Jun 24

Mets’ Matt Harvey Should Start All-Star Game

The starting role for the All-Star Game is Matt Harvey’s for the taking. With three more starts for the New York Mets, including an audition for San Francisco and National League manager Bruce Bochy, should Harvey run the table and go into the break at 10-1 with an ERA close to 2.00, it is totally realistic.

Unless Harvey tanks, he should get the ball.

HARVEY: Should get All-Star nod, (AP)

HARVEY: Should get All-Star nod, (AP)

“We’ve still got a long way to go,” Harvey told reporters Sunday in Philadelphia. “ … Hopefully, the performance will take care of itself.’’

Meanwhile, speaking on SiriusXM, Bochy said with all things being equal, letting Harvey start in his home city could be the deal breaker. Based on record, Harvey trails Washington’s Jordan Zimmerman (10-3), St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright (10-4), Arizona’s Patrick Corbin (9-0) and Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee (9-2), especially should they continue to win their remaining starts.

However, if any of them pitch on Sunday preceding the July 16 All-Star Game, they would not be able to pitch in the game. Of course, the same applies to Harvey, but Mets manager Terry Collins won’t let that happen.

Because of how well Harvey has performed, it would not be a token gesture by Bochy, but a decision based on merit. Bochy, one of the best managers in the game, understands the rarity of starting the All-Star Game in one’s home park, and would not deny Harvey the privilege if the numbers were equal.

And, from a strategic point of view, why would Bochy do anything to alienate Harvey or the Mets? Why make an enemy?

It wouldn’t make sense.

Prior to Sunday’s victory over the Phillies – Harvey only worked six innings because of rain – I wrote how other pitchers were having better statistical seasons and stand by that feeling. However, that doesn’t mean Harvey isn’t having his own special year, even if he isn’t the “best pitcher on the planet.’’

Harvey’s window is less than a full year with 26 career starts, but he’s demonstrated he definitely is a cornerstone pitcher, an ace to build around. He puts the odds in the Mets’ favor every five days, something that can’t be underestimated.

While he has his share of special numbers, what I like best about Harvey is his 24-hour rule, which is win or lose, he won’t dwell on a game for longer than a day. It demonstrates focus and his head is in the right place.

However, physically the right place for Harvey on July 16 will be on Citi Field’s mound.

It feels right.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 10

Valdespin Heads Tonight’s Mets Lineup

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

VALDESPIN: Earn’s a start after a tripling and scoring on Tuesday.

The Mets will attempt to win their third consecutive series tonight in Philadelphia, but the match-up of starter Jeremy Hefner against the Phillies is not a good one for them.

Hefner took the loss in his last start against Miami, but gave the Mets a good effort, giving up a run in six innings. It was a quality start that manager Terry Collins will take every time.

What Collins can’t afford – if for no other reason than to save his bullpen – is what Hefner gave the Mets in his last start against the Phillies. Last September, Hefner lost 16-1 in a game where he gave up seven runs on six hits and a walk without recording an out. It rarely gets worse than that, simply because pitchers don’t get to stay in that long when they are that bad.

Hefner is 1-1 with a 15.95 career ERA against the Phillies. The assumption is Collins will have somebody get up in the bullpen early, but the reality is Hefner might have to take one for the team if the game gets out of hand quickly.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against the Phillies Kyle Kendrick:

Jordany Valdespin, CF: Hit .313 in spring training to earn a spot on the roster. Tripled last night to earn himself a start tonight.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Raised average to .333 by going 10-for-his-last-30, which includes a five-game hitting streak.

David Wright, 3B: Is 8-for-28, including 2-for-5 with RISP.

Ike Davis, 1B: Back in lineup tonight after resting against Cliff Lee. Has four hits this season and ten strikeouts.

John Buck, C: Hitting .393 and leads team with four homers and 14 RBI, the latter leads the NL. Has homered in consecutive games.

Lucas Duda, LF: Has seven walks, which is a most encouraging stat. Has a .452 on-base percentage, which is seventh in NL.

Mike Baxter, RF: Gets a start, but still think he deserves a chance to lead off. … Led majors with .458 average as pinch-hitter.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Is on a 5-for-26 slide to start the season. Also has four errors.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Was ninth in NL in ERA last year at 5.09.

Apr 09

Slumping Ike Davis Benched

If the Mets are to beat Cliff Lee tonight – the second Phillies’ ace in as many nights – they’ll have to do it without Ike Davis.

Davis is struggling out of the gate, hitting .148 with one homer and showing no signs of breaking out. He’s on the way of repeating last spring, which morphed into a miserable first half.

DAVIS: Haven't seen much of this lately.

DAVIS: Haven’t seen much of this lately.

“I don’t know if I can say I am better for going through that,’’ Davis said during spring training. “But, you do learn that eventually you’ll come out of it. That’s what happened to me.’’

Davis had strong second half to finish with 32 homers; that’s what gives him confidence now.

Tonight is as good a night as any to give Davis a break as he is 1-for-11 with four strikeouts in his career against Lee.

It was suggested in this column earlier today that if Terry Collins needed to adjust his lineup he might consider dropping Daniel Murphy to third and David Wright to fourth.

Instead, Collins chose to keep Murphy and Wright in their respective, two-three, slots and play Justin Turner at first base and insert hot-hitting catcher John Buck in the clean-up spot.

It is premature to say Davis is evolving into a left-handed hitting Dave Kingman, but there are signs he is not far off, such as 10 strikeouts to only four hits this year in only 27 at-bats this year. For his career, Davis has 320 strikeouts to 154 walks and 299 hits.

“I like to him home runs,’’ Davis said when asked if he considered changing his approach. “I’m going to strike out.’’

The Mets are seeking their fourth straight victory tonight behind Dillon Gee, who is coming off a masterful performance last week in a 2-1 loss to San Diego in which gave up a run on three hits in 6.1 innings.

Gee’s changeup was especially good that day, and must be so again tonight as he is 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in four games against the Phillies.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Collin Cowgill, CF: Struggling at .176 with two homers and five RBI, with most of it on his Opening Day slam. Hitless in two at-bats Monday.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Has eight hits, five for extra bases. Was 5-for-16 with two doubles off Lee last year. Is riding an eight-game hitting streak in Philadelphia, going 12-for-36.

David Wright, 3B: Including two hits and an RBI Monday, has hit .413 in his last 19 games in Philadelphia.

John Buck, C: His 12 RBI is a club record through the first seven games of a season. Lifetime is a .292 hitter with three homers against Lee. Said Buck: “The key is I just feel good and I’m not trying to do too much.’’

Marlon Byrd, RF: Hitting .278, but .375 with runners in scoring position.

Lucas Duda, LF: With Davis sitting, Collins wisely chose not to move Duda, instead giving him more time to learn the outfield.

Justin Turner, 1B: Starting for Davis. Turner had three hits in his first start of the season, April 4, vs. San Diego.

Ruben Tejada, SS: In both fielding (four errors) and hitting (.211) slumps.

Dillon Gee, RHP: Has gone at least five innings in 47 of 50 career starts.

I will have another post following tonight’s game.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

Apr 08

Mets Hit Road With Hope

Fast starts can lead to expectations. After opening the season with wins in consecutive series over San Diego and Miami, it is way to soon to consider the Mets a General Electric type behemoth.

But, there is some juice here, enough to where there is some light.

HARVEY: First up on road trip. (AP)

HARVEY: First up on road trip. (AP)

The Mets began the season with little hope of cracking last year’s 74 victories, but the first week created a sense there might be something to the summer if nothing more than another collapse in the making.

But, wouldn’t you rather have a duplicate of last season – a good start followed by a fall – rather than no season at all?

Following a baseball team is all about hope, and maybe the Mets will break your hearts again. While hoping for October is outlandish, hoping for an enjoyable summer, where meaningful games are played, could be possible.

It is hard in baseball to look at a schedule, circle a date and think, “that’s a win.’’ There are many variables in baseball that make it difficult, but looking at their upcoming 10-game road trip, it isn’t hard to fathom an opportunity to make April interesting, and with it, maybe the entire summer.

The Mets open a three-game series tonight in Philadelphia behind Matt Harvey, who every time he pitches, has his teammates believing.

“It’s exciting to see him pitch,’’ David Wright said. “He pitches with a lot of poise. We believe we can win every time he goes out there.’’

The Phillies aren’t the monster they used to be, and their starter tonight, Roy Halladay, is in decline. Philadelphia, ever grateful for the Marlins, has been slow out of the gate.

As bad as they were last year, the Mets were 10-8 against the Phillies, including 7-2 in their park. Confidence can be a fragile thing, but the Mets know they can win down there.

Following Harvey will be Dillon Gee and Jeremy Hefner against Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick, respectively.

After Philadelphia comes Minnesota. The Twins enjoyed a strong run from 2002-2010 when they made the playoffs six times, but they’ve had two down seasons.

If the Mets should pattern themselves after any team over the past decade, they would do far worse than emulate the Twins, who have fielded fundamentally strong teams with good pitching while on a limited budget.

The probable for Minnesota are: Jon Niese, Aaron Laffey and Harvey.

The Mets conclude their trip with four games in Colorado, which is three years removed from the playoffs and five from the World Series.

The Mets haven’t enjoyed much success against the Rockies, but their park is one where pretty much anything can happen.

As of now, Gee, Hefner, Niese and Laffey will start against the Rockies.

By no means is this an easy stretch, but coming home even or 6-4 is doable, before series against Washington, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

Circle your calendar: April 19 at Citi Field, Harvey against Stephen Strasburg.

ON DECK: Making a case for Mike Baxter leading off.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

May 01

Mets performed as expected in April.

Where did that winning streak go? It was here a moment ago. Instead, it has morphed into a three-game losing skid, which could reach four tonight against Cliff Lee, and keep going when the San Francisco Giants come to town this week.

The Mets closed April at 11-16 and in last place in the NL East, about what most people expected from them. But what most counted on was win two, lose three. Nobody expected the Mets to be as streaky to the extreme as they have been. Losing this way is more frustrating because it preys on your frustrations and fears.

The pitching is going to dictate the Mets’ success this year, and that didn’t disappoint in April, where it was poor for most of the month save a week stretch in which it transformed the Mets into a representative baseball team. The key was Mike Pelfrey, who regressed from last summer. There were occasional bright starts, but for the most part the rotation remains a source of concern, as does the bullpen, which has proven to be highly combustible when overworked.

There’s nobody in the rotation that you feel confident will take you to the seventh. Jon Niese was solid yesterday against Roy Halladay, but who can’t see him bailing after four in his next start.

Pedro Beato and Jason Isringhausen have been dependable. Francisco Rodriguez is still a tight rope act. Bobby Parnell was supposed to be the eighth inning answer, but we don’t know much of his failures are talent or injury related. The remainder of the pen is a hold-your-breath propostion.

Offensively, Daniel Murphy has been solid and Carlos Beltran has performed more, and probably better than expected. Ike Davis has taken a positive step and Jason Bay has played well since coming off the disabled list.

David Wright still strikes out too much for me and is not dependable in the clutch. I still want Jose Reyes to strike out less and walk more.

There are days when the offense can be daunting, yet others when it is puzzling. That pretty much describes the Mets as a whole, which hasn’t been a surprise.