Sep 01

Wilpon To Get Meaningful September Games

Several years ago Mets owner Fred Wilpon said he wanted his team “to play meaningful games in September.” Well, here we are, Sept. 1, and the Mets – after winning nine of 11 games – are just 1.5 games behind St. Louis for the second wild-card.

WILPON: Meaningful games in September. (AP)

WILPON: Meaningful games in September. (AP)

This week alone they leapfrogged Miami – they can complete a four-game sweep of the Marlins today behind Jacob deGrom – and Pittsburgh.

“I like our chances,” GM Sandy Alderson told reporters at Citi Field.

Manager Terry Collins said he told his players “there would be no more meetings,’’ and he thanked them for not rolling over. Huh? Translation: He thanked them for doing their jobs.

Despite numerous injuries – today Neil Walker will announce his intent to have season-ending back surgery – the Mets are in the hunt for a variety of reasons:

* Walker was scorching since late July before going down.

* Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera turned it on after coming off the disabled list.

* Bartolo Colon – who did it again Wednesday night – has kept the Mets in nearly every game he’s pitched.

* Spot starters Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero are responsible for three victories alone.

* The starters have generally been good. Noah Syndergaard overcame his funk; Steven Matz was solid before his shoulder did him in; and deGrom had a stretch of ten straight good starts before his last two stinkers.

* Wilmer Flores has continued to hit, and lately that includes against right-handers.

* The bullpen has been good, and twice needed to work over six innings to help either an injured or battered starter.

* They’ve gotten production from role players Kelly Johnson, Alejandro De Aza and Rene Rivera.

All that together adds up to a team. Yes, there has been praise for Cespedes, but he’s been far from the only one. They are in position to compete because they’ve been the essence of a team.

Last night Colon pitched and Johnson and Flores combined to drive in all their runs. Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia closed it for Colon.

You can’t say they were carried by a star.

Will the Mets get back into the playoffs, much less the World Series? I don’t know, but at least they have a chance.

If told at the beginning of the season the Mets would have been 1.5 games behind the wild card with a month to go, would you have taken it?

I would have.

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Aug 29

Three Mets’ Storylines: Cespedes Makes Statement

It is hard to say what was the more deafening sound, the Citi Field crowd after Yoenis Cespedes’ game-winning homer or the cash register in Jeff Wilpon’s mind ringing up what the Mets might have to pay to bring him back next summer and beyond.

Cespedes has two years remaining on his contract, but can opt out after this season. The contract calls for him to make $27.5 million this year and $25 million in each of the next two seasons.

CESPEDES: Flexes Mets to win. (AP)

CESPEDES: Flexes Mets to win. (AP)

Cespedes said he’d like to stay with the Mets, but stopped short of saying he will come back. If stands to reason that the better Cespedes performs – he had three hits, including his 27th homer in the 10th inning to beat Miami, 2-1 – the greater his leverage.

To bring Cespedes back, they’ll have to increase both dollars and years. It’s easy to say, “well, just give him the money,’’ after what he did Monday, but the Mets will then have to make a decision on Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, and what to do with Michael Conforto.

Bruce has done little since coming over from the Reds. They could buy out Granderson. And, in April, Conforto was penciled in to be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter for the next decade.

However, none of them have what Cespedes does, which is the ability to jumpstart and carry a team with one swing. The Mets have had only a handful of players that no matter, they force you to watch and not look away when they come to the plate. Dave Kingman was one, then Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza. Finally, there is Cespedes, who carried the Mets last season into October, and has been doing it again since coming off the disabled list.

“He’s that kind of player,” manager Terry Collins said. “You expect to see big things from him each and every time he comes up. People pay to see him. They want to see what he can do.”

Cespedes can be infuriating, such as not running out a pop-up that fell for a hit in the first. Against Jose Fernandez, you knew runs would be at a premium and not hustling into scoring position could have bitten them in the end.

Even with his tight right quad, he should have been on second. However, that gets filed away when he takes control of a game as he did facing off against Nick Wittgren with two outs in the tenth.

“In big moments I really try to focus and deliver,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I know they were pitching me away, but I was looking for something in.”

Cespedes’ game-winning drive was clearly the top storyline of the night. Jose Reyes stealing a run in the eighth and the pitching from Rafael Montero and the bullpen were the other two.

A REYES RUN: When the Mets signed Reyes at the end of June, they sold the fan base on the premise he would bring energy and speed to their station-to-station offense. What they had in mind was the eighth inning.

Down by a run, Reyes lead off the eighth with a line double into the right field corner. When it appeared Alejandro De Aza failed to advance him on a fly to left, Reyes tagged and moved to third, then scored on a head-first slide following A.J. Ramos’ wild pitch.

Reyes appeared to be hurt on the play when Ramos fell on the Met infielder’s head and left shoulder. Reyes remained in the game, but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.

MONTERO FILLS BILL: Montero made the spot start because the Mets believed normally scheduled starter Jacob deGrom – who gave up a combined 13 runs in his last two starts – was fatigued. Montero, brought up from Double-A Binghamton, gave up only two hits in five scoreless innings, but threw 100 pitches in large part because he walked six.

If Collins wanted to see if Montero could respond to a challenge, his concerns were answered in the positive. Montero was in constant trouble and left the Marlins stranded with RISP in the first, fourth and fifth.

Montero left the bases loaded in the fourth and needed a double play to get out of the fifth. With how he pitched, Montero will stay after the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1.

While Montero was the unexpected, the bullpen was something they counted on.

Addison Reed gave up a run in the eighth on doubles by Ichiro Suzuki and Xavier Scruggs. The Mets also received scoreless innings from Sean Gilmartin (6th inning), Jerry Blevins (7th), Jeurys Familia (9th) and Josh Smoker (10th).

Combined, the bullpen gave up one run on three hits, one walk and six strikeouts.

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Aug 14

Three Mets’ Storylines: Is Bone Spur Issue Over For Matz?

The Mets didn’t get their first no-hitter until their 51st season. It was too much to ask for Steven Matz to give them their second four years later.

Matz took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Alexi Ramirez lined his 105th of the game into right field. Mets manager Terry Collins jumped out of the dugout as if launched by a spring to answer the question that had been on everybody’s mind.

MATZ: Is spur issue over? (AP)

MATZ: Is spur issue over? (AP)

“I wasn’t going to visit the Johan Santana scenario again, I can tell you that,” said Collins revisiting the night of June 1, 2012, when he allowed the veteran left-hander to stay in to throw 134 pitches in the franchise’s only no-hitter.

Santana, who was coming off shoulder surgery, pitched a few good games later that season, but was never the same.

To this day, Collins regrets letting Santana stay in, and he would later say: “It was without a doubt, the worst night I’ve ever spent in baseball.”

Santana was a veteran, but Matz was making just his 28th career start. This is his first full season in the majors. Collins compared the two through the prism of his baseball roots.

“I can’t get away from my background in player development,” Collins said. “I can see the big picture. I wasn’t going to jeopardize his career for one game.”

The big picture includes that Matz has pitched with a bone spur that will require surgery this off-season. There was speculation he might be shut down for the season. However, he’s been superb in his last two starts.

Even had Matz pitched a no-hitter, perhaps the most important thing coming out of the day is he might be past that issue. Matz threw 105 pitches in beating San Diego, 5-1, Sunday; he threw a career high 120 pitches earlier in the week in a 5-3 loss to Arizona.

“I think it has been out of my mind for awhile,” Matz said of the bone spur. “It has been since I decided to pitch with it. … My arm has been feeling great. I’ve had no problems.”

Matz thanked Collins for letting him stay in for 120 pitches against Arizona.

“I think it’s good when you get deep into games,” he said. “You have to have better command of your pitches when you’re not throwing as hard.”

Matz was the story of the day. The other storylines was the offense and the upcoming schedule.

TACK ON RUNS: The Mets first got on the board with homers from Wilmer Flores and Neil Walker, but more impressive were three manufactured runs in the eighth inning.

In the epitome of a manufactured run, Jose Reyes singled, stole second and went to third on the catcher’s throw into center, and scored on a wild pitch.

They added two more on T.J. Rivera’s two-run double.

The late runs enabled Collins to by-pass Jeurys Familia because it wasn’t a save situation, thereby keeping him fresh for Monday.

THE SCHEDULE: After being swept by Arizona, the Mets have won two of three since Collins’ post-game rant to finish the homestand 2-4. They two victories marked the first time they won back-to-back games since before the All-Star break.

The Mets begin an 11-game road trip Monday in Arizona, with three games against the Diamondbacks, four with the Giants and three in St. Louis.

With the victory the Mets moved one game over .500 and are two games behind the second wild card spot. The Dodgers, Marlins, Cardinals and Pirates are ahead of them.

There have been several times this season when Collins looked ahead at a portion of the Mets’ schedule and defined it as vital. He made no such proclamation before this time.

He didn’t have to.

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Aug 11

Mets Realizing Last Year’s Magic Is Gone

The Mets have had two moments since late July that should have spurred them on a tear, but they failed to capitalize and run with the momentum. Even worse, they failed to win with those games.

The first was Yoenis Cespedes’ titanic game-tying blast, July 27, against St. Louis. That was the night Jeurys Familia blew his first save opportunity after converting 52 straight.

COLLINS: Realizing the futility. (AP)

COLLINS: Realizing the futility. (AP)

The second was last night when Kelly Johnson put it into the upper deck in right to force extra innings against Arizona. With Familia already spent, they lost in 12 innings when Oscar Hernandez homered off Jerry Blevins.

They would have run with those moments last year. In 2015, they faced a multitude of injuries, bad luck, lengthy hitting slumps and bullpen breakdowns, but somehow found a way to overcome.

“We know (know) tough times,’’ manager Terry Collins said after their latest. “But we’re not coming through when we need to as we did a year ago.”

There are even more injuries this season, and today they will put out their 89th different lineup in 114 games; the team’s collective hitting slump seems longer and deeper, and Collins has made several mind-numbing managerial calls.

Never mind getting on a tear, the Mets haven’t won back-to-back games in over a month. They were supposed to own New York after going to the World Series last year, but today have the same record as the Yankees, who have scuttled their season in the hope of the future.

The Mets trail the Nationals by ten games, so that won’t happen. Talk to most people and 87 wins appear to be the magic number for getting in as a wild card. At 57-56, the Mets would have to go 30-19 in their remaining games.

It’s possible, but they would need to capture the same magical spark they did last year. The home runs by Cespedes and Johnson could have been those sparks, but instead of igniting something, they were snuffed.

The proof this isn’t last year.

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Aug 11

Three Mets’ Storylines: Loss Sets Up Vital Syndergaard Start

At 23, the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard has pitched in the World Series. However, it might not be a stretch to say Thursday’s start might be one of the most important of his young career.

Seriously.

SYNDERGAARD: Faces big start. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Faces big start. (Getty)

After losing two straight games to the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team with the 26th worst record in the major leagues, the Mets are a team struggling to keep from going into a freefall.

Oscar Hernandez’s homer off reliever Jerry Blevins in the 12th inning was the difference in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks to drop the Mets to one game over .500.

This time last year the Mets were vibrant and a team on the rise. There were so many moments when they lifted themselves off the ropes on their drive to the World Series.

“We’ve been through these tough times before,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “But, we’re not coming through like we did a year ago.”

Collins was then asked if he thought the Mets expect to regroup simply because they did so last season.

“I hope not,” Collins said. “You’re not given anything up here. … This is the major leagues. Tonight is over. We have to come back tomorrow. We have to get ready for tomorrow because today is done.”

The seriousness of the Mets’ situation was the most significant storyline of the night. The other two were Kelly Johnson’s big swing in the ninth and another strong outing from Bartolo Colon.

JOHNSON DELIVERS: There might not be a more distinctive sound in sports than the crack of the bat. The Mets had to wait until the ninth before hearing it Wednesday, when Johnson – hitting for Ty Kelly – launched a Jake Barrett deep into the upper deck for a game-tying home run.

Until Johnson unloaded, the Mets’ offense had been silenced, limited to just three singles. With one out, Alejandro De Aza walked to set up Johnson.

Johnson hit homers last week in back-to-back games at the Yankees and Detroit. In fact, he had hits in five straight games, Aug. 3-7, and then was sent to the bench, again.

Sure, I get wanting a bat coming off the bench, but with the way this offense is going, don’t you want that potential three or four times a game?

COLON SUPERB AGAIN: Colon made his second straight strong start, giving up one run in seven innings. He struck out a season-high eight while throwing 110 pitches. Of course, most of them were fastballs, perfectly placed.

A key moment in the game could have been in the first inning when the Diamondbacks put runners on the corners with no outs on a double by Jean Segura and Michael Bourn’s bunt single. However, Segura was caught in a rundown between third and home, and Colon struck out Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb to get out of the inning.

Colon then stranded Diamondbacks in scoring position in the second, fourth and fifth innings.

NOTES: The Mets seemingly traded for Carlos Gomez last year for Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler, but the deal fell through on a medical issue. Earlier in the day, Gomez was designated for assignment by the Astros. The Mets, needing a right-handed hitter and speed, said they would keep an open mind on going after Gomez again. … T.J. Rivera started at third and got his first career hit, a single to center leading off the tenth. … The Diamondbacks stole four more bases and have nine in the two games. … Jeurys Familia pitched two innings for the first time this season. He threw 38 pitches and will likely not be available Thursday. … Neil Walker had two more hits and has 28 in his last 14 games.

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