Oct 02

Things Still On The Line For Mets Against Nationals

UPDATED TO INCLUDE RAINOUT AND PITCHING CHANGES

For much of this season, the Mets pointed to this weekend’s series against the Nationals as critical to getting into the playoffs. Nobody thought it might be essential to get their heads screwed on straight. After mauling Cincinnati in four games to clinch the NL East, the Mets are scrambling to regain their sharpness after being swept in three games by the Phillies.

COLLINS:  Needs to make motivate his team. (AP)

COLLINS: Needs to make motivate his team. (AP)

After sweeping the Reds, manager Terry Collins projected a lull in his team’s adrenalin flow. He said yesterday he needs to channel his inner Knute Rockne.

“If you’ve been down this path, you knew that there was going to be an energy drain,’’ Collins said. “We always have a little scout meeting before the series and I will try to give my `A’ speech.’’

It’s not as if the Mets won’t have motivation as they are can still secure home field advantage in the NLDS with the Dodgers. The Mets’ 3-0 loss Thursday in Philadelphia coupled with the Dodgers’ 3-2 victory in San Francisco, leave the teams each with 89-70 records. However, the Mets hold the tiebreaker after winning the season series with the Dodgers, going 2-1 in Los Angeles and 2-2 at Citi Field.

Collins blamed pitching for the Mets’ showing in Philadelphia, but the offense is off its game, having scored only three runs in their last 18 innings.

Friday’s game is rained out, and will be made up as part of a doubleheader Saturday. The extra day might give Yoenis Cespedes a chance for his two bruised fingers on his left hand to heal enough so he can play. He would not have played Friday. The extra day could also help infielder Wilmer Flores‘s stiff lower back. It is questionable how much he’ll play this weekend.

Collins said his starters – Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard – will be limited to 80 to 90 pitches – but will he deviate with home field on the line? Syndergaard will start the day game Saturday and Harvey the night game while deGrom goes Sunday.

Collins isn’t concerned about the possibility of having to play a doubleheader – that’s almost expected – but hopes the Mets won’t have to play a make-up game Monday.

However, in looking at the big picture that won’t matter because regardless of what happens this weekend, the Mets will still be playing next week.

Sep 28

Mets Need To Go For Home Field

The cynic in me thinks Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon set off Bryce Harper by saying, “you can find your ring in New York.” Maybe he’ll find it this weekend in Citi Field where the Nationals finish playing out the string against the Mets.

COLLINS: A lot to sort out. (AP)

COLLINS: A lot to sort out. (AP)

With the NL East in their back pocket, the Mets insist they still have something to play off, namely, home field advantage against the Dodgers in the NLDS.

Manager Terry Collins said the Mets won’?t coast the final week.

“I think you’ve got to get the edge back that we had,” Collins said. “We’re going to play to win as many games as we can, to try to get home-field advantage in the first round.

“I think it’?s very, very important to have that. It’?s something we should shoot for. And I think when you’?re still playing for something, it prepares you better.”?

Winning on the road had been difficult for the Mets in recent seasons, including earlier this year. However, the Mets have gone 20-3 since splitting a two-game series in Baltimore, Aug. 18-19. That stretch includes a three-game sweep in Washington, and four-game sweep over the weekend in Cincinnati. Where the Mets have had problems was at home where they are 6-12, since Aug. 14, when the lost the first game of a three-game sweep to potential playoff opponent, Pittsburgh.

Even so, it’s always better to play at home. It’?s Game 5 against Clayton Kershaw. Where do you want that game played?

Home field is only one of several issues Collins wants to settle this week:

ROTATION: As of now, the order appears to be Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey in the pivotal Game 3, and Steven Matz. This decision also involves how many innings Harvey would pitch. Presumably, after Saturday, that’s no longer an issue.

BULLPEN: Jon Niese volunteered to be a left-handed specialist, but that doesn’?t resolve all the bullpen issues, including whether he can do the job. The list includes Tyler Clippards back; Bartolo Colon‘s role; the effectiveness of Sean Gilmartin; and the bridge to Jeurys Familia.

MIDDLE INFIELD: Presumably, Collins won’t tinker with taking Daniel Murphy out of the lineup. That leaves who will play shortstop: Wilmer Flores or Ruben Tejada?

THE OFFENSE: After fluttering for much of the first half, the Mets received an offensive jolt with the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, and the promotion of Michael Conforto. While much of the firepower was against sub-.500 teams, the Dodgers have two of the game’s best pitchers in Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

It won’t be as easy.

Sep 16

Despite Loss, Colon Deserves Spot In Playoff Rotation

Despite losing Wednesday night, Bartolo Colon deserves a spot in the Mets’ playoff rotation, ahead of Jon Niese and Steven Matz. Colon gave up three runs in 5.2 innings (one out shy of a quality start), this after four stellar starts.

Even so, he’s been far superior recently over Niese, and Matz has only made four career starts. Regardless of Colon’s record outside the NL East, I trust him him more in a crucial start over the other two.

COLON: Deserves spot in playoff  rotation. (AP)

COLON: Deserves spot in playoff rotation. (AP)

Of the three, Colon has been the best, which means screwing around with him is a bad idea.

In the interim, the Mets’ bullpen remains a question, with the lack of a left-handed reliever again an issue. It’s the seventh inning and Adrian Gonzalez is up in a critical situation and the Mets need a strikeout. Who would be the best choice to come out of the bullpen to get it?

Of the three, Matz is the one who throws consistently in the mid-90s and has the best chance of blowing away a hitter. I don’t know if Colon or Nlese has the ability to get ready quickly to enter a game.

Does Matz? I’m not sure of that either, but he’s the youngest and probably has the best chance of doing so.

To me, it’s ridiculous the Mets haven’t tried Matz out of the bullpen. The only viable reason for not doing so is because they aren’t sure they’ll have Matt Harvey for the playoffs and are thinking of Matz as his replacement.

This dilemma points us once again to the Mets not having a plan for Harvey as an issue.

At the trade deadline manager Terry Collins decreed, “if you don’t hit, you sit.” The same should apply to pitching. Colon has pitched well; he deserves to pitch in the playoff rotation.

Someday, Matz might be a playoff starter for the Mets, but this shouldn’t be the year. Colon has 14 victories, tied for the club lead. This should be his time to start.

Sep 09

The Dream Continues

Not only did the Mets sweep the Nationals for a second straight series, all three games this time were done in come-from-behind fashion. Not only that, the Mets’ pitchers in the first two games – Jon Niese and Matt Harvey – were torched, and Jacob deGrom was off Wednesday night.

None of that mattered as the Mets found away to win because they willed the outcome. As good as Stephen Strasburg was, you never had the feeling the Mets were out of it, but instead, it was only a matter of time.

“ I love where we’re at. We’re rolling,” said Kelly Johnson, who tied the game with a pinch-hit homer off Strasburg in the eighth. And. of course, Yoenis Cespedes, continued his push for MVP consideration, with a game-winning homer in the eighth.

That roll included Michael Conforto driving in an insurance run and making a run-saving catch. It seems like a long time ago that the Mets were reluctant to bring up Conforto as not to damage his confidence. It doesn’t seem like anything can phase Conforto these days.

And, for the third straight night, the bullpen pitched well, despite Bryce Harper‘s cosmetic homer in the eighth.

The Mets left Florida Sunday night having lost two walk-off games to the Marlins and their lead down to four. The Nationals were hot, having won five straight.

For those who remember the titanic collapse of 2007, when they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play, there’s the thought that these are the Mets so anything can happen. However, it’s a different year with different players, and above all, a different chemistry.

For the past several years, the Nationals simply bullied the Mets. But, this year, the little guys have the muscle.

 

Sep 07

Thoughts On Amazing Day

If there is one word to describe the 2015 Mets, for me it would be resiliency. There have been numerous times this season when they could have fallen off the ledge, but found a way to get it done – which is the essence of any championship team.

From a multitude of injuries, including losing David Wright for nearly five months to a near two-month slump to a leaky bullpen to the circus around the trade deadline to the current mess pertaining to Matt Harvey‘s innings, it has been a wild ride. Today’s 8-5 come-from-behind victory in Washington capsulized the season in a wild three hours.

WRIGHT: Slides home in the seventh. (Getty)

WRIGHT: Slides home in the seventh. (Getty)

When Max Scherzer escaped a no-outs, runner-on-third threat in the first it looked like a bad omen for the Mets. However, momentum turned on solo homers by Michael Conforto – who, by the way, needs to play against all kinds of pitching, Kelly Johnson and Yoenis Cespedes, this would be a day to remember.

However, it would be an unforgettable day on the down side when the Nationals roughed up Jon Niese, including with Wilson Ramos‘ grand slam. Scherzer would settle down, but the Mets persevered. And, when Jeurys Familia blew away Ryan Zimmerman to end the game and make we wonder if Bryce Harper still doesn’t care about what’s going on with the Mets these days.

Here’s what I’ll take from today’s game, or as Collins said, Game 1 of the September playoffs:

TERRY COLLINS: He needs to sharpen his motivational skills. When you have a pitcher like Niese, whose confidence is shaken, you don’t tell him “this is the game of your life.” What manager does that? Niese’s confidence is peanut brittle tough as it is so you don’t apply additional pressure. Furthermore, your team has lost two games recently in walk-off fashion, but it still had a four-game lead heading into the series. So, Collins applied even more pressure. What’s the purpose? On a positive note, give Collins points for starting Johnson at second.

DAVID WRIGHT: He showed his captaincy mettle when he talked to Harvey for four innings Sunday in Miami. He underscored it in bold Sunday when he drove in the game-winning run and scored in the seventh. This guy is a winner. If anybody deserves this, it is him.

YOENIS CESPEDES: You don’t think he’ll get some MVP votes? If there was an MVP award for a late-season acquisition he would get it hands down. Cespedes will cost money, but he’s worth bringing back. With Curtis Granderson‘s contract up in two years and one more for Michael Cuddyer, there will be |money. Plus, I never bought the Mets’ cries of poverty.

BRYCE HARPER: Whether he cares what’s going on with the Mets or not is irrelevant. What matters is what he thinks of Nationals’ fans. For him to rip his fans for leaving early, it shows his head isn’t in the game and he’s looking for excuses. There aren’t many clearer signs the Nationals are showing signs of cracking. The teams have five games remaining, and the Nationals need to win them all.

MATT HARVEY/SANDY ALDERSON: If you’re scoring at home, the early rounds go to Harvey, who’ll make two or three more starts and not the four the Mets want. Alderson had a deer-in-the-headlights look when he spoke about Harvey prior to the game. What is clear is the Mets don’t have control over their diva pitcher as they have caved to his demands on nearly every turn.

Harvey wants to be limited during the September, but pitch in the playoffs. That could limit his effectiveness in October. Alderson wouldn’t say how much Harvey might pitch in the playoffs. Then, when faced with not having Harvey for two or more starts in September, Alderson doesn’t bring up Dillon Gee. Here’s a guy, Gee, who has done everything – and generally produced – the organization has asked, yet when they need another starter they ignored him. Rather shabby on Alderson’s part. Harvey pitches Tuesday and he damn well better produce. If he gets ripped and misses some starts and the Mets start falter, he’ll hear some boos next time he pitches at Citi Field.

THE BULLPEN: Today it threw 5.2 scoreless innings in relief of Niese. The bad news is they’ll lose Carlos Torres indefinitely with a pulled calf muscle. With Harvey’s innings uncertain, they could use a long man. It was sterling today, simply sterling. And, I’ve noted this before. Familia is the team’s MVP. That is, if Cespedes hasn’t moved ahead. One thing for certain, it isn’t Harvey.

JON NIESE:  Evidently, Niese’s wife didn’t wear her lucky panties. Today marked the 175th start of Niese’s career, and as Collins and SNY emphasized, it was his most important and he spit the bit. In parts of eight seasons, Niese is 60-61 and never has won more than 13 in a single season. Frankly, I’m thinking this might be as good as it gets for Niese. The Mets were wise to try to trade him last winter. They’ll increase those efforts this offseason.