Aug 27

Mets’ Lineup, August 28, At Philadelphia

Here’s the lineup the Mets will use tonight in support of Jon Niese as they go for the sweep in Philadelphia and attempt to extend their winning streak to seven games:

Curtis Granderson – RF
Yoenis Cespedes – CF
Daniel Murphy – 1B

David Wright – 3B

Kelly Johnson – 2B

Travis d’Arnaud – C

Michael Conforto – LF
Ruben Tejada – SS
Niese – LHP

COMMENTS: It’s working, so there’s no reason to make a big deal about it, but I am curious as to why manager Terry Collins keeps hitting Cespedes second instead of third or fourth. I’m also curious as to what the batting order will look like when Lucas Duda returns. … And, with how d’Arnaud is hitting, I thought he’d hit fifth. But, I guess I like to tinker with the batting order just like Collins.

Aug 26

Mets Still Have Concerns Despite Winning Streak

As good as the Mets have been, and they’ve been terrific lately, there remain issues surfacing as they head into October. Several were exposed the past week in Baltimore and Denver, and now in Philadelphia. Fortunately, they were able to outslug their mistakes, and we haven’t seen that in a long time with the Mets.

Some of these flaws surfaced again Wednesday, but scoring nine runs is a great buffer. Even so, here’s what they must address:

COLLINS:  Needs to make adjustments. (AP)

COLLINS: Needs to make adjustments. (AP)

TERRY COLLINS:  Being in a pennant race is new to these guys and that includes the manager. When Jacob deGrom is cruising as he was last week in Baltimore, can’t you just leave him in the game after he gives up a two-out single in the eighth when his pitch-count is still reasonable? If you get into the playoffs, you need to see your ace work out of trouble just as the Giants did last year with Madison Bumgarner.

Collins has a tendency to micromanage. And, speaking of which, with most of the pieces in place – and hitting, by the way – how hard is it to finally pick a lineup?

THE BULLPEN:  When they scored 14 runs in back-to-back games in Denver, and went wild Monday in Philly, they needed every one of those runs because of their leaky bullpen. Championships aren’t won with porous bullpens. Look at the Giants last season. If the Mets don’t fix their pen they will be in trouble. The concern isn’t Jeurys Familia, but getting to him. Speaking of which, they will need Tyler Clippard, who was clearly angry after being pulled with two outs in the eighth on Tuesday.

The Mets acquired Clippard for a reason, which was to be the eighth-inning set-up man. Let him do his job. They’ll need him. The bullpen faltered again Wednesday, but Clippard responded and even got to pitch the ninth. This was giving Clippard a needed positive nod.

HANSEL ROBLES:  Ron Darling nailed it when he ripped Hansel Robles for trying to quick-pitch in Philly. When the hitter’s head is down you don’t quick-pitch. It is bush league and could have resulted in getting one of his teammates hurt. Philadelphia pitchers can throw hard also, and Daniel Murphy was buzzed.

Robles has outstanding potential to fill the seventh-inning slot. What they don’t need is a hot head who could cost them a game – or a player. While we’re on the subject of not being a hot dog, we don’t need bat flips or styling – see: Murphy – after home runs. Act like you’ve been there before. Ticking off the opposition only puts a target on your back. It’s up to Collins first, then the veterans to make this message.

THE OFFENSE:  They are mashing, but in the playoffs runs are at a premium. Teams must manufacture runs in the postseason. We need to see them run, hit behind the runner and string hits together as they did Wednesday.

Yeah, I’m being picky, but you only see the best pitching in the playoffs and not like the staffs or the Rockies and Phillies. What they did in the first inning Wednesday was classic situational hitting, which I loved. Like that more than the homers. And, the ninth was also terrific as they tacked on runs without the homer. Responding to the Phillies’ four-spot in the eighth was something we haven’t always seen and it was a great sign.

It’s a different game in October, which must be realized. They are 14 games over .500 and hold a 6.5 lead over the Nationals. But, nothing is won yet and they have three games coming up with Washington.

Aug 25

Conforto Gives Mets Comfort For Next Year

At one time this season the Mets were desperate for outfielders. Looking ahead to next spring they appear to be in good shape, especially if they bring back Yoenis Cespedes.

Most intriguing is Michael Conforto, who was in college a year ago in June. In an un-Met like move, they brought him up when Michael Cuddyer was injured, and what do you know, he’s producing.

CONFORTO: Made impression.

CONFORTO: Made impression.

More importantly, he’s making adjustments. When pitchers starting working him away, he went to the opposite field. Hopefully, he’ll keep making them, but some hitters never learn. Ike Davis never did, and Lucas Duda is now getting the idea.

Conforto found his opportunity in Cuddyer’s sore knee. And, when it appeared he’d go down when David Wright came off the disabled list, the Mets opted to keep him and send out reliever Dario Alvarez.

“It’s crazy,’’ Conforto told reporters. “The way it’s been happening, you don’t like to see that, you don’t like to see guys going on the DL. But the fact that I’m still here, I’m very excited. It’s where I want to be.’’

It might be difficult for the Mets to keep Cespedes, but he would solve a lot of problems. The Mets will have Curtis Granderson for two more years and Cuddyer for next season.

Conforto has three homers, but has been adept at hitting line drives and playing a solid defense. He’s hitting only .258, but has a .356 on-base percentage and .840 OPS. He runs the bases well, and who knows, perhaps he could be the answer to the Mets’ leadoff question.

It isn’t hard to envision Conforto starting and Cuddyer coming off the bench.

What do you know, the words “next season,’’ in connection with the Mets isn’t a depressing thought.

Aug 10

Cuddyer Back With A Lot To Give

Michael Cuddyer was signed to be a significant offensive piece for the Mets, but as often is the case in the twisting and winding turns of a baseball season, things changed. Cuddyer now finds himself as a role player.

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

A former All-Star and batting champion is hanging on to his career, but still has value. There could be times between now and October when lightning strikes his bat. Times when he’ll make a veteran play that means the difference between a win and loss.

While his playing times will come in drips and drabs, what defines him most – that he’s a good teammate – is what will be on display. He might pull aside a slumping player to give him a tip on that night’s pitcher. Or to calm him down, as was the case on the botched Wilmer Flores trade.

Pennants are won on talent, but what Cuddyer can offer is invaluable. There have been few playoff teams that don’t have a settling, veteran influence. To accept a change of roles with grace and class is something that can’t adequately be measured. It might turn out to be his biggest contribution to the Mets.

Make no mistake, his two-year, $21-million contract is why he’s still here, otherwise he could have been cast aside. That’s often the case with 36-year-old, non-hitting players with aching knees. He’s hitting .250 with eight homers and a .303 on-base percentage, not good in manager Terry Collins’ “hit or sit,’’ edict. Of course, it should have been that way all along, but for the longest time nobody – major league or minor league levels – was hitting.

Cuddyer’s injury opened the way for Michael Conforto, and he’s not going back down. To make room for Cuddyer, Eric Campbell – no surprise there – was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Conforto represents the Mets’ future, and because of their pitching that has been fast-tracked. Cuddyer is a veteran presence essential for a young, contending team, but his days as a starter are over, and to his credit he readily accepts his role.

“I just want to win,’’ Cuddyer said. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what’s in it for me. I want to win baseball games. Whatever the manager feels like is the best lineup to put out there, I’m all for it.’’

Cuddyer started the season in left field, but that position now belongs to Yoenis Cespedes. Cuddyer will give an occasional breather to Curtis Granderson in right field and Lucas Duda at first base.

But, no matter what he does on the field, he won’t get rattled, and as the Mets drive down the stretch, they need to see what Cuddyer still brings to the table.


Jul 26

Mets’ Mojo Has Changed

Did the Mets turn around their karma in the last two games of the Dodgers’ series? Considering what was projected from them coming out of the break, it’s entirely possible because their chemistry has been significantly altered with the additions made Friday night after they were stuffed by Clayton Kershaw.

Rookie Michael Conforto and trade acquisitions Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe have already made an impact. Johnson and Conforto jumpstarted an offensive explosion, and Conforto and Uribe drove in runs in today’s 10-inning, 3-2 victory over the Dodgers.

DE GROM: Would have left him in. (AP)

DE GROM: Would have left him in. (AP)

Uribe not only drove in the game winner, but for the second straight game made an outstanding defensive play at third.

The Mets scored 15 runs Saturday, but that was an aberration. It was going to be different today against Zack Greinke, we all knew that to be the case. The Mets grabbed a 2-0 lead against Greinke, and Jacob deGrom was coasting.

Personally, I would have liked to see deGrom try to win it himself, but I can’t really argue with Jeurys Familia because of his success.

However, after Familia coughed up the lead, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the game get totally away from the Mets. But, it didn’t happen that way.

Curtis Granderson lead off the tenth with a double and scored on Uribe’s drive off the center field wall. With the win, the Mets are two games behind Washington with the call-it-a-season San Diego Padres coming to town Tuesday.

There’s still a lot of the season to go, but for the first time in several weeks there’s not a feeling of despair around the Mets. There’s a sense they can still make something of this season.

And, that’s what I wanted all along.