Jul 02

Mets Lose, But Montero Gives Encouraging Effort

C’mon, you really didn’t think Rafael Montero would be solid four games in a row, did you? Probably the Mets didn’t think he would, either. However, it wasn’t a total loss for Montero despite the Mets losing, 7-1, today to the Phillies.

MONTERO: Helps save bullpen. (AP)

MONTERO: Helps save bullpen. (AP)

The Phillies got to Montero for four runs in the second, but he hung around and took the Mets into the seventh. In the big picture, Montero’s 6.1 innings – coming on the heels of Zack Wheeler’s cameo appearance yesterday – helped save the bullpen with the Nationals series coming up.

“That was it,’’ manager Terry Collins said of the second. “He had a bad inning. After that, he kept attacking the zone. He kept us right there. … I trust him because he’s throwing strikes.’’

Montero gave the Mets a chance to win, which is all you can expect from a relatively inexperienced pitcher.

Command has always been a problem from Montero, but he only walked two hitters – consecutive batters in the sixth – which enabled him to work into the seventh. Montero gave up four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts.

In previous games, Montero’s problems would escalate, but today he regrouped after the second to give the Mets more than they could have expected.

“It would have been easy for him to throw up his hands and feel sorry for himself,’’ Collins said. “But, he bore down and kept us in the game.’’

However, the Mets managed one hit against rookie Nick Pivetta.

GRANDERSON SITS: The red-hot Curtis Granderson didn’t play because of tightness in his left hip. Granderson was originally in the starting lineup but was scratched after complaining of a tight hip.

“He tried to hit, but couldn’t,’’ Collins said, leading to speculation he might not be available to face Stephan Strasburg Monday in Washington.

CESPEDES COLD: If Granderson hadn’t come up lame, today would have been a good day to rest Yoenis Cespedes, who is on a 3-for-21 slide.

Cespedes has looked overmatched – if not tired – at the plate and has been chasing pitches low-and-away.

“He’s human,’’ Collins said of Cespedes’ struggles. “Everybody who has ever played this game is going to have [bad days]. Yoenis Cespedes will turn it around. He’s too good a player.’’

NATIONALS NEXT: This is probably as good a time as any to face the Nationals. Trea Turner is out indefinitely with a broken wrist and their bullpen has blown 13 save opportunities. The Mets also catch a break in not facing Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez.

Jul 01

Wheeler Needs To Step It Up

It’s now three early exits in a row for the Mets’ Zack Wheeler. Because today’s came in his first start coming off the disabled list, he’ll get a pass along with a no-decision in the Mets’ 7-6 victory over the Phillies.

Wheeler lasted 3.2 innings – two runs on two hits and two walks – but in that time threw 82 pitches, of which 47 were strikes. The two walks came after his own error.

WHEELER:  No pain in return from DL. (AP)

WHEELER: No pain in return from DL. (AP)

“Physically felt fine,’’ Wheeler told reporters in answering the most important question. “I struggled a little bit, of course, but I feel like I’m on the right track. I feel a little better mechanically and stuff like that.’’

Manager Terry Collins said Wheeler’s ceiling was for 90 pitches, which should be good enough for seven innings. Collins said 3.2 innings won’t cut it.

“We’ve got to get him through those [innings],’’ Collins said. “We’ve got to get him over that hump, where something like that [error] happens, we’ve got to get out of that inning right now.

“Obviously, due to the fact he hadn’t pitched for a while, he might have been a tad fatigued.’’

With the victory, the Mets have won seven of their last eight games to move to four games under .500. With the Nationals losing to St. Louis, the Mets are 8.5 games behind.  If the Mets win Sunday, they’ll be three games under .500 when they go to Washington for the start of a three-game series.

If the Mets do what they hope in Washington, they’ll officially be in a pennant race, and they’ll need Wheeler to pitch the way he did prior to his two disastrous starts – 15 runs and 3.2 total innings – before going on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis.

He knows what’s at stake.

“I wasn’t sharp before [the DL],’’ Wheeler said. “It’s three bad starts in a row and I have to pick it up. Like I said, I think I’m on the right direction right now. It really didn’t show today, but personally, I feel like I’m in the right direction. Hopefully next start I can turn it around.’’

Jun 30

DeGrom Aces Phillies

There can be no doubt if the Mets are to salvage their season, if not make a run, they’ll need more of the same from Jacob deGrom, who pitched like the ace he is in keeping his team hot.

The Mets have now won six of their last seven games tonight in beating the Phillies, 2-1, at Citi Field, to pull within five games of .500.

De GROM: Aces Phillies. (AP)

De GROM: Aces Phillies. (AP)

“Going into LA was a wake-up call for us,’’ deGrom said. “We got our teeth kicked in. We know we had to play better. If we’re going to do it, we’re running out of time.”

Getting going means beating the teams you’re supposed to, which includes the Giants and Phillies.

This still could turn into a “trap series,’’ if the Mets stumble the next two days, but deGrom wouldn’t let that happen tonight. DeGrom had to be dog tired as the Mets’ flight from Miami didn’t land in New York until after 4:30 a.m.

DeGrom has turned things around since back-to-back starts when he gave up 15 runs. Since then, he’s gone 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA, walking only eight but with 31 strikeouts.

“He’s in a groove for sure,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’s such a competitor. He won’t give in and throw one over the middle.’’

DeGrom’s fastball was superb tonight, but he also commanded his secondary pitches well, particularly his slider early in the game and his change-up in the later innings.

DeGrom, who had worked at least eight innings in his last three starts, worked seven innings and gave up one run on three hits and one walk. DeGrom, who had a string of double-digit strikeout games earlier this year, but not recently, struck out 12, which contributed to his higher than normal pitch count of 111. It is the sixth time this year he struck out at least ten.

“I was able to throw it tonight when I needed to and where I needed to,’’ deGrom said of his change-up. “My fastball command was good tonight. I was able to control it on both sides of the plate. Everything worked off the fastball tonight.’’

STILL NO CONFORTO: Today is Day Five without Michael Conforto and he’s still not close to coming back after being struck on his left wrist by a pitch last Sunday in San Francisco.

And yet, the Mets refuse to put him on the 10-day disabled list and continue to play shorthanded.

The only reason I can come up with is the Mets are reluctant to pay the major league salary to whoever would come up from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace him, even if it is only for ten days.

That’s speculation on my part, but would anybody really be surprised?

“There’s no break,’’ Collins said. “It’s the bone bruise that is causing him problems. He tried to swing the bat today and he had trouble.’’

CESPEDES SLUMPING: One of the ramifications of not having Conforto available is not being able to rest Yoenis Cespedes, who, with a broken-bat single in the eighth has four hits in his last 24 at-bats.

Of course, would it kill the Mets to start Brandon Nimmo for a game?

THINKING ABOUT COLON: The Mets are kicking the tires on bringing back Bartolo Colon, who was designated for assignment by the Braves.

Atlanta has ten days to either trade, release outright or assign him to the minor leagues (won’t happen). After which, the player becomes a free agent.

“He’s still a member of the Braves,’’ GM Sandy Alderson said when asked about Colon.

EXTRA INNINGS: Lucas Duda is still weakened with flu-like symptoms and was a late scratch. … Addison Reed has converted save opportunities in the last two games. … Curtis Granderson singled to extend his hitting streak to nine games. … Zack Wheeler will come off the disabled list and start Saturday.

 

Jun 30

Mets Beware Of Trap Series

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression of a “trap series,’’ and the Mets are cruising into one this weekend at home against the Phillies, owners of the worst record in the sport.

DE GROM: Needs to keep things rolling.  (AP)

DE GROM: Needs to keep things rolling. (AP)

Sandwiched between the end of a road trip they closed by winning five of six games and a three-game series in Washington, the Mets could be in a precarious situation should they take the Phillies lightly.

After being swept in a four-game series in Los Angeles, the Mets were staring into the abyss. Instead, they swept the Giants – it still counts in the standings – and won two of three in Miami, a place where they traditionally have trouble.

Seth Lugo pitched brilliantly for six innings last night and the Mets have Jacob deGrom going tonight.

“We’re hoping our pitching is starting to fall in place right now,’’ Collins said Thursday in Miami. “And if it does, we’ve got an exciting second half ahead of us.’’

If the Mets sweep the Phillies, they then travel to Washington, whom they trail by 10.5 games. They made up wild-card ground this last week and trail Colorado by 9.5 games for the second wild card. They open the second half with three games against the Rockies at Citi Field.

However, to catch the Rockies they must first leapfrog the Cardinals, whom they play seven times over the next two weeks.

That’s a lot of looking ahead, and sometimes when you look too far ahead you miss what’s right in front of your face. And, we’ve seen this before from the Mets. Just when they start feeling good about themselves they walk into the door.

Jay Bruce said last night the Mets haven’t been consistent, and “we need to play great baseball’’ if they are to have a chance.

The Mets said all the right things. Yes, the Mets talk a good game. Now they have to play a good game. Beginning tonight.

Jun 29

Mets Wrap: Bruce, Lugo Beat Fish To Salvage Trip

The way things started on this road trip by being pummeled four straight in Los Angeles, the Mets stared at the end of their season.

However, after Seth Lugo and Jay Bruce combined to beat the Marlins, 6-3, tonight they have now won five of their last six games. They are still miles behind the Nationals, but went from ten games under .500 after the Dodgers’ series to six games under heading into a three-game series against Philadelphia tomorrow at home.

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

Should they sweep the Phillies, entering the All-Star break at .500 is possible. That’s something most of us couldn’t imagine a few weeks ago.

“I thought we played very well [following the series in Los Angeles],’’ manager Terry Collins said. “It showed we won’t back down. … We have to continue to play well. We have to continue to pitch. If we keep pitching it could be an exciting second half.’’

Bruce wasn’t biting on the notion the Mets turned their season around. He was being a realist.

“We still have a lot of work to do,’’ Bruce said. “We have to play great baseball. We have to be consistent with our approach and mindset. We know the talent that we have, and we know what we have to do.’’

The Mets close the first half with three games each in Washington and St. Louis, two clubs that traditionally have bullied them.

On the positive, the Nationals bullpen is suspect after blowing another ninth-inning lead against the Cubs and losing Trea Turner indefinitely with a broken wrist. The Cardinals have been inconsistent this year, but have won four of their last five games to pull within 3.5 games of Milwaukee.

The Mets open the second half with a ten-game homestand against the suddenly slumping Rockies, Cardinals and Oakland. They close the month with four games at San Diego and three in Seattle.

BRUCE MERITS ALL-STAR CONSIDERATION: Bruce is ranked 13th in the fan voting for National League outfielders, but his statistics dictate he should be much higher and deserves a spot on the All-Star team.

Wouldn’t that be wild? The player Sandy Alderson was practically begging teams to take him off his hands could represent the Mets in Miami.

Bruce was a force in the Mets’ victory over the Marlins tonight going 2-for-3 with two RBI (he has 54) and two runs scored. Overall, he’s hitting .270 with 20 homers (tied for third).

Quite simply, Bruce is playing the way the Mets envisioned when they traded for him last year at the deadline. Bruce pressed trying to make a good impression, but had a strong last two weeks in helping the Mets clinch a wild card.

The Mets re-signed him as a hedge to losing Yoenis Cespedes, but after they extended the latter, they made it clear they wanted to trade Bruce.

However, Alderson’s public desire to trade Bruce lessened his value and he opened the season as the starting right fielder.

With injuries to Cespedes, David Wright, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, Bruce literally carried the Mets in the first half. While the Mets floundered for much of June, Bruce hit .299 with eight homers and 17 RBI and a .346 on-base percentage and .934 OPS.

Bruce could go based on every team needing one representative. However, based on that premise, tomorrow’s starter, Jacob deGrom (7-3) might go.

DeGrom has been lights out in winning his last three starts – going at least eight innings in each – following those two dreadful games in which he gave up 15 runs. During his winning streak he’s given up just three runs over 25 innings.

LUGO TREMENDOUS: You wouldn’t expect Seth Lugo to be listed with Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, but he joined those two pitching icons by winning his sixth straight road decision.

For his second straight start, Lugo struggled in the sixth, but he made it out of the inning to close his line at three runs on six hits and importantly, only one walk.

“I think everything was there,’’ Lugo said. “What I’d like to improve on is going deeper into games.’’