Jul 07

Three Mets’ Storylines: Flores, Bullpen Bail Out Colon

Just before the Mets were swept last week in Washington, manager Terry Collins said the 14 games leading into the All-Star break were “very important.’’

He didn’t call this stretch “critical,’’ but his message was understood just the same.

FLORES: Does it again. (AP)

FLORES: Does it again. (AP)

After being destroyed in DC, the Mets responded with a four-game sweep of the Cubs; winning two of three against the Marlins, and powering their way in the opener of this four-game series, 9-7, over the Nationals. With the victory, the Mets pulled within three games of first-place Washington.

Thursday’s win came on the heels of the sobering news Matt Harvey might be lost with season-ending shoulder surgery.

Things didn’t look promising for the Mets after the Nationals took a 4-1 lead in the fourth, but they responded with four homers and a strong showing their bullpen. Travis d’Arnaud, Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores – again – and Asdrubal Cabrera homered for the Mets.

They also caught a break when Jayson Werth’s take-out slide of second baseman Neil Walker was ruled interference, so instead of runners on the corners with no outs the Nationals had the bases empty with two down.

Earlier in the game Werth was called safe on a similar play. Of course, this rule was a by-product of the Chase UtleyRuben Tejada play last year in the NL Division Series.

The following are the three main storylines from tonight’s game.

FLORES STAYS HOT: After a pair of two-homer games on this homestand, Flores did not get the start. Collins’ explanation, in part, was to give him an at-bat against one of Washington’s lefty relievers.

It sounded like he was blowing smoke, but sure enough, Flores hit the first pitch thrown to him by former Met Oliver Perez for a three-run homer in the fifth to put New York ahead to stay. It was his sixth game-winning hit of the season.

Flores has five homers during this homestand, which begs the question: Where will he play Friday?

COLON ROCKED; PEN ROCKS: Colon has been one of the most reliable starters this season, but was shelled, giving up six runs on ten hits in 4.2 innings. Three of those homers came in the fourth by Clint Robinson, Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper.

Colon was bailed out by the offense and the bullpen.

With the bases loaded in the fifth, Jerry Blevins struck out Rendon to end the inning. Hansel Robles struck out Jayson Werth to end the sixth; Addison Reed retired four hitters; and Jeurys Familia recorded his 31st save in as many opportunities.

GRANDERSON RED HOT: “Red hot,’’ haven’t been the words to describe Granderson many times this season, but he reached base five times on three hits – two doubles – and two walks.

In his last five games, Granderson is 8-for-19 (.421) with two homers and five RBI.

Granderson’s surge coincides with the move to second in the order behind Reyes.

Jun 10

Mets Should Consider Rollins

It is a no-brainer in the sense the Mets have nothing to lose if they rolled the dice on former nemesis Jimmy Rollins, who was designated for assignment Friday by the Chicago White Sox.

If it didn’t work out, the Mets could always release him, so why not take a chance? What would it hurt? Some team will make a run at Rollins. Why not the Mets? And, he won’t cost much.

ROLLINS: Why not? (Getty)

ROLLINS: Why not? (Getty)

Of course, Rollins isn’t the same player who once tormented the Mets – along with his double-play partner Chase Utley – but has a winning mentality and could bring something to the table down the stretch.

This season, Rollins, 37, was hitting .221 with two home runs and eight RBI in 41 games with the White Sox. But, he was signed as a role player, evidenced by his $2 million contract.

Once sizzling at 13 games over .500, the White Sox have lost 12 of their last 15 games and entered Friday’s play at 30-30. The Mets aren’t hot either, but they are still very much a playoff contender.

The Mets have a runner on third with one out late in the game. Who would you rather have at the plate, Rollins or Eric Campbell? Or Ty Kelly?

Rollins is better than anybody the Mets have to spell Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop. Although no longer a blazer, he does bring an element of speed, something the Mets lack. Two years ago – his last with the Phillies – he stole 28 bases.

A line drive hitter, he has been a doubles and triples machine during his career. Of course, he’s not in his prime. It would be ridiculous to think he is. However, it isn’t a stretch to think there could be a flashback moment this summer when he could help the Mets steal a game.

And, isn’t that the point of mid-season additions?

May 27

Mets Wrap: Granderson Saves Familia, Collins

The Mets won tonight despite Terry Collins’ over-managing. They overcame a rocky start by Jacob deGrom to take a four-run lead into the ninth. Everything seemed to be falling in place for the Mets.

Addison Reed worked the eighth and got Justin Turner on an inning-ending double play. He needed only seven pitches, so there was no concern about him being overworked.

FAMILIA: Tough night. (AP)

FAMILIA: Tough night. (AP)

That’s when Collins started poking at embers on the grill.

“You can’t worry about tomorrow,’’ Collins inexplicably told reporters as to why he used Jeurys Familia in a non-save situation. “You want to win the game.’’

How many times can you remember the Mets expanding a lead and have Familia sit down and somebody else enter the game?

Collins said he’s used Familia in non-save situations before. Friday was the eighth time he’s done it. Sometimes a closer will be brought in that way if he hasn’t had a lot of work.

Including tonight, Familia has pitched five times in the past week and converted three save opportunities, so it’s not as if he needed the work.

Familia hasn’t been effective in that role and certainly was off Friday, giving up three straight singles and a bases-loaded walk to bring in one run. Collins could see Familia didn’t have it, but what was he going to do, pull his closer for somebody else to close the game?

Instead, he let him pitch to Chase Utley, who drilled a three-run double into the right-center gap. All that talk about retribution with Utley seems tired and moot right now.

Familia eventually got out of the inning – he struck out three – but needed a season-high 32 pitches to do so. It remains to be seen if Familia will be available Saturday.

Curtis Granderson homered down the right-field line off Pedro Baez on the second pitch he saw to take both Familia and Collins off the hook.

METS GAME WRAP

May 27, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #47          Score:  Mets 6, Dodgers 5

Record: 27-19     Streak: W 2

Standings: First, NL East, four percentage points ahead of the Nationals.  

Runs: 186    Average:  3.95   Times 3 or less: 22

SUMMARY:  Instead of his fourth victory, Jacob DeGrom came away with a no-decision when Familia couldn’t hold a four-run lead in the ninth. Granderson took a night of angst away from Familia and Collins by hitting his ninth homer.

KEY MOMENT:  Granderson’s leadoff homer in the ninth.

THUMBS UP: DeGrom’s ability to pitch out of trouble, highlighted by a fastball in the mid-90s. It could have been his best fastball of the season. … David Wright homered for the third straight game. … No unnecessary fireworks involving Chase Utley. … Asdrubal Cabrera’s defense and guess what, he got another hit. … Two hits from Neil Walker.

THUMBS DOWN: Collins’ decision to go with Familia and the closer’s dismal performance (four runs on four hits and a walk). … Mets’ hitters struck out 12 times. … Granderson struck out three times and is now hitting .195. … Familia struggled in a non-save situation, giving up four runs in the ninth.

EXTRA INNINGS:  GM Sandy Alderson said the team is still exploring external first-base options. Kelly Johnson and James Loney are being considered. … Eric Campbell started his fourth straight game at first. … Wilmer Flores is expected to return from the disabled list soon, perhaps during this series. He can play first. … The Mets discounted the idea of using Conforto at first. … Matt Harvey pitched to Alejandro De Aza and Matt Reynolds prior to the game as the team still is searching for answers. Harvey is scheduled to start Monday against the White Sox.

QUOTEBOOK: “He doesn’t get down. He’s level. He’s a professional.’’ – Collins on Granderson.

BY THE NUMBERS:  13: Mets homers in their last seven games.

NEXT FOR METS:  Noah Syndergaard (5-2, 1.94) starts against Kenta Maeda (3-3, 3.29).

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May 10

Mets Wrap: Another RBI, Another Brain Cramp By Cespedes

It is not piling on to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for getting doubled off second base to end the third inning Monday night in Los Angeles.

The play cost the Mets a run – Wright would have scored after tagging up – and consequently the game. The Mets came away lucky by beating the Dodgers, 4-2, but Cespedes shouldn’t come away blameless.

Manager Terry Collins called out Kevin Plawecki for not hitting. To be consistent, he needs to tell Cespedes to wake up.

Cespedes has all the tools – he has 11 homers already and is batting .303 with a .384 on-base percentage – but his hustle and concentration lapses are maddening to watch.

You can forgive a bad throw. You can forgive a dropped fly ball, unless, of course, when you hot dog it and try to make a one-handed catch.

But, you can’t forgive a brain cramp. You can’t forgive being lazy, which is what Ron Darling called him. However, Cespedes may have redeemed himself when he backed up Juan Lagares in the eighth when the latter dropped a fly ball.

I don’t expect perfection for $27.5 million, but I do expect him to think about what he’s doing in the field.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #31   Record: 20-11   Streak: W 3

Standings: First, NL East

Runs: 137     Average per game: 4.4    Times scoring 3 runs or less: 12

SUMMARY:  Once again the Mets took an early lead – 3-0 after three innings – on homers by Curtis Granderson and Plawecki, and Cespedes’ RBI single, and Steven Matz made it stand up to improve his record to 5-1 this year and 9-1 overall in 12 career starts. Matz also helped his cause with a RBI double in the sixth.

KEY MOMENT:  After the Dodgers pulled within 3-2 on Trayce Thompson’s two-run homer in the fourth, Matz regrouped to strike out Howie Kendrick with the tying run on third.

THUMBS UP: Granderson homered to lead off the game. It’s the 37th game-opening homer of his career. … Plawecki hit a solo homer in the second, his first of the season. … Love that Collins had the hit-and-run on with Matz in the fourth. Didn’t work, but it was a good call. … Flores stole second in the fourth, but not without cutting his nose. … Matz gave up two runs in six innings with five strikeouts. … Cespedes leads the NL with 31 RBI. … Jim Henderson came back from being 2-0 in the count to strike out Yasiel Puig in the eighth. Henderson then got Thompson out on a pop up to end the inning. … Three hitless innings from the bullpen.

THUMBS DOWN: Cespedes being doubled off second in the third. … Matz throwing 98 pitches in six innings. As long as the Mets keep pulling their starters around 100 pitches, it is fair game to call them out on this. … Lagares’ error in the eighth. … Sunday’s hero, Antonio Bastardo, had a rocky eighth, hurt by Lagares’ error.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Chase Utley not in the starting lineup, which isn’t a surprise against the left Matz. … Bartolo Colon was named Co-NL Player of the Week with the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist. Remember him? … Did you know Mets’ pitchers have hit Utley 28 times with pitches?

QUOTEBOOK: [The issue of retaliation] was brought up. What happened, happened. We won the series; let’s not get anybody hurt,” – Collins on retaliation against Utley.

BY THE NUMBERS: 24-5: Mets’ scoring vs. opponents in the first inning.

NEXT FOR METS:  Jacob deGrom (3-1, 1.99) vs. Alex Wood (1-3, 5.18). Wednesday: Noah Syndergaard (2-2, 2.58) vs. RHP Kenta Maeds (3-1, 1.66). Thursday: Bartolo Colon (3-1, 2.82) vs. Kershaw (4-1, 2.02).

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May 09

Going After Utley A Bad Idea

The dumbest thing the Mets can do during their four-game series against the Dodgers – starting tonight in LA – is to go after Chase Utley with a beanball. Whether it be at his head, ribs, butt or knee, there’s no reason to start something that has already been finished.

It wouldn’t be smart even if Ruben Tejada was still on the Mets. He’s not, so what’s the purpose.

UTLEY-TEJADA: Let's move on. (AP)

UTLEY-TEJADA: Let’s move on. (AP)

MLB overreacted last October during the playoffs, which was substantiated when the suspension was dropped on appeal.

We can debate all we want on whether it was a dirty play. I’m saying it wasn’t, because: 1) Daniel Murphy did not make a good throw; 2) Tejada turned into the path of the runner, and 3) Utley was within close proximity of the bag, at least according to the rules in place. (See photo).

Also, it has always been an umpire’s discretion to eject a player if he deemed the play dirty. This did not happen and MLB behavior czar Joe Torre came down with the suspension to avoid Mets fans going ballistic when the NLDS moved to New York.

Was it aggressive? Yes. Was it dirty? Debateable. Is it worth it for the Mets to retaliate and possibly get a player injured or suspended? No.

The issue will be brought up tonight and I’m betting the over/under on the times SNY shows the play to be at least 12. That would be three times per game.

Suppose Steven Matz, or Matt Harvey, or Noah Syndergaard hit Utley and a brawl ensued. Why risk one of them being injured to prove a questionable point in protecting a player no longer on the team?

And, pitchers aren’t the only ones you could be injured. Cal Ripken nearly had his consecutive games streak snapped when the Orioles were involved in a brawl with Seattle. As it was, Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina took a few bruises.

Of course, it would be fascinating to see Yoenis Cespedes against Yassiel Puig in a WWE cage death match event. But, I digress.

The Dodgers aren’t playing good right now, so why wake them up? It could only hurt the Mets in the long run. Plus, the Mets and Dodgers could meet again in the playoffs. Why give the Dodgers ammunition to use in the future?

I felt bad Tejada didn’t get to play in the World Series. and that was his last play as a Met. However, the Mets didn’t think highly enough about him to keep him on the roster. Tejada is gone, demoted to a trivia question in Mets lore.

It’s over and time to move on.

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