Apr 21

Mets On Slippery Slope Following Another Loss

The bloom is off the Mets’ early season rose. After a quick start that included winning the first two games in last weekend’s series in Philadelphia, the Mets have lost three straight and four of their last five.

They are still over .500, but the sense this could be a different year is fading. Thirteen games is two small a picture to frame it a season, but the crispness that opened the year is gone.

Frank Francisco, who opened with three straight saves, has given up four runs in his last three appearances. Last night he walked Melky Cabrera on four pitches to lead off the tenth. Cabrera stole on a pitchout, which is almost impossible to do, and scored on a two-out single.

That’s three red flags in one inning: the leadoff walk; stealing on a pitchout shows an inability to hold runners and a lack of concentration; and the two-out hit is indicative of not putting away an inning. A successful closer doesn’t do any of those things on a consistent basis.

Francisco has good stuff, but has always been erratic in the little things, such as those mentioned above. Explains in large part why he was was available.

There’s more to be concerned with:

By definition, Jon Niese had a quality start giving up three runs in six innings, but needed 109 pitches to do so. That’s clearly working too hard. That many pitches should take him through the eighth, at least. Maybe complete-game worthy.

However, it was an upgrade from what the Mets received their two previous games from R. A. Dickey and Johan Santana. This afternoon it is Mike Pelfrey, who has been anything but calming and comforting.

The starting pitching is key to whatever success the Mets have this year and it must improve.

Offensively, Jason Bay homered and got another hit, but neither he nor Lucas Duda are hitting in the clutch. Bay struck out with runners on second and third and one out in the tenth. Both hitters are 1-for-13 with RSIP. That’s 2-for-26, which translates into a lot of runners left on base and empty innings. A lot of losses, too.

Also offensively are the continuing struggles of Ike Davis who struck out twice while going hitless five times last night. His swing gets longer and loopier by the game.

All teams are going to have night like that occasionally, but the Mets’ last four losses have exposed their flaws greatly.

I wrote several times this week how the Mets had to snap out of it to avoid a downhill slide. They are in one now.

ON DECK: Starting lineup.

Apr 20

Niese Needs To Pick Up Mets

The Mets are now paying Jon Niese stopper money. Tonight he needs to earn it against San Francisco’s Barry Zito as the Mets seek to stabilize after losing three of their last four games.

After a surprisingly fast start, the Mets limp home with their rotation crushed, giving up 31 runs in the four games.

NIESE: Stopper

“We need Jon to give us a game,’’ manager Terry Collins said. So far, Niese has given the Mets two, winning both behind a nifty 2.13 ERA.

Niese will attempt to pick up the mess left by Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey in the last two games, and the bullpen’s meltdown Sunday at Philadelphia.

The Mets have always liked the physical aspects of Niese’s game; his location, velocity and movement on his pitches. However, the more they see him the more they appreciate his poise and composure. He ‘s not afraid to challenge hitters, including when behind in the count. That’s how one becomes a stopper.

Apr 18

Santana Felt Fine

After the shortest stint of his career, Johan Santana said he felt fine. Obviously, that was the first thought seeing him walk to the dugout in the second inning after recording just four outs.

SANTANA: A dejected Santana walks off

It still is this morning.

Since Santana returned this spring, he and the Mets responded after every start with the clipped comment of waiting to see how he feels the next day and following his throw day,

That doesn’t change for me now.

Last night, he said, “I felt fine.”

I want to hear him say that in August and September.

Santana has pitched brilliantly in his first two starts, but his velocity wasn’t where it was before. Last night, his command was off. Sure, there is concern. There has to be.

Let’s face it, he’s coming off a serious shoulder surgery few pitchers have successfully recovered from before, so you’ll excuse me if I don’t think everything is fine.


Apr 17

Mets Aim To Stay Hot With Santana

David Wright, Andres Torres and Jason Bay have all missed games because of injuries, but for the most part manager Terry Collins has resisted any urge to crazy juggle his line-up, something Jerry Manuel did on a consistent basis.

Johan Santana will make his third start of the season tonight. Here’s the line-up behind him:

Ruben Tejada, ss
Daniel Murphy, 2b
David Wright, 3b
Ike Davis, 1b
Jason Bay, lf
Lucas Duda, rf
Josh Thole, c
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, cf
Johan Santana, lhp


Apr 12

Mets Crash And Burn Again

Yes, the Mets were shut out, and yes, losing David Wright for the past two games helped exposed their offense, but that’s an oversimplification. Yesterday was about Mets’ hitters striking out 15 times – none by Wright – and their pitchers walking ten.

WRIGHT: Mets hope he'll be back to throw helmet.

Terry Collins was right. The Mets should have lost by more.

You can lament losing Wright all you want, but the real problem is through six games the Mets received precious little from Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Jason Bay. Duda had those two homers, but outside of that there’s been nothing.

Nothing, of course, sums up what the Mets have received from Davis and Bay and unless that suddenly changes, their feel-good start will be history. Hell, it probably already is with the Mets heading into Philadelphia for the weekend.

When your ace, Johan Santana, who is coming off surgery has an ERA of 0.90 and has two no-decisions, that pretty much says it all.

ON DECK: What to do with Jason Bay?