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 09

Is Daniel Murphy Becoming A Power Threat?

They are hot, so as Crash Davis said you don’t mess with a streak. This is not a time for the Mets to be making wholesale changes, but there are things they could consider.

The Mets don’t have the multitude of power options that say, Ben & Jerry’s has ice cream choices, but Daniel Murphy appears to becoming one.

MURPHY: Hitting like one of the big dogs.

MURPHY: Hitting like one of the big dogs.

Lately, he has been driving the ball for power; something I always thought he was capable of doing. Through seven games he has eight hits, with five going for extra bases – two homers, two doubles and a triple. He encored his five RBI weekend against the Marlins with two doubles last night in Philadelphia.

Apparently, his strained intercostal muscle isn’t an issue, or is it?

Terry Collins suggested in trying to protect his injury Murphy has fallen into the good habit of staying within himself. He’s focusing on the pitch with the intent of driving it up the middle and going to the opposite field.

Consequently, his swing is shorter and compact. He’s not overthinking to the point of trying to pull the ball or guessing pitches.

“It’s made me do is focus on work I was able to put in during the off-season, and even the work that I’ve done in past years,’’ Murphy told reporters in Philadelphia, “I get a little bit older in this game, it doesn’t have to be perfect.’’

Power comes from strength and bat speed. Murphy is strong, and coupling that with sound fundamentals quickens his bat.

Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn and Ichiro Suzuki aren’t power hitters, but fundamentally strong. I’ve seen Boggs drive ball after ball into the seats during batting practice. He always said he could hit for power if he wanted to.

I believe Murphy can be the same way. He’s the most patient of the Mets’ hitters. For whatever reason why Murphy is driving the ball, it makes one wonder about his optimum place is in the batting order.

His patience and on-base percentage suggests he could be a leadoff hitter. For those saying he’s not fast, you’d be right, but he’s fast enough. Remember, Pete Rose wasn’t fast, but simply one of the best leadoff hitters in history.

He’s currently second for the purpose of working the count to enable the leadoff hitter a chance to run. Only trouble is the Mets have used four leadoff hitters already. Who is running?

“I continue to think [Murphy] is going to be a very, very good offensive force,’’ Collins told reporters in Philadelphia, “to the point where it’s going to be a question whether he has to continue hitting second or you’ve got to put him in the middle of the lineup someplace.’’

Ideally, a team’s best hitter – defined as the combination of power and average – bats third, but that’s David Wright’s spot. However, should Murphy continue to stroke the ball while Ike Davis keeps struggling, why not move him to third and drop Wright and Davis one slot into the order?

This lengthens the order to the point where Lucas Duda could be batting seventh, which doesn’t make the bottom third a black hole.

They are winning so keep a pat hand. This is just a suggestion to tuck away for later.

ON DECK: Tonight’s starter Dillon Gee and game preview.

Please follow me on Twitter. @jdelcos


Apr 08

Mets Game #7 Wrap: Harvey And Buck Roll

The pre-game buzz was Matt Harvey being a growing hot property and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay on a downhill slide. Both bandwagons got a little more crowded Monday night as Harvey was superb as his Mets pounded Halladay, 7-2. The Mets also received big nights from John Buck and Ruben Tejada in winning their third straight game.

HARVEY: On again. Very on.

HARVEY: On again. Very on.

ON THE MOUND: Harvey gave up a run in seven innings, giving up three hits and striking out nine to win his second start and lower his ERA to 0.64. With bullpen worked hard for 4.2 innings Sunday, the Mets received the innings they needed from Harvey. Harvey has struck out 89 in his first 12 starts.

AT THE PLATE:  Buck hit a three-run homer in the second and the Mets never looked back. … Tejada hit a two-run single in the fifth when the Mets broke the game open. … David Wright and Lucas Duda also drove in droves. … Daniel Murphy doubled twice.

METS MUSINGS: Manager Terry Collins said Aaron Laffey could be in the rotation indefinitely. His next start will be a week from Tuesday at Colorado. … Shaun Marcum threw today in Port St. Lucie, but Collins said he’s not close to pitching in a game. … Also not close is reliever Frank Francisco. Collins said he must twice throw in consecutive games to prove he’s ready.

Apr 08

Matt Harvey Against Roy Halladay; Mets Lineup

It’s too early to jump on the bandwagons of Matt Harvey and Roy Halladay, tonight’s starters in the Mets-Phillies game in Philadelphia.

Yes, Harvey is one of the Mets’ prized jewels and was tremendous in last week’s start against San Diego, and made a strong first impression last season in ten starts.

Add them up and he has 11 major league starts. He’s shown signs of poise and of being the real deal, but the Hall of Fame is a little premature.

Halladay was hammered in his first start and had a rocky spring training. But, he’s still Halladay and it is always premature to write-off a veteran of his caliber. Great pitchers, of which Halladay has been, often have a finishing kick in their careers.

Mike Mussina won his 20th in the final game of his career. Andy Pettitte and David Cone had their prime time moments. I’ll refrain from mentioning Roger Clemens.

Here’s the lineup the Mets will start behind Harvey:

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF: Makes his first start in the leadoff slot, the fourth used by the Mets in their seventh game. Terry Collins is still searching. Had key hit Sunday and hustled into second on the throw to put himself in position to score the winning run.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Murphy is hitting the ball hard, making the argument for a shorter spring training. Has driven in six runs.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .300 with three RBI. Still searching to drive the ball as he has only one extra-base hit.

Ike Davis, 1B: Off to a slow start at .136. Wondering when he might start thinking of last year’s slow start. Has hit .175 the last two years in April.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Delivered the game-winning hit Sunday. Is 3-6 with RISP.

Lucas Duda, LF: Has team-high six walks which is his best offensive stat.

John Buck, C: Buck leads team at .400 and nine RBI.

Ruben Tejada, SS: His hustle going first-to-third Sunday set the table for ninth-inning rally.

Matt Harvey, RHP: Has three double-digit strikeout games in the first 11 career starts.




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