Apr 29

Mets Wrap: Historic Third Inning Carries Matz

We can debate the merits of hitting home runs – which manager Terry Collins labels is his team – or if is better to string together hits and walks.

CESPEDES: Connects for slam. (AP)

CESPEDES: Connects for slam. (AP)

The Mets kept the line moving in the third, scoring eight runs before Yoenis Cespedes capped their 12-run third inning, the largest in franchise history, with a grand slam in a 13-1 rout of the San Francisco Giants.

While both attacks have their upside, what has also been essential to the Mets’ April success has been the consistency of their batting order. In previous seasons rarely did the Mets go back-to-back in consecutive games with the same order.

It wouldn’t be unusual for them to have six different lineups in a week. Not this year. So far, in 21 games the Mets started the following:

No. 1: Curtis Granderson, 20 games.

No. 2: David Wright, 17 games.

No. 3: Michael Conforto: 13 games.

No. 4: Lucas Duda: 11 games.

No. 5: Neil Walker: 13 games.

No. 6: Conforto and Walker: 7 games each.

No. 7: Asdrubal Cabrera: 13 games.

No. 8: Travis d’Arnaud: 8 games.

No. 9: Pitcher: 21 games.

“A lot of good things are happening right now,” Collins told reporters. “I like our lineup.”

Cespedes has been the No. 3 hitter eight times, but that changed after Conforto was moved to the third spot. Cespedes has also been the cleanup seven times. As the season progresses, Cespedes will get the lion’s share of starts hitting cleanup, with Duda batting more in the fifth spot and Walker hitting sixth.

“He’s a great player,” Collins said of Cespedes. “He takes the pressure off everybody.”

When an offense juggles its lineup on a regular basis there’s little chance to develop consistency. However, so far this April you can see where Collins has benefitted with a steady batting order.

Such things are conducive to hitting tears and winning streaks, such as the Mets are on now.

METS GAME WRAP

 Game: #21 Record: 14-7 Streak: W 7

 SUMMARY: Steven Matz pitched out of early trouble, which seemed like a big deal at the time, but it was dwarfed by the Mets’ 12-run third inning, the largest in the 55-year history of the franchise.

KEY MOMENT: The Giants had chances in the first and third to do damage against Matz, who pitched out of it and coasted for six scoreless innings.

 THUMBS UP: Cespedes drove in six runs in the third with a two-run single and grand slam. … Two more hits by Conforto. … Also two hits by Cespedes, Walker and Cabrera. … More solid relief pitching. … They were 9-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

THUMBS DOWN: Why was David Wright still in the game with the Mets having a 13-1 lead in the seventh? Why did he play all nine innings on a cold and damp night? He should have been taken out after the third. Collins said he didn’t consider pulling Wright, saying he wanted to get him at-bats against Giants’ lefty relievers Steven Okert and Javier Lopez in preparation to facing Madison Bumgarner Sunday. … Even so, Wilmer Flores needed to play somewhere. … Mets pitchers walked six. … As long as the Mets count pitches, it will be an issue: Matz has to do better than throwing 110 pitches in six innings.

EXTRA INNINGS: Cespedes has at least one extra-base hit in nine straight games. … Matz is 7-1 lifetime in his short career. … Friday’s game was the first of 17 straight without an off day. … The Mets have hit 31 homers in April. The club record is 33 in 2006. … Conforto has reached base in 16 straight games. … The bullpen has given up three runs in the last seven games.

QUOTEBOOK: “We were not missing the mistake pitches and were having fun out there. When we’re having fun, it’s easy.’’ – Conforto on the Mets’ historic third inning.

BY THE NUMBERS: 45: Duration of the Mets’ 12-run third inning in minutes. Fifteen Mets went to the plate.

NEXT FOR METS: The second game of this series is Saturday afternoon, with the Giants’ Matt Cain (0-2, 6.43) going against Jacob deGrom (2-0, 1.54). On Sunday, Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64) starts against Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69).

 

Apr 25

Mets Wrap: Conforto Should Stay At No. 3 Against Finnegan

When Terry Collins moved Michael Conforto to the third slot in the batting order, he left open the possibility of moving him against a left-hander.

Conforto ripped three more hits Monday night’s 5-3 victory over Cincinnati – including a homer in the first – but with left-hander Brandon Finnegan going Tuesday for the Reds, what will Collins do?

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

Here’s hoping he lost his righty-lefty book and keeps Conforto batting third. Most importantly, you don’t want Collins messing with a hot hitter and giving even the slightest hint of not having complete confidence in Conforto against left-handers.

Maybe, against Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner – the Giants are in this weekend – Conforto might move, but against Finnegan?

That would make no sense.

In going 3-for-3 with a walk, Conforto is hitting .378 (14-for-37) with eight runs scored, five doubles, three homers and eight RBI since moving to the No. 3 spot. He’s hitting .333 overall without even a whisper of a reason why he should be moved.

Even if Yoenis Cespedes can play Tuesday, Conforto should stay third. He said he’s always hit third and relishes the role. Those aren’t reasons why he should stay there. He should stay because he’s the best player for that role, even over Cespedes.

Tell me, the Mets have a runner on third with one out, who would you rather have at the plate, Cespedes of Conforto?

“It’s where you want to be,’’ Conforto told reporters about hitting third. ““You have to be a guy who uses the whole field,’’ Conforto said. “You have to have a good [hitting] zone and be able to shrink that and you want to be a guy who tends to hit well in big situations, a guy who drives runs in, you have to make sure those situations don’t get too big.’’

Third is the spot where a team traditionally bats its best hitter. Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays usually hit third in another era, as did Keith Hernandez for the 1986 champion Mets. Barry Bonds and a healthier David Wright most recently flourished hitting third.

I’m not saying Conforto will turn into an elite player like them – in his wildest dreams he probably hasn’t considered it – but he is the Mets’ best overall hitter.

“He drove in big runs, that’s why he’s hitting third,’’ Collins said.

Conforto spent a lot of time this winter working on situations a No. 3 would face, such as pulling inside fastballs; cutting down his hitting zone on specific counts; and hitting the ball on the ground or in the air depending on the game situation.

Collins said Conforto would likely be the Mets’ long-term No. 3 hitter. Don’t change things now.

METS GAME WRAP

 Game: #18 Record: 11-7 Streak: W4

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard labored most of the night, but home runs from Conforto, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker gave the Mets their fourth straight victory.

KEY MOMENT: Walker’s two-run homer in the seventh. When the Mets were on defense in the eighth fans chanted Walker’s name. Sweet.

THUMBS UP: Two hits, including a two-run homer in the third from Lucas Duda. … Logan Verrett struck out Ivan De Jesus with the go-ahead runner on third to end the seventh. … A 1-2-3- eighth in relief from Addison Reed. … Twelve strikeouts from Mets’ pitchers, including nine from Syndergaard. … A 1-2-3 stress-free ninth from Jeurys Familia.

THUMBS DOWN: The Reds stole five bases against the Syndergaard-Travis d’Arnaud battery. … Antonio Bastardo had a blown save. … Mets’ hitters struck out 10 times. … An 0-for-4 night from Wright with two strikeouts. … They were 1-for-9 with RISP. … d’Arnaud left the game with a sore right shoulder. Collins said it is too early to project it being a DL situation.

EXTRA INNINGS: The homer was Walker’s eighth of the month, the most he’s ever hit in a month. … The Mets have won nine of their last 11 games. … They have scored in the first inning in eight of their last ten games. … They’ve won nine straight against the Reds.

QUOTEBOOK: “That was pretty awesome,’’ Walker on he crowd chanting his name after his homer.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28: Mets’ homers in 18 games.

NEXT FOR METS: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 2.89) starts for the Mets against Reds’ Finnegan (1-1, 3.74). Colon gave up three runs in six innings with a no-decision in his last start, April 20, at Philadelphia. Colon in 4-1 with a 3.77 ERA in five career starts against the Reds.

Apr 21

Today In Mets’ History: Gee Stuffs Nationals

On this date in 2013, Dillon Gee and four relievers combined to shut out the Washington Nationals, 2-0, at Citi Field. With the victory, the Mets moved over .500 at 9-8.

They wouldn’t stay there long.

GEE: A solid Met. (AP)

GEE: A solid Met. (AP

David Wright and Lucas Duda are the only starting position players from that game still on the team.

Gee threw a solid )game, giving up three hits with six strikeouts in 5.2 innings. LaTroy Hawkins, Brandon Lyon, Scott Rice and Bobby Parnell threw a combined 3.1 scoreless innings.

Catcher John Buck homered off the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmerman in the second and Mike Baxter hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Wright in the fourth.

Gee had a lot of these games for the Mets, where he’d make a solid spot start, but he never impressed them enough to get a real opportunity to make the rotation.

Mets fans should remember Gee as a solid pro who always took the ball regardless of the circumstances.

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Apr 20

April 20, Mets’ Lineup At Philadelphia

The Mets behind Bartolo Colon go for the series sweep at Philadelphia tonight. Before we get carried away about how the Mets are pulverizing the Phillies at Citizen Bank Park, please remember it isn’t just the ballpark, but the Phillies’ incredibly bad pitching.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Curtis Granderson – RF

David Wright – 3B

Michael Conforto – LF

Yoenis Cespedes – CF

Lucas Duda – 1B

Neil Walker – 2B

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS

Travis d’Arnaud – C

Colon – RHP

COMMENTS: Despite Walker’s recent tear, I am glad manager Terry Collins resisted the temptation to tinker with the lineup and move him up. Perhaps it is because everybody is hitting, too, but it shows consistency and that’s a good thing. … I never cared much for Wright hitting second, but he’s no longer the Mets’ only big bat, so second is fine. Just keep Conforto third.

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Apr 17

April 17, Mets’ Lineup At Cleveland

Steven Matz goes for the Mets today in Cleveland in hopes of rebounding from his horrific first start of the season and to salvage this series. He goes against Indians’ ace Corey Kluber.

Mets

Curtis Granderson – RF
Asdrubal Cabrera – SS
Michael Conforto – LF
Yoenis Cespedes – DH
Lucas Duda – 1B
Neil Walker – 2B
Wilmer Flores – 3B
Alejandro De Aza – CF
Kevin Plawecki – C

Steven Matz – LHP

COMMENTS:  David Wright has the day off, but even so he should have been the DH in at least one of the games. … The choice of De Aza over Juan Lagares indicates to me how out of favor the latter has become. … I do like Conforto hitting in the No. 3 spot and hope that continues. … If Cespedes is hurting so bad, he should have sat for at least one of these games. … Plawecki starts today, and should get a few days in a row to: 1) let him get in a groove, and 2) give Travis d’Arnaud a chance to clear his head.

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