Apr 27

Mets Wrap: Harvey Takes Step Forward In Best Start Of Year

We are in the age of pitch counts and Matt Harvey continues to labor in that area for the Mets. However, this time he did what good pitchers must do, which is to minimize the damage and parlayed that into a 5-2 victory Wednesday night over Cincinnati.

HARVEY: Did what he had to do. (AP)

HARVEY: Did what he had to do. (AP)

Harvey stranded runners in scoring position in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings in making by far his best start of the season.

The Reds had a run in and a runner in scoring position in the first, but Harvey struck out the next two hitters. Harvey was also in a bases-loaded-one, one-out jam in the third, but he struck out Eugenio Suarez and got a sparkling defense play from Neil Walker to save him at least two runs.

Harvey entered the game with hitters batting over .500 against him with runners in scoring position, but the Reds couldn’t break through despite the constant threatening. This is what winning pitchers do.

Harvey’s moment of truth came in the fifth when the Reds pulled within 3-2 and had runners on the corners. Harvey got out of it by getting Devin Mesoraco to ground into a 6-4-3 double-play to end the inning.

Harvey got the double play on his 88th pitch of the game and that raises an issue.

In his first three starts – all losses – Harvey made it through the sixth only once, but threw 83, 95 and 86 pitches. Harvey won his fourth start, but needed 101 pitches to work just five innings.

The Mets had to like Harvey’s ability to escape, but they – and the pitcher – can’t be happy with his high pitch counts and inability to go deep into games. Harvey finished with a flourish, setting the Reds down 1-2-3 in the sixth, ending the inning with his seventh strikeout on his 102nd pitch.

Overall, this was a positive step forward by Harvey. The pitcher Harvey wants to be realizes 102 pitches is too many for six innings. That many should get him through the eighth and into the ninth.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #20   Record: 13-7 Streak: W 6

SUMMARY: Harvey needed a scintillating defensive play by Neil Walker to save him a couple of runs and a homer from the second baseman to drive in what proved to be the game-winning run.

KEY MOMENT: Cincinnati had a run in on Zack Cozart’s homer leading off the game, and later had a runner on second with one out and were poised to do some serious damage, but Harvey regrouped to strike out Eugenio Suarez and Mesoraco to end the threat.

THUMBS UP: How can you not love Alejandro De Aza tagging up and taking second on a fly out in the first? It resulted in the Mets getting two runs. … After making a diving stop of Mesoraco’s liner to end the third and save a couple of runs for Harvey, Walker homered in the bottom of the third. … Michael Conforto’s two-run double in the sixth. … Another strong inning in relief by Jim Henderson with two more strikeouts.

THUMBS DOWN: Harvey’s high pitch count limited him to six innings. … Errors by Lucas Duda and Walker. … Only five hits by Mets’ hitters.

EXTRA INNINGS: Yoenis Cespedes got another night off after telling Collins his right leg was still sore. … With the victory, the Mets are now 5-4 at home. … Harvey is 3-0 in five career starts against the Reds. … In case you were wondering, Philadelphia beat Washington to cut the Nationals’ lead in the NL East to one game.

QUOTEBOOK:  “Sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut.” – Walker explaining his power surge.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9: Homers by Walker in April to tie a club record. He’s tied with Bryce Harper for the NL lead.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets are off Thursday and open a three-game series Friday against the Giants at Citi Field. … The starters are: Friday, Jake Peavey (1-1, 6.86) vs. Steven Matz (2-1, 5.40); Saturday, Matt Cain (0-2, 6.43) vs. Jacob deGrom (2-0, 1.54); and Sunday, Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64) vs. Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69).

 

 

Apr 27

Mets Must Understand Manufacturing Runs Still Important

Terry Collins likes to say the Mets are a “home run hitting team built on power.’’ It makes me uneasy when I hear that because history is full of teams built on power that didn’t win.

Sure, it’s great the Mets can come back with one swing as they did with Yoenis Cespedes Tuesday night. One pitch, one swing and BAM, the game was tied.

HARVEY: Goes tonight. (Getty)

HARVEY: Goes tonight. (Getty)

It was the first time this year the Mets came from behind to win.

Power is a great weapon in any team’s overall arsenal, but it is not the most important. History tells us most champions are built on pitching, defense and timely hitting.

People like to counter with the Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle Yankees. However, those teams also had solid pitching and balanced lineups.

It’s also been that way with baseball’s recent champions: Kansas City, San Francisco, St. Louis and Boston. The Red Sox had power, but they wouldn’t have won without pitching.

When the Mets moved into Citi Field, they promised to build their teams on pitching, speed and defense. So far, it has been their young pitching and power.

The Mets have little speed and their defense has been better than expected. This season they surged because of pitching and power, but remember they hammered the suspect rotations of Philadelphia, Atlanta and Cincinnati. They also spent three games each in the bandboxes in Cleveland, Philly and Atlanta.

How long will this surge continue?

Will it go away against the Giants this weekend? Or will it fade against the Dodgers, Nationals and White Sox in May? Hot pitching always trumps hitting.

Sorry stat geeks, it has been that way from the beginning and will remain that way. That’s was the foundation of the Mets’ championship teams in 1969 and 1986.

Why do you think the Mets relish talking about Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Wednesday night’s starter, Matt Harvey?

They do so because they realize pitching is more important. The Mets are third in the majors with 29 homers hit, but more importantly rank first in homers allowed, giving up just seven.

Collins likes to say his team doesn’t have a lot of speed and doesn’t bunt. It’s another way of saying the Mets are poor in situational hitting and can’t manufacture runs.

Power is not sustainable. It fades. The ability to manufacture runs over time is far more important.

Don’t think so? In the 19 games the Mets have played, they:

* Are 4-4 in one-run games.

* Have struck out 174 times, and average of 9.2 a game. That’s the equivalent of going three innings without putting the ball in play.

* They have stranded 140 runners, or an average of 7.4 a game. That’s a little less than a run an inning.

Sooner or later, their inability to manufacture runs and put the ball in play will catch up to them.

History says it will regardless of the new wave numbers.

 

Apr 26

Mets Wrap: Cespedes Revisits 2015

The power is reminiscent of last year, but it finally felt, and sounded, like 2015 for the Mets in Tuesday night’s dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Cincinnati.

The Mets had done nothing against Reds’ left-hander Brandon Finnegan and trailed 3-0 heading into the seventh.

CESPEDES: Gives us 2015 feel. (AP)

CESPEDES: Gives us 2015 feel. (AP)

With one out, Juan Lagares – playing instead of Yoenis Cespedes who was missing his fourth straight game – walked, and Kevin Plawecki, starting for Travis d’Arnaud, who went on the DL earlier in the day, singled.

As Lucas Duda mulled around the on-deck circle, Reds manager Bryan Price conferred with Finnegan. Collins wasn’t trying to trick Price, but it turned out that way.

During this time, Cespedes was hitting in the batting cages behind the Mets’ dugout. Price could have gone out and pulled Finnegan, but left him in and Cespedes hit a rope on the first pitch to tie the game.

“You have to be special,’’ Collins told reporters about the type of player able to sieve the moment as Cespedes did. “You have to believe in yourself 100 percent.’’

Citi Field sounded this loud last August when Cespedes literally carried the Mets for a month. Curtis Granderson followed with a triple, and David Wright, who had struggled all night, singled to right for the go-ahead run.

“It helps for these guys to know they can come back and win,’’ Collins said. “That’s what helped us in the second half [last year].’’

Jeurys Familia’s third straight save sealed the Mets their first come-from-behind victory of the season. That’s something the Mets did regularly last year.

All the things that made the Mets magical last season: their ability to rally; their power and Cespedes’ ability to live in the moment; Bartolo Colon early in the game and Familia at the end, all were on display.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #19 Record: 12-7 Streak: W5

 SUMMARY: Cespedes carried the Mets to the playoffs last season after the deadline deal. He did so again Tuesday night with a dramatic three-run, pinch-hit homer

KEY MOMENT: The Mets trailed by 3-0 and had two runners on with one out when Cespedes pinch-hit for reliever Logan Verrett and drilled the first on a line for a game-tying home run.

THUMBS UP: Verrett picked up the victory for the second straight night. … Not only did Michael Conforto start against a left-hander, but was in the clean-up position where he had two hits. … Granderson had two hits. … No runs given up by the bullpen. … Familia seems to have re-gained his groove.

THUMBS DOWN: Two more strikeouts by Wright gives him 28 in 67 at-bats. … Wilmer Flores looks helpless at the plate with a .087 average.

 EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets didn’t score first, but they did win for the tenth time in 12 games. … Colon surpassed 3,000 career innings pitched. … Since April 15, the Mets lead the majors with 27 homers. … Familia has 56 career saves tying with Randy Myers for 11th place on the Mets’ career list.

QUOTEBOOK:   “He’s hurting and for him to come through like that gives everybody a lift,’’ – Collins on Wright’s game-winning hit in the seventh.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10: Consecutive victories by the Mets over the Reds.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey goes after his second victory Wednesday night. Harvey is 2-0 with a 2.36 ERA in four career starts against the Reds.

 

Apr 25

Mets Wrap: Conforto Should Stay At No. 3 Against Finnegan

When Terry Collins moved Michael Conforto to the third slot in the batting order, he left open the possibility of moving him against a left-hander.

Conforto ripped three more hits Monday night’s 5-3 victory over Cincinnati – including a homer in the first – but with left-hander Brandon Finnegan going Tuesday for the Reds, what will Collins do?

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

Here’s hoping he lost his righty-lefty book and keeps Conforto batting third. Most importantly, you don’t want Collins messing with a hot hitter and giving even the slightest hint of not having complete confidence in Conforto against left-handers.

Maybe, against Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner – the Giants are in this weekend – Conforto might move, but against Finnegan?

That would make no sense.

In going 3-for-3 with a walk, Conforto is hitting .378 (14-for-37) with eight runs scored, five doubles, three homers and eight RBI since moving to the No. 3 spot. He’s hitting .333 overall without even a whisper of a reason why he should be moved.

Even if Yoenis Cespedes can play Tuesday, Conforto should stay third. He said he’s always hit third and relishes the role. Those aren’t reasons why he should stay there. He should stay because he’s the best player for that role, even over Cespedes.

Tell me, the Mets have a runner on third with one out, who would you rather have at the plate, Cespedes of Conforto?

“It’s where you want to be,’’ Conforto told reporters about hitting third. ““You have to be a guy who uses the whole field,’’ Conforto said. “You have to have a good [hitting] zone and be able to shrink that and you want to be a guy who tends to hit well in big situations, a guy who drives runs in, you have to make sure those situations don’t get too big.’’

Third is the spot where a team traditionally bats its best hitter. Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays usually hit third in another era, as did Keith Hernandez for the 1986 champion Mets. Barry Bonds and a healthier David Wright most recently flourished hitting third.

I’m not saying Conforto will turn into an elite player like them – in his wildest dreams he probably hasn’t considered it – but he is the Mets’ best overall hitter.

“He drove in big runs, that’s why he’s hitting third,’’ Collins said.

Conforto spent a lot of time this winter working on situations a No. 3 would face, such as pulling inside fastballs; cutting down his hitting zone on specific counts; and hitting the ball on the ground or in the air depending on the game situation.

Collins said Conforto would likely be the Mets’ long-term No. 3 hitter. Don’t change things now.

METS GAME WRAP

 Game: #18 Record: 11-7 Streak: W4

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard labored most of the night, but home runs from Conforto, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker gave the Mets their fourth straight victory.

KEY MOMENT: Walker’s two-run homer in the seventh. When the Mets were on defense in the eighth fans chanted Walker’s name. Sweet.

THUMBS UP: Two hits, including a two-run homer in the third from Lucas Duda. … Logan Verrett struck out Ivan De Jesus with the go-ahead runner on third to end the seventh. … A 1-2-3- eighth in relief from Addison Reed. … Twelve strikeouts from Mets’ pitchers, including nine from Syndergaard. … A 1-2-3 stress-free ninth from Jeurys Familia.

THUMBS DOWN: The Reds stole five bases against the Syndergaard-Travis d’Arnaud battery. … Antonio Bastardo had a blown save. … Mets’ hitters struck out 10 times. … An 0-for-4 night from Wright with two strikeouts. … They were 1-for-9 with RISP. … d’Arnaud left the game with a sore right shoulder. Collins said it is too early to project it being a DL situation.

EXTRA INNINGS: The homer was Walker’s eighth of the month, the most he’s ever hit in a month. … The Mets have won nine of their last 11 games. … They have scored in the first inning in eight of their last ten games. … They’ve won nine straight against the Reds.

QUOTEBOOK: “That was pretty awesome,’’ Walker on he crowd chanting his name after his homer.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28: Mets’ homers in 18 games.

NEXT FOR METS: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 2.89) starts for the Mets against Reds’ Finnegan (1-1, 3.74). Colon gave up three runs in six innings with a no-decision in his last start, April 20, at Philadelphia. Colon in 4-1 with a 3.77 ERA in five career starts against the Reds.

Apr 25

Mets Morning Coffee

The vibe for the Mets will be considerably different tonight against Cincinnati than it was when they left after manager Terry Collins said they faced a must-win situation.

The Mets went 7-2 on this trip, but remember five of those victories came against Philadelphia and Atlanta, teams they are expected to beat, and teams they must prevail against if they are to win the NL East.

Today on the blog I’ll have:

Today In Mets History: Rookie Doc Gooden stuffs Montreal.

A brief on Noah Syndergaard.

Lineups, notes, and of course a wrap of tonight’s game. I’m also working on a piece on strikeouts and hope to have that online either today or tomorrow.

Have a great day.

ON DECK: Today In Mets History: The Doc Is In The House

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