Jun 18

DeGrom Carries Mets Again

With his father and son watching, Jacob deGrom had one of those dream games when he smacked his first career home run and dominated the Washington Nationals. The win prevented the Mets from being swept and temporarily stopped what could be a free fall.

Whether competing for a pennant, a wild card, or just trying to reach .500, a team needs a stud pitcher.

DEGROM: Hits and pitches Mets to win. (AP)

DEGROM: Hits and pitches Mets to win. (AP)

Sandy Koufax once told me that if you’re going to win you need a pitcher who is 12 games over .500,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “You have to have that kind of guy. Jake is here to win.”

DeGrom has pitched back-to-back stellar starts after back-to-back stinkers in which he gave up 15 runs. DeGrom followed up his complete-game against the Cubs by going eight innings today, giving up one run on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

He’s given up one earned run in 17 innings after solving his mechanical issue of flying open and throwing across his body.

“I was able to keep my front side close,’’ was how deGrom explained what’s been working for him. “I was able to locate [my change-up] on both sides of the plate.’’

At 6-3, I don’t know if deGrom will finish 12 games over .500, but he’s pitching like an ace. Some pitchers when they struggle can’t turn it around, but deGrom seemingly has fixed his problems.

That’s what aces do.

With the Mets heading on a brutal trip to Los Angeles (four games), San Francisco (three) and Miami (three) represent ten games that could define their season.

DeGrom’s win comes before the Mets face Clayton Kershaw Monday to start a four-game series against the Dodgers. This has the potential to be an ugly week, and stopping losing streaks is also the definition of an ace.

CESPEDES RESTS: Twice Saturday Yoenis Cespedes legged out infield hits and went from first to third on singles. He also scored on a sacrifice fly and made running catch down the line on a fly ball. That proves his hamstring didn’t bother him yesterday, but it’s the day after that is important.

“I’m more concerned with fatigue and some of the other things that have happened in the past,’’ Collins said.

When they brought Cespedes off the disabled list, they did so with a plan. And, for once they stuck with their plan.

Too many times the Mets abandoned a plan with a player and he later was reinjured.

A struggling team like the Mets needs all the help it can get, but they did the right thing this time.

A SPOT FOR REYES: With Asdrubal Cabrera expected off the disabled list shortly, we’ll be seeing less and less of Jose Reyes at shortstop. And, as long as T.J. Rivera keeps hitting – four more hits today – he should play third base – or someplace, every day.

“He keeps getting hits,’’ Collins said. “He has to play.’’

Conversely, Reyes went 0-for-5 today to see his batting average drop to .193 and his on-base percentage to .269.

For now, Wilmer Flores must stay at second and Rivera on third. So, when Cabrera returns, Reyes has to go to the bench.

EXTRA INNINGS: With a ninth-inning double, Daniel Murphy has reached base in each of the 29 games he’s played against his former team. Murphy is batting .391 with ten doubles, eight homers and 29 RBI vs. Mets. … With the win the Mets are now 1-6 vs. Washington at Citi Field. …  Michael Conforto showed breakout signs with two hits and two RBI.

UP NEXT: The Mets begin a season-defining stretch of playing 16 of their next 19 games on the road tomorrow night in Los Angeles when Zack Wheeler starts against Kershaw.

Jun 12

Cubs-Mets Is Opening Day II

Call Cubs-Mets Opening Day II.  The World Champion Cubs – something I never thought I’d write – are in tonight for a three-game series. After them, the Mets play the Nationals, Dodgers and Giants over a two-week stretch that will define their season.

The Mets are feeling good about themselves these days after winning three-of-four in Atlanta, and the returns of Steven Matz and Seth Lugo – who each worked seven strong in their starts – and Yoenis Cespedes, who ripped a pinch-hit grand slam.

CESPEDES: Mets need his bat. (AP)

CESPEDES: Mets need his bat. (AP)

“This is fun, you’re playing the world champs, you are playing arguably the best team in our division,” Collins said. “We’re a little healthier and having Ces back is big, but we’ve got to go pitch. It’s going to be a fun week. I just hope we go out and play well.”

In their last five games, Mets’ starters have given up three runs over 32.2 innings. However, none of those games include Jacob deGrom, tonight’s starter. DeGrom has given up 15 runs in his last two starts. We’re used to seeing deGrom give up 15 runs in a month of starts, and if he doesn’t get back to that form the Mets can forget about sniffing the playoffs this year.

The big series, of course, is the four-game set against the Nationals. If they sweep that, then the Mets trail by only six games. That’s entirely doable.

However, for that series to mean anything they have to take care of business against Chicago as they can’t afford to fall any further behind. The Mets are fortunate in that they are playing a listless Cubs’ team that is only .500 at 31-31.

“We went through that last year,” Collins said of the Cubs. “Going to the World Series really beats up your pitching and as a team, it takes a while to get that energy back.”

The Mets seemed energized against the Braves, and they can’t afford any letdowns the rest of the way. These next two weeks will determine what they do at the trade deadline and whether there will be a summer worth watching.

ON DECK: What’s Wrong With DeGrom?

 

Jun 11

Lugo Keeps Mets Rolling

You guys are too smart to believe the Mets are alive and well again after this weekend, but for the first time since early April, they are playing like the team we all hoped we would see.

And, the reason is the same as it was last season and the year before that – excellent starting pitching. Make that superb.

LUGO: Keeps Mets rolling. (AP)

LUGO: Keeps Mets rolling. (AP)

Seth Lugo came off the disabled list and gave up just one run in seven innings in today’s 2-1 victory in Atlanta. Yesterday, Robert Gsellman pitched 6.2 scoreless innings in the first game of a day-night doubleheader and Steve Matz gave up one run in seven innings in the nightcap.

And, in the only game they lost in the series, on Friday, Matt Harvey pitched five scoreless. The previous game, Wednesday in Texas, Zack Wheeler gave up one run in seven innings.

That’s three runs over 32.2 innings in the last five games.

“The starting pitching is getting where it needs to be,” manager Terry Collins said. “Now we have to get Jake (Jacob deGrom) back on track.”

The pitcher the Mets need to fix is deGrom, tomorrow’s starter against the Cubs, who gave up eight runs in four innings last Tuesday in Texas.

So, if the Mets are going to a six-man rotation, this is the way to go into that change, for as long as it lasts. It figures to last for the next two weeks, which can be defined as the turning point to this season.

The Mets return home for three games against the Cubs – struggling, but still the World Champions – four against the Nationals; then on the road for four at the Dodgers and three in San Francisco.

“The next 11 days are very big for us,” said Collins, overlooking the Giants. “If we’re going to get back into this we’re going to have to win.”

Gsellman and Lugo helped carry the Mets into the playoffs last year and will be asked to do the same this season, or at least give them a chance.

 

Jan 08

Brief Comparisons Between Mets And Nationals

The Washington Nationals won 95 games last year and had a plus-151 run differential. While it is hard to project how many victories they’ll have this summer, they realistically should be good for at least 90 victories based on the following:

Bryce Harper had a miserable dropoff is batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Assuming he stays healthy his numbers should improve, at least enough to off-set any drop from Daniel Murphy.

The acquisition of outfielder Adam Eaton from the White Sox is expected to improve the offense, which also should be aided by a full season from Trea Turner. Together that should make up for the declines of Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth.

However – and there’s always a however – the Nationals have issues.

Just as the Mets are optimistic in the comebacks of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, so are the Nationals expecting returns from Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross.

Washington couldn’t keep closer Mark Melancon, which puts them on a par with the Mets, who are expecting to be without closer Jeurys Familia for at least the first month. Both teams need to patch their bullpens.

In comparing the Nationals and Mets, Washington added to a 95-win team while New York basically kept the status quo and is banking heavily on their injured pitchers bouncing back.

 

 

 

 

Nov 29

Mets Play Cespedes Negotiations Perfectly … Get Their Man

Well, Yoenis Cespedes is coming back, which is what both he and the Mets wanted. Good for them, and Merry Christmas to both. I initially wrote the Mets would be better off spending the money earmarked for Cespedes – $110 million over four years reported today– on other areas and still believe that might be the best long-term decision.

CESPEDES: Coming back to Mets. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Coming back to Mets. (Getty)

However, when Cespedes filed for free agency a week after the World Series, I wrote if the Mets really wanted him they needed to set a deadline to prevent negotiations dragging into January. Apparently, both sides wanted this done by the Winter Meetings, which worked to the Mets’ advantage because reports of him going to Washington, the Dodgers or Yankees never developed traction.

Apparently, both sides wanted this done by the Winter Meetings, which worked to the Mets’ advantage because reports of him going to the Dodgers or Yankees never developed traction.

Perhaps Cespedes panicked when he saw there wasn’t a line at his door and he saw his big payday slipping away. Was that why he sent a text to the Mets before Thanksgiving reiterating his desire to come back? Reportedly, nobody was willing to give him the five years he wanted, but the only team to publicly state their interest was the Mets.

We can conclude Cespedes overestimated his value in the market, while Alderson judged it perfectly and applied enough pressure to make the 31-year-old outfielder blink. Good for Alderson: He had a plan and stuck with it.

After two playoff seasons, the Mets felt enough urgency to bring Cespedes back to keep their nucleus intact as much as possible. They already made moves in that direction by bringing back Lucas Duda, Neil Walker and Jose Reyes.

As far as spending the money given Cespedes elsewhere, that was an option, but in retrospect, the market for their primary needs – catcher and a closer to replace Jeurys Familia – isn’t readily available, or inexpensive.

It must also be remembered the Mets own a trade chip in Jay Bruce, so they have the opportunity to upgrade without spending big.

Sure, I have concerns, which I’ll save for later, but the Mets felt a need and they acted on it. They basically are keeping the team that reached the playoffs together, and that’s important. Instead of dabbling and adding two or three other players, they chose the path of least resistance and there’s a lot to be said for that decision.