Jun 12

Cubs-Mets Is Opening Day II

Call Cubs-Mets Opening Day II.  The World Champion Cubs – something I never thought I’d write – are in tonight for a three-game series. After them, the Mets play the Nationals, Dodgers and Giants over a two-week stretch that will define their season.

The Mets are feeling good about themselves these days after winning three-of-four in Atlanta, and the returns of Steven Matz and Seth Lugo – who each worked seven strong in their starts – and Yoenis Cespedes, who ripped a pinch-hit grand slam.

CESPEDES: Mets need his bat. (AP)

CESPEDES: Mets need his bat. (AP)

“This is fun, you’re playing the world champs, you are playing arguably the best team in our division,” Collins said. “We’re a little healthier and having Ces back is big, but we’ve got to go pitch. It’s going to be a fun week. I just hope we go out and play well.”

In their last five games, Mets’ starters have given up three runs over 32.2 innings. However, none of those games include Jacob deGrom, tonight’s starter. DeGrom has given up 15 runs in his last two starts. We’re used to seeing deGrom give up 15 runs in a month of starts, and if he doesn’t get back to that form the Mets can forget about sniffing the playoffs this year.

The big series, of course, is the four-game set against the Nationals. If they sweep that, then the Mets trail by only six games. That’s entirely doable.

However, for that series to mean anything they have to take care of business against Chicago as they can’t afford to fall any further behind. The Mets are fortunate in that they are playing a listless Cubs’ team that is only .500 at 31-31.

“We went through that last year,” Collins said of the Cubs. “Going to the World Series really beats up your pitching and as a team, it takes a while to get that energy back.”

The Mets seemed energized against the Braves, and they can’t afford any letdowns the rest of the way. These next two weeks will determine what they do at the trade deadline and whether there will be a summer worth watching.

ON DECK: What’s Wrong With DeGrom?

 

Jun 12

Today’s Question: Which DeGrom Will We Get?

Jacob deGrom is the Mets’ unquestioned ace despite his sluggish start and even before Noah Syndergaard was injured. Where Syndergaard was determined to overpower hitters, deGrom could throw heat, yet set up the batter.

At least he could do it with greater consistency than Syndergaard.

DeGROM: Who will we get? (AP)

DeGROM: Who will we get? (AP)

In their last five starts – which does not include deGrom – Mets’ starters have given up three runs in 32.2 innings. In comparison, deGrom is coming off the worst start of the season, giving up eight runs in four innings. That wasn’t an aberration as he’s given up 15 runs in his last two starts.

“We have to fix Jake,” said manager Terry Collins. “We have to get him going.”

So, the question: What deGrom will we get? Will we get the guy who is 17-12 with a 2.17 ERA in 43 career starts at Citi Field or the pitcher who is 4-3 with a 4.75 ERA this season and 1-2 with a 5.31 ERA in four regular-season starts lifetime against the Cubs.

DeGrom has been susceptible to the long ball and already five times this year has given up multiple home runs. DeGrom is also walking more hitters than ever before, 30 in 70.2 innings. He’s had games of six walks and two where he issued five.

DeGrom said his problems have been mechanical, claiming his shoulder is flying open too soon and he’s throwing across his body.

 

Jun 11

Lugo Keeps Mets Rolling

You guys are too smart to believe the Mets are alive and well again after this weekend, but for the first time since early April, they are playing like the team we all hoped we would see.

And, the reason is the same as it was last season and the year before that – excellent starting pitching. Make that superb.

LUGO: Keeps Mets rolling. (AP)

LUGO: Keeps Mets rolling. (AP)

Seth Lugo came off the disabled list and gave up just one run in seven innings in today’s 2-1 victory in Atlanta. Yesterday, Robert Gsellman pitched 6.2 scoreless innings in the first game of a day-night doubleheader and Steve Matz gave up one run in seven innings in the nightcap.

And, in the only game they lost in the series, on Friday, Matt Harvey pitched five scoreless. The previous game, Wednesday in Texas, Zack Wheeler gave up one run in seven innings.

That’s three runs over 32.2 innings in the last five games.

“The starting pitching is getting where it needs to be,” manager Terry Collins said. “Now we have to get Jake (Jacob deGrom) back on track.”

The pitcher the Mets need to fix is deGrom, tomorrow’s starter against the Cubs, who gave up eight runs in four innings last Tuesday in Texas.

So, if the Mets are going to a six-man rotation, this is the way to go into that change, for as long as it lasts. It figures to last for the next two weeks, which can be defined as the turning point to this season.

The Mets return home for three games against the Cubs – struggling, but still the World Champions – four against the Nationals; then on the road for four at the Dodgers and three in San Francisco.

“The next 11 days are very big for us,” said Collins, overlooking the Giants. “If we’re going to get back into this we’re going to have to win.”

Gsellman and Lugo helped carry the Mets into the playoffs last year and will be asked to do the same this season, or at least give them a chance.

 

Jun 10

Perfect Day For Mets And Matz

Pitching and power were to be the formula to carry the Mets this season, and today felt like it was supposed to be.

Today’s 6-1, 8-1 sweep was fueled by pitching; strong efforts from Robert Gsellman and Steven Matz, that were backed by Mets power, a grand slam from Yoenis Cespedes and a three-run homer from Jay Bruce in the nightcap.

MATZ: Gives Mets seven strong. (AP)

MATZ: Gives Mets seven strong. (AP)

“This is what we thought we were going to get with the guys we thought we were going to have,” manager Terry Collins said.

The last time the Mets swept a doubleheader was June 18, 2013, when they showcased fire-ballers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, their arms of the future. However, the circumstances then differed greatly from today’s mauling today.

Four years ago, the Mets were a team on the rise; a team to be carried with their young pitching. Today, the Mets are a team fighting to keep open their window of opportunity.

Cespedes came off the disabled list, said he didn’t feel 100 percent, then hit a grand slam in the opener. However, today’s real storyline was Matz’s return in the nightcap after ten months on the disabled list.

Matz gave up one run on five hits and one walk with two strikeouts in seven innings. He accomplished that with just 98 pitches. Conversely, in his start Friday, Harvey threw over 100 pitches in five innings.

“His command of his stuff,” Collins said matter-of-factly about the key to Matz’s success.  “He’s around the plate. This is the kind of outing we were hoping we’d see.’’

Matz said he had nerves, but said he always gets them. He said he had to step back and collect himself.

“It feels good to get back out there and compete,” Matz said. “I was able to locate my fastball away. My command was there and I felt really locked in.”

In the opener, Gsellman threw 6.2 scoreless innings while giving up three hits. There has been some talk after this stretch of 18 games in 17 that Gsellman might go to the bullpen, but today’s outing might give pause to that thinking.

While we’re at it, we should give pause to the thinking things will be all right now that Cespedes is back.

“I feel good, but I don’t know that I can run at 100 percent at this point,” Cespedes told reporters prior to the game.

So, why did GM Sandy Alderson activate him? Cespedes didn’t play in the nightcap and may not play Sunday, but could return Monday against the Cubs.

Alderson risked Cespedes for what he got today, the game-icing slam. But, if he can’t run, won’t he cost the Mets in the long run? His failure to advance from second to third on a fly ball could have cost the Mets.

It didn’t, and Collins matter-of-factly said the Mets would protect him, but it the player himself said he’s not 100 percent, then it could be only a matter of time before Cespedes pulls his hamstring again.

As for Matz’s return, he looked sharp and threw free and easy.  There never seemed a question that the Mets took their time to protect Matz.

I can’t imagine them starting Matz if he said his elbow was barking, so, why would they start Cespedes if he says he can’t run 100 percent?

 

Jun 10

Harvey’s Five Not Enough

Matt Harvey pitched well tonight for the Mets, but are you completely convinced he’s back. Or at least good enough the Mets to think they can rely on him every fifth or sixth day.

HARVEY: Five-inning man. (AP)

HARVEY: Five-inning man. (AP)

Harvey pitched five scoreless innings and issued only two walks and four hits. However, he threw 104 pitches in those five innings, which says he labored. For that many pitches, he needs to go seven innings.

I mean, that’s what Harvey would have done in 2013 or 2015.

It looks as if Harvey has been reduced to being a five-inning pitcher, which really isn’t acceptable on this level. It means the Mets must go into their bullpen for four innings.

That many pitches say his command if off and an inability to put hitters away. It also suggests he hasn’t fully recovered from his thoracic shoulder surgery.

So, from here on out, the Mets have to go into every Harvey start thinking five innings from him and four from the bullpen. With that thinking manager Terry Collins will have to go into the surrounding starts thinking more innings from the starters to preserve the bullpen.

Even so, defense cost the Mets tonight in the ninth. Dansby Swanson’s double was the epitome of hustle, and lack of it from center fielder Curtis Granderson, who played it casually.

It was ninth inning in a tie game. That’s when defense should be at a premium. That calls for Juan Lagares, and that’s on Collins.

The Mets might have been better off with Jose Reyes at shortstop instead of Asdrubal Cabrera because of range. The positioning of Cabrera more to the bag instead of toward the hole might have cost them on Rio Ruiz’s game-winning single to left.

As it was, Cabrera had no chance at the ball, but it makes one think the shortstop defense – especially in the later innings – needs to be re-evaluated.

With the season slipping away, a lot of things must be re-evaluated.