Apr 21

Put Up Time For Matt Harvey

It’s time Matt Harvey put on his “Big Boy Pants’’ and begins pitching up to all the expectations, from the Mets, the public whose attention he craves, the media whom he disdains, and of course, himself.

After a dismal start to a season many projected would be a breakout year – I even said he’d win 20 – Harvey needs to come up with a performance to change the talk from whispered questions to shouts of adulation.

HARVEY: Walking off the mound dejected. (AP)

HARVEY: Walking off the mound dejected. (AP)

It’s not a stretch to say outside his first start last season following Tommy John surgery Friday’s game in Atlanta will be the most important regular-season start in his still young career.

Harvey shot into our Mets’ consciousness in 2013 with his All-Star caliber pitching and remained there with his elbow injury, how he handled himself in his rehabilitation program and his penchant for the trappings of being the Dark Knight and a New York sports hero.

Then there was the World Series and Game 5 when he pitched like the star we all hoped he’d be, but who morphed into selfishness when he let his ego run wild in the ninth inning that ended the Mets’ season.

Harvey, by his own admission, entered spring training with a chip on his shoulder grew inflamed after a bladder infection and his immature reaction following the expected response from the tabloids. What, he didn’t expect sarcastic headlines? The tabloids aren’t The Player’s Tribune, which grants the free pass of no accountability he knew as a prep star and foolishly demands in the major leagues.

Somebody who professes to be a New York star should understand that; just as should have known of the anticipated concern over his 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA start. It’s one thing to go through a rough stretch, but Harvey’s command and fastball aren’t what they used to be. His valued slider doesn’t have its usual bite.

That’s more than mildly worrisome.

Is Harvey injured? He hasn’t always been forthcoming about health issues, so that can’t be ruled out. He says he’s fine, but his believability index is low.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said after his loss in Cleveland last Saturday Harvey’s confidence was shaky and mechanics were off. Confidence comes from pitching well and winning, but Harvey isn’t doing either. After that game Harvey admitted “nobody is more frustrated than I am.”

Correcting mechanics takes time and rarely are fixed after one session, although manager Terry Collins said this week he had a good one.

“He was very confident,’’ Collins told reporters. “He thought it was the best bullpen he’s had in a long time. So that was really good news.’’

Of course, if Harvey was having poor bullpens why wasn’t this brought out earlier? But, therein lies the complex dilemma that has marked his career. He’s not forthcoming and the Mets go out of their way to protect him.

Just as there are expectations, there is always something with Harvey, always some issue that takes our eyes off the mound. Only this time our eyes remain fixated on the mound and Harvey. And, it will remain that way until he starts pitching.

It’s put up time

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Apr 20

Mets Wrap: Small Ball Would Have Been Nice

Sometimes small ball has value, even for the Mets, who lost 5-4 Wednesday in 11 innings at Philadelphia.

The Mets hit two more homers among their 14 hits, but also struck out 17 times.

GALVIS: Scores game-winner. (AP)

GALVIS: Scores game-winner. (AP)

The Mets hit back-to-back homer in each game of the series – this time it was Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda – but when they needed a single in the 11th with Curtis Granderson on second they got nothing.

It was that way all night as the Mets stranded 12 runners and went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

Granderson tagged up from first and took second on David Wright’s fly to center, but Michael Conforto and Cespedes struck out. Granderson’s play was the epitome of small ball and is the stuff that usually wins games. Usually.

The Phillies took advantage of their opportunity when Freddy Galvis doubled, took third on Hansel Robles’ wild pitch and scored on Peter Bourjous’ infield single to third.

Mets manager Terry Collins seems to like to boast that “we’re a home run hitting team.’’

However, as the season wears on there will be more games like tonight than Tuesday when they hit six home runs.vThere’s nothing wrong with advancing the runner, drawing a walk (only two tonight), maybe dropping down a bunt, and hitting a sacrifice fly.

That’s how the Kansas City Royals played and didn’t they win the World Series?

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #14  Record: 7-7 Streak L 1

SUMMARY: The Mets’ power-laden offense hit two more homers, but they also left 12 runners and struck out 17 times.

 KEY MOMENT: Asdrubal Cabrera had a three-run homer taken off the board by replay in the second. There would not have been extra innings had the homer counted.

THUMBS UP: It wasn’t totally smooth for Bartolo Colon, who gave up three runs on four hits in six innings. A blown save cost him his 220th career victory. … A good defensive play by Conforto going against the rail in foul territory to end the fifth. … No homers from Neil Walker, but he had four hits and seven for the series. … Continued breakout signs from Granderson with two more hits.

THUMBS DOWN: Seventeen strikeouts by Mets hitters, including four by Wright. … Addison Reed’s blown save in the seventh. … After his homer was taken away, Cabrera struck out three times. … Hansel Robles‘ wild pitch doomed the Mets.

EXTRA INNINGS: Jacob deGrom will throw a bullpen session Friday and is expected to start Sunday in Atlanta.

QUOTEBOOK: “Every team talks about situational hitting and wants to do it better.’’ – Collins on the Mets’ offense.

BY THE NUMBERS: 29: Jayson Stark of ESPN reports the Mets have hit as many homers in Citizen Bank Park (29) as the Phillies since August 24 of last year. The Phillies played 33 games in that span while the Mets played 10.

 NEXT FOR METS: The Mets are off Thursday, and then begin a three-game series against the suddenly hot Atlanta Braves. The Mets’ rotation for the series will be Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and deGrom.

NATIONALS UPDATE: The Nationals (11-3) won at Miami, 3-1, and increased their lead to four games ahead of the Mets. Washington and New York play for the first time this season, May 17-18-19 at Citi Field. They will then play May 23-24-25 in Washington.

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Apr 20

Mets Must Leave Conforto Hitting Third

It won’t be long before the Mets  face a dominating left-hander such as Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw or Gio Gonzalez. When they do, I hope Terry Collins resists the temptation to move Michael Conforto out of the No. 3 hole. I also hope he resists moving him if Conforto has a couple of 0-for-4 nights.

CONFORTO: Needs to stay hitting third. (AP)

CONFORTO: Needs to stay hitting third. (AP)

The Mets are sizzling since moving Conforto to the third spot and scoring close to six runs a game during that span. It’s not all Conforto, but he certainly deserves some credit. What the Mets have had during this span is something they haven’t for a long time, and definitely not last year, and that’s a consistent batting order.

“I think that is where he’s going to end up hitting one of these days full time,” Collins told reporters. “We thought he was swinging the bat good, so we thought it was time to put him there and see if he can springboard the offense.”

That he’s done. This is easily the Mets’ best lineup since 2006, when they had Jose Reyes leading off and David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado lumped in the middle. However, this lineup is potentially better because it is strong 1-through-9. The additions of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker have made this lineup incredibly long.

Conforto in the three hole gives the Mets’ order a sense of stability. Curtis Granderson is a fixture leading off because the Mets don’t have a traditional No. 1 hitter the way Reyes once was. The Mets don’t have to count on Wright for power, so he’s fine batting second. Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda offer a right-left combination at Nos. 4 and 5, with both having 30-homer potential. Walker, Cabrera and Travis d’Arnaud are Nos. 6-7-8, with all having the potential of 15 homers.

Few lineups can match this potential.

Things might cool off at the bottom of the order. For example, I don’t expect Walker to continue this pace and hit 40 or more homers. But, what I do expect is Conforto to develop into a star. Another Carl Yastrzemski? Another Ted Williams? That’s dreaming. But, he can become a star and for that to happen he needs to stay in the lineup against left-handers.

The Mets are committed with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, but Collins seems to have hedged his bets with Conforto by saying he’ll sit, or move lower in the order, against lefties. Please NO. The only way Conforto will become the player the Mets hope is for him to hit lefties, and for this to happen he must bat against them.

Conforto said he’s comfortable hitting third because he’s always hit there.

“I never had any nervousness about it,” Conforto told reporters. “It just kind of felt natural, where I have been in college and through the minor leagues, so I felt pretty good there.”

Collins attributed part of Conforto’s success hitting third to batting ahead of Cespedes, who offers protection. Pitchers don’t want to walk Conforto because they don’t want to face Cespedes with men on base. Consequently, he’s getting better pitches and isn’t being worked around.

And, when pitchers make a mistake Conforto doesn’t miss.

Let’s hope Collins doesn’t become the man at the grill who can’t resist poking at the embers. Things are good now. Don’t fool with it.

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Apr 19

Mets Wrap: Amazin’ Power Rocks Phils

Manager Terry Collins insists on calling his Mets a “home run hitting team,’’ and he’s turning out to be right.

The Mets crushed six more homers – two from Neil Walker, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson – to back six scoreless innings from spot starter Logan Verrett.

The Mets have hit a team-record 17 homers in their last five games, the length of this current road trip. The Mets always had the potential to hit for power, and now they are living up to it. Now, the Mets’ lineup is longer than any they’ve had in recent memory.

“[Power is] the way our club has been build,’’ Collins told reporters. “There’s no easy guy in that lineup. It’s tough on the opposition when they know they have to make quality pitch after quality pitch.’’

One guy not expected to hit for a lot of power was Walker, but six homers and 11 RBI in just a dozen games has more than made up for losing Daniel Murphy.

“Hitting is contagious,’’ said Walker, repeating one of baseball’s most enduring clichés. “It’s really great when things are flowing like that.’’

Walker’s six homers trail Bryce Harper by one. Both homers Tuesday came from the right side, which he attributes to getting rid of a toe tap.

“My approach from the right side is to simplify things,’’ said Walker, who still utilizes the toe tap from the left side.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #13  Record: 7-6  Streak: W3

SUMMARY: Verrett threw six scoreless innings and the Mets crushed six homers. Pretty simple, actually.

KEY MOMENT: The Mets never trailed after Conforto’s two-run homer in the first.

THUMBS UP: Verrett continues to sparkle in spot start assignments. … Juan Lagares made a homer-robbing catch of Maikel Franco to end the eighth. … Mets hitters only struck out seven times.

THUMBS DOWN: Rafael Montero struggled, but the game was no longer in doubt. But, in a rout like tonight, that’s a reach.

EXTRA INNINGS: DeGrom is scheduled to start Sunday in Atlanta. … Travis d’Arnaud returned to the lineup. … A strong relief effort by Jim Henderson.

QUOTEBOOK: “He stepped up and gave us what we needed, which was big innings. It means a lot for us.’’ – Collins on Verrett’s start.

BY THE NUMBERS: 29: Homers by the Mets in their last 12 games in Philadelphia.

NEXT FOR METS: Bartolo Colon attempts to give the Mets a series sweep Wednesday night.

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Apr 18

Mets Wrap: Wright’s Power Now A Bonus

The Mets were once a team built around the power of third baseman David Wright. Injuries sapped his power in recent seasons, and with Michael Conforto seemingly set as the No. 3 hitter, Wright is entrenched hitting second, a position in the order that doesn’t demand a lot of power. And, with Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda batting fourth and fifth, not to mention Curtis Granderson at leadoff, the Mets have sources of power from other than Wright.

So, when he has games such as he did Monday, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say his power is now a bonus. However, how he went deep was what we’ve come to expect from Wright when he’s on his game. When Wright hit a pair of opposite-field homers in Monday night’s 5-2 victory at Philadelphia, it shouldn’t come as a surprise of his power to right field. When Wright is going well, he usually drives the ball to right or up the middle.

“It’s something that when I’m feeling decent up there, I can take a pitch out over the plate in that direction,” Wright said.

In doing so, Wright continued to make Citizen Bank Park his personal playground, hitting .293 with 22 homers and 69 RBI in the Phillies’ home stadium.

“Star players should never surprise you with what they can do,” manager Terry Collins told reporters after the game. “He’s dangerous here. In this ballpark, if he puts a good swing on the ball he can be dangerous.”

And, with the other boppers in the Mets’ lineup, their whole order is dangerous.

Mets Game Wrap

Game:  #12  Record: 6-6  Streak: W 2

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard struck out eight Phillies – giving him 29 over his first three starts – and backed by the two homers from Wright, and solo drives from Lucas Duda and Neil Walker, the Mets evened their record and have now won three of their last four games on the road.

KEY MOMENT: Back-to-back homers from Duda and Walker broke open the game in the eighth.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera doubled and started a double play in the field. He keeps doing the job. So far, he’s been a big plus. … A scintillating barehand pick-up and throw by Wright to end the third. … Cespedes legged out a triple with two out in the sixth, a sure sign his legs are feeling better. … Duda followed the double with an opposite-field double. … Four homers by Walker already.

THUMBS DOWN: A dozen more strikeouts from Mets’ hitters, including two more from Cespedes, who now has 18 in 12 games with only four walks. The Mets have 98 strikeouts in 12 games (8.16 per game average). … Jeurys Familia was hit hard, but survived the ninth.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Great news. Jacob deGrom took his son, Jaxson, home from the hospital. DeGrom will throw a bullpen Tuesday and could pitch in Atlanta this weekend. … Kevin Plawecki started behind the plate. Collins said d’Arnaud could be available Tuesday. …

QUOTEBOOK:  “He’s gotten so good, so fast, that it is remarkable,” – Collins on Syndergaard.

BY THE NUMBERS: 11: Mets’ homers in their last four games.

NEXT FOR METS: Logan Verrett starts Tuesday night against the Phillies’ Vince Velasquez.

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