May 02

Mets’ April Review And Looking At May

Just as they did last season, the Mets won 15 games in April, and again the spark was a long winning streak. Last year it was 11 games; this year it was eight.

WALKER: My Mets' MVP for April. (AP)

WALKER: My Mets’ MVP for April. (AP)

As much as the Mets like to boast about their young pitching – as well they should – the springboard this time was power. It was not, as has been suggested, Terry Collins’ knee jerk managing in the eighth game of the season.

Yes, they won that game and have gone on to win five straight series. That’s purely coincidental.

The Mets tied a club record with 33 homers for the month, which enabled them to overcome Jacob deGrom’s two missed starts because of a strained lat muscle and Matt Harvey’s 0-3 start.

A key that can’t be underestimated has been the Mets’ ability to get an early lead, as they scored first in 10 of their last 14 games in April. Overall, they are 13-3 when they scored first this year.

The Mets crushed three homers and took a 4-0 lead in the first inning Monday against the Braves.

APRIL MVP

Contrary to the popular opinion of Yoenis Cespedes, I’m going with Neil Walker, who was hitting before Michael Conforto was moved to third in the order. Walker is tied for third in the majors with nine homers and finished the month with a career-high 19 for April.

Conforto would be my second choice and Cespedes third.

PITCHER OF THE MONTH

Noah Syndergaard took a pounding Sunday, but has been overpowering with 38 strikeouts with a 1.69 ERA for the month.

KEY GAME OF THE MONTH

Matt Harvey lost his first three starts, but finally won, April 22, 6-3, at Atlanta. He wasn’t totally on his game, but he pitched out of trouble enough times to turn it around. Sure, the game when Cespedes hit a three-run pinch-hit homer was more dramatic, but in the big picture getting Harvey going was more important.

KEY MOVE OF THE MONTH

On April 15 in Cleveland, Collins moved Conforto to the No. 3 spot in the batting order and the Mets have sizzled since going 12-3. When hitting third or fourth, Conforto is batting .373 with nine doubles, four homers and 15 RBI.

RED FLAGS ENDURED

Jacob deGrom missed two starts because of a strained right lat; Harvey lost his first three starts; closer Jeurys Familia sustained a rocky stretch, but has converted all eight of this save opportunities.

KEY ISSUE RESOLVED

Shortstop and the bullpen were two significant issues facing the Mets entering the season, but Asdrubal Cabrera has been superb both in the field and at the plate. The bullpen converted nine of 11 save opportunities and stranded 26 of 35 runners.

HEALTH ISSUES

Travis d’Arnaud was placed on the disabled list with a strained rotator cuff. … Cespedes missed close to a week with a bruised right leg. … David Wright ended the month without a problem, but his back remains an issue.

SIX QUESTIONS RAISED

Will the power continue?

Power of not, can Conforto keep it up?

Can Wright stay healthy?

Will the new guys, Walker and Cabrera, keep hitting?

Will we see deGrom and Harvey go on a roll?

Can the bullpen keep it up?

BY THE NUMBERS

.333: Walker’s average with RISP.

4: Times the Mets hit back-to-back homers.

5: Consecutive series the Mets won to close the month.

9: Consecutive games in which Cespedes had at least one extra-base hit.

22: Strikeouts by Cespedes.

29: Strikeouts by Wright.

33: Homers hit by the month.

LOOKING AT MAY’S SCHEDULE

They began May losing to Madison Bumgarner Sunday and close their current homestand against Atlanta.

The Mets are on a stretch of 17 games in 17 days, including their first West Coast trip, with four games in San Diego and Los Angeles and three in Colorado.

They’ll return home for a pair of three-games series against Washington (May 17-19) and Milwaukee (May 20-22), then go to Washington (May 23-25) for three more against the Nationals.

They’ll close out the month with three at home against the Dodgers (May 27-29) and two against the Chicago White Sox (a three-game series that ends June 1).

 

Apr 30

Mets Wrap: Conforto Stars Again

Just cut in out SNY. We all know Michael Conforto is on fire, and Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are superstars and have been for several years. So, after another big outing from Conforto – three hits and three RBI – in the 77th game of his career on Saturday, SNY compared him to Trout and Harper at a similar stage of his career.

CONFORTO: Comparisons already being made. (AP)

CONFORTO: Comparisons already being made. (AP)

Why, 77 games isn’t even half of season. Also ridiculous was The Post comparing him to Barry Bonds in a headline.

Can we just let him play?

Manager Terry Collins was asked after the Mets’ 6-5 victory over San Francisco whether Conforto was a surprise to opposing pitchers or was just good?

“If he’d just ben called up, I’d say [they] don’t know him,” Collins told reporters. “But, he’s played in the World Series. They know him. `He’s going to be a really good hitter. Some guys are outstanding players, I don’t care what level you put them at, they adjust. He’s adjusted. He’s going to be a force.”

He’s already there. I’m not saying he’s Trout or Harper, but when the Nationals come to town in a little over two weeks, there will be a lot of Harper-Conforto talk. Maybe SNY was getting a head start.

Conforto ended April on a tear by reaching base for the 17th straight game and hitting a double in his sixth consecutive game. He also hit his fourth homer and finished the month hitting .365 with four homers and a .442 on-base percentage.

“`It’s been a lot of fun,” Conforto said earlier this week. “I just have to keep an even keel to things and not ride the roller coaster.”

That means letting him continue to grow and resist the temptation of making comparisons.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #22 Record: 15-7  Streak: W 8

SUMMARY: Jacob deGrom pitched through a rocky start, and backed by homers from Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores, he hung in to win his third game. DeGrom had a 4-0 lead entering the third, but Flores’ throwing error led to three unearned runs.

KEY MOMENT: After pulverizing the Giants for 13 runs, including a club-record 12 in the third inning, the Mets immediately jumped on Matt Cain with two runs in the first. They scored two more in the second to give deGrom the cushion needed to hold on.

THUMBS UP: Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera turned a nifty 4-6-3 double play in the ninth. … Flores homered. … Three hits and three RBI by Conforto and two more RBI from Neil Walker. … Jerry Blevins relieved Hansel Robles and retired Gregor Blanco to end the eighth with the tying run in scoring position. … Lucas Duda came off the bag to save Flores from another error in the ninth. … Jeurys Familia saved his eighth game. … Curtis Granderson robbed Brandon Crawford with a run-saving catch in the eighth.

THUMBS DOWN: Cain hit Rene Rivera and Cabrera with pitches in the second. … Flores’ error. … DeGrom walked four. … Mets pitchers walked seven overall. … The bullpen gave up two runs.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright had the game off. Who didn’t think of Wright being beaned by Cain in 2009 when the Giants’ pitcher plunked Rivera?

QUOTEBOOK: “It’s impressive what he’s doing. He played in big games for us last year and he’s picked up this year.’’ – DeGrom on watching Conforto.

BY THE NUMBERS: 33: Homers hit by the Mets in April to tie a club record.

NEXT FOR METS: The finale Sunday pits Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64) starts against Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69).

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Apr 28

Optimistic About Harvey

I am the first to admit I have had reservations about Matt Harvey and his future with the Mets.

I still believe they would be smart to explore the trade market because if healthy, he’ll bolt for the Bucks in the Bronx when he becomes a free-agent after the 2019 season. That is based on the innings fiasco and agent Scott Boras’ reputation. The driving force is money.

HARVEY: Still hopeful for him. (AP)

HARVEY: Still hopeful for him. (AP)

There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s the way of the baseball world.

I believe the Mets gambled wrongly with Harvey and their pitchers in spring training by limiting their innings. Their heart might have been in the right place, but the mistake they made was pitchers need work to get sharp.

Harvey was hammered in his first three starts; Jacob deGrom hurt his lat muscle in his first start; and Steven Matz was also hit hard in his first start. The exception was Noah Syndergaard, And, Bartolo Colon is, well, there are no words to describe him.

Harvey’s pitch counts have been high, but he was better in his last two starts – including last night’s game against the Reds – and his ability to work out of trouble was a positive sign. Since Harvey’s early troubles was a sign of rust more than injury, I don’t have any reason to think he still can’t have a big year.

Apr 27

Mets Wrap: Harvey Takes Step Forward In Best Start Of Year

We are in the age of pitch counts and Matt Harvey continues to labor in that area for the Mets. However, this time he did what good pitchers must do, which is to minimize the damage and parlayed that into a 5-2 victory Wednesday night over Cincinnati.

HARVEY: Did what he had to do. (AP)

HARVEY: Did what he had to do. (AP)

Harvey stranded runners in scoring position in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings in making by far his best start of the season.

The Reds had a run in and a runner in scoring position in the first, but Harvey struck out the next two hitters. Harvey was also in a bases-loaded-one, one-out jam in the third, but he struck out Eugenio Suarez and got a sparkling defense play from Neil Walker to save him at least two runs.

Harvey entered the game with hitters batting over .500 against him with runners in scoring position, but the Reds couldn’t break through despite the constant threatening. This is what winning pitchers do.

Harvey’s moment of truth came in the fifth when the Reds pulled within 3-2 and had runners on the corners. Harvey got out of it by getting Devin Mesoraco to ground into a 6-4-3 double-play to end the inning.

Harvey got the double play on his 88th pitch of the game and that raises an issue.

In his first three starts – all losses – Harvey made it through the sixth only once, but threw 83, 95 and 86 pitches. Harvey won his fourth start, but needed 101 pitches to work just five innings.

The Mets had to like Harvey’s ability to escape, but they – and the pitcher – can’t be happy with his high pitch counts and inability to go deep into games. Harvey finished with a flourish, setting the Reds down 1-2-3 in the sixth, ending the inning with his seventh strikeout on his 102nd pitch.

Overall, this was a positive step forward by Harvey. The pitcher Harvey wants to be realizes 102 pitches is too many for six innings. That many should get him through the eighth and into the ninth.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #20   Record: 13-7 Streak: W 6

SUMMARY: Harvey needed a scintillating defensive play by Neil Walker to save him a couple of runs and a homer from the second baseman to drive in what proved to be the game-winning run.

KEY MOMENT: Cincinnati had a run in on Zack Cozart’s homer leading off the game, and later had a runner on second with one out and were poised to do some serious damage, but Harvey regrouped to strike out Eugenio Suarez and Mesoraco to end the threat.

THUMBS UP: How can you not love Alejandro De Aza tagging up and taking second on a fly out in the first? It resulted in the Mets getting two runs. … After making a diving stop of Mesoraco’s liner to end the third and save a couple of runs for Harvey, Walker homered in the bottom of the third. … Michael Conforto’s two-run double in the sixth. … Another strong inning in relief by Jim Henderson with two more strikeouts.

THUMBS DOWN: Harvey’s high pitch count limited him to six innings. … Errors by Lucas Duda and Walker. … Only five hits by Mets’ hitters.

EXTRA INNINGS: Yoenis Cespedes got another night off after telling Collins his right leg was still sore. … With the victory, the Mets are now 5-4 at home. … Harvey is 3-0 in five career starts against the Reds. … In case you were wondering, Philadelphia beat Washington to cut the Nationals’ lead in the NL East to one game.

QUOTEBOOK:  “Sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut.” – Walker explaining his power surge.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9: Homers by Walker in April to tie a club record. He’s tied with Bryce Harper for the NL lead.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets are off Thursday and open a three-game series Friday against the Giants at Citi Field. … The starters are: Friday, Jake Peavey (1-1, 6.86) vs. Steven Matz (2-1, 5.40); Saturday, Matt Cain (0-2, 6.43) vs. Jacob deGrom (2-0, 1.54); and Sunday, Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64) vs. Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69).

 

 

Apr 23

Mets’ Wrap: Collins Shows Confidence In Pitchers

One would think a manager shouldn’t make too many key pitching decisions in an 8-2 rout, but the Mets’ Terry Collins made a pair Saturday night in Atlanta that could serve to benefit him down the road.

MATZ: Another solid start. (AP)

MATZ: Another solid start. (AP)

The first was sending starter Steven Matz out for the seventh inning in the left-hander’s second straight start. Matz was stellar last Sunday in Cleveland and was also brilliant against the Braves. Collins could have played in conservatively and gone to the bullpen, but his confidence in sticking with Matz was refreshing.

Matz didn’t make it out of the seventh, but the important thing was that Collins stretched him out. Matz gave up nine hits – but didn’t walk a batter – and had nine strikeouts in 6.1 innings. He threw 98 pitches, which should only help him later.

Collins’ second key decision was allowing right-handed reliever Hansel Robles to stay in and face left-handed hitter Freddie Freeman. The Braves already had a run in and a runner on, but Robles struck out Freeman.

Granted, Freeman has been struggling, but when the easy thing would have been to go by the book, Collins stuck with Robles. That can only benefit both the Mets and Robles in the future.

Were they outlandish gambles? No, but the confidence Collins displayed in Matz and Robles could pay dividends. I especially liked him sticking with Robles.

METS GAME WRAP

Game:  #16   Record:  9-7  Streak: W 2

SUMMARY: A solid start by Matz, a strong performance from the bullpen and the Mets continued to rake with 15 hits and two more homers.

KEY MOMENT: The Braves cut the Mets’ lead to 2-1 in the third, but Matz minimized the damage and benefitted from tack-on runs in the fourth.

THUMBS UP: A pair of doubles from David Wright, who also drove in two runs. … Two more hits from Curtis Granderson. … Two hits by Michael Conforto, who also stole his first career base. … Strong relief efforts from Robles, Addison Reed and Logan Verrett. … Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera hit back-to-back homers in the ninth. … Two hits by Travis d’Arnaud.

THUMBS DOWN: Eleven strikeouts, 12 runners stranded and going 2-for-16 with RISP.

EXTRA INNINGS: With the win the Mets have won three straight series. … Walker leads the team with seven homers. Tonight’s was the 100th of his career … The Mets have 23 homers in their last eight games.

QUOTEBOOK: “Focus. Taking it one pitch at a time.”- Matz on the key to his success.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6: Consecutive victories by the Mets at Turner Field. Who would have ever thought that could be possible?

NEXT FOR METS: Jacob deGrom makes his second start of the season and first since April 8.