Jul 19

Did Mets Save Their Season Sunday?

Let’s assume the Mets find their way into October. If so, they might look at Sunday as a watershed moment to their season.

The Mets outlasted St. Louis 3-1 in 18 innings, but played poorly enough offensively to lose three games. Their hitters struck out 15 times, went 1-for-26 with runners in scoring position and stranded 25 runners.

iThere was a time this afternoon when I thought Cardinals manager Mike Matheny would better off just intentionally walking the first two hitters of the inning and going from there.

If nothing else it might have cut the time of the game to a brisk four hours.

But, how the Mets responded after losing the first two games of the series – including being pasted Saturday night – to avoid totally limping into Washington tomorrow was essential to their season.

And, it all began with the pitcher the Mets were almost desperate to unload, Jon Niese, who has given up nine runs over his last six starts. He’s also gone at least six innings in each of his last eight starts.

Part of the reason why the Mets toyed with a six-man rotation was to showcase Niese, and he’s pitched like a beast the past two months. He’s as much a reason as anyone as to why the Mets are just two games behind the Nationals.

Sometimes when a team makes a run at a season they need to steal a game like today and have an all-but-dismissed player like a Niese provide a lift.

The Mets seem to have more issues than a dozen years of Sports Illustrated, but they’ll wake up Monday morning in Washington exhausted – but in a pennant race.

And, isn’t that what we all want? And, if it stays that way, today could be the reason.

 

May 19

Mets Matters: No Offensive Help In Sight

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he’s not pursuing immediate trade options to improve the offense, and instead will wait to see what spark David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud might provide when they come off the disabled list.

No surprise in that stance.mets-matters logo

Alderson said neither player would be activated soon.

“I don’t think you can expect [Wright] back sooner than a week, maybe 10 days, maybe even two weeks,’’ Alderson said. “I’d say the same with d’Arnaud. I think a week is way too aggressive. It’s going to be a little bit longer than that.’’

I’ve said this a dozen times, but when it comes to injuries and the Mets, always bet the over.

Of course, not much would have helped tonight.

NIESE SLAUGHTERED

After Jon Niese’s last start, manager Terry Collins said the left-hander had to work harder to overcome in-game adversity.

It didn’t happen in tonight’s 10-2 loss to St. Louis.

Niese gave up single runs in each of the first four innings, and overall gave up eight runs on 11 hits in five innings.

It was just a horrible performance. If there was one stat that spoke volumes about how bad Niese was, it was that of the 25 batters he faced he got a first-pitch strike only 12 times. After the game Collins said Niese would remain in the rotation.

There were a lot of low-lights tonight, including Jack Leathersich walking reliever Randy Choate.

The loss, coupled with Washington’s victory over the Yankees, put the Mets in a first-place tie with the Nationals.

MURPHY LOST

There have been numerous times this season that you’ll see Daniel Murphy do something, either in the field or on the bases, and wonder what is going on in his mind.

Murphy’s brain cramp du jour came in the sixth when instead of covering first base on Michael Wacha’s bunt, he went for the ball that was by the mound.

That loaded the bases and was part of the Cardinals’ six-run inning that broke the game open.

May 19

Mets’ Harvey Gets It

Kudos to Matt Harvey after the Mets’ bullpen kicked away an opportunity for his sixth victory of the season. Just as he did on the mound, he handled the post game like a pro.

Harvey failed in his third straight start for his sixth victory, and in his last two games saw the bullpen blow a 1-0 lead late. In those two games Harvey struck out 18 and threw 15 scoreless innings. He deserved better than two no decisions. He should be 7-1 now, but don’t feel sorry for him because he’ll win many more before he’s done.

HARVEY: Gets it. (AP)

HARVEY: Gets it. (AP)

There will be times when he gives it up, pitches lousy, but somehow come away with a victory. That’s the nature of the sport.

Harvey handled everything perfectly last night. He could have thrown both his hitters and bullpen under the bus, but didn’t. He chose the professional route.

You saw raw emotion when he left the mound. He’s human. He had to be disappointed, but didn’t show it in front of the cameras. Pitchers, like quarterbacks, can’t afford to wear emotions on their sleeves. Only a few can get away with it.

“Well, I think at that point, you just gotta hope we come out and score a run,” Harvey told reporters about went through his mind after the Cardinals tied the game in the ninth. “Take the win/loss out of the equation and concentrate on cheering your teammates on in the bottom half of the inning. … John Mayberry came up and got it done [in the 14th inning], and a win is a win.”

I’ve seen countless pitchers moan and complain about a lack of run support, or point their fingers at a fielder who committed and error, or the bullpen. These pitchers aren’t usually liked by their teammates. The Mets have had a few of them.

But, Harvey is different. His teammates like and respect him, not only for his talent but work ethic. Coming back from Tommy John surgery isn’t easy. He understands this is a team game and he’s one of 25. He knows there will be times when a reliever saves his hide, or a hitter overcomes a bad pitch Harvey made by mauling a couple of home runs. Or a fielder makes a great play. For example, last night Michael Cuddyer and Wilmer Flores made run-saving plays that without them, there wouldn’t have been a blown save.

That’s the nature of the sport, and in that respect, Harvey gets it.

ON DECK: May 19, Mets’ Lineup Vs. Cardinals

May 15

Mets Should Have No Untouchables

With the Mets’ eight-game lead over Washington down to one, we are at the part of the season when panic sets in. They must do something, and fast.

Yes, Wilmer Flores – who leads the team in home runs, by the way – has been dreadful at shortstop. Naturally, he’s the one who must go and the Mets have to trade for a shortstop. In the car, if not the Rolling Stones or Eagles, I will sometimes listen to sports talk radio. Yes, yes, I know it’s a dumb thing to do, but like chocolate it is sometimes hard to resist.

HARVEY: No untouchables. (Getty)

HARVEY: No untouchables. (Getty)

Something I heard today made me laugh out loud. The topic was the Mets’ urgent need for a power bat, to which I can’t disagree. Of course Troy Tulowitzki‘s name came up. It always does. But what was said next is proof most of these guys don’t know what they are talking about.

“The Mets need a shortstop, because they are set everyplace else.”

This is dumb on so many levels, beginning with this – the Mets haven’t had a winning season in six years and despite their hot start there’s no guarantee they will have one this year. That they are 7-12 since their 11-game winning streak is proof this team can’t say it is set. That hot start is a memory.

“Just who are you going to replace?” the voice droned on.

Just who can’t they replace? That’s the better question. After 35 games, the Mets are ninth in the National League with 26 home runs. They are 12th in the league in runs scored with 130. The only player with a batting average higher than .250 in the lineup yesterday was Lucas Duda. Take your pick as to who should be replaced. If the goal is a winning season and the playoffs, everybody should be made available if it improves the team.

After losing four straight to the Cubs, the Mets must beat the Brewers this weekend before the Cardinals come to town. If they lose the Milwaukee series, who can’t see them below .500 by the end of next week, even if Matt Harvey wins his game?

There’s not a player on the team – Harvey included – I wouldn’t trade for the right package. They must get a star already signed to a multi-year deal to make it worthwhile. The often-injured, pricey Tulowitzki is not the answer. There are players, such as Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia, I prefer to keep, but entice me. Make me think before I say no.

Juan Lagares? Why not? Duda? Why not? Please don’t tell me they are set in the outfield with Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer. Maybe the Mets have players like Lagares they see locked into their future, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t better players who could help.

When you’re the Mets and haven’t sniffed the playoffs since 2006, can they be that set to where they say they have untouchables?

Nobody expected an 11-game winning streak, but what it did was not serve notice the Mets are contenders, but allowed them a margin for error which is down to one game. If you can’t see below .500, surely you can see them out of first place.

The Mets entered the season hoping for bounce-back years from David Wright, Granderson and Harvey, and for Flores to develop. The Mets entered the season hoping for a lot of things, but how many times do I have to say “hoping is not a strategy?”

Hope is what GM Sandy Alderson built this season around, and it if all goes to hell, it will be Terry Collins who takes the fall. Such is the plan of baseball’s greatest general manager.

There should be no players who are untouchables given the right circumstances. None. Flores and Collins aren’t the only ones who should be concerned about their jobs.