Aug 18

Three Mets’ Storylines: Niese Rocked

Jon Niese’s return to the rotation turned out to be a tease for the Mets. Starting in place of Logan Verrett Wednesday night, Niese threw three scoreless innings before Arizona unloaded on him with three runs in the third and knocked him from the game the following inning.

Niese, making his first start in over a month (when he was with Pittsburgh), gave up homers to Yasmany Tomas and Rickie Weeks, in the third before he was chased in favor of Erik Goeddel in the fourth.

Niese gave up four runs on four hits in 4.2 innings, but struck out six in the 13-5 loss. Last week in New York, the Diamondbacks got to him for six runs in one inning.

With no imminent help coming up from Las Vegas or from the waiver wire, Niese will likely remain in the rotation.

OFFENSE DISAPPEARS … AGAIN: The Mets scored seven runs Tuesday, but after scratching out a run in the first did precious little.

The Mets produced only four hits.

Manager Terry Collins, in trying to “take something off his plate,’’ dropped Curtis Granderson to sixth, but was 1-for-4 with a meaningless homer in the ninth and two strikeouts.

The Mets expect Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera to be activated this weekend in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Michael Conforto, who the Mets seemingly have no intention of bringing up from Triple-A, is 12-for-18 in his last four games.

DOESN’T GET EASIER: After finishing their season series 1-5 against the Diamondbacks, the Mets are off to San Francisco for a four-game series then three in St. Louis.

The match-ups will be: Thursday, Jacob deGrom vs. Madison Bumgarner; Friday, Steven Matz vs. Johnny Cueto; Saturday, Bartolo Colon vs. Matt Moore; Sunday, Noah Syndergaard vs. Jeff Samardzija.

Sunday’s game was moved to the night.

Niese, deGrom and Matz are scheduled to start in St. Louis.

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Aug 15

Ten Things To Happen For Mets To Turn It Around

It’s a logical question: Have the Mets survived the undertow that was dragging their season out to sea After consecutive well-pitched games – and they were sterling efforts – from Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, the temptation is to say yes.

However, you know what they say about temptation.

CESPEDES: Must hit when he returns. (AP)

CESPEDES: Must hit when he returns. (AP)

It’s an oversimplification to say after winning won two straight over the weekend against San Diego – a team they should beat at home – all is right with the Mets.

Frankly, that’s not enough to be writing a check for playoff tickets. The Mets will have turned things around when the following happens:

Yoenis Cespedes returns healthy and in center field: Cespedes begins a rehab assignment today as a DH in Port St. Lucie. He’s expected back when the Mets are in San Francisco. When Cespedes comes back I don’t want to hear anything about him not playing centerfield. The Mets signed him to play center. From left to right, the outfield should be Curtis Granderson, Cespedes and Jay Bruce.

Granderson and Bruce need to hit: The Mets haven’t gotten much from Granderson all season (see 18-31 HR to RBI ratio) and Bruce hasn’t hit since coming over from the Reds. Both hitting will take pressure off Cespedes and return Alejandro De Aza to the bench.

Paging Syndergaard: Noah Syndergaard has lost four of his last five decisions, increasing speculation the bone spur is taking a toll. His pitch count limits him to around six innings, and they haven’t been effective.

Leave Flores alone: Just let Wilmer Flores play and be done with it. Give him a chance against right handed pitching because the platoon isn’t working.

RISP must improve:  Yes, we know the Mets can hit home runs, and the expectations of more will rise with Cespedes. However, they are dead last in the majors hitting with runners in scoring position. It might be too much to expect that will turn around with six weeks remaining to the season, but that’s a priority.

Cabrera’s return important: His contributions can’t be understated, and they include more than taking off the helmet of the home run hitter. Yes, there was that long stretch when he didn’t hit with RISP. However, he gave the Mets a lot of clutch hits and played solid defense in the first half.

Need Niese: Jon Niese is now the No. 5 starter. The Mets aren’t in the position where they can afford to lose every fifth game.

Run Reyes Run: The Mets signed Jose Reyes for what he can do with his speed. Yesterday it paid off when he singled, went to second on a short wild pitch and continued to third on a throw into center. He then scored on a wild pitch. Reyes isn’t going to steal 60 bases anymore, but his speed is a threat and we haven’t seen it much since he came back.

Bullpen stability: Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia have been lockdown in the eighth and ninth. Hansel Robles was going well for awhile, but lost his composure in Yankees game and really hasn’t been the same. They should get more help when the rosters expand, but for now they need Jerry Blevins and Erik Goeddel to pitch well as a bridge to Reed.

Somebody has to step up: Somebody other than Neil Walker has to step up. James Loney has done it; so has Kelly Johnson. But, there will be games down the stretch when Walker and Cespedes and Bruce don’t hit. In those games, they’ll need Flores, or T.J. Rivera, or how about one of the catchers? They’ve gotten little from Travis d’Arnaud all year.

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Aug 12

Three Mets’ Storylines: Bullpen Gives Them Chance, But Fall Short

It obviously wasn’t what the Mets wanted – their fourth straight loss to drop under .500 – but it was something they needed, which was a game in which they didn’t lie down after a terrible start.

After Thursday’s beat down to Arizona, Mets manager Terry Collins went on a four-minute rant, threatening his players with jobs and vowed, “starting [Friday] we’re going to get after it.”

VERRETT: Ripped. (AP)

VERRETT: Ripped. (AP)

It didn’t start that way as the Padres ripped starter Logan Verrett for five runs in the first inning, and took an 8-2 lead in the third before hanging on to win, 8-6, Friday night at Citi Field.

The Mets almost overcame four homers off Verrett and stayed alive because their bullpen retired 19 straight, which allowed them to climb back with Jay Bruce’s RBI single in the fifth; and RBI hits by Matt Reynolds and Ty Kelly, and Wilmer Flores’ run-scoring grounder in the sixth.

It was the first time they scored that many runs in an inning since four in the fifth inning last Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

They lost, but after the Arizona series, there was a sign of a pulse.

“I was very impressed,” Collins said of his team’s effort. “I saw a lot more energy. I saw some passion. I saw better at-bats. I was very impressed with how they went about it.”

That was the biggest thing to take from the game, with the other storylines being Verrett and Travis d’Arnaud.

VERRETT ROCKED: Verrett was mauled for five runs in the first and eight in 2.2 innings in what was considered an audition to stay in the rotation.

Verrett has had some good moments, but his last two starts haven’t been good and the pre-game speculation was if he pitched poorly he would be out of the rotation.

But, to replaced by whom?

“We’re going to make a change,” Collins said. “If his knee is OK, it will be Jon Niese.”

WE HAVE D’ARNAUD SIGHTING: Collins pinch-hit for d’Arnaud in the ninth inning leading to speculation – including by me – the Mets were cooling on him.

D’Arnaud sat Thursday but was back in the lineup Friday and went 3-for-4, including his fourth homer, and drove in two runs and scored two.

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Aug 12

Mets Should Say `No’ To Puig

When I read the Forbes internet story that the Mets were considering a trade for Los Angeles’ Yasiel Puig, I couldn’t yell “NO’’ loud or fast enough. While the Mets are in desperate need of a bat, Puig isn’t the answer.

If anything, he raises more questions than he answers.

PUIG: No thanks. (Getty)

PUIG: No thanks. (Getty)

They already have an outfield headache with Yoenis Cespedes, so why would the add another one in Puig, who is now toiling in Triple-A for the Dodgers? The only splash Puig would make is to divert attention away from what we’re currently seeing.

The Dodgers are sure to want starting pitching, to which the Mets should walk away, unless the names are Jon Niese or Logan Verrett.

The thing about Puig is he’s valued more on potential than production. Even at his best, Puig’s best year was 2013 when he hit .319 with 19 homers, 42 RBI and a staggering 97 strikeouts in 382 at bats.

The following year, with 558 at-bats, he increased his RBI to 69, but hit fewer homers (16) and had a lot more strikeouts (124).

After a highlight reel rookie season, he’s regressed, and has become a problem with his partying – he posted party pictures while in the minors – attitude and lack of hustle. The Dodgers are so incensed when Puig posted party videos while he’s on the disabled list.

If you’re into the new-age numbers, his 5.4 WAR in 2014 is down to 0.8.

The Mets are trying to find playing time for Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares, who’s currently on the disabled list. They don’t need a non-productive malcontent in Puig. I might consider Puig for Cespedes straight up if for no other reason than to get out from under the latter’s huge salary ($50 million owed if he doesn’t opt out).

Puig is not a fit for the Mets. They don’t need this problem.

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Aug 06

Three Mets’ Storylines: Looks Bad Collins Didn’t Challenge

Another day, another head-scratching moment for the Mets. There were all those lost opportunities during the game, but the most puzzling moment came after the game’s final play when manager Terry Collins eschewed the opportunity to use his challenge.

As long as there’s a chance, and replay gave the Mets that chance, you go for it, but Collins did not. Earlier this week in dealing with the issue of perception vs. reality in the Yoenis Cespedes golf matter, Collins angrily said he didn’t care about perception and dealt in reality.

In not appealing, the perception is Collins doesn’t care – which I know isn’t true – against the reality, which he admitted that he wasn’t thinking.

BRUCE: Game ends in controversy. (AP)

BRUCE: Game ends in controversy. (AP)

The Mets finally appeared to get a hit with a runner in scoring position when Travis d’Arnaud grounded a single into right field, but Jay Bruce was thrown out at the plate to end the game when his cleat was caught in the dirt.

Once down 6-1, the Mets’ comeback fizzled at 6-5, but in this day of instant replay – when you never really know – Collins didn’t even bother to challenge the call. Replays showed Bruce was out, but clearcut replays have been reversed before, so why not?

It’s like on fourth-and-18, instead of throwing into the end zone you just take a knee.

“It was a tough way to end it,” Collins told reporters. “I thought for sure he was going to make it.”

Would Collins accept a base runner’s explanation he “thought for sure,” the ball was foul as to why he didn’t run? I don’t think so.

“That might be one of those plays where you might as well just take the chance anyway and see what happens,” Collins said. “I didn’t think about it.”

That’s a terrible thing for a manager to admit.

Bruce couldn’t say whether he was safe or out.

“I’ve seen it challenged before, but that’s not my decision,” Bruce said. “It’s a judgment call and I wasn’t part of the judgment call.”

It has been a rough season and a rough week for Collins, but that’s no excuse. Instant Replay, at least in Cespedes’ world, is a mulligan and Collins should have used it.

Not doing so, along with the Mets’ ineptitude to hit with RISP (2-for-12, 10 LOB, three double plays) was the main storyline. The others are the Mets’ fifth spot in the rotation and Zack Wheeler‘s rehab game.

TAKING THE FIFTH: For the most part, Logan Verrett has given the Mets a chance to win most of his starts in place of Matt Harvey. He didn’t Saturday night in giving up six runs in 3.2 innings. Considering how poorly the Mets’ offense has been, he gave them very little chance.

“I talked with [GM] Sandy [Alderson] about some things and we’re going to certainly look at some options,” Collins said when asked whether Verrett will stay in the rotation.

An option to replace him is Jon Niese, who pitched a scoreless 2.1 innings in relief.

WHEELER MAKES REHAB START:  With the Mets nine games behind Washington and 2.5 behind Miami, and tied with Pittsburgh for two games behind the final wild-card berth, the season is rapidly fading.

Given that, they would be foolish to wait for Wheeler’s return from the disabled list, because by the time he’s ready the season could be over. Wheeler threw 17 pitches in a rain-shortened rehab assignment with Class A St. Lucie. His fastball ranged from 90-96 mph.

Wheeler’s rehab assignment, barring a setback, will end the first week in September.

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