Oct 15

Where’s Lucas Duda And Offense?

Jacob deGrom is the best the Mets have to offer in Game 5, but it doesn’t matter what he does, if the hitters don’t produce they won’t win. It’s a simple as that in handicapping tonight’s NLDS game in Los Angeles.

No hitting and say hello to winter.

DUDA: Paging Lucas Duda? (AP)(

DUDA: Paging Lucas Duda? (AP)(

One hitter manager Terry Collins needs to wake up is first baseman Lucas Duda, who is 2-for-15 with nine strikeouts in the NLDS. Duda has always been prone to long stretches of sizzling and being cold. But, he’s been so frigid lately Collins and his coaching staff briefly thought of sitting him tonight, with Daniel Murphy playing first and Kelly Johnson going to second.

In the end, Collins went with the player expected to be a Met for years.

“Kelly hasn’t played. Not that it wouldn’t work, but Lucas has been the guy,’’ Collins said. “And you never know when he breaks out. As we’ve seen, if he breaks out, he carries you. So we’re hoping tonight’s the night.’’

When he’s going good, Duda takes the ball to the opposite field, but Collins said he’s pull-happy, and against Zack Greinke, who can pound the strikezone low-and-away to left-handed hitters, that means weak groundballs and pop-ups. It also means strikeouts.

“We’ve just got to get Lucas to relax a little bit – just, hey, look, put the ball in play,’’ Collins said. “When he gets it going, he’s dangerous to all parts of the ballpark. So when you see him struggling like he is right now – and, again, this is only from what I’m seeing – it looks like he’s trying to pull a little too much.’’

It’s not as if Greinke, a Cy Young Award candidate at 19-3, can’t be beaten, but the odds are against it. Lefties are hitting .194 against him; righties at .182.

The Mets’ hottest hitter in this series is Curtis Granderson at .429 with five RBI, three on one swing, but he’s .192 lifetime against Greinke. Yoenis Cespedes has two homers in the series; one in a loss and another in a blowout win. However, he’s .200 lifetime against Greinke.

In addition to Duda, the Mets need something from David Wright, who is .333 (3-for-9) lifetime against Greinke, but .083 with five strikeouts in the NLDS.

If the Mets are to play the Cubs, they not only need deGrom to pitch big, but their hitters to play better.

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Oct 14

Mets Face Daunting, Not Insurmountable Task

They wouldn’t be the Mets if it were easy, now would they? Seriously, how many of you thought the Mets would put away the Dodgers to avoid a Game 5 Jacob deGrom against Zack Greinke showdown?

When the Dodgers gave Clayton Kershaw three runs in the third inning Tuesday night, I pretty much thought it was over. I mean, that game was over, not the NLDS. Not by a long shot.

DeGROM: Wouldn't want any other Mets starter tomorrow. (GETTY)

DeGROM: Wouldn’t want any other Mets starter tomorrow. (GETTY)

As I wrote at the start of this series, I believe the Mets can win this, the next round, and the World Series. I still do, very much so. I’m not ready to let go of the summer and get off this ride, and neither should you.

This is not the time to stew over lost opportunities. Whether or not the Dodgers would have won Game 2 without Chase Utley’s slide isn’t the issue. Frankly, I don’t think Ruben Tejada would have gotten the runner at first anyway, but that’s a moot point.

It’s only fitting this series go down to a final game, and with it, probably a final at-bat. Maybe even extra innings.

The Mets can win because they have deGrom on full rest. This All-Star should win a Cy Young Award before he’s through. The only question is whether he’ll win one before Noah Syndergaard or Matt Harvey. On that note, the Mets should also have Syndergaard available coming out of the bullpen. He’ll be on normal rest.

Although manager Terry Collins said he will not use Harvey, don’t bet against it. Thursday would normally be his between-starts throw day and if Collins needs an out he shouldn’t hesitate. The objective is to win tomorrow and worry about the NLCS later.

Honestly, I have more faith in him, and Bartolo Colon for that matter coming out of the bullpen than I do Tyler Clippard or Hansel Robles or Erik Goeddel.

The only unavailable pitcher should be Steven Matz.

There are no doubts in my mind deGrom can tune out the Game 5 pressures and pitch big. My concerns are the bullpen and dormant bats, both of which have been erratic all summer.

The offense is producing nothing now. Yoenis Cespedes has gone deep, but he’s not attacking Dodger pitching the way he did National League arms in August. Also, David Wright and Lucas Duda are a combined 3-for-27 with 14 strikeouts. That represents a lot of empty at-bats and stranded runners. A few more hits and they could be preparing for the Cubs today.

Certainly a Game 5 against Greinke in Los Angeles is a monster task. But, we can’t think of lost opportunities or not getting the home advantage. That’s over and fruitless. Worrying about that is as pointless as fretting about the high school girlfriend who broke up with you or what happened against the Marlins in May.

If promised the above scenario on Opening Day you would have taken it gladly, no questions asked, and not wanting to string up Utley.

Now, don’t worry, just enjoy history. It has been a terrific series and promises to be so again tomorrow.

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Oct 07

Mets’ Three Keys To Beating Kershaw

The Mets won their season series against the Dodgers primarily because of pitching. So, let’s assume starters Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey pitch lights out, what then will be the three keys to beating the Dodgers?

MURPHY: Needs to stay in lineup.  (AP)

MURPHY: Needs to stay in lineup. (AP)

First, they have to split in Los Angeles. There’s no way they’ll win the series if they lose the first two games, against Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. So, how do they beat two Cy Young Award candidates, beginning with Kershaw Friday night?

Since Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is a disciple to pitch counts, the Mets must work the count. If leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson squeezes out a nine-pitch at-bat to lead off the game but strikes out, that’s still productive.

If nothing else, if the Mets lose Game 1 but force Kershaw to throw 120 pitches, that puts a strain on him for Game 5.

Secondly, the Mets can’t reinvent the wheel. All year, manager Terry Collins played Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda against left-handers. There’s no reason for him to deviate now.

Finally, assuming deGrom turns the game over to the bullpen in good shape, it must hold the lead or at least keep the game close. For the most part, Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard did the job, but the question of how to pitch to left-handed hitter Adrian Gonzalez remains an issue.

There you go, one, two, three. Simple as that,

***

I’d like to thank my friend Joe DeCaro for posting the feature on Justin Turner.

May 01

Why I Like Matt Harvey

There seems to be the feeling in cyberspace I have it in for Matt Harvey, that I don’t care for the Mets’ most exciting pitching prospect since Dwight Gooden. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have nothing against Harvey and he’s done nothing to me to warrant any anger.

He’s been gracious whenever I ask a question and is reasonably accessible despite the many demands on his time.

HARVEY: I love this passion. (Getty)

HARVEY: I love this passion. (Getty)

What I don’t like – and this is noted in every article in which many deemed anti-Harvey – has been the Mets’ inability, or refusal, to be consistent with him. What I don’t like about Harvey personally have been some of his decisions and actions, which are well-documented. There’s no need to go into them now.

Frankly, many of those negative perceptions go in part to explain what I admire and makes him potentially a great pitcher. He’s not yet Gooden or Tom Seaver – can he pitch one complete season first? – but he makes you wonder about a future that could be bright.

Most of all, I like his talent coupled with the rare ability to keep composed under pressure. Perhaps the most meaningful game of his career was last Saturday against the Yankees. That is, of course, until tonight against the Nationals. Strange as it sounds on May 1, this is a game the Mets need to win. If you want to say “must win,” go ahead, I won’t stop you.

Franchise pitchers stop losing streaks. Harvey did it last week and the Mets need for him do it again. Best of all, he’s not shy in wanting that responsibility. Shrinking violets don’t win 20 games, don’t win Cy Young Award and don’t go to the Hall of Fame. Sure, Harvey has a big ego, but most great athletes do.

Another thing I like is when he points fingers, it is usually at himself. You don’t hear him throwing coaches and teammates under the bus. If he makes a bad pitch, he admits it. Believe me, players get tired of having their pitchers blame them. Wilmer Flores took responsibility for his error last night, but Jacob deGrom said he needed to pick up his shortstop, whose confidence is shaky. Believe me, Flores appreciated that gesture, and it is one Harvey has also made.

As readers of this blog know, I stress pitching and Harvey is the real deal so far. He’s vital to their success this year and will be in subsequent seasons. That is why when I moan about his innings, it is because I don’t want him to get hurt. I’ve covered a lot of pitchers whose careers were cut short by injuries and I don’t want him to be one of them. We’ve already experienced losing him for a full season and don’t want it to happen again.

Who doesn’t love that he wants the ball, and will pitch even when not 100 percent? Sandy Koufax pitched in constant pain at the end of his career. So have many others. However, pitching in pain and discomfort and not offering full disclosure, while making good copy, contributed to his elbow injury.

I don’t want him to get hurt again. After all, haven’t Mets’ fans endured enough bad things without seeing that again?

About that bright future many project for him, well, I would like to see it.

ON DECK: Tonight’s lineup.

 

Mar 13

No More Auditioning, Matt Harvey Has The Role

harvey-2It’s not exactly the variety of a film festival when watching the Mets in spring training. It’s the Nationals, Braves, Marlins and Cardinals on a rotating basis. For the Mets in Port St. Lucie, it’s like watching the same episodes of Seinfeld over and over. After awhile, you know how ``The Contest’’ will end.

For a young guy like Matt Harvey working on a pitch, those teams don’t have to worry about the film as they can see him first hand. I’ve always wondered if that’s a disadvantage to the pitcher.Johan Santana once made his final exhibition start against a minor league team rather that against the Marlins, a team he would face in the first week.

Harvey is busy working on his change-up, which was flawless in his last start. He has no choice but to keep throwing against a team he could face five times this season.

“It’s usually the last pitch that comes around,’’ he said. “Everything went well with all my pitches the other day.’’

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