Oct 15

Mets Play DeGrom Chip In Game 5

One of the best things about baseball is there is always tomorrow; theres always another game to help erase a bad one. However, eventually the security of a tomorrow fades into the stark reality of one last game. For the Mets, they hope  “another game” won’t be replaced by winter.

For either the Mets or Dodgers, finality could be tonight when Jacob deGrom and Zack Greinke clash with the singular hope of keeping alive their team’s summer.

DE GROM: The one the Mets wanted. (Getty)

DE GROM: The one the Mets wanted. (Getty)

DeGrom said he’s mentally ready, saying he’s had the Subway Series, All-Star Game and Game 1 of this series to expose him to the pressures of big game pitching. You want to believe deGrom, but the truth is he’s never faced the pressure of a Game 5 or a Game 7.

This is a whole new animal.

“We want to make it to the World Series and this is one step toward that,’’ said deGrom, who struck out 13 in a Game 1 victory. “I just think we never give up and we battle until the end.’’

Manager Terry Collins often refers to Matt Harvey as his ace, but deGrom is the one he wanted most to start Game 1, because it meant he’d have him for Game 5. You wouldn’t be incorrect if you thought that was because of Harvey’s innings limitations, but deGrom has been the better pitcher this year.

“If anybody was going to pitch two games in the series for us it would be Jacob deGrom,’’ Collins said. “So it worked out that way. Fortunately we didn’t have to bring him back on short rest. He hasn’t done it, and he’s uncomfortable doing it. So we’re lucky he’s got an extra day.’’

After deGrom, should the Mets need it, they have Noah Syndergaard and Harvey to bridge the gap to closer Jeurys Familia. That’s because the regular-season bridge of Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed and Hansel Robles has been largely unreliable in recent weeks.

Say what you want about the Chase Utley play, but the Mets lost Game 2 because they couldn’t safely get to Familia.

The Mets lost Game 4 mostly because of Clayton Kershaw, but the common thread in the two defeats was another regular-season flaw, that being inconsistent hitting. In the case with Kershaw, it was no hitting.

“When you’re facing Kershaw and Greinke in four of five games you know that runs are going to be at a premium and they have definitely been that with those two guys on the mound,’’ said David Wright, whose bat disappeared this series.

Tonight’s winner gets the Cubs in the NLCS. Although the Mets lost all seven games against Chicago this year and lament the chance to put away the Dodgers Tuesday, Collins likes his team’s attitude.

“Our guys are upbeat,” Collins said. “Nobody wants to fly all the way across the country for one game. But I think we’re as excited as we were [for Game 1].’’

They are in Los Angeles because they kicked away the home field advantage in the final week of the season, but the important thing is they have one more game.

Let’s hope they use it wisely.

ON DECK:  Mets’ Bats Need To Come Alive

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Oct 09

Mets A Team To Embrace Destiny

Can the Mets beat Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, two of the best pitchers in the National League in the first two games of the Division Series?

Hell yes. They can do it because they are throwing Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, who are also two of the best pitchers in the National League. They also have Matt Harvey going in Game 3.

DeGROM: It begins with him tonight.  (Getty)

DeGROM: It begins with him tonight. (Getty)

The Dodgers have been in the playoffs in recent years and made early exits, and they’ve done it with Kershaw. There’s nothing new about them that suggests this year will be any different.

The Mets on the other hand have been on a roller coaster ride this season to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. I’ve written it several times this summer – when I’m not tweaking Harvey (yeah, yeah, I know I get on him a bit) – that this can be a team of destiny.

Think about how many significant players who’ve been out at times because of injuries: David Wright, Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler, Josh Edgin, Jerry Blevins, Michael Cuddyer and Bobby Parnell.

All important players they couldn’t afford to lose, yet here we are, hours away from Game 1 of the NLDS.

How many playoff teams entered the season without a commitment to a shortstop? I can only think of one, and that’s the Mets. Yet, here we are. Wilmer Flores took to the position, was almost traded, and then captured our hearts with his tears.

The Mets lost their closer Jenrry Mejia to suspension, yet Jeurys Familia stepped in to tie a club record in saves. He could be the team’s MVP. That stuff doesn’t usually happen.

The Mets don’t have a traditional lefty specialist, yet they are finding a way.

This is a team that didn’t have a leadoff hitter, yet Curtis Granderson stepped in and produced to the point where he could be the Mets’ MVP, if not Familia. Championship teams always have that one player who expands his role, that for the Mets, that’s Granderson.

They lose Wright for nearly five months, yet in his first at-bat off the DL he hits a homer. You don’t call that storybook?

To get to the playoffs this year, the Mets needed to play even with the Nationals. I don’t want to hear that the Mets backed in because the Nationals choked. The Mets kicked the stuffing out of them to the point where the likely NL MVP, Bryce Harper, said he wants to win.

When the Mets were floundering in July, there was an infusion of new blood when Michael Conforto was called up, and the trades for Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and Tyler Clippard.

There’s something special about this group that through the injuries and changing roles of players that it has persevered.

Special teams find a way to get it done despite the obstacles and that’s what this team has done.

So, to answer the first question, yes the Mets can beat Kershaw and Greinke. And, for that matter, they can beat anybody else, too.


Oct 07

Mets’ Three Keys To Beating Kershaw

The Mets won their season series against the Dodgers primarily because of pitching. So, let’s assume starters Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey pitch lights out, what then will be the three keys to beating the Dodgers?

MURPHY: Needs to stay in lineup.  (AP)

MURPHY: Needs to stay in lineup. (AP)

First, they have to split in Los Angeles. There’s no way they’ll win the series if they lose the first two games, against Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. So, how do they beat two Cy Young Award candidates, beginning with Kershaw Friday night?

Since Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is a disciple to pitch counts, the Mets must work the count. If leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson squeezes out a nine-pitch at-bat to lead off the game but strikes out, that’s still productive.

If nothing else, if the Mets lose Game 1 but force Kershaw to throw 120 pitches, that puts a strain on him for Game 5.

Secondly, the Mets can’t reinvent the wheel. All year, manager Terry Collins played Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda against left-handers. There’s no reason for him to deviate now.

Finally, assuming deGrom turns the game over to the bullpen in good shape, it must hold the lead or at least keep the game close. For the most part, Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard did the job, but the question of how to pitch to left-handed hitter Adrian Gonzalez remains an issue.

There you go, one, two, three. Simple as that,


I’d like to thank my friend Joe DeCaro for posting the feature on Justin Turner.

Oct 06

Colon Should Get Start Over Matz

Why do the Mets continually try to re-invent the wheel? GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins will wait until after Thursday’s instructional league start by Steven Matz to make a decision on whether the rookie lefthander will start Game 4 of the NLDS against the Dodgers.

COLON: Should get NLDS start. (AP)

COLON: Should get NLDS start. (AP)

The 4-0 Matz has made six major league starts, but hasn’t pitched since Sept. 24 because of a stiff back that required an injection over the weekend. At 24 and with a bright future, I understand the long-term attraction in Matz.

Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon, whom the Mets paid $20 million the last two seasons, and has won 29 games and pitched 397 innings in that span. Colon, who during his 18-year career – which he says will continue – has won 218 games. Matz can only hope to win that many games or pitch as long.

What Colon did 10 years ago is irrelevant, but unlike corporate America, let’s not devalue the variable known as experience. I like Matz’s fastball and his future, but the Mets still win the NL East without him. They don’t win without Colon.

This is too much thinking on Alderson’s part. Colon has been there, done that, and regardless of his losing record outside the division, he has earned the right to pitch in the postseason.

Instead, he’ll be shuffled off to the bullpen.

Meanwhile, if Matz can’t go, Alderson – and I say Alderson because Collins doesn’t have the power to make these calls – is toying with starting Jacob deGrom, the Game 1 starter, on short rest. Doing so would handicap deGrom in the NLCS if the Mets are fortunate enough to advance.

It has been a long, but fun season, and the Mets are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006. However, they are there in large part because of Colon and not Matz.

Colon in the rotation is the right thing to do.

Oct 22

The Differences Between The Giants And Mets

I hope Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins took notes in Game 1, because the Giants have the blueprint the Mets should be following. So, in comparing the wild-card Giants to the Mets, there’s more than just a 3,000-mile difference:

Solid starting pitching: Madison Bumgarner was lights out, pitching quickly, and with command and composure. This is what the Mets expect from Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The rap on Mets pitchers is an inability to put away a hitter and keep damage to a minimum. This especially applies to Jon Niese.

BUMGARNER: It always begins with pitching. (Getty)

BUMGARNER: It always begins with pitching. (Getty)

The game’s turning point came in the third inning when the Royals put runners on second and third with no out, but Bumgarner kept it together and got out of the inning with no damage. Bumgarner also helped himself by starting a double play to get out of the second.

I’m not saying Mets pitchers haven’t done the same, but not consistently.

Bumgarner threw 21 first-pitch strikes to the 26 hitters he faced for an incredible 81 percent efficiency. For all the new wave stats, first pitch strikes percentages are missing. In particular, this is something Wheeler – originally in the Giants’ organization – must refine his game.

Who is to say the Giants didn’t know this when they traded him to the Mets for Carlos Beltran?

Relief pitching: The bullpen has long been part of the Giants’ success, with the pitchers and how manager Bruce Bochy manages them. There’s nobody better.

Alderson has tried to build a pen since he came here, and this season is the closest he’s come. Now, it is up to Collins to slot in Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia in the right roles.

Aggressive base running/productive at-bats: The Royals’ speed drew considerable pre-Series attention, but the tone for the game was set in the first inning when the Giants executed what I consider one of the most exciting plays in baseball.

Gregor Blanco singled and tagged up and advanced on Joe Panik’s fly ball, making it a productive out. The dimensions at Citi Field are such that this is something the Mets should be more aware of doing.

So, instead of fooling around with the dimensions and moving in the fences, the Mets would be better off tailoring their offense with speed, aggressive base running and timely hitting to complement their young pitching.

In Game 1, the Giants were 5-for-12 with RISP, a situation in which the Mets are weak. Timely hitting begins with being patient and working the count. Last night, of the 43 hitters the Giants sent to the plate, 20 took a first-pitch ball or put the ball in play.

Management expertise: Bochy is the best manager in baseball. This is the fourth time he’s taken a team to the World Series, and win-or-lose, he’s worthy of the Hall of Fame.

He gives his players defined roles and they buy in. I can’t imagine Bochy fooling around by juggling Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada at shortstop, or with the myriad of left fielders.

It is Alderson’s responsibility to bring in the right players. The Giants bettered themselves with Jake Peavy and Hunter Pence; in recent years the Mets brought in Curtis Granderson and Frank Francisco.

Big difference.

Bochy once left Barry Zito off a playoff roster and put Tim Lincecum in the bullpen. There were no waves. Conversely, Matt Harvey, although it was determined he wouldn’t pitch this season, complained about where he would rehab and that he wanted to pitch this summer.

Neither Alderson nor Collins forcefully laid down the law with Harvey, and prior to that Jordany Valdespin. The Mets have had through the years a line of headaches such as Francisco Rodriguez and Ike Davis (complaining about going to the minor leagues and refusing to adjust his hitting approach).

I can’t imagine the Giants putting up with a non-productive player for as long as the Mets did with Davis.

The Mets also didn’t give Angel Pagan a legitimate chance in center field. He’s hurt now, but on a four-year contract with the Giants.

Sabean has been the Giants’ general manager since 1997. Conversely, Alderson is the fourth general manager have had in that span.

Of course, Sabean has been given ownership’s blessing to build the team as he sees fit. Alderson doesn’t have that leeway.

The Mets won 79 games this season, while San Francisco won 88. Nine more wins over six months doesn’t seem like much.

Let’s see if the Mets can close that gap.