Jul 18

Mets Wrap: Wheeler Unravels In Loss; Gets No Help From Pen

Sometimes too much is made of baseball’s specialized statistics, but one of them speaks volumes of the Mets’ Zack Wheeler. It all fell apart for Wheeler in the Cardinals’ six-run sixth inning, which raised his ERA for that particular inning this year to a lofty 13.50.

WHEELER: Sixth inning blues. (AP)

WHEELER: Sixth inning blues. (AP)

Outside of injuries that sidelined him for the past two years, what has primarily prevented Wheeler from reaching stardom has been high pitch counts, often culminating into hitting a wall in the sixth inning.

Such was the case again tonight, as Wheeler cruised through four innings, but things began to unravel in the fifth, and he completely lost it in the sixth, highlighted by a two-run homer by Paul DeJong and a RBI double by pitcher Adam Wainwright.

As puzzling as Wheeler has been was manager Terry Collins’ decision to send him out for the sixth inning, considering he walked the bases loaded in the fifth.

“He certainly didn’t look tired or like he was laboring,’’ Collins said.

Wheeler said he lost the feel for his curveball and it wasn’t spinning out of his hand the way it should.

Asdrubal Cabrera robbed Jedd Gyorko of a two-run single to get out of the inning. Instead of being grateful, Collins pushed the envelope with Wheeler in the sixth.

Collins not only made a mistake in trusting Wheeler, but compounded it by keeping him in after DeJong’s homer, and doubled down on that mistake by bringing in Hansel Robles, who promptly gave up a three-run to Tommy Phan.

“It was my fault,’’ said Wheeler, who was stand-up and refused to throw his bullpen under the bus. “I should have made my pitches and gotten out of it.’’

Wheeler gave up four runs on seven hits and four walks in 5.1 innings and has gone eight straight starts without a victory.

So, after routing Colorado in the first two games coming out of the All-Star break, Mets’ pitchers Steven Matz and Wheeler were routed themselves.

“You can’t go on a run if you don’t get consistent pitching,’’ said Collins, stating the obvious.

Meanwhile, prior to the game, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey played catch on flat ground. Both were pleased, but it was only catch.

Of course, what Collins couldn’t say is he stuck with Wheeler and went to Robles because GM Sandy Alderson gave him no other alternative.

May 21

Picking From Rubble Of Mets’ Loss

There are more than a few things you can take from the Mets’ 12-5 thrashing by the Angels this afternoon at sun-kissed Citi Field.

GSELLMAN: Back in the rotation? (AP)

GSELLMAN: Back in the rotation? (AP)

What to do with Milone: It is going to be awhile before we see Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard – it might not be until spring training that we glimpse at the latter – so Tommy Milone was going to be a temporary plug-in. He gave up eight runs in 1.1 innings today, so maybe the Mets will consider pushing back his next start.

In the interim, manager Terry Collins said he would consider moving Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom (for his blister) and using Robert Gsellman on Wednesday.

The worst words possible: I’m convinced the words, “Hansel Robles is warming up in the Mets’ bullpen” are the worst possible words any Mets’ fan can hear. That’s topped only by the fear of watching him pitch. The count is 12 runs in 2.2 innings over his last three appearances. Collins said he doesn’t have many other options, but they all have to be better than Robles.

“It comes down to making pitches,” Collins said of Robles. “You can’t walk guys.”

On the wild side: Mets’ pitchers continue to struggle to find the plate with nine walks issued today and have given up 154 on the season. They have the fourth worst walks/per nine innings ratio of 3.83 in the majors.

Trade assets perform: Jay Bruce snapped out of his funk with a three-run homer that temporarily brought the Mets back into the game, and Curtis Granderson homered and doubled. This is important to note on two fronts: 1) with Yoenis Cespedes due to return this week, and you know the Mets won’t ease him back, and 2) if they continue to fall behind the Nationals (currently 7.5 games), the trade deadline is looming fast.

May 16

Robles’ Role In Jeopardy; Free Fall Continues

Dear Mets readers: I haven’t been around for nearly a week after undergoing back surgery. I came home and today learned my server went down. Please accept my apologies. Hopefully, nothing else will happen. I wish I could include the Mets’ bullpen in that. Best to you, John

The Mets dodged a bullet when Paul Goldschmidt’s fly against Hansel Robles off the center field wall was a replay ruled a double instead of a home run. No worries for the Diamondbacks, who would hit three more homers in the fateful eighth, two off Robles.

Considering Robles has given up nine runs in his last two appearances – not including Sunday’s meltdown – it is probably safe to assume the Mets should be thinking his role should be reduced to mop-up situations like it frequently has been when he’s done.

Pitching was supposed to be the Mets’ strong suit, but the bullpen bridge to the closer was always a rickety one over a rocky cavern with a fast-moving river like in the movie Deliverance.

With Jeurys Familia out indefinitely following surgery to remove a blood clot creating a blockage in his right shoulder. Surgery in St. Louis to remove the clot was successful and he won’t start throwing for up to six weeks and it could be three months before he gets in a game. Just where will the Mets be then?

Addison Reed hasn’t pitched well, and whom in the pen do you trust? Certainly not Robles, whom Collins said his role is in serious jeopardy.

“We use him often because he has such a great arm, but he’s not making pitches, Collins said after the Mets’ fifth straight loss to drop them to eight games behind Washington. “We have to take a good hard look at where he fits, but we don’t have a lot of options.

It is what it is, but you have to manage it anyways.”

One positive tonight was Zack Wheeler, who pitched into the seventh after giving up one run. It was the second consecutive game when a starter entered the seventh only to watch the bullpen cough up the game like a cat with a hairball. Jacob deGrom did so Sunday. DeGrom was supposed to pick up the rotation after Noah Syndergaard went down and will be lost for up to three months.

DeGrom is 2-1 which is good two weeks into the season, but he didn’t win his first game until April 28. DeGrom is on top of the leader boards in strikeouts, but what is really alarming are the seven homers he’s allowed (he gave up 16 all of last year).

Matt Harvey‘s comeback is failing; Robert Gsellman would be optioned if Steven Matz was ready to be activated, but he’s several weeks away; recently-acquired Tommy Milone will get the ball tonight?

What’s next for the Mets?

“Somebody has pissed off the baseball Gods, because every move we make turns out to be the wrong one,” Collins said.

In ancient times, sacrifices were made to the Gods to curry favor.

Who will be the first? Robles? Gsellman? Curtis Granderson? Asdrubal Cabrera?

Will the Mets finally forego their obsession with the Super Two status regarding Amed Rosario? Will they stop thinking Yoenis Cespedes‘ return – which is at least three weeks away – will be the panacea for all that ails the Mets?

The most imminent decision is whether to DL Cabrera and already there are reports Rosario won’t be brought up. Looks like another bad decision in the making.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 05

Mets Wrap: Small Ball And Bullpen Lift Comeback

The Mets can play small ball, and yes they can play it very well. They compiled 20 hits – with no homers – in Wednesday’s rout of the Braves, and then strung together six straight hits in the season’s largest comeback to beat the Marlins.

FLORES: Game-winning walk. And he does. (AP)

FLORES: Game-winning walk. And he does. (AP)

“I think [this game could give us] a huge lift,” manager Terry Collins said. “You have to be resilient you have to play nine innings and put up good at-bats.”

The Mets fell behind 7-1 with Rafael Montero, and began their comeback with a two-run homer by Curtis Granderson in the fourth.

Then came what could become one of the most important innings of the season when they strung together six hits against Brad Ziegler.

It began with a single by Wilmer Flores and a double by Jose Reyes. Rene Rivera and pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera followed with RBI singles. Michael Conforto singled to load the bases and T.J. Rivera – who hit a solo homer – ripped a two-run double.

“I was looking for something up in the zone where I could out the barrel on it … it just so happens it came on the first pitch,” said T.J. Rivera.

Right-hander Kyle Barraclough relieved Ziegler and struck out Jay Bruce and Neil Walker. He intentionally walked Granderson to load the bases and then walked Flores to force in the game-winner.

“I’m just trying to be patient,” said Flores.

The Mets have now scored at least five runs in eight straight games, all without Yoenis Cespedes. Collins, who managed his 1,000th game with the Mets – to trail Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine – said his hitters aren’t trying to do too much, which is common for teams losing its best hitter.

BULLPEN OVERLOOKED: As impressive as the Mets’ offense was, it was made possible by the bullpen. After the lines of Montero (five runs in 3.2 innings) and Josh Smoker (two runs in one inning), five Mets relievers combined to throw 4.1 scoreless innings.

A key moment came in the sixth when Hansel Robles gave up a leadoff double to Marcell Ozuna and one-out later a single to J.T. Realmuto, but escaped without giving up a run.

MONTERO TO START AGAIN: There was no waffling by Collins when asked if Montero will get the ball again.

Considering Montero has never taken advantage of previous opportunities and gave up five runs in 3.2 innings tonight, it was a logical question.

So was Collins’ answer: “If it’s not him, I don’t know who it will be. We have to get him going.”

UP NEXT: Rookie Robert Gsellman (1-2, 6.75 ERA) is coming off his first victory of the season Monday in Atlanta.

Apr 12

Wheeler, Conforto Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

Sometime next season or the year after, Zack Wheeler and Michael Conforto will combine to lift the Mets. They did for awhile Wednesday night in Philadelphia until Hansel Robles sprayed graffiti on their near masterpiece.

i-5Wheeler, backed in large part by Conforto’s homer and Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run single, cruised into the sixth with a five-run lead. It looked as if manager Terry Collins would let him pitch out of trouble, but pulled him with two outs and the bases loaded in favor of Robles.

Collins feared the Phillies would break through and spoil Wheeler’s night and he’d suffer an emotional setback. Instead, Maikel Franco turned around Robles’ first pitch for a monster grand slam that changed the complexion of the game, but the Mets held on to win 5-4 to complete the sweep.

In winning his first game since coming off Tommy John surgery in 2014, Wheeler gave up three runs on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw the target 85 pitches, but the key was working ahead in the count with his secondary pitches. Miami hurt Wheeler in his first start – of a cold damp day – when he fell behind in the count and waited on his fastball.

Wheeler coasted into the sixth but the Phillies worked him hard to load the bases.

“I was very happy with the way he pitched tonight,” Collins told reporters of Wheeler’s start. “He threw the ball as well as he could but he ran out of gas all of a sudden.”

Pitchers usually won’t admit to getting tired, but Wheeler was stand-up. He knows the score.

“I was a little tired at the end,” Wheeler said. “It’s all about building myself up. …I had better command. That’s what I needed from my first start. It felt good to bounce back after that rough outing. I was nice to go out there and do well.  It’s a weight off my shoulders.”

Conversely, it hasn’t appeared the Mets were all that interested in building up Conforto’s at-bats. They had a huge lead, but Conforto sat until the end. Conforto was a surprise start over Curtis Granderson and responded with two hits and a walk and scored three runs.

One of those hits was an opposite-field homer to give the Mets an early 2-0 lead.

Conventional wisdom has Conforto going to the minors when Juan Lagares is activated from the disabled list. He needs at-bats, but Collins would not commit to starting him Thursday in Miami.

Conforto hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time but responded with what little he has.

“I’m getting good pitches to hit and getting deep into the count,” said Conforto, who continues to refuse to get drawn into the debate on his immediate future.

Another positive note to the day was the report Matt Harvey, who strained his left hamstring Tuesday night, would be able to make his next start Sunday in Miami.

While Wheeler and Conforto were the headliners, Robles served as a reminder of one of the Mets’ biggest weaknesses, which is the bridge to the back end of the bullpen.