Apr 29

Will Alderson Ever Say, `Conforto Needs To Play?’

After Michael Conforto‘s second homer today, the cynic in me couldn’t help but wonder, how will GM Sandy Alderson now try to limit his playing time? That is, of course, if Yoenis Cespedes is able to come back sooner than originally anticipated.

CONFORTO: Celebrating long ball. (AP)

CONFORTO: Celebrating long ball. (AP)

When Cespedes injured his hamstring Thursday and placed on the disabled list the following day, original reports indicated a serious injury, but today Alderson called it “mild.” Yeah, I’m buying into that diagnosis big time.

After opening the season on the bench following a hot spring, Conforto responded to his limited playing time until when the Mets’ anemic hitting forced manager Terry Collins to start him. The player last year Collins said would be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future.

That is until he went 0-for-5 a year ago Monday against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner that sent him into a downward spiral. From there, Conforto rode the Flushing-Vegas shuttle for much of last season, and when spring training started after Alderson re-signed Cespedes and was unable to trade Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson, conventional thinking had him opening in the minors.

However, Conforto kept hitting, first as a pinch-hitter and role player, until he broke into the starting lineup as a starter on April 20. Most recently he replaced Jose Reyes at the top of the order roughly a week ago. Since starting full time, Conforto has gone 11-for-30 with four homers and six RBI, and overall is batting .298 with a .386 on-base percentage, six homers and 12 RBI.

“Michael had a huge day for us and we needed it,” Collins said, “I have to salute him. When you’re not in the lineup every day you have to make the most of it. … He’s done a tremendous job in the leadoff spot. Just tremendous.”

Conforto hit a two-run homer in the fifth and solo homer in the eighth, the latter coming off lefty reliever Enny Romero. Conforto isn’t cocky, but he’s definitely not short of confidence. Despite what Alderson and Collins might worry about, Conforto has no double about his ability to hit left-handers, which is what it is going to take to stay in the lineup when Cespedes returns.

“Huge,” Conforto said when asked what kind of lift his homer off Romero gave him. “I’ve always felt I could hit lefties. No matter who is out there, I feel I can hit them. … As long as I put the work in, everything will take care of itself. I worry about what I can control and not worry about the other stuff.”

Conforto and Collins said all the right things today. What’s next would be for Alderson to finally say, “the kid has to play.”

Apr 29

Today’s Question: Can Wheeler Encore DeGrom’s Effort?

Jacob deGrom pitched like an ace last night to ease the Mets’ hemorrhaging. Today’s question is obvious: Can Zack Wheeler duplicate that effort?

WHEELER: Pressure start for him. (AP)

WHEELER: Pressure start for him. (AP)

Wheeler is 1-2 after missing the last two years following Tommy John surgery. It’s not a great record, but he is coming off a strong seven-inning performance last weekend against Washington. Wheeler gave up four runs on four hits with six strikeouts while throwing 101 pitches.

After the Mets’ 7-5 victory Friday night, to keep the momentum going they need to win at least twice in this series and preferably sweep. If they lose the next two they’ll trail the Nationals by 8.5 games. There’s plenty of time to make that up, but two losses would mean giving away the momentum created by deGrom.

The Mets have long waited for their dream five-man rotation of Noah Syndergaard, deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Wheeler to dominate. However, the five have never gone one cycle in that rotation. That might not come until next year as when Matz is ready to come off the disabled list, Wheeler’s innings limit might sit him.

Apr 28

Mets Wrap: D’Arnaud, deGrom Combine To Defeat Nats

The Mets have long waited for Travis d’Arnaud to flex his muscles. He did so Friday night when he crushed two 420-foot-plus homers in a career-high five-RBI night to carry the Mets to a 7-5 badly-needed victory over the Nationals.

“We’ve seen him swing the bat, so we know what he can do,” manager Terry Collins said.

D'ARNAUD: Powers Mets with two homers. (AP)

D’ARNAUD: Powers Mets with two homers. (AP)

D’Arnaud was facing Max Scherzer, who usually has his way against the Mets. Not what you’re looking for if you are to break out.

“I knew it was going to be tough against Scherzer,” d’Arnaud said. “I wanted to keep things as simple as I could.”

What’s more basic than a two-run homer in the second and a three-run blast in the fourth?

You might answer by saying have one of your stud pitchers gut out seven innings. That’s what Jacob deGrom did to earn his first victory of the season.

DeGrom, after Matt Harvey faltered in his last start and the uncertainty surrounding Noah Syndergaard, needed a big effort and was all grit in striking out 12 and giving up three runs in seven innings. It was the third straight game in which he struck out at least ten hitters.

If there was a moment of decision for deGrom, it came in the second. After being given a two-run lead on d’Arnaud’s homer in the top of the inning, deGrom coughed up the lead on a solo homer by Ryan Zimmerman and two-run drive by Matt Wieters.

After the inning deGrom stormed up the runway from the dugout to avoid what the cameras might capture.

“I need to put up a zero there,” deGrom said. “I can’t be doing that. After that, my goal was to continue to put up zeroes.”

DeGrom did that, including striking out Bryce Harper with a runner on base to end the fifth.

SYNDERGAARD TO START: Desperate for some positive news of any kind, the Mets hope they got some after Syndergaard said he felt great and expects to start Sunday at Washington.

Syndergaard missed his last start Wednesday against Atlanta with what the Mets called biceps tendinitis. There has been considerable speculation – including here – that Syndergaard would be placed on the disabled list and Sean Gilmartin would start Sunday.

“I should have started yesterday,” Syndergaard said prior to Friday’s game.

RIVERA SURFACES: Almost lost with Travis d’Arnaud’s muscles and deGrom’s grit, is T.J. Rivera, the former minor league batting champion, got a start at first base and contributed three hits and scored three runs.

The unconventional start of Rivera at first base sent Jay Bruce back to right field and Juan Lagares to the bench.

Rivera will undoubtedly start at first Saturday and could stay there until Lucas Duda returns from the disabled list.

 

Apr 28

Collins’ Gamble With Edgin Saves Mets

For one night, at least, the Mets answered manager Terry Collins’ desperate plea for energy, and for somebody – anybody – in their shell-shocked clubhouse to step up to stop the bleeding.

The sense of urgency suffocating the Mets, who entered with a six-game losing streak, was overcome for one night at least by Travis d’Arnaud and starter Jacob deGrom, reserve infielder T.J. Rivera and lefty reliever Josh Edgin, who all responded in a clutch way in a dramatic 7-5 victory over the Nationals.

EDGIN, D'ARNAUD CELEBRATE

EDGIN, D’ARNAUD CELEBRATE

“It was big win against a great ball club,” said d’Arnaud. “This was something we needed.”

However, what they need now is to build on tonight’s effort, as this is not enough. They have two more games in DC, and while sweeping is the ultimate goal they have to win at least one more to not give back this momentum.

Collins asks a lot of his players, but tonight he reached within himself to make the unconventional call that might springboard his team.

The Nationals loaded the bases against closer Jeurys Familia and had one out when Collins went to Edgin against Bryce Harper. Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon were to follow, and the Mets were staring at seven straight losses.

Collins wasn’t worried about bruising Familia’s tender ego and went with his gut.

“If we had won seven in a row, I would have left [Familia] out there,” admitted Collins. “But lefties have had success against Jeurys in the past. [Pitching to Harper] was a bad match-up for me. I didn’t like the way he looked tonight so I went with Edgin.”

The lefty specialist got Harper to ground back to the mound for a 1-2-3, game-ending double play. Nobody knows how the season will unfold, but as of now that was the play of the first month.

“I’m glad he did,” Edgin said when asked about Collins’ confidence in him. “But, whether it is the sixth inning or the ninth, the objective is the same.”

After a slight pause, Edgin added, “but there’s more pressure in the ninth.”

And for the Mets, there was more pressure than to just win a game. There was pressure to possibly save a season.

 

Apr 28

Mets To Make Alamo Stand In DC

The setting for this series should be in San Antonio, home of the Alamo. That’s appropriate for the Mets, as they are about to make perhaps their last stand for the 2017 season.

The Mets enter this three-game series losers of six straight and 10 of their last 11 games; they are in last place 7.5 games behind.

DeGROM: Makes huge start tonight. (AP)

DeGROM: Makes huge start tonight. (AP)

Jose Reyes said it best about this series, saying, “we’ll see what we’re made of … we can’t too deep into the standings.’’

Should the Mets be swept by the Nationals as they were last weekend at Citi Field, they will limp into May 10.5 behind.

And, let us not forget their roster on the disabled list that could expand by Yoenis Cespedes and Noah Syndergaard.

Cespedes had an MRI and the Mets put him on the disabled list today. The Mets hope Syndergaard will be available to start Sunday, but hoping isn’t much of a strategy.

The Mets are in a two-week long hitting funk and it will be hard-pressed for them to escape against Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

The Mets start Jacob deGrom tonight in what arguably could be call one of the five most important starts of his career. Raw, but promising Zack Wheeler goes Saturday and Sunday is up in the air. In anticipation of putting Syndergaard on the disabled list, the Mets recalled lefty Sean Gilmartin today.

Without the long ball, the Mets’ chances to win get longer. Twice during their losing stretch, manager Terry Collins said they needed to manufacture runs.

That lack of situational hitting has been a staple during GM Sandy Alderson’s tenure.

Alderson wanted to bury Michael Conforto on the bench, but he’s been forced to play because of injuries and the overall ineptness of the offense.

He’ll leadoff tonight. He’s a line drive hitter with decent speed, but don’t look for him to steal a game on the bases.

Here’s tonight’s batting order:

Conforto – LF

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS

Jay Bruce – RF

Neil Walker – 2B

Curtis Granderson – CF

Reyes – 3B

T.J. Rivera – 1B

Travis d’Arnaud – C

deGrom – RHP