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.

 

 

Jul 11

Mets Chat Room; It’s Ace Time.

Game #88 vs. Braves.

This is what aces do, they lift a struggling team on top of their shoulders and carry them when times are dark and heavy.

The Mets conclude a surprising first half with a disappointing close this afternoon against the Atlanta Braves. The weekend began with the Mets three-games out of first. They now stand five games out fighting to keep from falling six back by the break.

After a rough stretch Santana back to pitching the shutdown way aces are supposed to and the way the Mets have always expected, with tenacity, guile and grit. Santana, a victim of poor run support for much of the first half, could have perhaps a dozen wins with any kind of offensive and bullpen help.

With the Mets’ sputtering this week, and scoring only two runs in this series, Santana can pretty much expect to do most of the heavy lifting today – as he usually does.

Apr 18

April 18.10: About Last Night: Will it spur the Mets?

Not all games are created equal, either in consequence or drama. Yesterday’s 6:53, 20-inning endurance test sent Jose Reyes’ spikes and bat to the Hall of Fame, an indication of something special.

There are dozens and dozens of numbers spawning from this game, and an equal number of snap shot memories, beginning with Alex Cora’s sprawling catch into the stands to rob Matt Holliday (pictured).

Take away that catch, and maybe you take away 10 innings of history.

They will be talking about last night for years, but what remains uncertain is how the victory will play out this season for the struggling Mets.

The attributes of grit and resiliency, patience and perseverance, hustle and clutch, all surfaced last night – for both teams – and for the Mets they had been qualities lacking.

“This game] was big for us…We needed to win this game,” Jerry Manuel said. “They were fighting all day to stay in the game. Hopefully, that’s a sign of things to come for us…We were able to hang around, hang around, hang around…Lay on the ropes for about nine innings and then waited for all the other guys to get out of the game.”

It’s an oversimplification to suggest the Mets have turned around their season, but it is not a reach to say last night might be the spark they needed.

When the Mets were in Colorado they took in the Nuggets came. It was to be a bonding exercise. They promptly lost two of three to the Rockies. It’s impossible for a team to bond more than in a game like last night.

The starter, Johan Santana, pitched seven brilliant innings, and 13 innings later was on the bench in uniform wearing a rally cap. Every Met, save Oliver Perez, played and contributed something. Perez, in fact, was ready to pinch hit.

The bullpen gave up one run in 13 innings, but despite all the walks issued it continually refused to yield. Three times in extra innings the Cardinals left the bases loaded.

The offense didn’t get its first hit until the sixth inning, and consisted of strikeout after strikeout from David Wright and Jason Bay, until Jeff Francoeur and Jose Reyes delivered sacrifice flies.

The Cardinals had a half-dozen chances to win, but the Mets found a way to deny them until like a child confronted with a math problem, figured out a way.

It remains to be seen whether the Mets found an answer they can build on, but the opportunity is there.

Mar 26

March 26.10: Figueroa’s story won’t change.

As compelling as the underdog story is, there’s a reason for why he is. Just as Cornell lost last night to Kentucky because of depth of talent, that is also the limitation of Nelson Figueroa’s feel-good story.

There’s a reason why Figueroa has bounced around all these years: His talent it that of the sixth man in a five-man rotation. Every once in awhile he shows a glimmer, but overall the more he pitches the more his flaws are exposed.

Figueroa pitches today not so much as an effort to get Jerry Manuel to change his mind about the fifth spot in the rotation but as he does to audition for somebody else.

Figueroa, 35, who refers as himself as an “insurance policy,’’ has been around long enough to know the score.

“I’m in a position where I’m going out there and throwing for 29 other teams right now,’’ Figueroa said. “Being the insurance policy has its benefits. But at the same time, it’s a frustrating situation. I feel like if I’m given the opportunity to be more than that, I can be.’’

But, it won’t happen with the Mets because there’s always a faster gun, somebody who is younger, who throws harder, who is more a natural.

Actually, Figueroa got an extended look last year because of the Mets’ decimated rotation and went 3-8 with a 4.09 ERA. That included losing five consecutive decisions in September,

Figueroa’s heart, grit and determination is the essence of what sport should be, but it isn’t the reality in today’s game, which is driven by the need to win immediately. Maybe in a town with less pressure, Figueroa might get a chance.

But it would be the same story with the Mets, him passing through waivers, going back to Triple-A Buffalo, and waiting for the call generated by the inevitable injury or calamity in the rotation.

Still, pitching minor league baseball for what Figueroa would make is a better job than most of us will have, earning him $119,500 if he spends the full season in the minors.

It just isn’t the job he wants.

Feb 24

Feb. 24.10: Wondering about Frenchy.

His thumb is good, so that shouldn’t be an issue with Jeff Francoeur. That doesn’t mean the Mets’ right fielder isn’t without questions or concerns.

Francoeur’s attitude – and his performance – was a breath of fresh air in a stagnant clubhouse of a listless team last summer. He played with an energy the team had been lacking, bringing with him from Atlanta that “grit” the Mets have long been accused of lacking.

However, Francoeur has been an enigma for several years, with his stock falling since he hit a career-high 29 homers with 103 RBI in 2006. Believe it or not, that is the only season he’s hit 20. He hit 19 with 105 RBI in 2007, but his numbers have been on a downward spiral since.

That’s probably why he cost the Mets only Ryan Church.

Francoeur cited a change of scenery as giving him a lift last season, and perhaps that was the case. He hit .311 with 10 homers and 41 RBI in 289 at-bats for the Mets. That projects to a decent season of a little more than 20 homers and 82 RBI. Even so, it is still shy of his best season.

So, what do we expect from Francoeur if healthy and him getting over 600 at-bats? Would it be the change of scenery and a new Francoeur? Will it be another disappointment?

Not a lot has been made of Francoeur being an issue, but his career is at a crossroads and it will be interesting, and important, to the Mets to find out in which direction he’s going.