homers and took a 4-0 lead in the first inning Monday against the Braves.

APRIL MVP

Contrary to the popular opinion of Yoenis Cespedes, I’m going with Neil Walker, who was hitting before Michael Conforto was moved to third in the order. Walker is tied for third in the majors with nine homers and finished the month with a career-high 19 for April.

Conforto would be my second choice and Cespedes third.

PITCHER OF THE MONTH

Noah Syndergaard took a pounding Sunday, but has been overpowering with 38 strikeouts with a 1.69 ERA for the month.

KEY GAME OF THE MONTH

Matt Harvey lost his first three starts, but finally won, April 22, 6-3, at Atlanta. He wasn’t totally on his game, but he pitched out of trouble enough times to turn it around. Sure, the game when Cespedes hit a three-run pinch-hit homer was more dramatic, but in the big picture getting Harvey going was more important.

KEY MOVE OF THE MONTH

On April 15 in Cleveland, Collins moved Conforto to the No. 3 spot in the batting order and the Mets have sizzled since going 12-3. When hitting third or fourth, Conforto is batting .373 with nine doubles, four homers and 15 RBI.

RED FLAGS ENDURED

Jacob deGrom missed two starts because of a strained right lat; Harvey lost his first three starts; closer Jeurys Familia sustained a rocky stretch, but has converted all eight of this save opportunities.

KEY ISSUE RESOLVED

Shortstop and the bullpen were two significant issues facing the Mets entering the season, but Asdrubal Cabrera has been superb both in the field and at the plate. The bullpen converted nine of 11 save opportunities and stranded 26 of 35 runners.

HEALTH ISSUES

Travis d’Arnaud was placed on the disabled list with a strained rotator cuff. … Cespedes missed close to a week with a bruised right leg. … David Wright ended the month without a problem, but his back remains an issue.

SIX QUESTIONS RAISED

Will the power continue?

Power of not, can Conforto keep it up?

Can Wright stay healthy?

Will the new guys, Walker and Cabrera, keep hitting?

Will we see deGrom and Harvey go on a roll?

Can the bullpen keep it up?

BY THE NUMBERS

.333: Walker’s average with RISP.

4: Times the Mets hit back-to-back homers.

5: Consecutive series the Mets won to close the month.

9: Consecutive games in which Cespedes had at least one extra-base hit.

22: Strikeouts by Cespedes.

29: Strikeouts by Wright.

33: Homers hit by the month.

LOOKING AT MAY’S SCHEDULE

They began May losing to Madison Bumgarner Sunday and close their current homestand against Atlanta.

The Mets are on a stretch of 17 games in 17 days, including their first West Coast trip, with four games in San Diego and Los Angeles and three in Colorado.

They’ll return home for a pair of three-games series against Washington (May 17-19) and Milwaukee (May 20-22), then go to Washington (May 23-25) for three more against the Nationals.

They’ll close out the month with three at home against the Dodgers (May 27-29) and two against the Chicago White Sox (a three-game series that ends June 1).

 

May 01

Mets Wrap: Is Running On Syndergaard A Big Deal?

Like a shark senses blood in the water, a team will jump all over a pitcher when it detects a weakness, especially when it’s somebody such as the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard, who doesn’t have many.

The book on Syndergaard is you can run on him. No, make that you can run all over him – that is, if you can get on base.

SYNDERGAAARD: You can run on him. (AP)

SYNDERGAAARD: You can run on him. (AP)

Runners have been successful in all ten of their stolen base attempts against Syndergaard, but what the Mets have to figure out is if it is a big deal or something they can live with.

The Giants’ running game resulted in four runs in San Francisco’s 6-1 victory Sunday over the Mets.

“We have to do a better job of holding runners,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters. “He can’t be that slow to the plate. He can’t be that deliberate. What I don’t want is to get him out of sync.’’

Scoreless going into the fourth, the Giants had runners on the corners with one our following singles by Matt Duffy and Buster Posey. With the count full, Giants manager Bruce Bochy sent Posey to stay out of the double play, which undoubtedly would have been the case on Brandon Belt’s hard-hit ball to second.

So, instead of being out of the inning with no runs, the Giants scratched out a manufactured run, and Hunter Pence followed with a two-run homer.

The Giants eked out another run off Syndergaard in the sixth when Duffy singled and stole second. After a walk to Belt chased Syndergaard in favor of Hansel Robles. Pence followed with a RBI single to pad Madison Bumgarner’s lead.

Syndergaard allowed three steals Sunday – the Giants stole four overall – and five in his previous start against Cincinnati. In his short 15-start career, runners have stolen 27 bases in 29 attempts.

Collins said Syndergaard could incorporate a slide-step to the plate, which is harder for runners to time. The downside is a possible loss in velocity, or worse.

“You don’t want him to lose command,’’ Collins said.

Another downside of a slide step is it could force Syndergaard to tip his pitches, telling the hitter a fastball is coming.

As it is, if a runner gets on against Syndergaard, especially a speed guy leading off an inning, it’s almost a sure double.

Syndergaard is a rising star, but his Achilles Heel is not being able to hold runners. It hurt him Sunday, and will continue to do so in games in which he doesn’t have his best stuff or when the Mets don’t hit.

It’s a flaw that can be corrected, but pitching coach Dan Warthen isn’t likely to make any major mechanical adjustments during the season. This is something the Mets will work on with Syndergaard during spring training.

Or, they could decide Syndergaard is pretty good now the way he is and don’t want to mess with him.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #23 Record: 15-8  Streak: L 1

SUMMARY: Bumgarner outpitched Syndergaard in a dynamic pitching matchup and was backed by Pence’s three RBI.

KEY MOMENT: By sending the runner to stay out of what would have been an inning-ending double play, the Giants scored a scratch run and set up Pence’s homer.

THUMBS UP: Two hits from Juan Lagares, David Wright and Neil Walker. … It was Curtis Granderson Socks Day, so we don’t have to see any more of those commercials.

THUMBS DOWN: Two runs against the bullpen, including Posey’s homer off Logan Verrett. … Syndergaard threw 98 pitches in 5.2 innings. … The Mets left 12 runners.

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets’ winning streak was snapped at eight, but they have won five straight series. … Granderson and Lucas Duda sat against Bumgarner. Duda appeared in the eighth as a pinch-hitter for Eric Campbell and grounded into a force out. Granderson also appeared in the game and struck out. … Michael Conforto’s streak of reaching base ended as 17 straight games, also ending a stretch of hitting a double in six consecutive games.

QUOTEBOOK: “He’ll be all right. There will be days like this.’’ – Collins on Conforto going 0-for-5.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0.62: Bumgarner’s career ERA at Citi Field.

PUT A CLOCK ON IT: A pitching coach or manager has 30 seconds from the time he steps out of the dugout to deliver his message and leave the field. Yet, instant replays drag on. There were two replays Sunday, both over a minute.

TOMORROW’S STARTER: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 3.42) goes against the Braves, who have not named their starter. Colon is 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts against the Braves.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets close the homestand with three games against the Braves, whom they swept last weekend in Atlanta. After Colon, Matt Harvey (2-3, 4.76 ERA) and Steven Matz (3-1, 3.86) will go for the Mets.

Apr 30

Revisiting Top 20 Mets’ Questions

Entering the season I suggested  20 questions the Mets would need to answer in the positive for them to return to the World Series. From performance to health to various intangibles, every team faces important questions and they don’t disappear just because it played in the World Series the year before.

At the time, I wrote I would periodically revisit those questions to measure how the Mets are progressing.

Here’s how they are doing:

Q: Will they have a World Series hangover or let down?

A: There were a few red flags and a 2-5 start, but they closed the month with a power surge, clubbing 31 homers in their last 14 games. Last April they won 11 straight. They closed the month winning eight straight and 13 of 15. There’s no appearance of any hangover and it looks as if we’ll have our Mets-Nationals pennant race.

WALKER: Mets' player for April. (AP)

WALKER: Mets’ player for April. (AP)

Q: How will manager Terry Collins respond to being a favorite?

A: So far, so good. I wasn’t crazy about him calling the eighth game of the season “must win.” And, I didn’t like him playing David Wright for the whole game Friday with the explanation he wanted him to face the Giants’ lefty relievers in preparation for facing Madison Bumgarner Sunday. What, Wright has never faced a lefty before? But, I do like him moving Michael Conforto to the No. 3 hole, which was the catalyst for the offensive surge. I also liked how he let Hansel Robles face Freddie Freeman when he could have played the lefty-righty percentages. Best of all, I liked how he admitted the Mets might have made a mistake in not giving his starters enough work during spring training. Overall, he’s done a solid job worthy of his extension.

Q: What’s going on with Matt Harvey?

A: After a 7.50 spring training ERA and 0-3 start, there were understandably questions about Harvey. A lot is always demanded from Harvey, and after making it through last season without any problems following Tommy John surgery, the expectations are even higher. He’s pitched better in his last two starts, both wins. No reason for concern right now.

Q: Will Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard pitch to ace status?

A: Syndergaard has been incredible consistently throwing in the high 90s. His secondary pitches have also been dominant. DeGrom missed time with a strained lat muscle and tending to his family because of complications following the birth of his son. Both child and lat are doing fine. He didn’t have a smooth start Saturday against the Giants, but as usually the case with him, he finds a way to pitch through trouble.

Q: What can we expect from Steven Matz?

A: I would say an awful lot. He was hammered in his first start, but won his last three. Matz has been terrific, but like deGrom and Harvey, he’s throwing too many pitches for the innings he works. That eventually could catch up to the bullpen.

Q: How long can the Mets ride Bartolo Colon?

A: Nothing has changed, the plan remains for him to be in the rotation until Zack Wheeler is brought up, which should be around July 1. He would then move to the bullpen.

Q: How thick is Jeurys Familia’s skin?

A: So far, it has been like leather. Familia recently has worked his way out of a tough stretch. He’s converted all seven of his save opportunities with a 2.45 ERA.

Q: How sturdy is the bridge to Familia?

A: This might have been the Mets’ most important pre-season issue, but the bullpen has been solid in all phases. Addison Reed has been a very capable set-up reliever and Antonio Bastardo has pitched well despite a poor spring training. Jim Henderson and Logan Verrett have been more than pleasant surprises. Robles is getting more chances to shine and he’s delivering.

Q: Paging Travis d’Arnaud, are you there?

A: Nope. Once again, he’s on the disabled list, this time with a strained rotator cuff. The Mets still don’t know what he can produce over 500 at-bats and might not find out this year, either. He wasn’t hitting or throwing well at the time of the injury.

Q: Will Lucas Duda be more consistent?

A: When Conforto was moved to the No. 3 hole, Yoenis Cespedes went to clean-up and Duda was dropped to fifth. He’s hitting .240 with four homers and 14 RBI, and again has proven streaky. Four homers a month will give him 24 for the year, which is short of his expectations. Also short of what the Mets want from him.

Q: Will Neil Walker make people forget Daniel Murphy?

A: Walker has been the Mets’ Player of the Month for April with nine homers, tying him with Dave Kingman (1976), Carlos Delgado (2006) and John Buck (2013) for the club record. Sure, Murphy was a terrific month, but Walker has been better than advertised. The question now is: How hard will the Mets try to bring him back?

Q: Is Asdrubal Cabrera an upgrade over Wilmer Flores at shortstop?

A: Cabrera has done it both in the field and at the plate. There’s no uneasiness when a grounder is hit to him.

Q: What can we expect from Wright?

A: Still nobody knows. It takes him two hours to get ready for a game and his back is always a question. Which is why it was foolish to let him play nine innings in a blowout game Friday night. Why push the envelope? Wright has two homers and only five RBI hitting mostly in the second spot in the order. He’s only hitting .143 (3-for-21) with RISP. It’s not about hitting for power, it is about hitting a single when you need it.

Q: One and done for Cespedes?

A: That’s the chance the Mets took when they gave Cespedes an out clause after one season in his three-year deal. If it does happen that way, it has been a fun ride. Cespedes still has his lapses in the field, but he’s locked in at the plate with seven homers and 23 RBI for the month. However, he is on pace to strike out over 200 times.

Q: A breakout year for Conforto?

A: it is sure looking that way. Conforto lit the offense on fire since moving to the No. 3 hole. He closed the month reaching base in 17 straight games and tying a club record with doubles in six straight. He has four homers in his last 14 games. Everything he hits seems to be hard and on a line. Plus, he’s making the plays in the field. He’s not a star in the making. He already is a star.

Q: Will we get another 90 walks from Curtis Granderson?

A: After a slow start Granderson is on a roll. He’s scored 15 runs in his last 13 games and has a .350 on-base percentage. He also has four homers. Granderson still strikes out a lot and isn’t trying to steal anymore.

Q: How deep is the bench?

A: Kevin Plawecki is now a starter with d’Arnaud’s injury. Collins needs to find a way to get Alejandro De Aza and Flores more at-bats. Eventually, the Mets will need them. Rene Rivera is now the backup catcher.

Q: Who gets injured?

A: That’s always the wild card. Right now it is d’Arnaud. Cespedes missed several games with a bruised right leg, then hit a pinch-hit three-run homer to tie a game this week against Cincinnati. Harvey entered the season a question because of a bladder infection. He’s fine now. DeGrom’s lat was a scare, but he’s also fine. Wright, of course, is always a concern.

Q: What’s going with the Nationals?

A: The Nationals sprinted out of the gate and opened up a five-game lead on April 16 that is now down to a half-game. MVP Bryce Harper is playing as if he wants to win it again. Their pitching has also been strong and Murphy is playing well.

Q: Can the Mets get off to another fast start?

A: An 11-game winning streak keyed a 15-8 April record last year and gave them a buffer to overcome injuries and a drastic hitting slump. The Mets had another strong April this year at 15-7, which they needed to keep pace with Washington. The Nationals come to town for a three-game series, May 17-19, and the Mets are in Washington, May 23-25.

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Apr 30

Mets Wrap: Conforto Stars Again

Just cut in out SNY. We all know Michael Conforto is on fire, and Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are superstars and have been for several years. So, after another big outing from Conforto – three hits and three RBI – in the 77th game of his career on Saturday, SNY compared him to Trout and Harper at a similar stage of his career.

CONFORTO: Comparisons already being made. (AP)

CONFORTO: Comparisons already being made. (AP)

Why, 77 games isn’t even half of season. Also ridiculous was The Post comparing him to Barry Bonds in a headline.

Can we just let him play?

Manager Terry Collins was asked after the Mets’ 6-5 victory over San Francisco whether Conforto was a surprise to opposing pitchers or was just good?

“If he’d just ben called up, I’d say [they] don’t know him,” Collins told reporters. “But, he’s played in the World Series. They know him. `He’s going to be a really good hitter. Some guys are outstanding players, I don’t care what level you put them at, they adjust. He’s adjusted. He’s going to be a force.”

He’s already there. I’m not saying he’s Trout or Harper, but when the Nationals come to town in a little over two weeks, there will be a lot of Harper-Conforto talk. Maybe SNY was getting a head start.

Conforto ended April on a tear by reaching base for the 17th straight game and hitting a double in his sixth consecutive game. He also hit his fourth homer and finished the month hitting .365 with four homers and a .442 on-base percentage.

“`It’s been a lot of fun,” Conforto said earlier this week. “I just have to keep an even keel to things and not ride the roller coaster.”

That means letting him continue to grow and resist the temptation of making comparisons.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #22 Record: 15-7  Streak: W 8

SUMMARY: Jacob deGrom pitched through a rocky start, and backed by homers from Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores, he hung in to win his third game. DeGrom had a 4-0 lead entering the third, but Flores’ throwing error led to three unearned runs.

KEY MOMENT: After pulverizing the Giants for 13 runs, including a club-record 12 in the third inning, the Mets immediately jumped on Matt Cain with two runs in the first. They scored two more in the second to give deGrom the cushion needed to hold on.

THUMBS UP: Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera turned a nifty 4-6-3 double play in the ninth. … Flores homered. … Three hits and three RBI by Conforto and two more RBI from Neil Walker. … Jerry Blevins relieved Hansel Robles and retired Gregor Blanco to end the eighth with the tying run in scoring position. … Lucas Duda came off the bag to save Flores from another error in the ninth. … Jeurys Familia saved his eighth game. … Curtis Granderson robbed Brandon Crawford with a run-saving catch in the eighth.

THUMBS DOWN: Cain hit Rene Rivera and Cabrera with pitches in the second. … Flores’ error. … DeGrom walked four. … Mets pitchers walked seven overall. … The bullpen gave up two runs.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright had the game off. Who didn’t think of Wright being beaned by Cain in 2009 when the Giants’ pitcher plunked Rivera?

QUOTEBOOK: “It’s impressive what he’s doing. He played in big games for us last year and he’s picked up this year.’’ – DeGrom on watching Conforto.

BY THE NUMBERS: 33: Homers hit by the Mets in April to tie a club record.

NEXT FOR METS: The finale Sunday pits Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64) starts against Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69).

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