Sep 19

Syndergaard Spits Bit; Owns Responsibility

Let’s put the brakes on this conversation about the Mets having a cupcake schedule, and while we’re at it, Noah Syndergaard being a Cy Young Award candidate. All games are vital at this point, and the last thing the Mets need is for their best pitcher to respond as poorly as Syndergaard did Monday night in a game they had to win – and with him getting an extra day of rest.

SYNDERGAARD: Doesn't have it. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Doesn’t have it. (AP)

“It stings a little bit,” said a dejected Syndergaard. “These last two weeks, every win is critical. It’s a disappointment. I didn’t go out there and get my job done.”

I love that. No excuses. Pointing a finger only at himself.

Syndergaard asked for the day and produced the third-shortest start of his career, giving up five runs on eight hits in 3.2 innings in the 7-3 loss to Atlanta. You knew Syndergaard and the Mets were in trouble with his 35-pitch second inning. He encored that with 29 more in the third. Syndergaard finished with 99, of which 26 were foul balls.

“I lost control of my fastball and couldn’t get my slider over,” said Syndergaard. “Baseball is s funny game. Once you think you have it figured out, it knocks you down.”

After a rough stretch in midseason where his pitch count mounted, Syndergaard had been very good over the past month, giving up four runs in his previous five starts and going 4-1 in his last five decisions.

His location had been better, as was his slider. He was pitching the way an ace is supposed to pitch.

“He’s our guy,” manager Terry Collins said. “Certainly [Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman] have stepped up and done a great job, but you’re going to go into the playoffs looking at Noah Syndergaard as the guy. If there’s a big game to be pitched, he’s the guy you’re going to turn to.”

Syndergaard is lined up to start the wild-card game, as is San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw and St. Louis’ Carlos Martinez. At this point, all might be slotted ahead of Syndergaard as a Cy Young favorite.

We saw all the foul balls again tonight, an indication he didn’t have sharp movement on his pitches and couldn’t put away hitters.

Collins said Syndergaard was throwing in the high 90s, but again, velocity isn’t nearly as important and movement and location. And, no, nothing was bothering him physically.That wasn’t the case,” Collins said. “He wasn’t making any pitches.”

“That wasn’t the case,” Collins said. “He wasn’t making any pitches.”

With the way the schedule pans out, Syndergaard will get two more starts. He can’t afford to let one more get away.

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May 10

Collins Gives No Confidence Vote To Conforto

Looking at the Mets’ lineup for Tuesday’s game in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but notice a glaring mistake. Perhaps it was just an oversight on manager Terry Collins’ part, but I’m not thrilled with Michael Conforto batting sixth, protected between the red hot Wilmer Flores (.170, one homer and two RBI) and the sizzling Kevin Plawecki (.229, one homer and three RBI).

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

The Mets touted Conforto as the team’s No. 3 hitter of the future when Collins moved him there in mid-April. The move, where he hit ahead of Yoenis Cespedes, jumpstarted the Mets’ offense and sparked their surge in the standings.

The Mets are 16-5 isince moving Conforto to third, which includes losing the first two games on this trip. Unquestionably, Conforto is on a significant slide, going 3-for-29 (.103) over his last eight games. Basically, that’s a bad week.

Although the Mets are facing a left-hander in Alex Wood, it should be noted he’s 1-3 with a 5.18 ERA. The message indicated a lack of confidence by Collins in Conforto, but the manager’s words flat out shout it loud.

Lefties are batting .367 this year against Wood, but the manager doesn’t think that’s relevant. Collins said batting Conforto sixth wouldn’t create pressure to perform, but he’s mistaken. There’s more pressure now.

Collins made a big deal saying Cespedes’ presence helped Conforto, but if you buy that logic, you must also accept he’s getting next to no protection between Flores and Plawecki. In addition, what must Conforto be thinking about this demotion?

As far as his reasoning for moving Conforto, Collins told reporters today: “I’d like to leave him in the three-hole if I thought he could do some damage.”

That’s another way of saying he doesn’t think he can do any damage against a pitcher with an ERA just under six. How’s that for a pat on the back?

No, I don’t like this decision. Confidence is essential in the development of a hitter, and this move screams Collins has doubts. When Collins moved Conforto, I wrote how important it was for him to stay with him during slumps. At least the first one.

If Conforto is to become the No. 3 hitter the Mets expect of him, he’ll have to endure dry stretches. So, what does Collins do? He bails at the first sign of a problem. Collins said Conforto will bat third against right-handers, but said nothing about lefties. You have to assume he won’t hit third against Clayton Kershaw.

It has only been eight games. Let Conforto work his way out of this, the same way he’s given a long leash to Matt Harvey.

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Nov 18

Syndergaard My Choice As Met Pitcher Most Likely To Win Cy Young

As expected in many circles, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw finished 1-2-3 in the National League’s Cy Young Award voting. Despite having a solid season, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom finished seventh in the voting. No surprise in any of that.

SYNDERGAARD: My choice as Met most likely to win Cy  Young. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: My choice as Met most likely to win Cy Young. (Getty)

It might turn out that deGrom might eventually win the Cy Young Award, but my guess is of the Mets’ young core, Noah Syndergaard will be the first of their stellar, young core to win. Matt Harvey is the sexy pick, but he doesn’t have Syndergaard’s “stuff,” and for that matter, he doesn’t have deGrom’s “stuff,” either.

There’s something magical and electric about pitchers able to throw 100 mph., and pile up the strikeouts. There’s no accounting for injuries and bad luck, but call it a hunch. Of all their young pitchers, I’m going with Syndergaard as the first one to bring back the hardware.

Who knows? If could happen as soon as next season. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

Oct 18

Bringing Back Murphy A No-Brainer

You have to admire modesty, but Daniel Murphy needs to take a bow. Seriously, he might be having the best offensive postseason in Mets’ history, and all he did was talk about Noah Syndergaard and the bullpen.

I like that, especially in this age of self-congratulatory athletes, but if anybody deserves to pat himself on the back, it is Murphy, who has five homers and eight RBI in seven playoff games. That production comes against the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, and now Jake Arrieta. Tonight’s two-run drive off Arrieta in the first inning jumpstarted a 4-1 victory to put the Mets two games from the World Series.

MURPHY: Bring him back. (Getty)

MURPHY: Bring him back. (Getty)

Now, who expected that coming into the season, which many of us thinking it would be free-agent to be Murphy’s last with the Mets? Murphy, who made $8 million this season, was not expected to be in the Mets’ winter shopping plans, especially with considering Yoenis Cespedes.

However, Murphy worked with hitting coach Kevin Long about being more selective and trying to turn on the pitch. It paid off.

“I don’t think this is a phase for him,’’ said GM Sandy Alderson. “I think that in some ways he’s a fundamentally different hitter than he was, as recently as three, four months ago. And the intensity that he has in the playoff situation certainly is evident, as well. He’s really focused, and he’s always been sound mechanically. But I think his approach is a little bit different, which has made him a more dangerous hitter.’’

But, dangerous enough to bring back?

The Mets won’t pony up the money needed for Cespedes, who reportedly is seeking at least $120 million over seven years. With Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares signed long-term, two years left with Curtis Granderson, and Brandon Nimmo in the wings, the Mets could let Cespedes walk.

However, the infield could be suspect with David Wright and Ruben Tejada coming off injuries. That would make Murphy somebody they couldn’t afford to lose.

I don’t expect the Mets to give Murphy four years, but a $16-million qualifying offer could keep him around for another year until they sort this out.

Whatever happens in these playoffs, that sounds like a no-brainer.

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Oct 15

Mets Advance To NLCS Behind DeGrom And Murphy

Jacob deGrom has been more overpowering, but never has the Mets’ ace been more impressive. And, Daniel Murphy, quite simply, has never been better.

Together “The Mane’’ and “The Beard’’ combined to give the Mets an unlikely 3-2 victory over Los Angeles to send them to the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs. At the start of the season, nobody, and I mean, nobody, would’ve bet that scenario.

MURPHY: Carried Mets' offense. (AP)

MURPHY: Carried Mets’ offense. (AP)

After Clayton Kershaw stuffed the Mets in Game 4 to send the series back to Los Angeles and another meeting against Zack Greinke, the Mets were heavy underdogs.

However, as they have all season, the Mets found a way to persevere. They overcame injuries, slumps and losing streaks, and today find themselves getting ready to host the NLCS come Saturday night.

With David Wright and Lucas Duda not giving the Mets anything offensively in this series, they somehow found a way.

“This team has tremendous fight,’’ said joyous manager Terry Collins. “It’s been that way all season. Whenever we have a tough game, we’ve been able to bounce back.’’

DeGrom struck out 13 Dodgers in Game 1. It seemed as if he stranded that many Dodgers. It was only seven, but five in scoring position. The game could have been over by the fifth. Game 1 was all about stuff; tonight it was guts.

The Mets gave deGrom a 1-0 lead in the first on Murphy’s RBI double, but the Dodgers came back with two in their half of the inning. The Dodgers could have blown the game open, but deGrom never cracked.

“People ask me, what kind of make-up does he have?’’ Collins said. “He had command of nothing and battled and battled and battled. There were about four times he was a batter away from coming out of the game.’’

“That’s why he is who he is,’’ Wright said.

“Unbelievable,’’ Murphy said. “That was more impressive than in the first start because that one could have gotten away from him.’’

That man Murphy tied the game in the fourth. After a leadoff single, Duda walked and Murphy casually jogged to second. With three Dodgers bunched around second – courtesy of the shift – Murphy took off for third, where he scored of a foul-ball sacrifice fly.

“Any time somebody shifts, it doesn’t leave them in position to defend that,’’ Murphy said. “I didn’t want to give it away.’’

Then, in the sixth, Murphy, who will be a free-agent this winter, cranked his third homer of the NLDS; two off Kershaw and one off Greinke.

“He’s been unbelievable,’’ Wright said. “I’ve seen him locked in before, but he’s as locked in as I’ve ever seen him.’’

Murphy is as understated a player as the Mets have, and he quietly said, “sometimes the blessings come.’’

Just how well the Mets will be blessed in the coming weeks remains to be seen, but so far it has been a joyous ride.

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