Aug 19

Montero Solid Again; Flores Has Superb Effort

Rafael Montero is finally showing signs of getting it. Tonight’s outing against the Marlins encored a strong six-inning effort – only two runs – against the Yankees.

MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

         MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

That’s two of at least six innings, and seven over all that he’s worked into the sixth.

Montero’s recent success stems from working inside with his fastball to set up his change-up away. Montero also worked quickly and ahead in the count, two things he failed to do in previous years when he struggled.

“He pitched in and had good movement on his fastball,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “That’s why he got so many ground balls. We’ve been preaching to him to pound the strike zone.’’

Montero has made significant improvement, enough to where he could fit into their future plans.

Working with Kevin Plawecki, who caught him at Las Vegas, Montero gave up one run on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts in six innings to win his second game and first at Citi Field, 8-1.

Montero said his sinker was working which resulted in him getting four double plays.

If all five of the Mets vaunted starters are healthy next year, Montero could be used as a long reliever.

FLORES AT THIRD: Wilmer Flores made a diving stop of a hard-hit ball by Marcell Ozuna in the first inning to possibly save a run. He also started three double-plays.

Although he’s not Graig Nettles, Flores has always played third base reasonably well. If the Mets are looking for answers for 2018, I’d like to see them finish the season with Flores at third.

Flores also hit his 15th homer, a two-run blast in the Mets’ seven-run sixth inning. Nine of those homers have come against right-handed pitching.

I’ve long been a Flores supporter, something GM Sandy Alderson is not. I want to play Flores full time, and I can see a contender wanting him.

In addition to Flores, Plawecki also hit a two-run homer, and Dominic Smith hit his first Citi Field homer. Perhaps more important than the homer was Smith drew his first career walk.

LEADOFF HITTER: Another thing to look at is their leadoff hitter. Tonight it was Brandon Nimmo, who went 1-for-4. His .380 on-base percentage definitely works in his favor.

If not Nimmo, I’d like to see Amed Rosario get a shot. With his speed, if he walks more he could be a 50-stolen base candidate. Rosario hitting first, with Nimmo second to protect him, the Mets could have something special.

However, for Rosario to be an effective leadoff hitter he must improve his on-base percentage (it’s only .256).

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets tied a franchise record by turning five double plays. … Jeurys Familia threw 25 pitches in a scoreless inning in his second rehab appearance. … Curtis Granderson went 0-for-4, but reached on an error and scored the first run in the Dodgers’ victory over Detroit. … Smith has hit safely in five of his first nine major league games. … The win was the Mets’ 54th of the season. Conversely, the Dodgers are 53 games over .500.

 

Aug 15

Even In Defeat, DeGrom Shows Why He’s An Ace

Jacob deGrom might be one of the few things left worthwhile watching with these Mets, but even he doesn’t have it every start. It wasn’t a complete stinker, but he was clearly off his game tonight.

Even so, he gave the Mets a chance a chance to win, and seriously with the way this season has gone, could you ask for more?

DE GROM: Grit personified. (AP)

                                 DE GROM: Grit personified. (AP)

“I’m not sure,’’ deGrom said when asked what was off more, command of his fastball or secondary pitches.

In some ways, tonight deGrom reminded me of that playoff game against Los Angeles he had no business winning, but kept fighting the Dodgers all night. That’s what aces do, they give their team a chance when it seems hopeless.

“He pitches,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He keeps you in the game. He just battles.’’

Let’s hope Wednesday night’s starter, Robert Gsellman, was taking notes, as was Thursday’s starter, Steven Matz. And, for that matter, everybody in the Mets’ rotation.

For that matter, that should include Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard.

ROOKIES ROCK: Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario each hit two-run homers to help get the Mets back into the game.

It was Smith’s first career homer and the second for Rosario.

Collins said the Subway Series was the perfect scenario for Smith and Rosario to learn under pressure, yet he pinch-hit for Smith in the ninth inning in favor of Jose Reyes against Aroldis Chapman.

“This guy mows down left-handed hitters,’’ Collins said of Chapman. “Some challenges can be just too daunting. But, he’ll have his chances down the road.’’

Reyes reached on an infield single, but even so, I would have let Smith hit for himself. How are you going to learn otherwise?

Smith will always remember tonight for his first career homer, not for being pinch-hit for, and, it’s not like his confidence would be shaken even if Chapman blew him away on three pitches.

 

 

Aug 06

Mets Matters: Bruce Hopes To Return Tuesday

Jay Bruce didn’t play tonight, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway with how the Mets have performed lately. Bruce was absent for the second straight game because of a stiff neck, but said he hopes to play Tuesday against Texas at Citi Field.

mets-matters logo“There’s been improvement, working with the medical staff, doing what I can,’’ Bruce told reporters. “Like I said, there has been improvement. I think with the treatment, and tomorrow off, I should be ready to go. … I want to be careful with it. Because I don’t want this to turn into a long-term situation.’’

Bruce believes he came down with the stiff neck on the flight back from Denver Thursday.

In 101 games, Bruce leads the Mets with 29 home runs and 75 RBI.

HARVEY MAKING PROGRESS: Matt Harvey threw his first bullpen session since going on the DL June 16 with a stress injury in his right shoulder. Harvey was scheduled to throw in the bullpen Tuesday, but will throw live batting practice.

MATZ STILL NOT THERE: It doesn’t matter an instant replay reversal in the first extended the inning so the Dodgers would score three runs in the first off Steven Matz, it is still up to him to get out of trouble.

He didn’t and the left-hander lost his fourth straight decision to remain winless since June 28.

Matz gave up five runs on six hits in 5.1 innings to see his ERA jump to 8.44.

The inning unraveled in large part with long standing flaw from Mets’ starters, which is their failure to hold runners on base. The Dodgers pulled off a double steal and both runners scored on Logan Forsythe’s single to center.

GLAD THAT’S OVER: With their 8-0 rout of the Mets, the Dodgers swept the season series, outscoring them 57-15 and shutting them out for the third time. … Los Angeles clubbed two more homers – Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger – and have outhomered the Mets 25-6. The rookie Bellinger has five homers against Mets’ pitching.

The 2015 NLDS seems like ages ago.

Aug 05

Granderson: Shows How Valuable He Can Be

I will miss Curtis Granderson if the Mets end up trading him. Watching him today was watching a consummate player. On the day in which he passed through waivers, he gave the Mets a homer, two walks and a stolen base offensively, and made two spectacular catches and threw out a runner on the bases.

Not bad for a day’s work.

GRANDERSON: Would help somebody. (MLB)

GRANDERSON: Would help somebody. (MLB)

Unfortunately for the Mets, it didn’t prevent the Dodgers from winning again, this time, 7-4 on the strength of five home runs.

Granderson has been a stalwart in the Mets’ offense in the four years he’s been here. Today he hit his 15th homer to give him 91 overall with 237 RBI in his four years here.

“Curtis Granderson has been nothing but a professional since the day we signed him,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “Today was another example of what he can do.’’

He’s been doing it since breaking in with the Tigers in 2004, and with the Yankees after being traded following the 2009 season, and with the Mets since he signed a four-year, $60-million contract.

He was signed to give the Mets a power complement to David Wrightthen with Lucas Duda, and finally as a spare part when GM Sandy Alderson signed Yoenis Cespedes and couldn’t trade Jay Bruce.

At 36, the Mets found no takers at the trade deadline, in part because of Alderson’s high demands in a poor market for position players. However, with the Mets not having any intention of bringing him back, they are in position of trying to get whatever they can for him.

What Granderson gave the Mets today he could give to a contender and it might be enough to produce a wild card, and from there, anything could happen.

That’s what Alderson has to sell.

Aug 04

Darling, Keith Call Out Cespedes

You have to hand it to Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez. They weren’t afraid to call out Yoenis Cespedes tonight for his failure to hustle after a foul ball off the bat of Cody Bellinger. It didn’t factor in the outcome of the game – a 6-0 loss to the Dodgers – but it was “bad optics,’’ as the popular saying goes.

Would Cespedes have caught the ball had he hustled? I don’t know. But, could he have caught it? Yes. That’s what’s so maddening about watching this guy.

DE GROM: Off tonight. (AP)

DE GROM: Off tonight. (AP)

Darling called it a “Cadillac effort,’’ while Hernandez said “it was not much of an effort.’’

Gary Cohen said “it is obvious over the past couple of weeks that he’s picking his spots to run hard,’’ as a way of protecting himself from his leg injuries.

Darling then nailed it when he called the perception, “ugly.’’

And it is.

I know Cespedes has been injured – both this year and last – but I called him out for his lack of hustle before they extended him. It is one of the reasons why I wanted the Mets to pass on him, at least for the sum of $110 million.

Look, I know every player is entitled to a bad year, and hopefully the remaining three years of his contract he’ll play like the player the Mets hoped when GM Sandy Alderson decided to give him all that money.

But, you would think – and least I do – that for a player who is making $22.5 million this season, and only has 30 RBI, would give a little more effort. That means running out ground balls and hustling after foul pop-ups.

DE GROM OFF: Manager Terry Collins said Jacob deGrom “was off,’’ tonight. “This is two starts in a row that in the first two innings he scuffled,’’ Collins said. “We have to fix that.’’

Collins said deGrom relied on his fastball too much early in the game, but the pitcher refuted that, saying he mixed in sliders.

“My stuff was good, but I wasn’t able to locate it,’’ deGrom said. “They took advantage of the mistakes I made.’’

The Dodgers’ Chris Taylor set the tone of the game with a homer on the ninth pitch of his at-bat leading off.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Mets have lost seven straight games to the Dodgers, dating back to May 28, 2016. … Dodgers pitchers have thrown 11 shutouts this season; the Mets have been blanked five times. … De Grom leads all pitchers with 13 hits. … Amed Rosario has hit safely in all four games he’s played. He also stole his first career base. … Chase Utley hit the 39th homer of his career against the Mets.