Sep 21

Three Mets’ Storylines: Bad Night For Collins

If you thought last night was bad for Mets manager Terry Collins, it wasn’t anything compared to Wednesday night.

For me, it began with his starting lineup and decision to not start Jay Bruce, but spiraled out of control with the handling of his late-inning bullpen, which had been a strength, but unraveled in the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Braves.

FAMILIA: Fifth blown save. (AP)

FAMILIA: Fifth blown save. (AP)

Bartolo Colon pitched another gem, but was pulled in the seventh shortly after giving up a two-run homer to Anthony Recker to slice the Mets’ lead to 3-2. Colon was yanked for Addison Reed.

All season, the primary formula for the Mets’ success was their eighth-ninth inning duo of Reed and Jeurys Familia, but Collins – like a man poking the coals at a BBQ – couldn’t resist toying with success.

I would have stuck with Colon for another hitter because he’s gotten out of so many jams. Yes, Reed got out of the seventh. But, after Ender Inciarte reached on James Loney‘s error to open the eighth, Collins pulled Reed in favor of Josh Smoker to face Freddie Freeman. The Reed vs. Freeman history is small. Maybe no Met has been better at his job this year than Reed, but Collins was seduced by the lefty-lefty matchup.

“Freddie is 2-for-4 [against Reed lifetime and I just said this guy is too hot,” was how Collins began his Magical Mystery Tour of an explanation. “I thought [have him] face a power lefty. Got jammed, poke it in, you know. Again, we get the ground ball to start the inning (Loney’s error). … if we get that ground ball, we’re not in that situation.”

If. If we had ham, we’d have ham and eggs, if we had eggs.

Freeman singled to chase Smoker in favor of Familia for the five-out save attempt.

After a double-steal, Matt Kemp tied the game on a sacrifice fly for Familia’s fifth blown save.

The Mets had their chances in the eighth, but Yoenis Cespedes dogged it on a fly to left and barely made it to second  when Kemp couldn’t track down his fly ball. Cespedes mighty have made it to third – which he eventually stole – but died there to end the inning.

With two outs Collins pinch-hit Eric Campbell for Kelly Johnson. Then he hit Kevin Plawecki for James Loney – who entered the game hitting .357 in the previous nine games – to once again over-manage the lefty-righty nonsense.

The Braves scored the winning run against Familia in the ninth on Inciarte’s RBI grounder. Even so, the Mets had a chance in the bottom of the inning, but Inciarte robbed Cespedes of a three-run homer to end the game.

“A tremendous catch,” Collins said. “You won’t see a better catch.”

The catch was the play of the game, but the storyline was Collins’ use of his bullpen. The others were that the Mets might have already made a decision on Bruce and wasting Colon.

DECISION ON BRUCE: By pinch-hitting for Bruce Tuesday and not starting him Wednesday, one might surmise the Mets already made the decision to give him a $1-million buyout opposed to picking up his $13 million option.

It was an “uncomfortable” decision Collins made last night in sending Campbell to bat for Bruce. Campbell produced a RBI single, but the Mets still lost and there’s this fallout, so one can’t really say everything worked out for him.

Especially considering, with how the game was on the line tonight in the ninth inning, he sent Bruce up as a pinch-hitter. Tonight’s situation was even more dire. This is what aggravates me about Collins: Bruce isn’t good enough one night, but is the next.

There’s no disputing Bruce has not produced, but this has nothing to do with “playing in New York,” as the media likes to suggest, but simply a player trying too hard to produce for his new team. Collins wanted to give Bruce a mental health day, but used him as a pinch-hitter, so how can he say the player had time to collect his thoughts and let the rest work for him as it did Neil Walker, earlier?

That’s typical of Collins; he says one thing but does another.

The Mets traded for Bruce to jumpstart a dismal offense the same way Cespedes did last season. It’s clear Collins lost confidence – even though the Mets are 21-8 and back in the race without Bruce hitting – and obvious the Mets are writing him off for the rest of the way.

COLON SUPERB: Another game, another wasted start by Colon, who gave up two runs in 6.2 innings. The way it is stacked up now, Noah Syndergaard would start the wild-card game with Colon probably getting Game 1 of the Division Series against the Cubs.

That is if the Mets get that far.

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Sep 19

Mets Have More To Worry About Than Beating The Yankees

Does anybody still look at the Yankees’ series as a battle for New York? If you do, then you’ve missed the point of the previous 148 games. To me, whether April or September, the “Subway Series” means nothing because the real prize is the NL East.

The next two weeks, not this weekend, will determine the success of this season. And, in that regard, the Mets are waving a few red flags. As with everything, it begins with starting pitching, and everybody has questions.

SYNDERGAARD: Home run issues. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Home run issues. (Getty)

Manager Terry Collins said he’s not worried about the home runs given up by Noah Syndergaard, who gets in big trouble in the sixth with an ERA approaching nine. Syndergaard has given up 17 homers this year, with seven in the sixth inning.

That’s a problem. If you can’t make it out of the sixth, that will tax the bullpen, which is also the scenario for Matt Harvey, who will be going on half-starts.

Reportedly, the Mets, Harvey, agent Scott Boras and Dr. James Andrews reached a settlement. But, even if Harvey makes two more starts of 70 pitches, what have they really determined if Andrews’ evaluation is for him not to pitch, or to make an abbreviated start in the playoffs?

Ideally, the intent is to have Harvey ready to pitch deep in these games, but that’s not the case.

The Mets also want to have Jacob deGrom skip a start.

So, how confident are you with three starters working on limits? And, Bartolo Colon – who has been the most consistent the past three weeks – reportedly not in the rotation? And, another, Jon Niese, who has been horrible the last two months? And another, Steven Matz, with only a handful of major league starts?

What you’re talking about is the starters pitching limited innings and the bullpen being overworked. And, that bullpen is not without issues now as Tyler Clippard has a barking back. If you’re expecting the Mets’ bullpen to work up to four innings a game, then you need Carlos Torres healthy, Hansel Robles to develop consistency, and for Addison Reed to keep pitching well.

They also need Jeurys Familia to remain oblivious to the mounting pressure.

And, there will be pressure.

Oct 18

TALKIN’ BASEBALL: NLCS Game #3; Phillies send Lee to mound.

After an afternoon of football, it’s time to return to baseball and tonight’s NLCS Game #3 between the Phillies and Dodgers. The Phillies were on the cusp of taking a commanding 2-0 series lead, but their bullpen collapsed.

LEE: Hot pitcher faces Dodgers.

LEE: Hot pitcher faces Dodgers.

Tonight, the Phillies will send Cliff Lee to the mound. He’s been nearly untouchable in his first two playoff starts against Colorado. He went the distance in Game 1 of the Division Series, beating the Rockies, 5-1. He gave up one earned run in the Game 4 clincher.

“He’s a guy that’s a gamer and that’s what I love about him,” said outfielder Shane Victorino. “It’s definitely a nice position to be in to have him getting the ball in Game 3.”

That the Phillies bullpen gave it up in Game 2 wasn’t a surprise. Neither that the Dodgers rallied. They’ve had 43 come-from-behind wins, including 23 in their last at-bat.

“We’ve been doing it all year, it seems like. We’re relentless. We never give up,” Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. “We go out there and compete, play through 27 outs, and whatever happens, happens. But we never keep our heads down.”

Oct 08

Talkin’ Baseball: The Playoffs continue.

No real surprises last night in the first day of the Division Series. The Yankees, Phillies and Dodgers all won as the home teams rolled. Of the three losing teams, I see only the Cardinals of rebounding to take their series.

Obviously, the defending world champs aren’t a media darling. They have another afternoon game today. Cole Hamels is starting and could give the Phillies a chokehold in their series with the Rockies.

Sep 08

Three weeks from today ….

Three weeks from today the Mets will either be cleaning out their lockers at Shea or working out in preparation for the Division Series. I’m still thinking it will be the latter.

But, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t think there wasn’t anything to worry about with this team. It was imperative they win last night and they did, with Johan Santana pitching one of his most important games as a Met. Maybe themost important.

Here’s what I see as the most important issues down the stretch.

1. Coping with last season. Last night was a start, but don’t forget the collapse including stretches of bad ball against teams with losing records. They can’t afford to let up against teams with losing records, such as Washington and Atlanta. I’m not convinced they have the killer instinct. This week should tell a lot.

2. The starting pitching is three deep with Santana, Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez. Pedro Martinez can’t be relied on for more than five innings, and lately they haven’t been a good five innings.

3. The bullpen has been suspect all season. Having something definitive on Billy Wagner might help Jerry Manuel define roles, but how can they be better off without their best reliever?

4. Hitting with runners in scoring position has also been an issue. Last night was tougher than it needed to be. With pitching issues, more runs are always needed. David Wright, in particular, has been in a funk.