May 09

Mets Go For The Throat; Dillon Gee Gets Crack

The Mets have won 17 games this young season, ten of the come-from-behind variety and seven by one run. They have won six series, sweeping two. They go for the sweep today in Philadelphia.

Doing so will represent another step in their development. Contending teams close out games and close out series. Winning a series winning two of three is great, but sweeping is better.

Sweeping represents a sense of dominance and reinforces confidence. I know what you’re thinking; I’m being greedy. Maybe so, but doesn’t that signify a new attitude about this team?

Today it’s Dillon Gee going, and twice now Terry Collins let him pitch out of trouble when he was on the ropes. That demonstrates confidence, something you rarely saw Jerry Manuel give his pitchers.

I mention that not to rip Manuel as that would be piling on. I do say it to show the difference in attitude and culture between Manuel and Collins.

Manuel came on strong at first, taking out Jose Reyes in his first game. He then regressed, taking an unequal approach in dealing with players and afraid to be forceful with the deadwood. Then again, in all fairness, that message – in dealing with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo – came from up top.

Things are different now. The Mets are infusing themselves with young, homegrown talent. You don’t often see guys not running out ground balls. There are occasional fundamental lapses, but they aren’t as frequent. That explains in part the winning.

The Mets haven’t hit this well with two outs in as long as I can remember. The defense from early questions – Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Josh Thole – is better than anticipated, as is the starting pitching.

Something else the Mets have done, and this is another mark of a contender, is winning within the division and beating teams when they are done. They’ve won two series from the struggling Phillies, swept the Braves when they limped out of spring training without Chipper Jones, and swept the Marlins during their slow start.

Things have changed with the 2012, and that includes the expectations. Have yours changed?

 

May 05

Mets Bullpen An Issue

This is why you don’t make declarations during the first week of the season, or for all of April for that matter. The season opened with four straight victories and four strong performances from the bullpen.

After Opening Day, the talking heads as SNY – and that’s not the game broadcasting crew – started pontificating about how the bullpen would be a team strength this season.

Four weeks later, you don’t hear talk like that anymore.

Last night they threw away a strong effort from Dillon Gee. Once again, the focus in on control, as a walk from Tim Byrdak with a man on lead to Arizona’s three-run rally in the eighth inning. Yes, the walk was important, but it was also one batter.

“That’s the thing that sticks out the most,” Collins said. “The base on balls out of the pen have certainly come back to really bite us.”

The bottom is two-fold. One, walks kill and they always have. And two, these guys are major league pitchers and can’t fall apart after one bad at-bat. That’s been a problem with Mike Pelfrey, and it also applies to the bullpen.

Where the pen attacked hitters early, lately they’ve been working deep into counts and losing the at-bat. The pen has been worked hard in recent weeks with the starters not going more than six for the most part and the loss of Pelfrey.

Jon Rauch blew the save and took the loss last night, but wouldn’t blame it on an increased workload. He said it was poor pitching.

“You can’t come in and throw balls and expect to get everybody out after that,” Rauch said. “So we’ve gotta do a better job. I know personally I need to do a better job, especially coming in with guys on base and not letting inherited runners scored.”

Glad to hear there were no excuses, but it would be even better to see improved execution.

Once four games over .500 and sensing optimism about the season, the Mets have lost four straight and are counting on Johan Santana – the pitcher they seemingly refuse to score for- to stop the slide.

Regardless of what happens today, success this season largely depends on the bullpen holding up its end. And, that’s not a premature pronouncement, but a statement of fact that can be made any time of the year.

 

Apr 29

Mets, Dillon Gee Show Spunk In Denver

Does anybody remember the old “Mary Tyler Moore” show, when Lou Grant tells Mary: “You know what you have Mary? You have spunk.” Then after a pause, adds, “I hate spunk.”

Well, I happen to love it, and it was so enjoyable to see the Mets show it yesterday at Colorado after getting spanked the night before.

Dillon Gee gave them seven innings when the bullpen needed a breather, and Lucas Duda and David Wright flexed at the plate. Wright always does in the Rocky Mountains.

It was one Saturday afternoon, sure. But, it followed a horrid Friday night. Several times this year they’ve responded from bad days and bad series with a strong effort.

The Mets are a building team and one must take positive signs when you see them. This was such a time.

Apr 28

Mets Need Big Things From Dillon Gee

With Mike Pelfrey on the shelf – he’ll see Dr. James Andrews on Monday – and watching Chris Schwinden and the bullpen get torched last night, the Mets must get strong performances from Dillon Gee, not only this afternoon, but all the time.

GEE: Mets need more from him.

Gee, the Mets’ fourth starter, was brought up early last year and won his first seven starts, but hitters caught up with him and he finished 13-6. In his last start against the Giants, Gee gave the Mets six innings, but was hit for seven runs. Not a good tradeoff.

Last night’s four errors and an 11-run inning that overshadowed Scott Hairston’s cycle was one of those freaky things that happen. The defense can’t afford lapses like those because the Mets don’t have the firepower or the bullpen depth to overcome them.

Mets pitchers are typically working roughly six innings, which means the bullpen gets three. It got more last night. The more a pen is used the less effective it becomes over the long haul.

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Apr 27

Mets Shouldn’t Fool With Matt Harvey Now

Even if Chris Schwinden gets rocked tonight in Colorado, the Mets shouldn’t respond with Matt Harvey.

HARVEY: No need to force feed him.

There is a hole in the Mets’ rotation following Mike Pelfrey’s elbow injury and likely more than one candidate will be used to fill the void. Schwinden gets first crack. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be like Dillon Gee was last summer and win from the start.

However, if he doesn’t, the Mets would be making a mistake to dip into their minor league for Harvey, their first-round pick – and the seventh overall selection – in the 2010 draft out of North Carolina.

Harvey has pitched well for Triple-A Buffalo, and seemingly has all the tools. He’s ¬†been clocked from 93 to 95 on his fastball and has a plus curveball and change-up.

But, he doesn’t know how to pitch in the major leagues and is just learning on the Triple-A level. Rushing him now could cause a setback in his development should he be hit hard. The Mets rushed Jenrry Mejia and Pelfrey, and shouldn’t take the gamble on Harvey.

Last night, the Mets fielded a home grown lineup for the first time in 41 years. They are developing a good, young core, and Harvey could be a key figure on the mound in the future. Despite the Mets off to a good start, the future isn’t now for them.

The prudent thing is to develop Harvey for this season, and perhaps give him a taste as a September call-up. Let him learn to walk before they let him run. They won’t regret that decision.