Jun 30

Mets Get Resilient Effort When They Need It Most

They wouldn’t be the Mets if things were easy. Last year they reached the World Series because of their young arms, a hot month from Yoenis Cespedes, but perhaps most of all, with their resiliency. They overcame injuries and dreadful two-month team hitting slump to find themselves standing at the end.

With those arms, reaching the playoffs this year would be a formality. It sure looked that way with a sizzling April. However, they’ve played sub-.500 baseball the past two months, and after being swept out of Washington, not many gave much for their chances this weekend against the hot Cubs, especially with Steven Matz starting with a painful bone spur in his valuable left elbow.

NIMMO: Scores game-winner. (AP)

NIMMO: Scores game-winner. (AP)

I thought Matz shouldn’t have started, and despite working into the sixth, I’m not yielding on that sentiment. We’ll see how he feels Friday and the days beyond. I really hope I am wrong. The Mets gambled and won when they pushed the envelope with Matz, who overcame a two-run first to throw 104 painful pitches in a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Cubs.

The Mets had to win, because at the same time Matz was ducking a John Lackey fastball to his head, Cespedes was reaching the third deck at Citi Field, and Brandon Nimmo was thrilling us with a timely hit and baserunning, the Nationals were bludgeoning the Reds.

After losing three straight to the Nationals – and five of seven overall – the Mets entered this series realistically needing to win at least three of four games to stay within binocular distance in the NL East. Make that telescopic distance if the Cubs swept the Mets and Nationals did the same to Cincinnati.

Come Friday morning, Panic City is still a couple of exits away.

“I don’t know yet,” manager Terry Collins told reporters as to the magnitude of the victory. “It sure came at the right time. It was a real impressive win.”

It was impressive because outside of Cespedes Home Run Derby type of blast, the Mets did the basic, dirty things they did last year and what they must do in the second half.

It began with Matz, who fell behind 2-0 in the first on a Kris Bryant homer, but gutted his way into the sixth.

“I felt good,” Matz said about his much-talked-about elbow. “I was able to pitch without any issues. I was able to keep us close. I’m happy with how things turned out. I’d say it’s a little relief.”

Down 3-0, the Mets started their comeback – something they did with frequency in 2015 – with Cespedes’ 466-foot drive into the upper deck in the sixth.

“It was a 2-0 pitch,” Cespedes said. “The plan was to swing, and swing hard.”

It woke up Citi Field like a hard slap to the face.

The Mets finally got to Lackey with Travis d’Arnaud‘s one-out single in the seventh that brought in Joel Peralta. Alejandro De Aza, vilified in Washington, pinch-hit for reliever Erik Goeddel and walked. Nimmo, whose exuberance has been a lift, singled home a run after an intense nine-pitch at-bat.

“I was trying to keep things simple,” Nimmo said. “I wanted to be short and get the ball on the barrel.”

The Mets have often been criticized for not being aggressive on the bases, but Nimmo drew a wild throw from Cubs second baseman Javier Baez off Neil Walker‘s chopper and scored when the ball got by the third baseman Bryant.

Of course, there couldn’t be a 1-2-3 ninth. That would be too easy.

The Cubs put runners at second and third with no outs against Jeurys Familia. An intentional walk loaded the bases, but Bryant and Willson Contreras couldn’t resist Familia’s sinker and struck out. With a little discipline, the Cubs would’ve had two bases-loaded walks. Baez then popped out to end the game and for one night at least, we got a reminder of the resiliency this team can still muster.

Apr 25

Mets Morning Coffee

The vibe for the Mets will be considerably different tonight against Cincinnati than it was when they left after manager Terry Collins said they faced a must-win situation.

The Mets went 7-2 on this trip, but remember five of those victories came against Philadelphia and Atlanta, teams they are expected to beat, and teams they must prevail against if they are to win the NL East.

Today on the blog I’ll have:

Today In Mets History: Rookie Doc Gooden stuffs Montreal.

A brief on Noah Syndergaard.

Lineups, notes, and of course a wrap of tonight’s game. I’m also working on a piece on strikeouts and hope to have that online either today or tomorrow.

Have a great day.

ON DECK: Today In Mets History: The Doc Is In The House

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Apr 11

Today In Mets’ History: Grote Homer Beats Reds

Not known for his power, on this day in 1971 Mets catcher Jerry Grote’s homer in the bottom of the 11th was the difference in a 1-0 victory over Cincinnati at Shea Stadium.

Batting eighth, Grote homered off Wayne Granger to lead off the inning. Grote homered twice that season and 39 times during his 16-year career, which included 12 seasons with the Mets where he carved a reputation as a defensive specialist with a strong throwing arm.

GROTE: Mets' best defensive catcher. (AP)

GROTE: Mets’ best defensive catcher. (AP)

Grote was a National League All-Star in 1968 and 1974. In those days, the NL was strong behind the plate with the likes of Johnny Bench, Tim McCarver and Randy Hundley.

How good was Grote defensively? Bench once said: “If Grote and I were on the same team, I’d be playing third base.”

Tom Seaver started that day and pitched nine scoreless innings. He was relieved by Tub McGraw, who worked two innings for the victory.

Grote also played with Houston (1963-64), the Dodgers (1977-78, and 81), and Kansas City (1981).

Grote was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 1992.

He is 73 and lives in San Antonio, Tx.

ON DECK: April 11, Mets’ Lineup Against Miami

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Nov 05

Extending My Apologies To Sandy Alderson

In my coverage of the Mets, from my days as a newspaper reporter to this blog, I have been a proponent for being stand-up. I have applauded David Wright, Daniel Murphy, ,manager Terry Collins and others for accepting responsibility when things go wrong.

ALDERSON: You have reason to smile. (AP)

ALDERSON: You have reason to smile. (AP)

And, I have been critical of Matt Harvey for not always doing the same.

Given that, I must hold myself to the same standards and admit I was wrong on GM Sandy Alderson on several issues this year. Among them:

* Not having a concrete plan for Harvey as to his innings limit, or at least, not being open with it.

* For his reluctance to promote outfield prospect Michael Conforto from the minor leagues when the team was in a woeful hitting slump.

* For seemingly dragging his feet on bringing in a bat at the trade deadline. And, when the Carlos Gomez trade with Milwaukee fell through, Alderson deserves considerable credit for despite the rapidly approaching deadline, kicking the tires on Jay Bruce from Cincinnati before landing Yoenis Cespedes.

The bottom line: No Cespedes, no playoffs.

Alderson told us to be patient and rewarded us.

When the Harvey news broke, Alderson went with the flow and worked with the appropriate parties to make sure it wasn’t a lingering problem. And, well Conforto made the most with his opportunity and in addition to gaining valuable experience, helped the Mets to the World Series.

He’s expected to be a starter next season and the Mets are far ahead because they already have a book on him. In both cases, Alderson did what he was supposed to do, which was act in a manner that made the Mets better. Nobody can ask for more.

There’s no rest for him as he’ll be attending the general managers meetings next week. Next year has already begun and with it a myriad of issues, from rebuilding a bullpen, and making hard decisions on Cespedes, Murphy, the middle infield and ascertaining where things are with Wright’s back.

I’ll voice my opinion as I always do, but for now, Alderson deserves to savor this season without my two cents.

So, cheers to you Mr. Alderson for making me, and countless Mets fans, eat our words. Your instincts about this team were correct and I was wrong. You had one hell of a year.

Congratulations.

Oct 30

Mets Have No Hesitation In Matz For Game 4

Like Noah Syndergaard Friday, Steven Matz is another young, stud pitcher the Mets wanted to delay bringing up, but instead is now in position to take this World Series into November. Syndergaard overcame early threats to strike out six in six innings and backed by two-run homers from David Wright and Curtis Granderson, the Mets stuffed Kansas City, 9-3, to make this a Series again.

Growing up in Long Island, Matz loved the Mets and dreamed of moments like Game 4 Saturday night. He just never thought he’d commute from his parents’ home to Citi Field to pitch in front of a raucous crowd and nationwide television audience with a chance to pull the Mets even.

MATZ:  Mets to ride him Saturday. (Getty)

MATZ: Mets to ride him Saturday. (Getty)

After all, when you’re 24, single and a pro ballplayer in New York, the mindset is having a bachelor apartment in Manhattan: See: Joe Namath, Walt Frazier and Derek Jeter.

“I always thought about it,’’ said Matz, who made his major league debut with a 7-2 victory over Cincinnati and finished 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA.

“I didn’t know it was actually going to come to truth or whatever. It’s actually amazing. It’s pretty big blessing being here, especially my first year being a part of this team.’’

The Mets will try to get back into the Series with a left-hander who made only six starts. So confident the Mets are in Matz they chose him over Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese, or to bring back Matt Harvey on short rest.

“Matz will pitch Game 4, no matter what,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

Matz, like the others in the Mets rotation, throws hard, which could play into the hands of the Royals’ hitters, whose rep is to put the ball into play against mid-90s fastballs. Matz said he won’t try to fool the Royals with his secondary pitches, but go with his heater.

“I think we all look at every team we face and we have a game plan. That’s what we’re going to do,’’ Matz said. “We’re not going to change anything as far as that. We’re going to sit down and study the hitters and attack the hitters the way we believe we can get them out. So that’s what we’re going to do.’’

If he does, we could be in for a great ride.