Aug 18

Three Mets’ Storylines: Niese Rocked

Jon Niese’s return to the rotation turned out to be a tease for the Mets. Starting in place of Logan Verrett Wednesday night, Niese threw three scoreless innings before Arizona unloaded on him with three runs in the third and knocked him from the game the following inning.

Niese, making his first start in over a month (when he was with Pittsburgh), gave up homers to Yasmany Tomas and Rickie Weeks, in the third before he was chased in favor of Erik Goeddel in the fourth.

Niese gave up four runs on four hits in 4.2 innings, but struck out six in the 13-5 loss. Last week in New York, the Diamondbacks got to him for six runs in one inning.

With no imminent help coming up from Las Vegas or from the waiver wire, Niese will likely remain in the rotation.

OFFENSE DISAPPEARS … AGAIN: The Mets scored seven runs Tuesday, but after scratching out a run in the first did precious little.

The Mets produced only four hits.

Manager Terry Collins, in trying to “take something off his plate,’’ dropped Curtis Granderson to sixth, but was 1-for-4 with a meaningless homer in the ninth and two strikeouts.

The Mets expect Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera to be activated this weekend in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Michael Conforto, who the Mets seemingly have no intention of bringing up from Triple-A, is 12-for-18 in his last four games.

DOESN’T GET EASIER: After finishing their season series 1-5 against the Diamondbacks, the Mets are off to San Francisco for a four-game series then three in St. Louis.

The match-ups will be: Thursday, Jacob deGrom vs. Madison Bumgarner; Friday, Steven Matz vs. Johnny Cueto; Saturday, Bartolo Colon vs. Matt Moore; Sunday, Noah Syndergaard vs. Jeff Samardzija.

Sunday’s game was moved to the night.

Niese, deGrom and Matz are scheduled to start in St. Louis.

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Aug 17

Why Push It With Wheeler?

Sure, I would have liked to have seen Zack Wheeler this season, but he’s been diagnosed with a mild flexor strain and will be shut down for at least two weeks. That shoves his return to the first week of September when the original projection was the start of July.

After a couple of weeks of rehab, there will be only two weeks left in the season. If the Mets are still in the race then, would they really want to force him in a game? That doesn’t seem smart. It’s not as if adding Wheeler will put them over the top.

If they want to bring him up to be around the team and rehab in front of manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen, that’s fine, but anything else is pushing the envelope.

Let him rehab and get stronger, then start over next spring.

Should be simple, actually.

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Aug 17

Time To Sit Granderson

There are cold stretches, slumps and what Mets’ outfielder Curtis Granderson is currently in, which has gone on long enough.

Manager Terry Collins said if you don’t hit, you’ll sit, and Granderson hasn’t hit all season. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve met around baseball, but his smile doesn’t drive in runs. Come to think about it, neither do his home runs. His 32 RBI off 18 homers is one of the most staggering statistics I’ve ever seen.

GRANDERSON: The Grandy Man can't. (AP)

GRANDERSON: The Grandy Man can’t. (AP)

So, why is he still in the lineup when Michael Conforto is in the minor leagues? Ditto for Brandon Nimmo.

Let’s look at more frightening numbers: Granderson is hitting .224 this season; is batting .127 (10-79) with RISP; and .165 (15-91) over his last 23 games.

Somehow, none on this has sunk in on Collins.

“You still look up and this guy is going to end up with over 20 homers,” Collins told reporters. “He’s not necessarily a RBI guy, so no matter where you think you should hit anybody in the order, they are going to end up coming up with guys on base at times.”

It might be one of the dumbest things I’ve heard from a manager in nearly 25 years around this game.

First of all, he has 18 homers now, so what’s two more? Secondly, and even more importantly, if you end up with runners on base your job is to drive them in. Memo to Collins: Everybody is a RBI guy.

Perhaps Granderson is spending too much time around Collins because his explanation made no sense. None.

“Initially, I was in the position where I was going to lead off and set the tone and things like that,” Granderson told reporters.

“And, I’ve mixed when to be aggressive versus when to set the tone for everybody else, so there’s been pitches I could have gone after and attacked and maybe did something with that I let go by.”

Huh?

Granderson’s responsibility as a hitter is two-fold: 1) if there’s nobody on base he’s supposed to get on base, but a .317 on-base percentage says he’s not doing it, and 2) if there are runners on base his job is to advance them or drive them in.

It’s not all that hard to understand, but obviously with Granderson this season, much harder to do.

Granderson’s job is to always be aggressive, and he hasn’t been. It’s time to get somebody in the lineup that can be.

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Aug 17

Has Syndergaard Turned The Corner?

UPDATED: Adding quotes by Syndergaard and Collins.

For awhile last night it appeared Noah Syndergaard turned the corner and all would be right with the Mets again. However, as has been his pattern, he ran into the wall otherwise known as the sixth inning and was haunted by familiar ghosts.

I won’t go into the bone spur issue because when you live in a 98 mph., neighborhood, your arm has to be sound. Stolen bases are a problem – the Diamondbacks had four more Tuesday night and nine in his two starts against them – but one he should eventually solve with his experience.

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

The main issue with Syndergaard has been his pitch-count efficiency and inability to put away a hitter or shut down an inning. It’s why he doesn’t give the Mets the number of innings he should considering the number of pitches he throws.

Of his 23 starts, he has gone at least seven innings only nine times. Only twice did he venture into the eighth inning. Twice.

Last night he cruised through five innings and was good as advertised but unraveled in the sixth. Yes, he was hamstrung by T.J. Rivera‘s defense, but when you’re supposed to be an ace, you must find a way to get out of the inning. The Mets survived the inning, but not Syndergaard.

This is not what you’d expect from somebody deemed an ace, much less a Super Hero.

Roughly one of four pitches he throws is fouled off, meaning he’s not putting away hitters. He averages over a strikeout an inning, but only four times has he reached double-digits in strikeouts, the last being June 15 against Pittsburgh.

Double-digit strikeout games signify going deep into games. Syndergaard went deep with a two-run homer in the fifth but was done an inning later. He expects more of himself.

From how he overpowered the Diamondbacks early in the game, his final line of four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings was a disappointment despite going to 10-7 in the Mets’ 7-5 victory. Also discouraging was he threw 106 pitches.

Syndergaard took a six-run lead into the sixth. He should have coasted the way he did against Pittsburgh and the Cubs on July 3, his last win before last night. He went into the eighth in those games.

Jake Lamb reached on Rivera’s error and moved to second on a wild pitch. Syndergaard struck out Yasmany Tomas, but gave up a single to Wellington Castillo and two-run triple to Mitch Haniger. A second error by Rivera let in another run. After an infield single, Syndergaard left in favor of Jerry Blevins and the last image of him was throwing his glove in anger in the dugout.

Sure, blame the inning on Rivera, but it’s up to the pitcher to overcome disaster and put away the next hitter, something Syndergaard didn’t do. With his mounting pitch count manager Terry Collins didn’t have the confidence to let him finish the inning.

When Syndergaard cruised early in the game, he challenged hitters inside, his command was sharp and his curveball had bite. All encouraging signs.

“In the middle innings I thought he threw the ball great,” Collins said. “When he commanded his fastball in the right spots they weren’t able to do much against him.”

But, he couldn’t sustain. Whenever he loses it quickly, it raises the question about the bone spur. The Mets believe – and Syndergaard concurs – this is a pain tolerance issue. The spur is something that should be dealt with by surgery in the offseason as it will be with Steven Matz.

“My arm felt great,” Syndergaard said. “I was fluid in my delivery. I felt it was a step in the right direction.;;

There are games, like those against the Pirates and Cubs – and for five innings last night – where he dominates and pitches to the ace-like levels of Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver. But, he’s not there yet on a consistent basis.

The elbow spur bothers me, and I’m sure it bothers Syndergaard more than he lets on. Of his last seven starts he reached the sixth three times before being pulled. Is it the spur or did hitters catch up to him?

Before last night, Syndergaard had four losses and two no-decisions in his previous six starts. In looking for an explanation for what’s happening one thing surfaces.

This is Syndergaard’s first full season and there are growing pains. His fastball averages 98 and his changeup averages 89, but there’s more to pitching than throwing hard. Just because he throws lightning and is built like a linebacker doesn’t mean he’s automatically Don Drysdale.

Syndergaard is ahead of most with his experience level, but not where he envisions himself. He needs more polish. He must learn to take something off his pitches; to reach back for the 100 mph., heater when he needs it, not with every pitch.

The bone spur is an issue, but one surgery should resolve. The real problem with Syndergaard is the expectations are exceedingly high from the Mets, his teammates, the media, and the fans. Everybody expects more of him – including the pitcher himself – than he is capable of giving.

Too many expect him to be the second Seaver instead of letting him develop into the first Syndergaard. He is still growing. He’s not the force he expects of himself to be.

Not yet, anyway.

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Aug 16

Walker Scratched; Lineup Comments

Just when you think it can’t get any worse for the Mets injury wise, second baseman Neil Walker was scratched from the lineup with lower back pain. It is the same injury that briefly sidelined him earlier this year.

Kelly Johnson will now play second and T.J. Rivera goes in at third. Wilmer Flores, who had two hits Monday and has driven in at least one run in his last four games, is not in the lineup.

How long Walker will be out is unknown, but this downtime could coincide with him taking paternity leave.

Here’s the updated lineup:

Jose Reyes – SS

Curtis Granderson – LF

Jay Bruce – RF

James Loney – 1B

Johnson – 2B

Rivera – 3B

Alejandro De Aza – CF

Rene Rivera – C

Noah Syndergaard – RHP

COMMENTS: If Granderson continues to struggle, I would move him lower in the order. Who knows? Maybe eighth. … The Mets need offense, but Flores, one of their hottest hitters, sits. … There’s no reason why Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo shouldn’t be there and starting in place of De Aza. … Travis d’Arnaud gets three hits then sits. It doesn’t matter if Rivera is in there to prevent the running game as the Diamondbacks ran wild off him and Syndergaard in the last game.

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