COMMENTS: The place should be rocking tonight like never before. … I like Cespedes hitting third. … Good to see they haven’t forgotten Lagares. Cespedes is the new toy, but the Mets might not have him next season. Best to keep Lagares happy and interested. … No question, Wright gets the biggest cheer. … It will be interesting to see how Harvey responds on 11 days rest.
Well, the Mets gave Matt Harvey his rest, 12 days to be exact, and it will be interesting to see how he responds tonight against Boston. Harvey missing a start was a two-part gamble. First, there was skipping him in favor of Logan Verrett. The second part is seeing how he would do on extended rest.
Harvey has been vocal about his preference working in a conventional five-man rotation where he works on four days rest. He was especially agitated when he lost to the Dodgers in Los Angeles, July 4, while working on eight days rest. On July 20, on nine days rest, he lost in Washington.
Harvey is 1-1 on seven days rest; 6-3 on six days rest; and 3-1 on five days rest. That’s seven losses for Harvey when not working on conventional rest.
When pitchers get too much rest they have a tendency to be overly strong and often overthrow and have a lack of command. You hear it all the time with sinkerball pitchers that they leave the ball up when too strong and need to be a little tired.
As bad as the Red Sox are, they can still hit and the Mets don’t need is for Harvey to be walking hitters in front of guys like David Ortiz.
Harvey has thrown 154 innings this season and including tonight is on schedule to make eight more starts on conventional rest. Assuming he goes seven innings in those games, that’s 56 more or 210 for the season. Using those numbers and how many innings they wanted for him, that leaves zero for the playoffs.
That obviously won’t work.
The Mets’ options are to skip him one or two more times; or severely limit his innings in September. But, with the Mets’ porous bullpen and need to win games – including six more with the Nationals – that’s not a good choice, either.
As the Mets calculate his potential innings for the playoffs, they must figure them through the World Series. They certainly aren’t going to calculate his playoff starts for just the first round. In doing that, the Mets must figure at least six more starts, which is two starts for every playoff round. Of course, they could figure sweeping each round, but this run already has a large dose of fantasy.
The Mets have done a decent job giving Harvey his rest, but not so much limiting his innings. Have I mentioned this before? It goes to not having a concrete program.
I’m throwing this out there, but perhaps the Mets’ lefty bullpen void could be filled by Steven Matz. I know GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins rejected that notion in spring training, but that was a long time ago and now we’re looking at the Mets as serious playoff contenders with one severe weakness – lack of a lefty reliever.
Instead of diving into the six-man rotation when Matz returns, why not give that spot start to Logan Verrett or somebody else and use Matz as a situational lefty – one batter only – coming out of the pen? I wouldn’t mind seeing him come into face Bryce Harper or Mark Teixeira or Jason Heyward or any other lefty masher.
It is outside-the-box thinking, but that’s what the Mets need right now.
With the way Bartolo Colon pitched last night, and Verrett in Colorado, there’s not a sense of urgency to insert Matz into the rotation. Once the rosters are expanded Sept. 1, Matz will be included, but so should another minor league pitcher in case they want to sit Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard. Who knows? Maybe they could even bring back Dillon Gee for an encore start.
Meanwhile, there’s a gaping hole in the bullpen, especially from the left side.
I get it, you don’t want to screw with Matz, but there’s nothing wrong with his arm. And, if the intent is to limit him to one key batter it shouldn’t be a problem. Say the Mets are playing the Nationals and it is the fifth inning. Collins can look up at that multi-million dollar scoreboard in Citi Field, or have one of his coaches tell him Harper is two innings away.
That’s when you get Matz to warm up so he’s not rushing. It could be like a normal between-starts bullpen session. And, if he doesn’t need to face Harper, then he sits back down. All he did was get a little exercise.
I know the Mets don’t want to do that, but it is something they should consider. Matz isn’t made of china or paper mache. This won’t kill him. A lot of major league starters have gone into the bullpen and done well. I know this is force feeding him into a new role, but damn it, the Mets are fighting for the playoffs and have a glaring need. It is a need they are unlikely to fill with a trade in the next four days.
If you look at the Mets’ rotation, should they make the playoffs they’ll carry four starters, and Matz won’t be one of them. The playoff rotation would include Harvey, Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Jon Niese. Colon will undoubtedly be bumped. And, I don’t figure them using Matz out of the bullpen for the playoffs if they haven’t used him there in September.
So, what’s he going to get, one or two starts at the most in September? Maybe three? What good would that do?
He has the potential to help the Mets more out of the pen and that’s where he should go.
As good as the Mets have been, and they’ve been terrific lately, there remain issues surfacing as they head into October. Several were exposed the past week in Baltimore and Denver, and now in Philadelphia. Fortunately, they were able to outslug their mistakes, and we haven’t seen that in a long time with the Mets.
Some of these flaws surfaced again Wednesday, but scoring nine runs is a great buffer. Even so, here’s what they must address:
TERRY COLLINS: Being in a pennant race is new to these guys and that includes the manager. When Jacob deGrom is cruising as he was last week in Baltimore, can’t you just leave him in the game after he gives up a two-out single in the eighth when his pitch-count is still reasonable? If you get into the playoffs, you need to see your ace work out of trouble just as the Giants did last year with Madison Bumgarner.
Collins has a tendency to micromanage. And, speaking of which, with most of the pieces in place – and hitting, by the way – how hard is it to finally pick a lineup?
THE BULLPEN: When they scored 14 runs in back-to-back games in Denver, and went wild Monday in Philly, they needed every one of those runs because of their leaky bullpen. Championships aren’t won with porous bullpens. Look at the Giants last season. If the Mets don’t fix their pen they will be in trouble. The concern isn’t Jeurys Familia, but getting to him. Speaking of which, they will need Tyler Clippard, who was clearly angry after being pulled with two outs in the eighth on Tuesday.
The Mets acquired Clippard for a reason, which was to be the eighth-inning set-up man. Let him do his job. They’ll need him. The bullpen faltered again Wednesday, but Clippard responded and even got to pitch the ninth. This was giving Clippard a needed positive nod.
HANSEL ROBLES: Ron Darling nailed it when he ripped Hansel Robles for trying to quick-pitch in Philly. When the hitter’s head is down you don’t quick-pitch. It is bush league and could have resulted in getting one of his teammates hurt. Philadelphia pitchers can throw hard also, and Daniel Murphy was buzzed.
Robles has outstanding potential to fill the seventh-inning slot. What they don’t need is a hot head who could cost them a game – or a player. While we’re on the subject of not being a hot dog, we don’t need bat flips or styling – see: Murphy – after home runs. Act like you’ve been there before. Ticking off the opposition only puts a target on your back. It’s up to Collins first, then the veterans to make this message.
THE OFFENSE: They are mashing, but in the playoffs runs are at a premium. Teams must manufacture runs in the postseason. We need to see them run, hit behind the runner and string hits together as they did Wednesday.
Yeah, I’m being picky, but you only see the best pitching in the playoffs and not like the staffs or the Rockies and Phillies. What they did in the first inning Wednesday was classic situational hitting, which I loved. Like that more than the homers. And, the ninth was also terrific as they tacked on runs without the homer. Responding to the Phillies’ four-spot in the eighth was something we haven’t always seen and it was a great sign.
It’s a different game in October, which must be realized. They are 14 games over .500 and hold a 6.5 lead over the Nationals. But, nothing is won yet and they have three games coming up with Washington.
At one time this season the Mets were desperate for outfielders. Looking ahead to next spring they appear to be in good shape, especially if they bring back Yoenis Cespedes.
More importantly, he’s making adjustments. When pitchers starting working him away, he went to the opposite field. Hopefully, he’ll keep making them, but some hitters never learn. Ike Davis never did, and Lucas Duda is now getting the idea.
“It’s crazy,’’ Conforto told reporters. “The way it’s been happening, you don’t like to see that, you don’t like to see guys going on the DL. But the fact that I’m still here, I’m very excited. It’s where I want to be.’’
It might be difficult for the Mets to keep Cespedes, but he would solve a lot of problems. The Mets will have Curtis Granderson for two more years and Cuddyer for next season.
Conforto has three homers, but has been adept at hitting line drives and playing a solid defense. He’s hitting only .258, but has a .356 on-base percentage and .840 OPS. He runs the bases well, and who knows, perhaps he could be the answer to the Mets’ leadoff question.
It isn’t hard to envision Conforto starting and Cuddyer coming off the bench.
What do you know, the words “next season,’’ in connection with the Mets isn’t a depressing thought.