Apr 22

No End To Mets’ Slide

It has hit the fan early for the Mets early. Long stretches of dismal hitting coupled with a myriad of injuries took the starch out of the Mets’ pitching and nearly derailed their season in each of the last two years.

This time, it’s happening in April. It’s too soon to panic, but not too early to notice things aren’t right for the Mets.

DEGROM: Wasted start. (AP)

DEGROM: Wasted start. (AP)

The Mets’ young starters are supposed to carry them, but consecutive winnable starts from Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and today from Jacob deGrom were wasted.

After losing 4-3 in 11 innings Friday and 3-1 today, manager Terry Collins said the Mets are faced with a must-win game Sunday night with Max Scherzer going against Zack Wheeler – he of an innings limit – at Citi Field.

“It’s huge,” Collins said of the magnitude of the game. “We haven’t played well. We have pitched well, but we haven’t hit.”

The Mets are hitting .178 and averaging less than three runs a game over their last eight games. Overall, they have scored three or fewer runs in eight of their 18 games, and for those counting, the trade deadline is three months away.

Then, Collins said something I never thought I’d ever hear him say.

“We have to get away from the home runs,” said Collins. “We have to put some hits together.”

They only had two singles today, both coming in the sixth.

Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores are on the disabled list and Yoenis Cespedes might soon join them; Travis d’Arnaud also didn’t play today; eight Mets are hitting .200 or less; one of them is Jose Reyes, who didn’t start, and not coincidentally, top infield prospect Amed Rosario was moved to third base at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Collins said Michael Conforto will hit leadoff and hinted at another change for Sunday.

“We’re not hitting,” Collins said. “Our pitching has kept us in games, but we’re not giving them any help.”

Today’s non-beneficiary was deGrom, who registered double-digit strikeouts for his second straight start and walked six. DeGrom was scheduled to start Friday but was pushed back because of a stiff neck. He said his neck was all right, but his velocity dropped four mph., after the first inning.

“I just don’t walk six guys,” deGrom said. “I had command early, but I didn’t have it late. I don’t know what happened.”

And, he didn’t have Cespedes or Duda or Flores or d’Arnaud to pick him up.

“Anytime you don’t have those guys in the lineup it’s going to be tough, but we can’t use that as an excuse,” said Jay Bruce. “There’s no panic with us. It hasn’t been a lot of fun lately. We’re not winning, but there will be winning for us.”

When?

Apr 20

Mets Wrap: Syndergaard Takes Responsibility For Botched Play

It is one thing to lose, but how the Mets are doing so is extremely head scratching. Their bullpen has been spotty at times, but lately it has been their lack of offense coupled with shoddy defense.

i-5Of course, if they don’t hit several home runs, they will end up wasting a strong pitching effort by one of their starters, as was the case in Thursday’s 6-4 loss to the Phillies at Citi Field.

The Mets committed three more errors tonight and seven for the series, and if not for Jay Bruce’s two homers Wednesday, they would have been swept at home by Philadelphia.

Instead, they lost two of three and five of their last seven, which is not the way they want to be playing with Washington coming in for three this weekend.

It is said the ball will find the inexperienced glove, but don’t blame Bruce for the mix-up at first base in the second inning that lead to three runs.

Bruce gloved Freddy Galvis’ dribbler, but his throw fell between pitcher Noah Syndergaard and second baseman Neil Walker.

Although Bruce was charged with an error, manager Terry Collins said he wasn’t to blame.

“Noah has to get over there,” Collins said. “Jay made a nice play on it.”

Syndergaard called it a freakish play, and it was, but ultimately pointed the finger at himself.

“It was a mess up from the get go,’’ Syndergaard said. “But, it is my responsibility to get over there and cover the bag.”

Another error, this time by Asdrubal Cabrera on room service double-play grounder, lead to two runs in the third.

“I can’t remember Asdrubal Cabrera missing a play like that,” lamented Collins. “The fact that we didn’t make two plays turned the tide of the game.”

Syndergaard gave them the chance to win, but Collins summed it up perfectly.

“We have to start scoring some runs,” Collins said. “We have to start playing better.”

SYNDERGAARD COMES UP EMPTY: Syndergaard was splendid in his season-high 114-pitch effort over seven innings in which he gave up five runs – two unearned – with no walks and ten strikeouts.

In four starts overall, Syndergaard has 30 strikeouts with no walks in his four starts.

“For the most part, I felt pretty good,” Syndergaard said. “I felt this was the best my mechanics have been for a long time.”

FAMILIA UNIMPRESSIVE: Jeurys Familia wasn’t effective in his first relief appearance of the season, issuing two walks in the ninth inning.

“Rusty, to say the least,”” was how Collins evaluated Familia’s outing.

Collins said Familia needs the work, which is why he left him in to throw 30 pitches. Collins said Familia should be ready for Friday.

CESPEDES INJURED: The Mets’ injury woes continued when Yoenis Cespedes left the game in the fifth inning with a left hamstring cramp while running the bases. He was replaced by Juan Lagares and Michael Conforto moved to left.

“Anytime you talk about hamstrings it is a concern,” Collins said. “When you have a hamstring with his body (tightly muscled), it is a concern.”

Cespedes will have a MRI Friday.

Don’t forget, Cespedes took over a month to recover from a strained quad last season, so I wouldn’t bet on seeing him Friday night against the Nationals.

INJURY UPDATES: Lucas Duda, who sustained a hyperextended left elbow the night before did not play. … Travis d’Arnaud, who sustained a contusion to his throwing hand, appeared as a pinch-hitter. … Wilmer Flores was unavailable with an infection in his knee.

“Our training room is starting to fill up and we don’t need that,” Collins said.

NATS UP NEXT: Jacob deGrom starts Friday night against Washington.

Apr 20

How Long Will Mets Play Reyes Charade?

Mets manager Terry Collins said Jose Reyes deserves the chance to turn things around, but that’s too simplistic an approach. In reality, Collins doesn’t have any choice for now but let Reyes try to flail his way out of this wretched slump to start the season.

Reyes refutes the notion he’s trying to do too much, which is often one of the first assumptions to explain a slump.

REYES: Not the same player. (AP)

REYES: Not the same player. (AP)

“When you try to do too much, it’s tough. You have to slow down a little bit and try to let it go. I don’t feel like I am trying to do too much. I am just trying to play my game,” Reyes said.

“My game.”

What exactly does that mean? Is it the style Reyes should be playing, which is to utilize his speed by being patient at the plate and hit the ball on the ground? Or is it the style he insists on playing, which is to hit the ball in the air and not worry about drawing walks or cutting his strikeouts?

For all his speed, Reyes has never been the prototypical leadoff hitter. He has always struck out too much, doesn’t walk and insists on hitting the ball in the air. Through 15 games he has 15 strikeouts and six walks with zero stolen bases. He’s hitting .094 with a .186 on-base percentage and has been dropped to seventh in the order.

The bottom line is for all his supposed physical skills, if Reyes isn’t leading off then he might as well not be in the lineup.

Wilmer Flores can play third base as well as Reyes, if not better. But, he’s off to a slow start, also, at .171. However, Flores’ main problem is he doesn’t play enough because Collins is married to the right-lefty dynamic and won’t give him the regular opportunity to hit right-handed pitching. Again, Flores will never hit right-handed pitching unless he’s given the opportunity.

Reyes’ problems are more complex and I offer several contributory explanations.

First, his mechanics are way off. He’s lunging at pitches he should take and is trying to hit everything in the air. He’s always had that style, but at 33 it is catching up to him. However, ten years ago he could get away with it because the Mets gave him free reign to do what he wanted at the plate. They did so because he gave them enough so they would settle.

Reyes will never be the work-the-count, slap-hitter, get on base and steal his way to third type of player. Reyes always wanted to play like Rickey Henderson, but he was never as good.

Now, it’s too late to transform, and I don’t think he has the discipline to try.

Secondly, I believe this slow start is weighing on him and he is trying to do too much. Reyes will get his money – the Colorado Rockies are paying it – but he could be thinking if it doesn’t work with the Mets this could be his last chance and what else does he know besides baseball?

Could Reyes’ slow start be partially explained by him being away from camp for the World Baseball Classic? This was an important year for Reyes and he could have used the work a full spring training provides.

Finally, and this hasn’t been mentioned in the mainstream media as a cause, but his double life – a mistress with a child and ensuing court case – has to be an emotional burden. Couple that with his domestic abuse suspension and he has a lot of toxic baggage.

Most teams would run away from Reyes, but the Mets aren’t because it isn’t costing them any significant money and they are desperate because they are afraid to go with Flores as David Wright’s replacement.

The only question is how long are they willing to play this charade?

Apr 19

Game Wrap: Bruce Hammers Phillies

First booed, and then the subject of trade rumors over the winter, Jay Bruce is now taking curtain calls.

“It shows how much respect they have for him,” manager Terry Collins said of the affection given Bruce.

BRUCE: Homers twice. (AP)

BRUCE: Homers twice. (AP)

After GM Sandy Alderson failed to deal Bruce this winter after extending Yoenis Cespedes, the frustrated Mets’ right fielder vowed he wasn’t intimidated by New York.

“He told me in spring training, `I’m the guy you traded for.’ He’s a run producer and we’re glad to have him,” Collins told reporters after Bruce’s monster game, two homers and five RBI in a 5-4 victory over the Phillies Wednesday night that snapped the Mets’ four-game losing streak.

“I don’t think any game in April is a must win, but we needed this one,” Bruce said.

Bruce’s first homer was a three-run drive off Vince Velasquez is the sixth inning to erase a 2-0 deficit. His second was a two-run drive off Edubray Ramos that broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth. Collins said prior to the game what had been missing during the Mets’ skid was power, but Bruce provided that tonight.

“We need to get it going,” Collins said. “This is something that could get us started.”

GSELLMAN ULTRA SHARP: The Mets had a chance to get it going because Robert Gsellman became their first starter to see the eighth inning this season.

“We talked before that he’s got to get us deep into to the game because our bullpen is exhausted,” Collins said.

Gsellman gave up three runs on six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in seven innings.

DUDA, d’ARNAUD HURT: First baseman Lucas Duda and catcher Travis d’Arnaud left the game with injuries and won’t play Thursday.

Duda sustained a hyperextended left elbow in the fifth inning when he reached across the baseline to field Gsellman’s throw and his arm caught runner Cesar Hernandez.

D’Arnaud was hurt two innings later when his hand struck Aaron Altherr’s bat on a throw to second.

REYES PLAYS: Despite a run-producing error and a dreadful hitting slump to start the season, Jose Reyes started as Collins promised.

“He deserves the chance to get a chance to turn things around,” Collins said. “He earned that right.”

CESPEDES BASE BLUNDER: Poor base running by Cespedes cost the Mets a run in the first inning. On first base, Cespedes took a peak over his shoulder running toward third instead of looking at the third base coach.

Doing so forced him to slow down a step and change his stride. When that happened, he had to look for the bag and missed coach Glenn Sherlock’s stop sign.

ROTATION WON’T CHANGE: There are no plans to push Thursday’s starter, Noah Syndergaard, back a day so he could start against the Nationals instead of the Phillies. It was thought Collins might push Syndergaard back after he tore a fingernail in his last start.

Apr 18

Game Wrap: Reyes’ Error, Bullpen Sinks Mets

It has been thought since spring training the Mets’ bullpen would always be their Achilles Heel that turned out to be the case in tonight’s 6-2 10-inning loss to the Phillies.

The Mets took a 2-1 lead in the first but didn’t score the rest of the night. The Mets only managed four hits all night. They went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position – Jay Bruce’s RBI single in the first – and stranded seven runners.

Meanwhile, the pen – not helped by Jose Reyes’ monumental error in the eighth – coughed up the lead, then caved in tenth with four runs against Rafael Montero.

“It’s frustrating because we’ve lost four in a row,” manager Terry Collins said. “We just didn’t make pitches when we needed to.”

ANOTHER STEP FOR WHEELER: Zack Wheeler’s pitch count remains too high for the number of innings he throws, but you can sense his progress. He gave up a run on four hits with seven strikeouts on 99 pitches spanning five innings.

Did Wheeler pitch well enough to win? Yes, if the offense had scored.

“I’ve been impressed with the way he’s handled things and kept up in the game,” Collins said.

INTERESTING LINEUP: Collins’ batting order bears watching, especially if Reyes continues to flounder. Michael Conforto started in center in place of Curtis Granderson and hit leadoff, with Reyes dropped to seventh.

With Reyes not getting on base or running, Conforto’s .417 on-base percentage is eye-popping, especially in comparison to Reyes’ .100 average and .182 on-base percentage.

Reyes doubled in four at-bats and committed a costly error in the eighth when he dropped Freddy Galvis’ pop-up.

The Phillies had runners on the corners after the error, but could have won the game in regulation had Galvis hustled and taken second.

Collins said he’ll stick with Reyes.

“He’s earned the right to get the chance to turn it around,” Collins said.