Jul 15

Braves Complete Sweep Of Mets; Santana Routed Again

The Mets have never liked Atlanta, moreso now after being swept by the Braves coming out of the break. Johan Santana was rocked this afternoon, losing 6-1. They’ve now lost seven of their last 11 games.

SANTANA: Ripped again. (AP)

Since his June 1 no-hitter, Santana is 3-4 with a 5.67 ERA in seven starts. Both he and R.A. Dickey have been hit hard lately with no signs of regaining the form that made them an strong one-two punch in the first half. Santana has given up 13 runs in his last two starts.

The Mets’ next nine games feature six with first-place Washington, a stretch that could determine their second half in terms of whether they believe they can continue to compete and whether they should be active at the trade deadline.

Things aren’t looking good now and this is a very tenuous time for the Mets.

May 09

Mets Go For The Throat; Dillon Gee Gets Crack

The Mets have won 17 games this young season, ten of the come-from-behind variety and seven by one run. They have won six series, sweeping two. They go for the sweep today in Philadelphia.

Doing so will represent another step in their development. Contending teams close out games and close out series. Winning a series winning two of three is great, but sweeping is better.

Sweeping represents a sense of dominance and reinforces confidence. I know what you’re thinking; I’m being greedy. Maybe so, but doesn’t that signify a new attitude about this team?

Today it’s Dillon Gee going, and twice now Terry Collins let him pitch out of trouble when he was on the ropes. That demonstrates confidence, something you rarely saw Jerry Manuel give his pitchers.

I mention that not to rip Manuel as that would be piling on. I do say it to show the difference in attitude and culture between Manuel and Collins.

Manuel came on strong at first, taking out Jose Reyes in his first game. He then regressed, taking an unequal approach in dealing with players and afraid to be forceful with the deadwood. Then again, in all fairness, that message – in dealing with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo – came from up top.

Things are different now. The Mets are infusing themselves with young, homegrown talent. You don’t often see guys not running out ground balls. There are occasional fundamental lapses, but they aren’t as frequent. That explains in part the winning.

The Mets haven’t hit this well with two outs in as long as I can remember. The defense from early questions – Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Josh Thole – is better than anticipated, as is the starting pitching.

Something else the Mets have done, and this is another mark of a contender, is winning within the division and beating teams when they are done. They’ve won two series from the struggling Phillies, swept the Braves when they limped out of spring training without Chipper Jones, and swept the Marlins during their slow start.

Things have changed with the 2012, and that includes the expectations. Have yours changed?

 

May 01

David Wright, Kirk Nieuwenhius Shine in April For Mets

April is in the books and the Mets are sitting well in the National League East at 13-10.  I am first to admit I never envisioned that record for the Mets a month into the season.

When the schedule came out, I penciled in seven or eight wins, tops. However, the Mets exceeded all expectations to make me wonder just how good a summer this could be.

WRIGHT: April Player of the Month

There’s been a lot to like, so let’s touch on some of April’s high points:

PLAYING THEM TIGHT: Including last night’s loss in Houston, the Mets are 8-2 in games decided by two runs or less. That is one of the best indicators a team is heading in the right direction. A team gives itself a chance to win when the score is close. There have been few games when you feel like turning off the TV in the early innings. The Mets are making you watch, and the record shows they have been worth the wait.

WINNING THE DIVISION: The Mets lost series to Washington and the Braves, the latter on the road. However, they swept the Braves and Marlins at home and won a series in Philadelphia. The NL East hasn’t been kind to the Mets in recent seasons, but they are standing up to their division rivals in the early going of 2012.

THE WRIGHT STUFF: Despite missing several games with a fractured pinkie, David Wright is back and stroking the ball with authority. Wright has hit in the clutch and posting good numbers. I’d like for him to hit with more power, but would take the average and RBI than have him slip into bad habits swinging deep. Wright is playing at a level where the contract extension should be a given.

THOLE TAKES A STEP: At the start of the season I wondered about Josh Thole, both offensively and defensively. He’s shown improvement in both areas and the staff likes throwing to him. The Mets’ catching will longer be a concern if Thole continues at this rate.

MURPHY TAKING TO SECOND: We all knew Daniel Murphy could hit, but just as important is his comfort level at second base. Last night he went into the hole and threw back to second for the force. Both catching the ball and throw have been problems. Murphy’s defense was a significant question now being answered in the positive.

TEJADA PLUGGED THE HOLE: We all wondered how Ruben Tejada would respond replacing Jose Reyes. Tejada’s glove was never in doubt, but he’s hit better than anticipated. Before it is over Reyes might have better numbers, but Tejada has not been the weak link.

HELLO NIEUWENHUIS: Andres Torres’ calf injury gave Kirk Nieuwenhuis an opportunity and it looks like one he won’t relinquish.  Nieuwenhuis plays an aggressive center field and is confident at the plate. There’s a lot to like, such as a swagger that says he belongs.

SANTANA IS BACK: Johan Santana’s recovery from shoulder surgery was one of the spring’s leading questions, and save one bad outing, he has been stellar. Wisely, the Mets have monitored his innings and will continue to do so. All they need is to score some runs for him.

ROTATION HAS BEEN GOOD: The Mets received a serious setback when they lost Mike Pelfrey to Tommy John surgery, but Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey have been solid. The Mets need more innings from their starters to stay out of the bullpen, but mostly the innings they’ve received from Niese, Dickey and Santana have been good. Much better than expected.

SURVIVING THE STORM: How the Mets respond from Pelfrey’s injury will dictate a lot about this season. They have been a resilient team and played through injuries to Wright, Jason Bay and Torres. They’ve also compiled a winning record despite little production from Ike Davis and an erratic bullpen. The pen has its positive moments, but there have also been several head-scratchers. Frank Francisco regressed after a fast start and now is nursing a hamstring problem.

I am picking Wright as my Player of the Month. Please check out the newest poll question and share your thoughts. Thanks.

ON DECK:  The newest poll.

Apr 19

Mets Must Recover From Atlanta Pasting

Sorry for the late post this morning. Also sorry for writing positive about the Mets the past few days. Here I go, write about how they could be for real and how steady R.A. Dickey has been and they get routed by the Braves.

OUCH: Kirk Nieuwenhuis watches HR ball in second.

Serves me right.

It’s funny how quickly trends develop. They were pitching great and starting to hit, then all of a sudden they give up 31 runs in four games. Both Johan Santana and Dickey, who had been great out of the gate, were ripped.

The Mets are coming off the worst game they’ve played all year and it’s good for them to have the day off to think about what happened. They’ll need the time to regroup in time to face San Francisco, which will throw four strong pitchers at them this weekend at Citi Field.

The Mets were fun to watch the first week or so, but have been brutal in three of the past four games. It’s a long season, but things can get away quickly, especially for a team as thin as the Mets. Right now, I’m not buying into this “it’s early” stuff. This weekend is important for the Mets to stabilize themselves and get moving again.

Even a split is acceptable because it would mean playing even with one of the best teams in the league. Anything less and things could get away.

Apr 17

Mets Come Up Big Again

Sometimes, the turning point of a game isn’t always in the late innings. Dillon Gee was in trouble early last night. The Braves had the bases loaded in the second with one out.  Gee was clearly struggling and this was the point in the game where the Braves could have taken control, had a big inning and gotten into the Mets’ bullpen early.

GEE: Stellar last night.

However, Gee, showing the composure that was the foundation of his surge last year, got Jack Wilson on a RBI grounder and struck out Tommy Hanson.

The Mets got of the inning cheaply and backed Gee with homers from Ike Davis and another from Jason Bay, the latter’s second in three games. Bay also made a HR robbing catch of Wilson in the fifth.

Pitching, power and defense. It was as complete a game as the Mets have played in a long time.

The biggest things to take out of the game was Gee’s poise, and signs Davis and Bay were breaking out of slumps.

Are the Mets for real? Ten games in at 7-3, it is too soon to call, but you have to like how they are playing, and especially beating teams in their division. You think back and wonder how they let those games against Washington get away.

Considering the expectations, there might be the sense they are playing over their heads, but for the most part the pitching has been splendid and that puts their record into context.

The one thing I am taking from this team right now is that they are fun to watch. I’m not watching with the thought of how are they going to blow this, but with wonderment of their potential.

ON DECK: Are the Mets for real?