Apr 25

Mets Wrap: Conforto Should Stay At No. 3 Against Finnegan

When Terry Collins moved Michael Conforto to the third slot in the batting order, he left open the possibility of moving him against a left-hander.

Conforto ripped three more hits Monday night’s 5-3 victory over Cincinnati – including a homer in the first – but with left-hander Brandon Finnegan going Tuesday for the Reds, what will Collins do?

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

Here’s hoping he lost his righty-lefty book and keeps Conforto batting third. Most importantly, you don’t want Collins messing with a hot hitter and giving even the slightest hint of not having complete confidence in Conforto against left-handers.

Maybe, against Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner – the Giants are in this weekend – Conforto might move, but against Finnegan?

That would make no sense.

In going 3-for-3 with a walk, Conforto is hitting .378 (14-for-37) with eight runs scored, five doubles, three homers and eight RBI since moving to the No. 3 spot. He’s hitting .333 overall without even a whisper of a reason why he should be moved.

Even if Yoenis Cespedes can play Tuesday, Conforto should stay third. He said he’s always hit third and relishes the role. Those aren’t reasons why he should stay there. He should stay because he’s the best player for that role, even over Cespedes.

Tell me, the Mets have a runner on third with one out, who would you rather have at the plate, Cespedes of Conforto?

“It’s where you want to be,’’ Conforto told reporters about hitting third. ““You have to be a guy who uses the whole field,’’ Conforto said. “You have to have a good [hitting] zone and be able to shrink that and you want to be a guy who tends to hit well in big situations, a guy who drives runs in, you have to make sure those situations don’t get too big.’’

Third is the spot where a team traditionally bats its best hitter. Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays usually hit third in another era, as did Keith Hernandez for the 1986 champion Mets. Barry Bonds and a healthier David Wright most recently flourished hitting third.

I’m not saying Conforto will turn into an elite player like them – in his wildest dreams he probably hasn’t considered it – but he is the Mets’ best overall hitter.

“He drove in big runs, that’s why he’s hitting third,’’ Collins said.

Conforto spent a lot of time this winter working on situations a No. 3 would face, such as pulling inside fastballs; cutting down his hitting zone on specific counts; and hitting the ball on the ground or in the air depending on the game situation.

Collins said Conforto would likely be the Mets’ long-term No. 3 hitter. Don’t change things now.

METS GAME WRAP

 Game: #18 Record: 11-7 Streak: W4

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard labored most of the night, but home runs from Conforto, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker gave the Mets their fourth straight victory.

KEY MOMENT: Walker’s two-run homer in the seventh. When the Mets were on defense in the eighth fans chanted Walker’s name. Sweet.

THUMBS UP: Two hits, including a two-run homer in the third from Lucas Duda. … Logan Verrett struck out Ivan De Jesus with the go-ahead runner on third to end the seventh. … A 1-2-3- eighth in relief from Addison Reed. … Twelve strikeouts from Mets’ pitchers, including nine from Syndergaard. … A 1-2-3 stress-free ninth from Jeurys Familia.

THUMBS DOWN: The Reds stole five bases against the Syndergaard-Travis d’Arnaud battery. … Antonio Bastardo had a blown save. … Mets’ hitters struck out 10 times. … An 0-for-4 night from Wright with two strikeouts. … They were 1-for-9 with RISP. … d’Arnaud left the game with a sore right shoulder. Collins said it is too early to project it being a DL situation.

EXTRA INNINGS: The homer was Walker’s eighth of the month, the most he’s ever hit in a month. … The Mets have won nine of their last 11 games. … They have scored in the first inning in eight of their last ten games. … They’ve won nine straight against the Reds.

QUOTEBOOK: “That was pretty awesome,’’ Walker on he crowd chanting his name after his homer.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28: Mets’ homers in 18 games.

NEXT FOR METS: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 2.89) starts for the Mets against Reds’ Finnegan (1-1, 3.74). Colon gave up three runs in six innings with a no-decision in his last start, April 20, at Philadelphia. Colon in 4-1 with a 3.77 ERA in five career starts against the Reds.

Apr 19

Mets Wrap: Amazin’ Power Rocks Phils

Manager Terry Collins insists on calling his Mets a “home run hitting team,’’ and he’s turning out to be right.

The Mets crushed six more homers – two from Neil Walker, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson – to back six scoreless innings from spot starter Logan Verrett.

The Mets have hit a team-record 17 homers in their last five games, the length of this current road trip. The Mets always had the potential to hit for power, and now they are living up to it. Now, the Mets’ lineup is longer than any they’ve had in recent memory.

“[Power is] the way our club has been build,’’ Collins told reporters. “There’s no easy guy in that lineup. It’s tough on the opposition when they know they have to make quality pitch after quality pitch.’’

One guy not expected to hit for a lot of power was Walker, but six homers and 11 RBI in just a dozen games has more than made up for losing Daniel Murphy.

“Hitting is contagious,’’ said Walker, repeating one of baseball’s most enduring clichés. “It’s really great when things are flowing like that.’’

Walker’s six homers trail Bryce Harper by one. Both homers Tuesday came from the right side, which he attributes to getting rid of a toe tap.

“My approach from the right side is to simplify things,’’ said Walker, who still utilizes the toe tap from the left side.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #13  Record: 7-6  Streak: W3

SUMMARY: Verrett threw six scoreless innings and the Mets crushed six homers. Pretty simple, actually.

KEY MOMENT: The Mets never trailed after Conforto’s two-run homer in the first.

THUMBS UP: Verrett continues to sparkle in spot start assignments. … Juan Lagares made a homer-robbing catch of Maikel Franco to end the eighth. … Mets hitters only struck out seven times.

THUMBS DOWN: Rafael Montero struggled, but the game was no longer in doubt. But, in a rout like tonight, that’s a reach.

EXTRA INNINGS: DeGrom is scheduled to start Sunday in Atlanta. … Travis d’Arnaud returned to the lineup. … A strong relief effort by Jim Henderson.

QUOTEBOOK: “He stepped up and gave us what we needed, which was big innings. It means a lot for us.’’ – Collins on Verrett’s start.

BY THE NUMBERS: 29: Homers by the Mets in their last 12 games in Philadelphia.

NEXT FOR METS: Bartolo Colon attempts to give the Mets a series sweep Wednesday night.

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Apr 09

Mets Wrap: Phillies Blank Listless Offense

GAME #4:  Phillies 1, at Mets 0.  Record: 2-2.

SUMMARY: With the weather cold, who would have expected a pitching duel between Bartolo Colon and Vince Velasquez? However, that’s what we got with Velasquez striking out nine Mets. Three hits by the Mets won’t get it down.

KEY MOMENT: Ryan Howard’s homer in the fifth was the night’s offense.

THUMBS UP: Colon was terrific, making one bad pitch to Howard. Colon also made an over-the-shoulder catch of a bunt. … Travis d’Arnaud threw out another base stealer. … Jeurys Familia pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth. Then again, he got himself into trouble. … Asdrubal Cabrera had two hits.

THUMBS DOWN: Did I mention just three hits? … The crowd has already started getting on Yoenis Cespedes (2-for-16 this year), who struck out three times. … Mets hitters struck out 12 times. … Lucas Duda also struck out three times. … The Mets’ two hottest hitters, Neil Walker and Michael Conforto went a combined 0-for-8.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright did not play, but was warming up to pinch-hit in the ninth. Manager Terry Collins said Wright started to get loose in the seventh. … Jacob deGrom’s between-starts throw day is Sunday. … In just the third game of their existence, the Mets’ minor league affiliate Columbia Fireflies combined on a three-man no-hitter.

QUOTEBOOK: “We’re not going to make any excuses about how cold it is. We have to swing the bats better.’’ – Collins on the Mets’ offense.

BY THE NUMBERS: 45: Career homers by Howard against the Mets.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey goes against Jeremy Hellickson.

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Apr 09

April 9, Mets Lineup Against Phillies

Bartolo Colon will go after his 219th career victory tonight against the Phillies, which would tie him with Pedro Martinez for the most by a Dominican-born pitcher.

Here’s his support group:

Curtis Granderson, RF

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Yoenis Cespedes,  CF

Lucas Duda, 1B

Neil Walker,  2B

Michael Conforto, LF

Wilmer Flores, 3B

Travis d’Arnaud, C

Colon, RP

NOTES: Interesting Cabrera is hitting second and not Conforto. … Flores got a huge cheer yesterday. Hope he gets another one today. … With the weather cold and perhaps rainy later, it’s a wise move to rest David Wright. …

ON DECK: Mets Wrap: Game # 4 vs. Phillies.

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Apr 04

This Year Will Be The Toughest Job Of Collins’ Career

If you heard Terry Collins‘ lame defense of Yoenis Cespedes‘ boneheaded error Sunday night – “Gold Glove out there, it surprised everybody.” – then you’ll see why this will be the toughest of his managerial career.

Collins is an apologist for Cespedes’ lack of effort and for Matt Harvey questioning his authority. But there’s so much more. There’s how he’ll limit David Wright‘s playing time, or more to the point, not knowing when he’ll have the third baseman available.

COLLINS: Facing his toughest challenge. (AP)

COLLINS: Facing his toughest challenge. (AP)

Cespedes is also a Mets’ wildcard in nobody knows how he’ll respond to the pressure of his $27.5-million contract. If Cespedes folds then Collins is again searching for offensive help, especially if Wright doesn’t hit.

Everybody raves about the Mets’ young pitching, but none of those arms – save Bartolo Colon – have won as many as 15 games. And, please, let’s not forget about the uncertainty of the bullpen.

The Mets are also counting on a breakout years from Michael Conforto and Steven Matz and a new double-play combination.

That’s a lot of variables placed pressure squarely on Collins’ shoulders. How he handles that pressure will go a long way towards where the Mets finish. However, perhaps most importantly is Collins has never had a team this talented. He’s never had a team that went to the World Series the previous season and with as many expectations like his 2016 Mets.

In his first years with the Mets, Collins had the security of having a bad team without a willingness to spend money. Those teams had no expectations and GM Sandy Alderson wasn’t going to sacrifice Collins as he tinkered with payroll and building this rotation. Managers of rebuilding teams having low expectations don’t get fired.

However, it’s different now. That security is gone. The expectations are high as is the pressure to win. And, pressure makes managers vulnerable. That’s why this will be his toughest year.

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