Sep 22

Mets Enter Final Week Looking For Strong Finishing Kick

It’s all about creating a good last impression for the New York Mets.

With six games remaining in what turned out to be an unusual season, there’s not enough time for a player to change the impressions of manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson.

COLLINS: Still looking.

COLLINS: Still looking.

However, that doesn’t mean there’s something they can’t learn – and it begins with attitude. Anybody can play hard when the team is winning, but there’s something to be said for playing hard through the grind.

It sounds like a cliché, but I believe it. Vince Lombardi said: “Winning isn’t a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.’’

Collins buys into that thinking, and wants to see it from his players.

“Well, we’ve got some young guys,’’ Collins told reporters during the Atlanta series. “If they pack it in, you won’t see them again. That’s why it’s nice this time of year to bring those young guys up, because they add a lot of energy to the team.

“And our veteran guys, they’re great guys. There’s never been a question of how hard they’re going to play. We’ll finish it up. We’ll finish it up strong.’’

Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Matt den Dekker and Travis d’Arnaud are among that group of young players figuring into the Mets’ plans. For the most part, the Mets run out ground balls and pop-ups.

To see them dog it this week would be a disappointment, especially since there are jobs to be won next season, namely shortstop – although it is believed it is Flores’ to lose – left field and in the bullpen.

Personal, statistical goals could be reached this week, such as Daniel Murphy hitting .300, Lucas Duda getting 30 homers, Jenrry Mejia reaching 30 saves and Bartolo Colon pitching 200 innings.

Collectively, they are four games under .500 and a half-game behind Atlanta for second. The last time they did either was in 2008. Both are possible, but to finish at .500 they must run the table, which includes sweeping the Nationals in a three-game series at Washington.

Stranger things have happened.

There’s playing out the string and going through the motions, and there is a strong finishing kick. It is always better to go into winter on a positive note than to limp home.

Sep 21

DeGrom Shines Again In Sweep Of Braves

There isn’t any doubt in my mind Jacob deGrom should be the National League’s Rookie of the Year. What he did in today’s 10-2 rout of the Braves to complete a rare sweep in Atlanta – one earned run with ten strikeouts in six innings – should seal it.

What today also might have sealed – although Terry Collins isn’t saying – is deGrom’s ledger for the season. The Mets figured 180 innings for deGrom this year and he’s at 178.2.

Collins will make a decision early this week.

“We’ll regroup here in a couple of days and decide what we’re going to do with him as far as his next start goes,’’ Collins told reporters after the game. “He’s real close to where we wanted him to get anyway on the season. We were talking from 180 to 185 was going to be max anyway. We’ll just see if he starts the next game.’’

DeGrom: Impressive again. (AP)

DeGrom: Impressive again. (AP)

Collins said he’s impressed with deGrom’s stuff, both on the mound and from within.

“I know one thing: He walked in here and he said he wanted to pitch,’’ Collins said. “He’s not sitting back saying, ‘OK, I’ll just shut her down.’ He wants to go back out there.

“That was impressive to hear. This time of year, in our situation, it would have been very easy for a lot of guys to say, ‘I’m done. I’m washed up.’ He’s not like that.’’

Collins has been impressed with the Mets’ unwillingness to pack in the season, and that’s a good reflection on him and why he’ll be back.

I have no problem with the Mets shutting down deGrom now, although it would be nice for him to take a bow at Citi Field in the season’s final weekend. The Mets are being ultra cautious, which is what to expect from them evidenced by their treatment of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.

If today was deGrom’s final start, he finished at 9-6 with a 2.63 ERA, 43 walks and 144 strikeouts. Those are definitely Rookie of the Year credentials.

Assuming deGrom is shut down, Rafael Montero would start next Saturday against Houston

Sep 20

Niese Wins, But Can’t Slam The Door

At 27, left-handed and with a reasonable contract, there’s a lot to like about Jon Niese, both from the Mets and the opponents that tried to pry him away from them.

However, a combination of poor run support, a porous bullpen, injuries, and above all else, the inability to put away an inning once he gets in trouble, explains his 51-51 record and only one winning season – 13-9 in 2012 – during his seven year career.

NIESE: Good, but not dominating. (Getty)

NIESE: Good, but not dominating. (Getty)

There was always the belief by the Mets the light would click on and by interested teams that he could use a change of scenery.

Niese’ biggest problem is he lets innings get away, evidenced by giving up three straight singles to load the bases, before giving way to Josh Edgin, who immediately gave up a two-run single.

Niese cruised through seven innings, but things unraveled in the eighth. What happened Saturday has defined Niese’s career with the Mets.

Now at 9-11 with Saturday’s 4-2 victory, one must wonder if Niese will ever reach the next level and that this might be as good as it gets.

GRANDERSON HOMERS: Although the Mets never thought Curtis Granderson would be the 40-homer stud he was with the Yankees.

Granderson hit his 20th homer Saturday for 63 RBI and raised his average to .223.

Of course, much will be made of Citi Field’s dimensions, but coming off injuries and not having a productive David Wright ahead of him all contribute to a down season.

However, like Niese, Granderson has been a disappointment.

MONTERO TO GET START: Rafael Montero is scheduled to get a start against Houston in the final series at Citi Field next weekend.

Montero threw 5.1 scoreless innings in his last start, Sept. 10, against Colorado.

At one time it was believed Montero would compete for a job in the rotation, but Jacob deGrom’s emergence has pushed him out.

Assuming no departures, and everybody is healthy, next year’s rotation figures to be Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Niese, deGrom and Bartolo Colon.

That leaves Montero in the bullpen or as trade bait.

Sep 19

Wheeler Leaves Us Wanting More

There is something about Zack Wheeler that leaves you – and the New York Mets – wanting more.

Tonight he threw his 21st quality start of the season; defined as at least six innings with three or fewer runs.

WHEELER: Needs to cut pitches. (Getty)

WHEELER: Needs to cut pitches. (Getty)

Wheeler struck out seven in six scoreless inning, and Carlos Torres, Jeurys Familia and Buddy Carlyle combined to retire the final 13 Atlanta hitters in the 5-0 victory.

Even so, in this age of counting pitches, Wheeler threw 105 pitches in those six innings. Sure, as a strikeout pitcher he’ll run up the pitch count, but in exchange for at least one more inning I’d give up a few strikeouts.

Is Wheeler a great pitcher? At l1-10 with a 3.51 ERA it is too soon to tell, but he is 8-2 over his last 15 starts.

For Wheeler and the Mets – who were officially eliminated from playoff contention Friday – to reach the next level, it is imperative for him to go further with his pitch count.

Only twice in 31 starts did Wheeler complete at least seven innings, and 11 other times he worked into the seventh.

Am I being too picky? Probably so, but the Mets have been boasting about Wheeler, and to completely buy into what they are saying, he needs to at least go seven.

Nobody is asking for complete games, but seven isn’t much to ask for a player being touted as an ace.

 

Sep 18

Two Key Numbers Say Mets On The Cusp

Just when you begin to get the warm-and-fuzzies about the New York Mets, they lose a series to the Miami Marlins, a team they trailed by just a game starting the week.

Granted, third place in nothing to raise a banner over, but it is better than fourth. Also, at the end of last week, they trailed Atlanta by 2.5 games with a chance at second … small steps for a team learning to walk with the big boys.

However, none one of this changes the fact the Mets have a way to go to reach true competitive status.

The Mets lost their 29th one-run game Wednesday night – they are 25-29. They played an additional 23 two-run games. That’s 77 games that could be considered close.

So, in 48 percent, or roughly half their games, the Mets were competitive.

Of all the numbers defining this season, 77 might be the most telling. More so than what they hit with runners in scoring position; team batting average; or any of the fancy Sabremetrics numbers.

Also important is their 30-35 record within the NL East, which includes 3-13 against the Nationals (with three remaining in Washington).

Quite simply, for the Mets to become a winning team (seven games under with nine to play) they must improve in those two areas. Using the Mets’ .477 winning percentage, if they played at that rate in their 29 one-run losses and 23 two-run games (52), that’s 25 more victories for 99 total on the season.

That’s an unrealistic jump to expect, but I point it out to illustrate they are on the cusp of turning the corner. Should Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler pitch to expectations next season, Jon Niese does the same, and with the return of a healthy David Wright, the Mets could be in the wild-card mix in 2015.

Assuming all that happens, another at least another ten victories is possible. It could happen.

Dillon Gee was auditioning last night to attract the attention of a team for 2015 under the assumption he wouldn’t return to the Mets. Gee, a No. 5 starter at best is 7-8 with probably one more start.

Banking on the return of Harvey, plus Wheeler, Niese, Jacob deGrom and Bartolo Colon, there’s no room for Gee. The numbers don’t work.

LAGARES INJURED: Outfielder Juan Lagares has a right-elbow sprain and will likely miss three or four games. With nine games remaining, is there time for him to play again?

“I can’t answer that,’’ Terry Collins told reporters yesterday.

Lagares has been ailing since the Cincinnati series the first game in September.

WPIX RE-SIGNS WITH METS: Television station WPIX extended its contract with the Mets through 2017. The package includes 25 regular-season games and four in spring training.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE: The Mets are off today then begin a three-game series this weekend in Atlanta.

 

Wheeler (10-10), Niese (8-11) and deGrom (8-6) will start for the Mets.