Dec 07

Niese Mets’ Best Trade Chip

While the Mets insist they aren’t actively shopping left hander Jon Niese, you can be certain they make it known to every team they speak with that he’s available.

The Mets made it clear they aren’t going to trade Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. That leaves Niese as their lone pitching trade chip. And, with them high on Rafael Montero, that leaves Niese as the bait to obtain an outfield bat.

NIESE: Could he soon wave good bye. (AP)

NIESE: Could he soon wave good bye. (AP)

“We haven’t been actively shopping him, but other than the four guys [Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard and Matz], we’re going to be looking for ways to improve the team,” assistant general manager John Ricco told reporters at the Winter Meetings. “If there’s a deal that involves him and makes us better, I think we would definitely consider it.”

Niese is attactive to other teams because he’s a left, throws hard, isn’t phased about pitching in big games and has a manageable contract. He’s also healthy, having made 29 starts last season. On the downside, he’s been mostly mediocre (9-10 with a 4.13 ERA last year).

He also has an unnerving knack of not being able to slam the door and minimize trouble.

Even so, when teams talk to the Mets about pitching, he’s the first name they bring up.

ON DECK: Wrapping up Mets’ first day at Winter Meetings.

Oct 30

In Noah, The Mets Do Trust

It’s funny how things worked out for the Mets. They were reluctant to bring up Noah Syndergaard in May, but now in October they are counting on him to extend their dream season. Down two games to Kansas City, Syndergaard will take his 100 mph., fastball to the mound tonight at Citi Field.

“We’ve got great confidence in him,” said manager Terry Collins. “I think as much as you’d like to go to that crusty, veteran guy who’s been here, who’s done it, to help bail you out of the hole you’re in, we’re not asking that. We’re asking this kid to go out and pitch his game, and his stuff should play.”

SYNDERGAARD: The future is now. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: The future is now. (Getty)

The Mets entered the World Series with a decided edge in starting pitching, but Matt Harvey (6) and Jacob deGrom (5) gave them a combined 11 innings in the first two games. Syndergaard must give them at least seven innings to keep the Royals away from the Mets’ bullpen.

Along with the Mets’ starters, another story line was the Royals’ hitters ability to make contact, especially against fastballs over 95 mph. Syndergaard is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA and spoke as if he has this playoff thing down pat.

The question has always been posed to pitchers for years: Does he pitch to his strength, even if it is the hitter’s strength as well?

Syndergaard knows a pitcher never wants to get beat with his secondary pitches; if he goes down it will be with his best.

“My main focus is to pitch to my strengths and being able to execute all my pitches, and just focus on winning one pitch at a time,” said Syndergaard, speaking like the veteran he isn’t.

It’s funny how things work. The Mets didn’t want to bring up Syndergaard in May to delay his arbitration and free-agent years to have him conveniently locked up for the future. The Mets singled out their young pitching as the foundation for their future, but the future is now for the Mets.

It is tonight.

ON DECK: Tonight’s lineup.

Oct 28

Mets Routed; In Huge Hole

When you don’t hit, don’t pitch and don’t catch the ball, you’re not going to win. See, this game isn’t that complicated after all. Kansas City’s Johnny Cueto had no problem figuring out the Mets hitters, and Royals’ hitters solved Jacob deGrom pretty quickly.

The Mets gave deGrom a run, but as we’ve been told all along, the Royals would eventually peck away. That came in the fifth inning as the Royals strung together hit after hit against deGrom as Jon Niese warmed in the bullpen.

CUETO: Superb tonight. (Getty)

CUETO: Superb tonight. (Getty)

The cameras focused on Mets manager Terry Collins, who stared blankly into space as if hit in the head with a bat. It probably was a Mets’ bat because they certainly weren’t doing anything against Cueto, who went the distance in the 7-1 rout.

Collins never went to the pen until it was too late, but it was easy to understand his hesitancy. Niese gave Collins two solid innings the night before and you could understand doubting he’d get an encore. Collins was riding his horse, deGrom, and hoping for the best.

It never came, and by the time the inning was over, the Mets were down, 4-1, and with the way they were facing Cueto, they had no chance.

DeGrom labored in his previous two playoff starts. Collins said he was fatigued; deGrom said he wasn’t. Either way, both agreed deGrom’s command was off. It wasn’t that way for the first four innings, but come the fifth, the game was over, and likely, the Mets’ chances in this World Series.

Teams winning the first two games go on to win the World Series 80 percent of the time. An exception was the 1986 Mets, but that was a different team in a different era.

We can list all the things the Mets didn’t do Wednesday night, but Game 2 was all about the things the Royals did right. The Royals don’t strike out. They put the ball in play. They attack strikes when they get one. They catch the ball. They do the right things and they do them consistently.

They play the game the way it is supposed to be played, and that style – while not sexy – is about to win them a championship.

 

Oct 15

Mets Advance To NLCS Behind DeGrom And Murphy

Jacob deGrom has been more overpowering, but never has the Mets’ ace been more impressive. And, Daniel Murphy, quite simply, has never been better.

Together “The Mane’’ and “The Beard’’ combined to give the Mets an unlikely 3-2 victory over Los Angeles to send them to the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs. At the start of the season, nobody, and I mean, nobody, would’ve bet that scenario.

MURPHY: Carried Mets' offense. (AP)

MURPHY: Carried Mets’ offense. (AP)

After Clayton Kershaw stuffed the Mets in Game 4 to send the series back to Los Angeles and another meeting against Zack Greinke, the Mets were heavy underdogs.

However, as they have all season, the Mets found a way to persevere. They overcame injuries, slumps and losing streaks, and today find themselves getting ready to host the NLCS come Saturday night.

With David Wright and Lucas Duda not giving the Mets anything offensively in this series, they somehow found a way.

“This team has tremendous fight,’’ said joyous manager Terry Collins. “It’s been that way all season. Whenever we have a tough game, we’ve been able to bounce back.’’

DeGrom struck out 13 Dodgers in Game 1. It seemed as if he stranded that many Dodgers. It was only seven, but five in scoring position. The game could have been over by the fifth. Game 1 was all about stuff; tonight it was guts.

The Mets gave deGrom a 1-0 lead in the first on Murphy’s RBI double, but the Dodgers came back with two in their half of the inning. The Dodgers could have blown the game open, but deGrom never cracked.

“People ask me, what kind of make-up does he have?’’ Collins said. “He had command of nothing and battled and battled and battled. There were about four times he was a batter away from coming out of the game.’’

“That’s why he is who he is,’’ Wright said.

“Unbelievable,’’ Murphy said. “That was more impressive than in the first start because that one could have gotten away from him.’’

That man Murphy tied the game in the fourth. After a leadoff single, Duda walked and Murphy casually jogged to second. With three Dodgers bunched around second – courtesy of the shift – Murphy took off for third, where he scored of a foul-ball sacrifice fly.

“Any time somebody shifts, it doesn’t leave them in position to defend that,’’ Murphy said. “I didn’t want to give it away.’’

Then, in the sixth, Murphy, who will be a free-agent this winter, cranked his third homer of the NLDS; two off Kershaw and one off Greinke.

“He’s been unbelievable,’’ Wright said. “I’ve seen him locked in before, but he’s as locked in as I’ve ever seen him.’’

Murphy is as understated a player as the Mets have, and he quietly said, “sometimes the blessings come.’’

Just how well the Mets will be blessed in the coming weeks remains to be seen, but so far it has been a joyous ride.

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Oct 15

Where’s Lucas Duda And Offense?

Jacob deGrom is the best the Mets have to offer in Game 5, but it doesn’t matter what he does, if the hitters don’t produce they won’t win. It’s a simple as that in handicapping tonight’s NLDS game in Los Angeles.

No hitting and say hello to winter.

DUDA: Paging Lucas Duda? (AP)(

DUDA: Paging Lucas Duda? (AP)(

One hitter manager Terry Collins needs to wake up is first baseman Lucas Duda, who is 2-for-15 with nine strikeouts in the NLDS. Duda has always been prone to long stretches of sizzling and being cold. But, he’s been so frigid lately Collins and his coaching staff briefly thought of sitting him tonight, with Daniel Murphy playing first and Kelly Johnson going to second.

In the end, Collins went with the player expected to be a Met for years.

“Kelly hasn’t played. Not that it wouldn’t work, but Lucas has been the guy,’’ Collins said. “And you never know when he breaks out. As we’ve seen, if he breaks out, he carries you. So we’re hoping tonight’s the night.’’

When he’s going good, Duda takes the ball to the opposite field, but Collins said he’s pull-happy, and against Zack Greinke, who can pound the strikezone low-and-away to left-handed hitters, that means weak groundballs and pop-ups. It also means strikeouts.

“We’ve just got to get Lucas to relax a little bit – just, hey, look, put the ball in play,’’ Collins said. “When he gets it going, he’s dangerous to all parts of the ballpark. So when you see him struggling like he is right now – and, again, this is only from what I’m seeing – it looks like he’s trying to pull a little too much.’’

It’s not as if Greinke, a Cy Young Award candidate at 19-3, can’t be beaten, but the odds are against it. Lefties are hitting .194 against him; righties at .182.

The Mets’ hottest hitter in this series is Curtis Granderson at .429 with five RBI, three on one swing, but he’s .192 lifetime against Greinke. Yoenis Cespedes has two homers in the series; one in a loss and another in a blowout win. However, he’s .200 lifetime against Greinke.

In addition to Duda, the Mets need something from David Wright, who is .333 (3-for-9) lifetime against Greinke, but .083 with five strikeouts in the NLDS.

If the Mets are to play the Cubs, they not only need deGrom to pitch big, but their hitters to play better.

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