May 17

Murphy Didn’t Leave; He Was Pushed Away

Regardless of what happens this week, you should cheer Washington’s Daniel Murphy every chance you get, just the way he was honored tonight. Make no mistake, although the Mets honored Murphy before the game with this video tribute, he is Washington’s now because he was pushed away. (NOTE:  You must scroll down to load the video).

MURPHY: Gets cheered in return. (Getty)

MURPHY: Gets cheered in return. (Getty)

The Mets made Murphy a $15.8-million qualifying offer which he crushed much like all those home runs during last year’s playoffs. Murphy was a lifelong Met and wanted to stay here, but the Mets made it clear they didn’t want him. That’s why he’ll be coming out of the third base dugout.

A qualifying offer is much like getting a sympathy kiss on a date. Hell, if your heart isn’t in it, then why bother? The Mets extended that offer just to cover all their bases.

While their open flirtation with Ben Zobrist after the playoffs was obvious they wanted to move on, the Mets also made clear their intentions when they shopped him the previous winter. They also made it clear they preferred another when they squawked about his defense in left field and when he first started playing second, and that he didn’t have the power to play first.

The Mets stuck with Murphy simply because they didn’t want to spend the money in the free-agent market. Not insignificantly, money might have played a part in the Mets letting him walk away because it enabled them to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. But, it is an oversimplification to say it was Murphy or Cespedes because the latter was close to signing with the Nationals.

Frankly, the Mets were lucky they were able to trade for Neil Walker. They were further lucky in that it only cost Jon Niese.

Murphy wasn’t great on defense – especially in the outfield – but worked hard and made himself into a decent second baseman. Yes, he had his lapses in the field and on the bases, although his first-to-third sprint in the playoffs was as heads-up a play the Mets have had in years. And, yes, he’s not a power hitter in the classical sense.

However, I liked watching him play because he always hustled and played hard. I liked watching him because unlike a lot of players who passed through Flushing, he loved being a Met and he wanted to be here.

Murphy was unfairly criticized in the press for how he played and even his political views, but he loved playing for you folks.

If nothing else, no matter if he rakes or not this week, he deserves your cheers and appreciation. The crowd got it right tonight.

 

May 17

May 17, Mets-Nats Lineups (Updated)

NOTE: Tonight’s Mets’ lineup has been updated to reflect David Wright being scratched. He was originally scheduled to bat second.

Well, it’s here. What we’ve all been waiting for this spring is a few hours away at Citi Field when the Mets host the Nationals. It is the first of 19 games between the teams, which figure to battle for NL East supremacy this summer unless the Phillies prove to be no fluke.

Tonight we’ll see a classic pitching duel between the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard and Washington’s Max Scherzer, the latter who is coming off a 20-strikeout performance in his last start. Of course, Syndergaard has the stuff to reach that plateau some day.

The game will also feature the return of Mets’ 2015 postseason hero Daniel Murphy back to New York and the inevitable question of whether New York will pitch to Nationals’ MVP outfielder Bryce Harper.

Lucas Duda is not playing for the Mets because of a sore lower back.

Here are the lineups for both teams:

Mets

Curtis Granderson, RF

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Michael Conforto, LF

Yoenis Cespedes, CF

Neil Walker, 2B

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Kevin Plawecki, C

Eric Campbell, 1B

Syndergaard, RP

Matt Reynolds, 3B

Nationals

Ben Revere,  CF

Jayson Werth, LF

Harper, RF

Murphy, 2B

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B

Anthony Rendon, 3B

Wilson Ramos, C

Danny Espinosa, SS

Scherzer, RP

ON DECK: Murphy deserves your cheers this week.

May 16

Mets Should Skip Matz Against Nats

Steven Matz’s sore left forearm will be examined today, if it hasn’t already, at The Hospital of Special Surgery. If he gets a good review, he’ll throw off the mound Tuesday and possibly pitch Wednesday or Thursday.

I’m guessing Wednesday, because unless there is something wrong with him, I don’t see manager Terry Collins bumping Matt Harvey. Harvey is a basket case now and there’s no telling what demons would pop into his head if he’s skipped against the Nationals. If anything, after Harvey’s last start, he must get back on the mound. The last thing the Mets need with Harvey is for him to think more than he’s already doing.

MATZ: No need to rush. (AP)

MATZ: No need to rush. (AP)

I don’t see the urgency for Collins to juggle his rotation for the Washington series, regardless of what happened in Denver. The Mets are 1.5 games out of first place, and even if Washington sweeps them that leaves them 4.5 games behind with 16 games remaining against the Nationals to be played over 121 games with over four months to go in the season.

There’s plenty of time.

Frankly, juggling the rotation for one Matz start against Washington smacks of panic. The Mets had a plan with their pitching that until the weekend had them in first place, so there’s no reason to deviate now. Although Colon and Harvey were hit hard in their last starts, the problem is the offense.

The Mets are coming off a 4-7 trip, including being swept in Colorado. They scored 32 runs during the 11 games (2.9 average per game), and scored less than three runs six times. They were shutout twice.

They are playing poorly and this isn’t the best time to face the Nationals regardless of whom the Mets start. This series won’t make or break the season, but that’s the impression the Mets are giving by pushing Matz. If this is that crucial a series they should have skipped Jacob deGrom Sunday, or bring him back on three days rest.

If you recall, Harvey’s problem first stemmed with a sore forearm he tried to pitch through. The best option would be to continue with Colon and Harvey, skip Matz and go through the rotation one more time before going with him. They should put Matz on the disabled list, backdated to May 11, the day after his last start, and re-insert him into the rotation on May 25, which coincidentally enough, is at Washington.

The Mets played short since Matz’s injury, and putting him on the disabled list would enable them to add a bench player, preferably, one who can hit.

Matz needs to rest and take his time with this. The Mets don’t need Matz this week, they need to score some runs.

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May 15

Mets Wrap: Don’t Blame Umps For Last Two Losses

LAGARES: Out of the baseline. Maybe. (AP)

LAGARES: Out of the baseline. Maybe. (AP)

Controversial calls factored in the Mets’ losses today and Saturday, but to be clear, they did not decide the outcome either game.

I’m not sure Juan Lagares ran out of the baseline today, but I am positive Tony Wolters did not foul tip that pitch Saturday. I’m also positive I don’t care for manager Terry Collins’ explanation both times.

“Look [second base umpire Rob Drake] made the call,’’ Collins meekly told reporters. “Doesn’t matter what it’s going to do, you don’t challenge it. So it’s over, let’s go, move on.’’

All fire Saturday, that answer portrayed Collins as defeated today. The Mets seemed defeated mentally after Collins left the field.

All right, the play is not reviewable, but Collins never said he asked the umpire – on either night – to ask for help. If he did, he should have made a big stink about the arrogance of umpires who refuse to ask for a second opinion.

There’s no crying in baseball, as so goes the cliché from the movie. That should include the SNY analysts. The Mets didn’t lose either game because of bad calls, they lost because they didn’t play well, either night.

Rockies pitchers threw 126 pitches Sunday, which means the Mets had 126 potential opportunities to make plays. They also were 2-for-6 with RISP with six runners left on base.

Those numbers were 145 pitches on Saturday, going 3-for-11 with RISP and eight stranded.

Collins likes to say the Mets are a “team built on power.’’ If that is the case, and it appears to be, then they are constructed poorly.

Everybody loves homers, but the Mets’ numbers hitting with RISP and leaving runners on base aren’t good. As a team, they are hitting .212 with RISP, and leave an average of seven runners on base and strike out nine times a game.

Your pitching has to be pretty good to overcome that, and frankly, it hasn’t been.

Jacob deGrom pitched well enough to win most games, but said he missed on several pitches, notably on Carlos Gonzalez’s homer in the sixth.

Reliever Jim Henderson, who has been spotless for much of the season, gave up a two-run homer in the seventh.

Those two pitches hurt the Mets more than the Lagares call, and even with those pitches, they had their chances.

The bottom line is winning teams take advantage of opportunities and the Mets aren’t playing well right now.

“It was a long trip, a terrible finish to it,’’ Collins said. “We’ll pick up the pieces. We’ve got a long, long, long way to go.’’

METS GAME WRAP

May 15, 2016

Game: #37           Score: Rockies 4, Mets 3

Record: 21-16     Streak: L 4

Standings: Third, NL East 1.5 GB Nationals; half-game behind Phillies  Playoffs Today: Second WC vs. Philadelphia

Runs: 146     Average: 3.9    Times 3 or less: 16

SUMMARY:  DeGrom wasn’t great, but pitched well enough to win most games, which he might have done had he gotten support from his offense and bullpen.

KEY MOMENT:  Ryan Raburn’s two-run, pinch-hit homer off Henderson in the seventh. Perhaps, Collins pulling deGrom after just 102 pitches moments before might be that moment. Your choice.

THUMBS UP:  DeGrom gave the Mets a chance to win. … Yoenis Cespedes homered in the second. … Washington and Philadelphia also lost.

THUMBS DOWN:  Alejandro De Aza and Asdrubal Cabrera went a combined 1-for-8 with no walks and four strikeouts at the top of the order. … Henderson’s pitch to Raburn.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Collins said Steven Matz will throw Monday and could still pitch during the Washington series. … David Wright appeared as a pinch-hitter and made the last out of the game.

QUOTEBOOK:  “I’m still not feeling very comfortable on the mound,’’ – DeGrom on his pitching.

BY THE NUMBERS:  32: Runs scored by the Mets during the 11-game trip.

NEXT FOR METS:  Noah Syndergaard (3-2, 2.53 ERA) starts against Washington on Tuesday night. He is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in three career starts against the Nationals.

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May 14

Mets Wrap: Struggles Continue; Drop Into Third

It would happen eventually with the Mets, that their vaunted offense would sputter and couldn’t be carried by their pitching.

COLLINS: Bad call costs Mets. (AP)

COLLINS: Bad call costs Mets. (AP)

Logan Verrett, starting in place of Steven Matz, was shelled, and for the third straight game the offense provided little. Together it added up to a 7-4 loss Saturday night to the Colorado Rockies.

The loss, coupled with Philadelphia beating Cincinnati, dropped the Mets into third behind the Phillies. That’s third behind the Phillies.

The Mets were eight games over .500 when they began their season-long 11-game road trip. They close it out Sunday having already lost six games.

Manager Terry Collins insists on saying he has a power-hitting team, but they’ve only scored 29 runs in the ten games so far on this trip and scored three runs or less six times. Add to that Matt Harvey falling deeper into his funk; Matz is ailing; and Bartolo Colon was shelled in his last start.

Jacob deGrom hopes to put the brakes on this slide before the Mets return home to face Washington.

METS GAME WRAP

May 14, 2016

Game: #36   Score: Rockies 7, Mets 4

Record: 21-15  Streak: L 3

Standings: Third, NL East 1.5 GB Nationals and half-game behind Philadelphia   Playoffs Today: Second WC vs. Philadelphia

Runs: 143 Average: 3.97  Times 3 runs or less: 15

SUMMARY: Verrett was hammered, but by the time the offense showed signs of life in the sixth the hole was too deep.

KEY MOMENT:  Catcher Tony Wolters’ two-run double in the third broke the game open. The double came after a controversial call by home plate umpire Carlos Torres that resulted in Collins being ejected. Torres said the ball was tipped, but replays didn’t show it that way.

THUMBS UP: Neil Walker broke out of his slump with three hits, including getting back his home run trot (No. 10). … The Mets had 13 hits, including bunching four together in the sixth. … Another good appearance by Sean Gilmartin. … Ditto for Jim Henderson. … Two hits by David Wright, including a hustle double leading off the seventh.

THUMBS DOWN: Verrett gave up seven runs on ten hits in 2.2 innings. … Mets went 3-for-11 with RISP and left eight. … Only one walk? Hard to believe.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Matz might not throw tomorrow. The Mets haven’t said if he’s in or out of the Washington series. … DeGrom is 2-0 lifetime against the Rockies. … Wright could sit Sunday. There’s talk the Mets should drop Wright in the order, but his on-base percentage is a team-high .376.

QUOTEBOOK: “It’s unfair. No reason for it. [The hitter] was heading back to the dugout. [The umpire] said he heard it. You can’t challenge it. … It cost us the game. End of story.” – Collins on the blown call by umpire Torres.

BY THE NUMBERS: 43: Number of at-bats between homers for Walker. 

NEXT FOR METS:  DeGrom starts Sunday.

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