Aug 24

Microcosm Of Mets’ Season Seen In This Series

The essence of the 2016 Mets could be seen in the first two games of this Cardinals series. On Tuesday the Mets produced one of the gutsiest performances of this season when starter Jon Niese left with a knee injury after getting just one out forcing the bullpen to work 8.2 innings.

After the game manager Terry Collins said how impressed he was with rookie Robert Gsellman. Great defense, timely hitting and superior relief pitching; it was the ultimate formula and something we haven’t often seen.

DE GROM: Off again. (AP)

DE GROM: Off again. (AP)

Unquestionably, the victory was one of the Mets’ most inspirational, and one they could build on. After all, it was their third straight victory, something they hadn’t done since before the All-Star break.

However, instead of building off that with Jacob deGrom, their best pitcher, the Mets responded with another egg in an 8-1 loss to the Cardinals.

It didn’t get off to a good start when Matt Carpenter lead off the St. Louis first with a homer off deGrom, one of five runs and 12 hits he gave up in his second straight bad start.

Offensively, the Mets had just four hits as they fell back to .500 and 4.5 games behind the Cardinals for the second wild-card berth.

Not only did they show no signs of life and have to be concerned with deGrom – who has given up 13 runs on 25 hits in his last two starts – but Jay Bruce left the game in the second inning with a cramp in his right calf. In addition to Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes still looks gimpy.

It is widely considered 87 victories could be enough for the wild card, but for that to happen, the Mets must go 24-12 in their remaining 36 games.

The math says it is possible. Logic says it is not.

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Aug 23

Mets’ Three Storylines: Niese Injured; Bullpen Picks Up Team

The Mets gambled and lost with Jon Niese, but somehow managed to win a game that easily could have gone the other way.

GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins knew Niese had a sore left knee, but started him anyway in hope of getting as much as they could.

GSELLMAN: Saves day. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Saves day. (AP)

They got one-third of an inning.

Niese worked to four hitters – with three reaching base and eventually scoring – before leaving the game.

“After [Niese] walked the first hitter, you could tell something was wrong with him,” Collins said.

With Steven Matz going on the disabled list and Collins not wanting to move Jacob deGrom up a day, the Mets pushed the envelope.

Collins said he doesn’t expect Niese to make his next start and will likely end up on the disabled list. That start could end up going to Robert Gsellman, who came up from Triple-A Las Vegas and pitched 3.2 innings in long relief in his major league debut and got the win in the Mets’ 7-4 victory over the Cardinals.

With the victory the Mets moved to within 3.5 games of St. Louis for second wild card. The victory gave the Mets their first three-game winning streak since the first week

The other two storylines were the bullpen and production from unexpected sources.

BULLPEN STELLAR: The Mets got 8.2 innings from the pen, which means deGrom needs to go deep Wednesday night.

“They told me to be ready and I was,” Gsellman told reporters.

In addition to Gsellman’s 3.2 scoreless innings, the Met got two innings from Josh Smoker; one-third of an inning from Jerry Blevins; two-thirds of an inning from Jim Henderson; and an inning each from Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia.

Henderson entered the game with two on and one out in the seventh, he got the final two outs, including striking out Jedd Gyorko to end the inning.

Reed also had two runners on against him in the eighth, but got Matt Carpenter on a fly to center.

THE UNEXPECTED: If the Mets are going to sneak in, they’ll need production from the unexpected, and that’s what they got.

It started with Wilmer Flores’ three-run homer in the first, and then Justin Ruggiano homered in the fourth.

Overall, the Mets collected 12 hits, with eight by their first three hitters, Jose Reyes (three hits, three runs scored); Asdrubal Cabrera (three hits) and Yoenis Cespedes (two hits).

The Mets also got a run-saving play from Cabrera to end the fourth, and a homer-robbing catch from Cespedes off Stephen Piscotty’s long fly in the sixth.

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Aug 23

Strawberry Needs To Shut Up About Gooden

There’s no doubt Darryl Strawberry’s concern for his old teammate Dwight Gooden’s health and possible dive back into the black pond of drugs is sincere and valid.

He is also wrong in how he’s going about it.

STRAWBERRY: Out of line. (AP)

STRAWBERRY: Out of line. (AP)

I’ve known addicts, and I’ve been in an intervention. It isn’t fun. It is awkward and it could be terrifying. A cocaine addict, when high, has no fear, no inhibitions, and if he’s strong like my friend was, there’s a feeling for your safety if provoked, which is often the result.

Frankly, I feared getting my ass kicked. He could have clobbered me sober, but if under the influence awith no conception of control, he easily could have killed me or anybody else in that room.

Addicts don’t like to be outed in small groups, much less in the papers.

Nothing can be gained by what is happening now and there’s good reason to believe their friendship has fractured beyond repair. If Strawberry really wants to help his friend he should stop by his house and talk face-to-face, man-to-man. Come alone or with another trusted, but mutual friend. Anything more than that and Gooden would go further into denial and resist all efforts to help.

Suggesting Gooden regressed and is using again is counter productive. It puts Gooden further on the defensive. Right now he feels cornered and it seems to him there’s no escape, no safety net. At one time that net might have been Strawberry, but that’s gone.

If using, Gooden feels totally alone. If Gooden is using again he needs serious help and needs it now. What he doesn’t need is for what was a trusted friend to talk about hit problems in the press. He feels betrayed.

Sure, Strawberry makes good copy. Better copy is an obituary nobody wants to read.

Strawberry should make one more public announcement about Gooden, and that’s an apology. He should make it, shut his mouth about Gooden in the future, and do everything he can behind the scenes to help him.

Finally, it must be considered Gooden was a no-show for their scheduled appearance because of a different issue. Maybe he needs help with that, which he’s not getting from Strawberry.

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Aug 22

How Mets Stack Up With All-Time Pennant Race Comebacks

History tells us it can be done, that as difficult as it seems, the Mets can climb out of what appears to an abyss of a hole and reach the playoffs. A lot must happen, but the Mets took a positive step over the weekend in fighting back to split their four games with the Giants.

The Giants are ahead for a potential wild card, as are the Dodgers, Marlins, Pirates and Cardinals. They begin a three-game series Tuesday in St. Louis, so after losing two of three to the Cardinals at Citi Field in late July they need to do at least the same to stay in contention.

SEAVER: Key In 1969 Pennant Race. (AP)

SEAVER: Key In 1969 Pennant Race. (AP)

The Mets trail Washington by 11.5 games, so that won’t happen even if they sweep the remaining six games with the Nationals. They are 4.5 games behind St. Louis for the second wild card, and three behind Miami (six games left) and 1.5 behind Pittsburgh (no games left).

Climbing back into the race will be harder without Steven Matz, who went on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder. In addition, Neil Walker will be placed on paternity leave and miss the St. Louis series. Replacing them on the 25-man roster are infielder T.J. Rivera and pitcher Robert Gsellman.

It will be difficult considering this team isn’t hitting, although getting back Yoenis Cespedes – who hit three homers over the weekend – should help.

Seven weeks remain, so picking up a game a week should be the objective. It can be done.

The following are ten of the greatest comebacks, including the greatest deficit these teams overcame and where they were in the standings on Aug. 22.

It should be noted none of these comebacks occurred in the wild-card era, and the team that came back to win only won the World Series five times.

Here’s who made history:

1969 New York Mets

Synopsis: On Aug. 13, the soon-to-be Amazin’ Mets trailed Chicago by 10 games in the NL East, and although it had been a fun season until then, nobody had any expectations of would happen. The Mets, anchored by superior pitching, went on a 38-11 run and won the NL East by eight games. Aug. 22 standings: Six games behind Chicago. How they finished: Went 100-62; swept Atlanta in the NLCS, and beat Baltimore, four-games-to-one in the World Series.

1978 New York Yankees

Synopsis: The Yankees were going nowhere, trailing Boston by 14 games as of July 20. The Yankees won 52 of their 73 games to force a one-game playoff at Fenway Park known as the Bucky Dent Game. Aug. 22 standings: They sliced the deficit to 7.5 games. How they finished: Went 100-63, beat Kansas City in the ALCS, and the Dodgers in the World Series.

1995 Seattle Mariners

Synopsis: People tend to forget this race. With Ken Griffey out for much of the second half, Edgar Martinez carried the Mariners. One August 2, Seattle was two games under .500 and trailed the Angels by 13 games. The Mariners caught fire and finished 35-10 while the Angels simultaneously collapsed and went 22-33. Aug. 22 standings: Trailed by 11.5 games. How they finished: The Mariners finished 79-66 (they didn’t play the normal 162 games because the season was shortened because of the 1994 strike). The Mariners won a one-game playoff with the Angels, beat the Yankees in the ALDS, but lost to Cleveland in six games in the ALCS.

1935 Chicago Cubs

Synopsis: Long before they were cursed, the Cubs were a National League power. On July 5, they trailed the Giants by 10.5 games, but won 62 of their last 84 – including a stretch of 21 straight in September – to win the race going away. Aug. 22 standings: Three games behind the Giants. How they finished: Went 100-54, but lost the World Series to Detroit.

1993 Atlanta Braves

Synopsis: The Braves trailed San Francisco by 10 games on July 23, but turned it around going 49-16 in their final 65 games to win the NL West by one game. Aug. 22 standings: Trailed Giants by 7.5 games. How they finished: A NL best 104-58, but lost the NLCS in six games to Philadelphia.

1964 St. Louis Cardinals

Synopsis: This race is remembered for the dramatic collapse of the Phillies, who held an 11-game lead on the Cardinals as late as Aug. 24. St. Louis, lead by Bob Gibson and Ken Boyer, went 28-11 down the stretch. Aug. 22 standings: The Cardinals were in fourth place, 10 games behind the Phillies, and also behind the Reds and Giants. How they finished: Went 93-69 and beat the Yankees in the World Series.

1914 Boston Braves

Synopsis: On July 6 the Braves were in last place, but would go 68-19 to pass the field and won the National League by 10 games. Aug. 22 standings: Their comeback was almost done by then, trailing the Giants by a mere half-game. How they finished: Went 94-59, then beat the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series.

1930 St. Louis Cardinals

Synopsis: The Cardinals are on the comeback list three times, this being the first time. They were 12 games out on Aug. 8 and only one game over .500. The Cardinals went 39-10 down the stretch to beat out the Cubs by two games. Aug. 22 standings: Trailed by eight games. How they finished: Went 92-62 only to lose the World Series in six games to the Philadelphia Athletics.

1942 St. Louis Cardinals

Synopsis: The Cardinals trailed by 10 games as late as Aug. 4, but went 44-9 down the stretch to overtake Brooklyn. Aug. 22 standings: Trailed Brooklyn by 7.5 games. How they finished: Went 106-48, then beat the Yankees in a five-game World Series.

1951 New York Giants

Synopsis: What, you thought I forgot about this one? I saved the most historic for last. On Aug. 11, the Giants trailed the Dodgers by 13 games. However, the Giants went 38-7 down the stretch and tied the Dodgers to force a three-game playoff series. Aug. 22 standings: Trailed by eight games. How they finished: At 96-58. Giants won a three-game playoff with the Dodgers, with New York winning the deciding third game on Bobby Thomson’s historic homer off Ralph Branca. The Giants would lose the World Series in six games to the Yankees.

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Aug 21

Is There Connection Between Elbow And Shoulder For Matz?

In ascertaining Steven Matz’s shoulder issue, perhaps the Mets should revisit their earlier proclamation the left-hander’s bone spur injury was simply a matter of pain tolerance, as suggested by both GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins.

On June 28 – nearly two months ago – I wrote that was nonsense. Everybody knows, and I should lump Alderson into that group, any injury with a pitcher should be considered more serious than it is and, injuries/hurts leads to overcompensation with another part of the body.

MATZ: Is there connection between elbow and shoulder? (AP)

MATZ: Is there connection between elbow and shoulder? (AP)

I undoubtedly admire Matz’s warrior spirit, but let’s face it, this is his first full season in the major leagues and he doesn’t have the resume to call his own shots. He wants to pitch, I get that, but like most young players he doesn’t have the smarts or backbone to tell his real feelings to Collins or management.

As baseball lifers, both Collins and Alderson should realize what was going on with Matz and protect him.

This is what Alderson said in late June: “At this point, it’s a function of whether he can tolerate the discomfort while continuing to pitch. What we will do is monitor that level of discomfort.”

I take two things from that statement. The first is, and I said it at the time, Alderson’s comment was garbage, that pain tolerance is simply a misguided assumption. You can’t assume anything with an injury. Can’t be done.

The second is if Matz’s shoulder is now an issue their level of monitoring leaves a lot to be desired.

Look, I can’t say with 100 percent certainty there is a connection between the elbow and the shoulder, but the flip side Alderson can’t say with 100 percent absoluteness it isn’t.

I believe, and this comes from years of following the Mets, they too frequently play fast and loose with injuries.

The Mets’ first course of action with injuries should always be caution. They weren’t with Matz and the same it appears is happening with Noah Syndergaard. They weren’t with Matt Harvey.

Matz will travel to New York Monday to be examined by team doctors, something that should have been done as soon as he was scratched from his last start.

Nobody knows what the doctors will find with Matz, but the Mets’ appropriate response should be getting him better and stronger, not seeing if he can throw five innings next weekend against the Phillies.

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