Apr 16

Bullpen Collapses To Waste DeGrom Start

How the Mets respond from losing tonight will send a greater message to the Nationals than their 12-2 record going into the game, which includes a sweep in Washington the first week in April. The here-to-fore excellent Mets’ bullpen coughed up a five-run, eighth-inning lead – and in the process kicked away a brilliant outing from Jacob deGrom – in a potentially defining moment for both teams.

Will the Nationals build off their 8-6 victory and this climb their way back to the top of the NL East? Or, will the Mets revert to the form most expected of them heading into this season?

Or, can they brush this off and keep showing their early-season resiliency?

“It’s one inning — it wasn’t even a game,” manager Mickey Callaway said of the crazy eighth in which five Mets’ relievers faced 12 Washington hitters and gave up six runs. “We outplayed them for the rest of the game. We just have to realize it was one bad inning, we didn’t get the job done. We’ll learn from it and make sure it doesn’t throw us into some kind of tailspin because we’re a real good team and we’ve been showing that.”

That Callaway would even the acknowledge the possibility of one game exploding into a slide shows an understanding of recent Mets’ history.

DeGrom cruised into the eighth, but quickly gave up hits to two of the first three hitters he faced. Callaway went to Seth Lugo, who walked the only hitter he faced to load the bases. Enter Jerry Blevins to face Bryce Harper, who greeted him with a two-run single.

AJ Ramos came in and gave up a single and bases-loaded walk to former Met Matt Reynolds. Then say hello to Jeurys Familia, who gave up a two-run single and another bases-loaded walk. Callaway might expect one or two relievers to have problems, but not the entire bullpen.

“It’s a rare thing. It shouldn’t happen, but maybe guys shut down mentally,’’ Callaway said his relievers collectively mailed it in because they didn’t expect to pitch.

Ramos wanted no part of that thinking.

“We pride ourselves on being ready,’’ Ramos said. “We just didn’t get the job done. There are no excuses.’’

None at all.

 

Apr 14

Mets’ Harvey Continues To Struggle

Another Matt Harvey start, another five innings. By all accounts, Harvey has recovered from thoracic outlet surgery. The radar gun registered a high of 95 mph., so velocity is not an issue. Going back to his last nine starts in 2017, Harvey has not worked past the fifth inning in 12 straight starts, dating back to May 28 of last season when he threw six innings in a win at Pittsburgh.

HARVEY: Still struggling. (AP)

HARVEY: Still struggling. (AP)

Harvey vowed this season would be different, and during spring training said: “It’s a completely new year, like I said. My mechanics are completely different, my arm is completely different.”

Unfortunately, the results have been largely the same. Just four times in 19 starts last year did Harvey pitch into the sixth inning or later. Last season, Harvey averaged just under 20 pitches per inning. This year, he’s averaging just under 18 pitches.

That translates to not enough innings pitched and another four innings logged by the bullpen. Tonight, he gave up four runs on eight hits, including two homers, in a 5-1 loss to Milwaukee to snap the Mets’ nine-game winning streak.

I suppose you can blame the cold weather. That’s a contributing factor, but not the entire explanation.

“He has good stuff,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “The strikeouts are there. He didn’t go after it the way I would have liked. He couldn’t get it going. I didn’t see the confidence that he’s had in the past.”

To his credit, Harvey made no excuses. He didn’t blame the weather, lack of support from his offense or lack of luck, all of which he has done in the past.

“Not very good,” was how Harvey assessed his outing. “I have to be better. This loss was on me. It is frustrating. I have to take my 24 hours and be pissed about it, then move on.

“Keeping the bullpen out of it is something I have to do. I would rather it be two innings at the end of the game and not four. All and all, I have to be better.”

Apr 12

It Will Take Pitching To Continue This Ride

There has been a lot to like about the Mets’ start, specifically their 10-1 record. I never expected this. Nobody did. But, it is early in the season. There are a lot of games left to be played.

As much as many of you would like to, it’s too early to bury the Yankees. It’s also too early to be thinking about anything past this weekend’s series against the Brewers.

SYNDERGAARD: Needs to go longer. (SNY)

SYNDERGAARD: Needs to go longer. (SNY)

A lot can happen between now and October, and it all won’t go as smoothly as they have over the past two weeks. There are slumps, and injuries, and the Washington Nationals taking off.

All that stuff will take place, or it might not. It is possible all that went right will continue to go right.

The Mets will go as far as their pitching takes them and so far it has been good, but only Zack Wheeler on Wednesday, is the only one to pitch seven full innings. That needs to change to save the bullpen. All of their starters have run into that one terrible inning when they throw between 20 and 30 pitches, and that includes Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

Syndergaard went overboard lifting weights because he wanted to be strong to last longer in games. It took a partially-torn lat muscle to convince Syndergaard that was the wrong approach. The ability to last longer in games stems from improved command. Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland have done a terrific job as evidenced by 117 strikeouts and only 36 walks, and a 1.10 staff WHIP. If that trend continues the Mets should be in good shape.

As for Syndergaard, he has thrown 267 pitches in his three starts, that’s 89 pitches per start, which is way too many if he is to last more than six innings.

DeGrom has worked six innings twice, but Matt Harvey and Steven Matz have not worked past the fifth.

The bullpen,  notably Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, have picked up the slack. The rest of the bullpen, including Hansel Robles, has been exceptional.

However, the innings can accumulate, and it is up to the starters, to work the sixth and into the seventh.

That is how this ride will to continue.

Apr 11

Mets Wrap: Wheeler Sterling In First Start

The most important thing to take away about the Mets from tonight’s victory in Miami isn’t that it was their eighth straight, but how well Zack Wheeler pitched in his first start of the season.

If I were into bandwagon hopping, I would say if Wheeler continues to bring it as he did in beating the Marlins, 4-1, to extend the best start in franchise history to 10-1.

WHEELER: Solid debut. (AP)

WHEELER: Solid debut. (AP)

Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched for the Mets in two years, gave up one run on two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in seven innings. It is the longest a Mets’ starter has gone this young season.

“I thought he did a really good job of staying ahead,’’ said manager Mickey Callaway. “He pitched with a lot of confidence.’’

Wheeler, who had a spring training ERA north of eight, gave up a first-inning homer to Miguel Rojas in the first, was in complete control after that and retired the last 16 batters he faced.

“I was trying to go out there and give up a chance to win,’’ Wheeler said. “I was able to pound the zone and have command of my fastball for the most part. It was very satisfying.’’

We can presume Wheeler will get at least another start with Jason Vargas on the disabled list.

PLAWECKI GETS HIS BREAK:  Catcher Travis d’Arnaud was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The Mets recalled catcher Tomas Nido from Binghamton (AA), who was activated for tonight’s game.

The ten days enables the Mets time to evaluate the injury, including the possibility of Tommy John surgery. If that happens, d’Arnaud could be transferred to the 60-day disabled list, and former Washington National Jose Lobaton would be promoted to the Mets. That decision could be reached as soon as Friday.

“That’s a long road if he goes the surgery route,’’ Callaway said. “Anytime anybody has to go through that, that’s tough.’’

Callaway had a sense something was wrong with d’Arnaud’s arm from watching try to throw runners out at second – unsuccessfully.

Plawecki was struck on the left hand by a pitch and sustained a deep bruise. X-Rays were negative.

GONZALEZ DOES IT AGAIN: Veteran Adrian Gonzalez, who hit a grand slam in Washington, drove in the game-winning runs with a two-run, pinch-hit single in the eighth inning.

Gonzalez, who made the Opening Day roster in large part because of Dominic Smith’s leg injury, is hitting .298 with a .406 on-base percentage. Gonzalez’s two-run single gave the Mets their sixth-come-from-behind victory of the season.

“When we’re down, we know how to get the job done,’’ Callaway said. “You can feel the energy in the dugout.’’

 

Apr 10

Rob Manfred Doesn’t Understand Baseball

Major League Baseball’s primary problem is its leadership. The men running the sport have no clue as to why people love the game. They are obsessed not with the unique nuances and strategies of their sport, but with tinkering and tweaking to the point where it is becoming unrecognizable to its lifelong supporters.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is following in Bud Selig’s footsteps. Selig never understood the fabric of the sport with interleague play and out-of-control expansion, and his attempts to break the union over money culminated in the tactic approval of steroid usage and asterisk-marred home run records.

Manfred is doing the same with juiced baseballs and his attempts to shave time from the game, and now he wants to legislate the use of relief pitchers.

Speaking on ESPN Radio last week he would be in favor of restricting pitching changes during an inning or game.

“You know the problem with relief pitchers is that they’re so good,’’ he said. “I’ve got nothing against relief pitchers but they do two things to the game: The pitching changes themselves slow the game down, and our relief pitchers have become so dominate at the back end that they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game.’’

Evidently, Manfred has never seen a compelling pennant race or World Series game that boiled down to a confrontation between a great reliever and great hitter, with the tension rising with each pitch.

Mets fans relish the memories of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the “ball gets by Buckner,’’ game. That one play has become the face of the game, but the real action is what lead up to that play, where the Red Sox bullpen imploded.

That statement confirms Manfred isn’t the right person to lead baseball because he doesn’t understand baseball. Baseball is about pitching.

Instead of bowing to the millennials who want to speed up the game and crave instant offense he should take the time to really watch a game. He’s missing a good show.