Apr 14

Mets’ Harvey Continues To Struggle

Another Matt Harvey start, another five innings. By all accounts, Harvey has recovered from thoracic outlet surgery. The radar gun registered a high of 95 mph., so velocity is not an issue. Going back to his last nine starts in 2017, Harvey has not worked past the fifth inning in 12 straight starts, dating back to May 28 of last season when he threw six innings in a win at Pittsburgh.

HARVEY: Still struggling. (AP)

HARVEY: Still struggling. (AP)

Harvey vowed this season would be different, and during spring training said: “It’s a completely new year, like I said. My mechanics are completely different, my arm is completely different.”

Unfortunately, the results have been largely the same. Just four times in 19 starts last year did Harvey pitch into the sixth inning or later. Last season, Harvey averaged just under 20 pitches per inning. This year, he’s averaging just under 18 pitches.

That translates to not enough innings pitched and another four innings logged by the bullpen. Tonight, he gave up four runs on eight hits, including two homers, in a 5-1 loss to Milwaukee to snap the Mets’ nine-game winning streak.

I suppose you can blame the cold weather. That’s a contributing factor, but not the entire explanation.

“He has good stuff,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “The strikeouts are there. He didn’t go after it the way I would have liked. He couldn’t get it going. I didn’t see the confidence that he’s had in the past.”

To his credit, Harvey made no excuses. He didn’t blame the weather, lack of support from his offense or lack of luck, all of which he has done in the past.

“Not very good,” was how Harvey assessed his outing. “I have to be better. This loss was on me. It is frustrating. I have to take my 24 hours and be pissed about it, then move on.

“Keeping the bullpen out of it is something I have to do. I would rather it be two innings at the end of the game and not four. All and all, I have to be better.”

Apr 12

It Will Take Pitching To Continue This Ride

There has been a lot to like about the Mets’ start, specifically their 10-1 record. I never expected this. Nobody did. But, it is early in the season. There are a lot of games left to be played.

As much as many of you would like to, it’s too early to bury the Yankees. It’s also too early to be thinking about anything past this weekend’s series against the Brewers.

SYNDERGAARD: Needs to go longer. (SNY)

SYNDERGAARD: Needs to go longer. (SNY)

A lot can happen between now and October, and it all won’t go as smoothly as they have over the past two weeks. There are slumps, and injuries, and the Washington Nationals taking off.

All that stuff will take place, or it might not. It is possible all that went right will continue to go right.

The Mets will go as far as their pitching takes them and so far it has been good, but only Zack Wheeler on Wednesday, is the only one to pitch seven full innings. That needs to change to save the bullpen. All of their starters have run into that one terrible inning when they throw between 20 and 30 pitches, and that includes Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

Syndergaard went overboard lifting weights because he wanted to be strong to last longer in games. It took a partially-torn lat muscle to convince Syndergaard that was the wrong approach. The ability to last longer in games stems from improved command. Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland have done a terrific job as evidenced by 117 strikeouts and only 36 walks, and a 1.10 staff WHIP. If that trend continues the Mets should be in good shape.

As for Syndergaard, he has thrown 267 pitches in his three starts, that’s 89 pitches per start, which is way too many if he is to last more than six innings.

DeGrom has worked six innings twice, but Matt Harvey and Steven Matz have not worked past the fifth.

The bullpen,  notably Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, have picked up the slack. The rest of the bullpen, including Hansel Robles, has been exceptional.

However, the innings can accumulate, and it is up to the starters, to work the sixth and into the seventh.

That is how this ride will to continue.

Apr 11

Mets Wrap: Wheeler Sterling In First Start

The most important thing to take away about the Mets from tonight’s victory in Miami isn’t that it was their eighth straight, but how well Zack Wheeler pitched in his first start of the season.

If I were into bandwagon hopping, I would say if Wheeler continues to bring it as he did in beating the Marlins, 4-1, to extend the best start in franchise history to 10-1.

WHEELER: Solid debut. (AP)

WHEELER: Solid debut. (AP)

Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched for the Mets in two years, gave up one run on two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in seven innings. It is the longest a Mets’ starter has gone this young season.

“I thought he did a really good job of staying ahead,’’ said manager Mickey Callaway. “He pitched with a lot of confidence.’’

Wheeler, who had a spring training ERA north of eight, gave up a first-inning homer to Miguel Rojas in the first, was in complete control after that and retired the last 16 batters he faced.

“I was trying to go out there and give up a chance to win,’’ Wheeler said. “I was able to pound the zone and have command of my fastball for the most part. It was very satisfying.’’

We can presume Wheeler will get at least another start with Jason Vargas on the disabled list.

PLAWECKI GETS HIS BREAK:  Catcher Travis d’Arnaud was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The Mets recalled catcher Tomas Nido from Binghamton (AA), who was activated for tonight’s game.

The ten days enables the Mets time to evaluate the injury, including the possibility of Tommy John surgery. If that happens, d’Arnaud could be transferred to the 60-day disabled list, and former Washington National Jose Lobaton would be promoted to the Mets. That decision could be reached as soon as Friday.

“That’s a long road if he goes the surgery route,’’ Callaway said. “Anytime anybody has to go through that, that’s tough.’’

Callaway had a sense something was wrong with d’Arnaud’s arm from watching try to throw runners out at second – unsuccessfully.

Plawecki was struck on the left hand by a pitch and sustained a deep bruise. X-Rays were negative.

GONZALEZ DOES IT AGAIN: Veteran Adrian Gonzalez, who hit a grand slam in Washington, drove in the game-winning runs with a two-run, pinch-hit single in the eighth inning.

Gonzalez, who made the Opening Day roster in large part because of Dominic Smith’s leg injury, is hitting .298 with a .406 on-base percentage. Gonzalez’s two-run single gave the Mets their sixth-come-from-behind victory of the season.

“When we’re down, we know how to get the job done,’’ Callaway said. “You can feel the energy in the dugout.’’

 

Apr 09

Shouldn’t The Mets Always Play This Way?

Ron Darling made a big deal about Noah Syndergaard backing up a play at third base tonight in the fifth inning. In fact, SNY has been gushing non-stop how fundamentally sound the 8-1 Mets have been so far this season.

From their hustle and aggressive baserunning, to their situational hitting, to manufacturing runs without the benefit of the home run, to their defense, to their bullpen. SNY has been gushing non-stop and newspaper columnists are doing the same.

Their points are valid, but also painfully obvious. How the Mets are playing is how they should be playing all the time. It begs the question: Why weren’t they doing this for the past ten years?

Is it just Mickey Callaway? Was Terry Collins that bad? Although my head still hurts from him saying, “we are a home run hitting team.’’

That, of course, stemmed from GM Sandy Alderson’s love affair with analytics. However, as much as Major League Baseball seems married to sabermetrics and launch angles, and seemingly has abandoned the game’s traditions, it really remains a simple sport relying on pitching, defense and timely hitting, one-two-three, with home runs a distant fourth as a matter of importance.

SYNDERGAARD STRUGGLES: Syndergaard threw 46 pitches through four innings, then threw 44 combined in the fifth and sixth innings. For all the talk about Syndergaard being an overpowering pitcher – and at times he can be – he’ll never all he can be until he lowers his pitch count and goes deeper into games.

The same applies to Steven Matz and Matt Harvey, and to a lesser extent, Jacob deGrom.

We’re only nine games into the season and the Mets have already had two days off and a rainout, so their bullpen has not been taxed despite the starters not working long innings.

However, eventually, the starters will have to do better than the six innings Syndergaard gave them in tonight’s 4-2 victory.

SNY TAKES SHOT AT JETER: SNY took a not-so-subtle jab at Miami figure-head owner Derek Jeter after the third inning when it ran a montage of departed Marlins stars Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna with a sentimental ballad in the background.

EXTRA INNINGS: Assuming nothing happens and Zack Wheeler starts Wednesday’s game at Miami, it will mark the first the Mets’ highly-touted rotation. … I realize Hansel Robles gave up a homer to Bryce Harper the other day, but overall, he’s pitched very well. I liked that Callaway went right back to him. … It might be time to give Yoenis Cespedes a day off.  He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, including with the bases loaded.

Apr 07

Mets Wrap: Matz Keeps Club Streak Hot

Much, much better was Steven Matz today for the Mets. Hammered by St. Louis in his previous start, Matz was everything the Mets could have hoped for in today’s 3-2 victory at Washington.

MATZ: Marked improvement. (AP)

MATZ: Marked improvement. (AP)

Once again Matz threw too many pitches for the innings worked – 93 over five innings – but this time for the most part he avoided getting hit. He allowed three singles, walked two and struck out eight while giving up an unearned run.

“There was a lot more confidence,’’ manager Mickey Callaway said. “Total conviction on most of his pitches. You could see it in the way he released the ball. He did a great job of making an adjustment.’’

Matz said pitching coach Dave Eiland helped him finish off his pitches.

“It was just a minor adjustment, something I was doing in spring training as well early on, just not having that last bit of conviction with my pitch,’’ Matz said. “Mentally and physically as well, just finishing.’’

BORN TO RUN: Mets’ pitching has been terrific so far, but an old nemesis resurfaced today as the Nationals stole five bases. Even so, the Mets still managed to escape. That’s a problem that must be corrected because they won’t always be so lucky as they were today.

“We have to do a better job,’’ Callaway said. “We don’t want runners going at will against us.’’

Matz gave up for stolen bases but said he wasn’t worried, “because none of them scored,’’ which isn’t the right attitude to have.

ROSARIO MAKES SENSE LEADING OFF: They won’t do it now because you never want to mess with a streak, but if Amed Rosario stays hot, shouldn’t the Mets consider moving him to the leadoff spot? After all, he’s the fastest Met.

LAGARES STARS IN CENTER: Centerfielder Juan Lagares came up with the play of the game when he threw out Brian Goodwin at the plate in the second inning.

“That feels great, especially how the game was,” said Lagares. “I felt great in the moment.’’