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.

 

Jul 22

Mets Wrap: Cespedes Lets Down Mets

For somebody who professes his love for Mets fans and New York City, Yoenis Cespedes sure has a funny way of showing it.

CESPEDES: What was he thinking?  (AP)

CESPEDES: What was he thinking? (AP)

What else can you conclude after Cespedes’ comments to The San Francisco Chronicle that pledged his loyalty to the Oakland Athletics and their manager Bob Melvin, at the expense of the team that will pay him $110 million over four years and Terry Collins, the manager who has consistently had his back?

Whether it be apologizing for Cespedes not hustling or playing golf when he was injured and should have been rehabbing, Collins always supported his left fielder.

Cespedes said he wanted to end his career with Oakland, the team he started for in 2012.

“I don’t know how many years I’m going to play, but I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland,’’ Cespedes said. “I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but that’s my goal. I still love the A’s. They were the first team to give me an opportunity to play in the big leagues. I love Oakland all the time.’’

Cespedes said his comments were a “misrepresentation,’’ and blamed the reporter.

Cespedes can claim innocence all he wants, but he’s been around long enough to know what’s going on and how to handle such questioning.

And, as much as he respects Melvin, he has to be smart enough to know that if he calls “the best manager for me so far … I don’t think there’s a better manager than Melvin.’’

Is Cespedes that naïve to think that wasn’t going to get back to Collins?

Cespedes has been all about damage control since, saying, “this is my home, this is my team, nothing has changed.’’

And, regarding Collins, Cespedes said: “With respect to the comments I made about their manager, he’s a great manager, that does not take away from my relationship with Terry.”

Whatever Cespedes’ relationship is with Collins these days, it would be a lot better if he had more than 22 RBI.

FLORES DOES IT AGAIN: Wilmer Flores was waiting on a fastball, and when he got it he completely erased a five-run deficit with a home run in ninth inning to give the Mets a 6-5 victory tonight over the Athletics.

“I was looking for a fastball. I have to be ready for that,’’ Flores said of his approach facing reliever Simon Castro.

The Mets fell behind 5-0 but clawed back into the game with a four-run sixth that began with a double by Flores.

WHEELER TORCHED: Zack Wheeler continued his troubles, giving up five runs on seven hits and four walks with six strikeouts in five innings.

Wheeler gave up two homers, including to Matt Joyce on the game’s second pitch. He has now given up 17 homers.

Wheeler hasn’t won a game since May 20, nine starts ago.

TRADE CHIPS: Asdrubal Cabrera started at third base for the first time this season and had two hits. The Mets want to showcase Cabrera at third. … Jay Bruce hit a two-run homer, his 25th of the season. … Lucas Duda tied the game with a pinch-hit single in the eighth. … Addison Reed has drawn interest from the Dodgers and Yankees.

 

Jul 07

Three Mets’ Storylines: Flores, Bullpen Bail Out Colon

Just before the Mets were swept last week in Washington, manager Terry Collins said the 14 games leading into the All-Star break were “very important.’’

He didn’t call this stretch “critical,’’ but his message was understood just the same.

FLORES: Does it again. (AP)

FLORES: Does it again. (AP)

After being destroyed in DC, the Mets responded with a four-game sweep of the Cubs; winning two of three against the Marlins, and powering their way in the opener of this four-game series, 9-7, over the Nationals. With the victory, the Mets pulled within three games of first-place Washington.

Thursday’s win came on the heels of the sobering news Matt Harvey might be lost with season-ending shoulder surgery.

Things didn’t look promising for the Mets after the Nationals took a 4-1 lead in the fourth, but they responded with four homers and a strong showing their bullpen. Travis d’Arnaud, Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores – again – and Asdrubal Cabrera homered for the Mets.

They also caught a break when Jayson Werth’s take-out slide of second baseman Neil Walker was ruled interference, so instead of runners on the corners with no outs the Nationals had the bases empty with two down.

Earlier in the game Werth was called safe on a similar play. Of course, this rule was a by-product of the Chase UtleyRuben Tejada play last year in the NL Division Series.

The following are the three main storylines from tonight’s game.

FLORES STAYS HOT: After a pair of two-homer games on this homestand, Flores did not get the start. Collins’ explanation, in part, was to give him an at-bat against one of Washington’s lefty relievers.

It sounded like he was blowing smoke, but sure enough, Flores hit the first pitch thrown to him by former Met Oliver Perez for a three-run homer in the fifth to put New York ahead to stay. It was his sixth game-winning hit of the season.

Flores has five homers during this homestand, which begs the question: Where will he play Friday?

COLON ROCKED; PEN ROCKS: Colon has been one of the most reliable starters this season, but was shelled, giving up six runs on ten hits in 4.2 innings. Three of those homers came in the fourth by Clint Robinson, Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper.

Colon was bailed out by the offense and the bullpen.

With the bases loaded in the fifth, Jerry Blevins struck out Rendon to end the inning. Hansel Robles struck out Jayson Werth to end the sixth; Addison Reed retired four hitters; and Jeurys Familia recorded his 31st save in as many opportunities.

GRANDERSON RED HOT: “Red hot,’’ haven’t been the words to describe Granderson many times this season, but he reached base five times on three hits – two doubles – and two walks.

In his last five games, Granderson is 8-for-19 (.421) with two homers and five RBI.

Granderson’s surge coincides with the move to second in the order behind Reyes.

Dec 10

Mets A Winter Meetings Winner

The Mets left Nashville this afternoon a better team that showed up Sunday night, even if they come home with a contract having Ben Zobrist‘s autograph.

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

CABRERA: Makes Mets better. (Getty)

The Mets not only upgraded up the middle defensively with second baseman Neil Walker (trade from Pittsburgh for Jon Niese) and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (free agent signing from Tampa Bay), and in the process improved their bench and came away with a back-up for David Wright.

And, they did it at a minimal cost, $18.5 million in a two-year contract for Cabrera instead of the estimated $50 million they were going to pay Zobrist. The price of what Walker could make in arbitration and what Niese is to make ($9 million) is a wash.

The Mets were poor defensively with Daniel Murphy and Flores (a combined 26 errors) opposed to a combined 16 from Walker and Cabrera. However, defense is more than just errors, it is also positioning and range. For a team built on pitching, they improved in the field with no loss of production at the plate..

Flores will now fall into the role of right-handed hitting platoon with Walker; back-up shortstop; and fill-in for Wright at third.

The decision to sign Cabrera after tendering Ruben Tejada is not overkill because Flores fractured his ankle in winter ball and Tejada is still recovering from breaking his leg in the playoffs. We don’t know if they’ll be ready when spring training opens Feb. 17 (pitchers and catchers) and Feb. 24 (position players).

Assuming both are ready, they can spell Wright at third. Cabrera can do the same.

So, when you add it up, the Mets improved their up-the-middle defense, bench and found a contingency plan for Wright and will save an estimated $30 million.

I’d call it a win-win, leaving them to find a left-handed hitting platoon with Juan Lagares in center and bolstering the bullpen.

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Jun 20

Not Enamored With Collins’ Decisions Or Reasoning Friday

Jacob deGrom had only thrown 97 pitches when he was pulled in the eighth inning of Friday night’s 2-1 loss at Atlanta. He deserved better, from his defense, his bullpen, and his manager. Come to think about it, he deserved better from his general manager, too.

DE GROM: Should have stayed in. (AP)

DE GROM: Should have stayed in. (AP)

Betrayed is too strong a word, but he was definitely let down. DeGrom took a slim 1-0 lead into the eighth because the Mets’ anemic offense stranded six and was 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position. This offense has done little for much of the year, and even less the past month.

After Andrelton Simmons doubled to lead off the eighth, most everybody in the park knew Eury Perez was going to lay down a bunt to the third base side. DeGrom pounced on the ball and immediately looked to third, but Ruben Tejada wasn’t by the bag. Had he been there, deGrom would have nailed the runner.

Not a natural third baseman, Tejada botched the play, but manager Terry Collins said he had no problem with his handling of the play.

“We’re trying to get an out there,” Collins told reporters, adding Tejada did the right thing.

I beg to differ. Strongly. Yes, they are trying to get an out, but that out needed to be at third and not first. How were they going to do that if Tejada wasn’t covering third?

I can buy Collins if he was trying to protect the inexperienced Tejada’s fragile ego. But, here’s where I have a problem with GM Sandy Alderson. HIs job is to ensure the Mets have the appropriate talent needed to win games and this is not the first time they’ve been left with a thin bench and poor bullpen choice.

Pedro Ciriaco followed with a grounder to shortstop Wilmer Flores, who took too long looking the runner back to third and couldn’t get the runner at first.

The Braves now had runners on the corners with one out when Collins summoned Sean Gilmartin.

“I thought it was time,” said Collins. Yes, time to lose the game.

DeGrom is the Mets’ best pitcher and only had thrown 97 pitches. Collins mentioned the pitch count, but deGrom’s defense opened the door.

There was nothing deGrom did to warrant being pulled. Collins knows he has an unreliable bullpen with the exception of Jeurys Familia. If deGrom is to be considered ace-like his manager must show him the confidence to make it through the inning.

Collins’ best choice was to stick with deGrom or go to Familia to close the eighth.

Gilmartin was not the best decision, evidenced by Jace Peterson promptly doubling in two runs to waste another good start.

Yes, deGrom deserved better. Much better.