Apr 22

Mets List: Mets-Braves Magic Moments

Unlike the Yankees, who always had the Red Sox as a historical sparring partner, the Mets haven’t had what you’d consider a for-the-ages rival. In their infant years, they had the Dodgers and Giants for obvious reasons, then in 1969, they developed a brief rivalry with the Chicago Cubs. Later, it was the Pirates, then the Cardinals, and eventually the Braves.

I have always wanted to run a weekly Mets List feature and plan to do so on Friday.

NO STRANGER GAME

NO STRANGER GAME

With the Mets in Atlanta today for the start of a three-game series, I have come up with five of the most memorable Mets-Braves moments. If you have others, please share.

Post Sept. 11 homer: On Sept. 21, in the first professional sporting event in New York following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Braves were in town. Emotions ran high, but boiled over when Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead homer off Steve Karsay.

The Mets trailed by a run entering the eighth when Piazza delivered.

The 1969 NLCS: The Mets’ reward for overtaking the Cubs was to face the powerful Braves in the first year of divisional play.

The Braves were loaded with the likes of Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and Orlando Cepeda, but the Mets swept the series, winning 9-5 and 11-6 (at Atlanta) and 7-4 (at Shea Stadium).

Tom Seaver, Ron Taylor and Nolan Ryan were the winning pitchers. From there, the Mets continued to stun the sports universe by beating Baltimore in the World Series.

The Grand Slam single: The Mets trailed in the 1999 NLCS 3-to-1 in games and 3-2 entering the bottom of the 15th inning. The Mets tied it, 3-3, when Todd Pratt drew a bases-loaded walk.

Robin Ventura followed with what appeared to be a grand slam, but was only credited with a single when the Mets stormed the field to congratulate Ventura. In the process, Mets’ runners passed each other on the bases necessitating the call. VIDEO

The Mets would lose Game 6, 10-9, when Kenny Rogers issued a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth.

The Subway Series against the Yankees would have to wait another year.

Late night fireworks: On July 4 and 5, 1985, the Mets had one of those games. The Mets tied it, 8-8, in the top of the ninth on Lenny Dykstra’s RBI single off closer Bruce Sutter.

The teams slogged around for several innings before Howard Johnson’s two-run homer off Terry Forster in the 13th inning. However, Atlanta tied it, 10-10, on Terry Harper’s two-run homer off Tom Gorman. The Mets regained the lead in the 18th on Dykstra’s sacrifice fly off reliever Rick Camp, but the Braves tied it again on Camp’s homer off Gorman.

The Mets seemingly blew open the game with five runs off Camp in the 19th, but pesky Atlanta pulled within 16-13 off Ron Darling.

The game ended shortly before 4 a.m., but the Braves went ahead with their fireworks night. That prompted many calls to police claiming their neighborhood was under attack.

Double-header treat: In a night that might have symbolized the passing of the torch was near, Mets started prize pitching prospects Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler combined for a double-header sweep on June 18 in Atlanta.

Harvey, who would pitch in the All-Star Game that year but eventually wind up on the disabled list and need surgery, won the first game, 4-3. Wheeler, who grew up near Atlanta, won the second game. 6-1.

Rarely had the Mets won in Atlanta, but sweeping a double-header was unfathomable.

ON DECK: Matt Harvey Tinkers With Mechanics

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Apr 21

Put Up Time For Matt Harvey

It’s time Matt Harvey put on his “Big Boy Pants’’ and begins pitching up to all the expectations, from the Mets, the public whose attention he craves, the media whom he disdains, and of course, himself.

After a dismal start to a season many projected would be a breakout year – I even said he’d win 20 – Harvey needs to come up with a performance to change the talk from whispered questions to shouts of adulation.

HARVEY: Walking off the mound dejected. (AP)

HARVEY: Walking off the mound dejected. (AP)

It’s not a stretch to say outside his first start last season following Tommy John surgery Friday’s game in Atlanta will be the most important regular-season start in his still young career.

Harvey shot into our Mets’ consciousness in 2013 with his All-Star caliber pitching and remained there with his elbow injury, how he handled himself in his rehabilitation program and his penchant for the trappings of being the Dark Knight and a New York sports hero.

Then there was the World Series and Game 5 when he pitched like the star we all hoped he’d be, but who morphed into selfishness when he let his ego run wild in the ninth inning that ended the Mets’ season.

Harvey, by his own admission, entered spring training with a chip on his shoulder grew inflamed after a bladder infection and his immature reaction following the expected response from the tabloids. What, he didn’t expect sarcastic headlines? The tabloids aren’t The Player’s Tribune, which grants the free pass of no accountability he knew as a prep star and foolishly demands in the major leagues.

Somebody who professes to be a New York star should understand that; just as should have known of the anticipated concern over his 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA start. It’s one thing to go through a rough stretch, but Harvey’s command and fastball aren’t what they used to be. His valued slider doesn’t have its usual bite.

That’s more than mildly worrisome.

Is Harvey injured? He hasn’t always been forthcoming about health issues, so that can’t be ruled out. He says he’s fine, but his believability index is low.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said after his loss in Cleveland last Saturday Harvey’s confidence was shaky and mechanics were off. Confidence comes from pitching well and winning, but Harvey isn’t doing either. After that game Harvey admitted “nobody is more frustrated than I am.”

Correcting mechanics takes time and rarely are fixed after one session, although manager Terry Collins said this week he had a good one.

“He was very confident,’’ Collins told reporters. “He thought it was the best bullpen he’s had in a long time. So that was really good news.’’

Of course, if Harvey was having poor bullpens why wasn’t this brought out earlier? But, therein lies the complex dilemma that has marked his career. He’s not forthcoming and the Mets go out of their way to protect him.

Just as there are expectations, there is always something with Harvey, always some issue that takes our eyes off the mound. Only this time our eyes remain fixated on the mound and Harvey. And, it will remain that way until he starts pitching.

It’s put up time

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Apr 16

Mets Wrap: Indians Rip Harvey

METS GAME WRAP

Indians 7, Mets 5

Game:  #10  Record:  4-6  Streak: L 1

SUMMARY:  Perfect through four, Matt Harvey couldn’t make it at of the sixth and came away with his third straight loss to open the season. Down 7-1 at one point, the Mets rallied to tease on Yoenis Cespedes’ three-run homer and Neil Walker’s third homer of the season.

KEY MOMENT: When it was apparent Harvey didn’t have it in the sixth following RBI hits by Jason Kipnis and Mike Napoli that made it 4-1, manager Terry Collins stuck with him and the game soon got away.

THUMBS UP:  Curtis Granderson showed breakout signs with a homer and double. … Three more homers from the Mets. They have seven in the two games in Cleveland. … The Mets showed comeback capabilities, but couldn’t finish the deal.

THUMBS DOWN: Harvey gave up five runs on six hits and three walks in 5.2 innings. … Travis d’Arnaud was hit by a pitch and has a bruised left forearm. … Two more strikeouts by Cespedes to give him 16 in just ten games. … Rafael Montero was rocked in relief.

EXTRA INNINGS: Jason deGrom was placed on family emergency leave due to complications with his newborn son, Jaxon. He could be away from the team for up to seven days. He’s expected to throw a 40-pitch bullpen session Sunday and possibly to hitters Tuesday. Eric Campbell was brought up to take his spot on the roster. … Collins said David Wright will get Sunday off. … Don’t expect d’Arnaud to play Sunday.

QUOTEBOOK: “It’s hard to explain. I don’t have an answer for you.” – Collins in response to a question as to why Harvey lost it all of a sudden.

BY THE NUMBERS: 16: Strikeouts by Cespedes already this season. He had two Saturday.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz attempts to rebound from being rocked in his season debut.

ON DECK: Is It Time To Wonder About Harvey?

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Apr 12

Mets Wrap: Syndergaard Start Wasted

GAME WRAP

GAME #7:  Record: 2-5.  Streak: L 4

SUMMARY: The Mets wasted Noah Syndergaard‘s 12-strikeout start and the offense struck out 13 times in a 2-1 loss to the Miami Marlins. Of the Mets’ five losses, three have been by one-run.

SYNDERGAARD: Mets waste his effort. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Mets waste his effort. (AP)

KEY MOMENT: Lucas Duda was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single in the first and the Mets left the bases loaded in the second. Teams can’t afford to blow a chance to knock Jose Fernandez from the game. … Dee Gordon outlasted Jim Henderson in a 16-pitch at-bat to lead off the eighth. He stole second and scored on a sacrifice fly.

THUMBS UP: Syndergaard gave up one run on seven hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts in seven innings. He has 21 strikeouts in his first two starts. … Duda threw a runner out at the plate. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re going to say.

THUMBS DOWN:  Henderson finally gave up a run. Too bad it was the difference in the game. … Travis d’Arnaud is hitting .105 and Curtis Granderson is batting .074. … The Mets have only two homers in seven games.

EXTRA INNINGS: Despite tomorrow being a day game, manager Terry Collins said David Wright will play. … Rafael Montero will be activated for tomorrow’s game. To make room on the roster, Eric Campbell will be optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas. … Gordon’s 16-pitch at-bat included fouling off 11 straight pitches. It was the longest at-bat in the majors in two years. … Ichiro Suzuki collected the 2,936th hit of his career and moved into 33rd place on the all-time list, passing Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds in the process.

QUOTEBOOK: “I’m concerned about them. One thing we’d like to do is get into some type of rhythm. We’re not able to get a hit with men on base when we need it.” – Mets manager Terry Collins on his team’s dismal offense.

BY THE NUMBERS:  52: Strikeouts by Mets’ hitters through the first seven games.

NEXT FOR METS:  Logan Verrett will start Wednesday afternoon against left-hander Adam Conley.

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Apr 10

Mets Wrap: Concern For DeGrom, Not Team

If you’re concerned about Jacob deGrom, fine, you should be. However, if you’re worried about the Mets’ sluggish start, it’s way too early to panic, although we all knew that after another loss fans would get antsy. It will be interesting to listen to the call-in radio shows tomorrow.

DeGROM: Next start is scratched. (AP)

DeGROM: Next start is scratched. (AP)

Prior to the game, the Mets announced deGrom will miss his Wednesday’s start because of tightness in his right lat. The Mets toyed with the idea of waiting until deGrom threw today, but when he reported continued soreness they did the prudent thing and scratched Wednesday’s start and said Logan Verrett would get the ball.

Hooray for common sense.

Steven Matz had a similar injury last year and was lost for two months. We heard all winter the essence of the Mets was their young pitching, and if they stayed healthy they should return to the playoffs.

Of course, this being the Mets, common sense has its limitations. There are still no plans for deGrom to undergo an MRI. I’ll say it again, that’s just not smart.

In deGrom, the Mets will be without a workhorse, but I would rather not have him for six innings Wednesday than lose him for two months or more.

“It’s improved, but not enough,” manager Terry Collins said.

Verrett was superb when he replaced Harvey last summer in Colorado. Other possibilities should deGrom’s injury be worse than anticipated are Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero. But for now, they need to get quality innings from Noah Syndergaard, Matz, Bartolo Colon and Harvey. They didn’t get them today from Harvey, who gave up three runs on six hits and two walks in six innings.

The key word was “quality,” and Harvey didn’t have it for his second start. However, I’m not worried about Harvey. He’s healthy. He was simply beaten, and will be beaten again. But, unless his elbow starts to bark, I’m not thinking about Harvey.

The problem has been the offense. Yoenis Cespedes homered today to break a 15-inning scoreless stretch. But, the Mets aren’t getting anything from Lucas Duca, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud. Actually, other than Michael Conforto and Neil Walker at the start of the week, they haven’t gotten much from anybody.

Yup, the Mets aren’t off to the start they hoped, and we all expected them to win the series against the Phillies. But, it has only been five games.

Unless there’s bad news about deGrom, just relax.

Here’s what happened today:

GAME #5:  Phillies 5, at Mets 2.  Record: 2-3.

SUMMARY: After the news about deGrom, the Mets’ offense was supposed to rally around Harvey. Maybe next time. Harvey clocked at 97 mph., in his first appearance on the mound since Game 5 of the World Series. It wasn’t as if Harvey was mauled as he gave up a run on a sacrifice fly and later a two-run homer to Odubel Herrera.

KEY MOMENT: Herrera’s homer.

THUMBS UP: Cespedes homered and singled to show breakout signs. … Reliever Jim Henderson continued to perform and now has seven strikeouts in three perfect innings.

THUMBS DOWN: Pretty much everything else. … Granderson is 1-for-20. … The Mets had four hits Sunday after getting just three Saturday. … Harvey is now 0-for-2 with a 4.63 ERA.

INJURY UPDATES: No word as to when deGrom will throw next. DeGrom will remain with the Mets until wife Stacey delivers. She is five days late. … Lefty relieverJosh Edgin gave up one run in two-thirds of an inning in a rehab assignment in the Florida State League. Edgin’s projected return date in May 1. … Zack Wheeler is scheduled to have a minor surgical procedure Tuesday to remove an undissolved stitch in his right forearm. Wheeler’s return date is July 1.

QUOTEBOOK: “I would say it’s quite a bit better today. I think we’re going to err on the side of caution, though, this early in the season.” – deGrom on his lat injury.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1.29: Mets ERA, fourth best in the NL;  .192: Mets batting average, second worst in NL?

NEXT FOR METS: Matz will make his first start of the season Monday against Miami at Citi Field.

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