Sep 13

Mets’ Three Storylines: T.J. Rivera Steps Up

Pennant races aren’t just for guys like Yoenis Cespedes and Bryce Harper. They also belong to guys like T.J. Rivera, a undrafted free agent who carried the Mets on this night over their closest rivals.

RIVERA: Blast lifts Mets over Nats. (AP)

RIVERA: Blast lifts Mets over Nats. (AP)

Getting his first start in three weeks, Rivera had three hits including a tenth-inning homer that lifted the Mets over the Nationals, 4-3 in 10 innings, at Nationals Park Tuesday night. The victory, coupled with the Cardinals beating the Cubs in St. Louis, kept the Mets with a half-game lead for the second wild-card (they are even in the loss column).

“Somebody you don’t expect has to step up and tonight it was T.J.,” manager Terry Collins said. “He’s hit everywhere he’s been. He has a simple, short swing.”

In 45 at-bats since joining the Mets, Rivera his hitting .333 with his first career homer and six RBI. He’s also been solid defensively, regardless of where Collins starts him.

“It’s definitely not to hit a home run,” Rivera said of his thinking heading to the plate against Nationals closer Mark Melancon. “I just wanted to put the bat on the ball. When you haven’t been around the team much you want to contribute.”

With Neil Walker out for the season with a back injury and Wilmer Flores currently hurting following a home plate collision Saturday in Atlanta, Rivera should get more opportunities to play. Collins said it was a gut feeling to start Rivera, who won the Triple-A batting title for Las Vegas.

It’s probably a stretch to say Rivera could make the postseason roster, but he’s made enough of an impression to where he can compete for a job next spring.

Rivera was the main storyline, with the others being Noah Syndergaard’s wasted effort and Jerry Blevins picking up for Jeurys Familia.

TOUGH LUCK NOAH: Collins said with the Mets starting their best pitcher, this was a game they had to win. Syndergaard was poised to win his 14th game until Familia blew his fourth save opportunity in the ninth.

Syndergaard gave up one run on four hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts – including his 200th of the season – in one of his best outings of the season. Unlike previous outings where he ran up his pitch count, Syndergaard was extremely pitch efficient throwing 99.

“He was amped up,” Collins said. “He knew we needed to win this game.”

Syndergaard became the second-fastest Met behind Dwight Gooden to reach 200 strikeouts.

BLEVINS PICKS UP FAMILIA:  Familia blew his fourth save opportunity when the Nationals tied it on RBI singles by Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos (an infield chopper over Familia’s head).

After Rivera’s drive, the Nationals to tie the game again, but Blevins struck out Daniel Murphy on a wicked curveball to end the game.

It was his first save since 2012.

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Sep 07

Mets’ Three Storylines: Taking Care Of Business

The Mets did more than complete a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, they did what all contenders must do, which is take care of business.

It’s hard enough to beat a team in three straight games, but the streak is now 14 straight for the Mets over the Reds with a 6-3 victory Wednesday.

REYES: Big time addition. (AP)

REYES: Big time addition. (AP)

The Reds showed why they are 24 games below .500, but manager Terry Collins said there was no danger of the Mets playing down to their competition, which they frequently have this summer.

“Our guys are completely focused on what they’ve got to do and how they’ve got to go about it,” Collins said.

Beginning with the game’s first pitch, which Jose Reyes crushed over the wall in right, the Reds did everything they could to give the game to the Mets, who gladly accepted.

The Reds had three runners thrown out attempting to steal, including one at the plate; they went 3-for-13 with RISP; they struck out 13 times; they left 12 runners. When offered such gifts, a contender must capitalize, which the Mets did, something they often didn’t do for nearly three months this summer.

Now, with a little over three weeks remaining, the Mets have sliced into a once 5.5-game wild-card deficit to mere percentage points behind St. Louis for the second wild-card after the Cardinals lost in Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Taking advantage of opportunities is why the Mets are back in the race and today’s primary storyline. The others are Reyes’ continued solid play and winning with Noah Syndergaard not at his best.

REYES DOES IT ALL: Reyes not only homered, but also stole a base, singled and scored two runs. Again, he played a solid third base.

“I thought he was going to be a guy that could create some runs by getting on base,” Collins said of Reyes. “But he’s gotten big hits, huge hits. There’s no question there’s a lot of baseball left in that guy.”

The Mets acquired Reyes as a spark plug and a stopgap, and he’s responded by hitting.287 with six homers, 15 RBI, eight stolen bases and a .341 on-base percentage as a reliable leadoff hitter.

Reyes’ production enabled Collins to drop the struggling Curtis Granderson to the middle of the order, where he’s finally showing signs of production.

Granderson hit his second homer in as many games hitting behind Yoenis Cespedes in the clean-up spot. Granderson now has 25 homers and 45 RBI.

Wilmer Flores also homered, his 16th of the season.

SYNDERGAARD STRUGGLES: All this power picked up Syndergaard, who pitched five scoreless innings, but allowed ten runners (six hits and four walks).

Syndergaard’s problem was again command, evidenced by 95 pitches, of which only 61 were strikes.

Syndergaard’s short outing forced Collins to dip deep into his bullpen using five relievers. Of the five, only one – Gabriel Ynoa, who gave up three runs – isn’t expected to be on the playoff roster if the Mets are fortunate to have one.

And, right now that’s a good possibility because they are taking care of business.

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Sep 06

Promotion Suggestion To Mets, SNY

Although the Mets trail both St. Louis and San Francisco for a wild-card berth, they still control their own destiny if they run the table.

Neither the Cardinals nor Giants can do the same because they have a four-game series with each other, Sept. 15-18, in San Francisco.

Because or the time difference, it gave me a promotion idea for either the Mets or SNY, both, if they are so inclined.

The 15th of September is Thursday, and with the Mets off that day, why doesn’t SNY arrange to get either the St. Louis or San Francisco feed and show the game that night?

One reader – named AV – just messaged me saying: “I think the Giants feed could be doable if they wanted to do it. The Cardinals games are carried by Fox Sports Missouri but the Giants are on CSN Bay Area, which is a SNY affiliate since Comcast has partial ownership of both channels.”

On the 16th and 17th, after the Mets are done playing the Twins, SNY can again pick up the feeds. At the same time, perhaps the Mets can invite the fans to stay and watch the game on the Citi Field video board, which by the way, has a pretty decent picture.

Keep some of the concessions open and make a party of it. Who knows, perhaps the can arrange for some of the players to stay behind and sign autographs. Cleveland has a postgame autograph signing for its season-ticket holders. I think Tampa Bay has the same.

It sure beats running the bases.

I believe once the Mets invited  fans to camp out on the field. A huge slumber party. If the weather is good, why not try it again?

The 18th is a Sunday, and again SNY can pick up the game. If the standings remain as they are, it could create some compelling viewing.

Just a suggestion.

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Aug 25

Mets Should Not Hold Pat Hand At Deadline

Most reports indicate the Mets won’t make a deal by the August 31 deadline. However, after watching Seth Lugo’s first career victory cut short by a cramp in his right calf, they shouldn’t be so sure about that position.

All teams put players on waivers throughout the season to ascertain who might be interested in making a deal later. If nobody claims that player – the term is “clears waivers,” – then he could be available. You’d be surprised who might show up on the list.

LUGO: Solid before injury. (AP)

LUGO: Solid before injury. (AP)

We can assume most contenders are adding this time of season. We can also assume the teams sparring with for the Mets for a wild-card would also be interested in adding a pitcher, but since these things are done in reverse order, as of now that player would slip to the Mets before the Pirates, Marlins, Cardinals or Giants could block the deal.

There’s such fragility with starting pitchers as the Mets learned this season with Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler – neither will pitch again this year – and now Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and possibly Noah Syndergaard are suspect. Matz is on the DL, deGrom’s next start will be pushed back, and everybody is waiting for the other shoe to fall on Syndergaard.

The Mets have been fortunate with Lugo, so far, but what will they get Sunday from Robert Gsellman, who’ll be making his first career start?

Also fragile are playoff opportunities. Prior to last season, 2006 was when the Mets were in the postseason. As we learned this year, injuries and bad luck happen. Will the Mets be in contention next year? Nobody can say.

However, everybody in the wild-card hunt has issues. Everybody.

The Mets are now 3.5 games behind for the second wild-card with 35 games remaining following Thursday’s 10-6 victory in St. Louis. Sometime in that span, the Mets might need somebody to step up and take the ball. Who are they going to give it to? Rafael Montero? Sean Gilmartin? Gabriel Ynoa? Surely, the Logan Verrett boat has sailed.

The Marlins are going after it. Reportedly, they are interested in the Braves’ Julio Teheran after a proposed deal for Arizona’s Shelby Miller fell through.

Meanwhile, the Mets seem they will go with a pat hand. And, it isn’t all that great a hand.

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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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