May 03

Mets April Review: Matt Harvey The Bright Spot; Ike Davis Not

As it often has been with the Mets over the years, what was once good quickly and dramatically turned sour as 5-2 fell to 10-15.

The Mets rode Matt Harvey’s blistering start – they won five of his six starts – but have to be alarmed he was responsible for half their victories. Once again, the Mets fell victim to the same old vices that have crippled them for years.

The bullpen collapsed, the team went cold hitting with runners in scoring position, and they couldn’t overcome the gaping hole in the back end of their rotation and ended the month with a six-game losing streak and finished at 10-14.

DAVIS: Biggest disappointment of the month. (AP_

DAVIS: Biggest disappointment of the month. (AP)

PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Harvey was everything as advertised and yesterday was named the National League’s Pitcher of the Month, going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA. In 40.1 innings, Harvey struck out 46 while walking just 12.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH: The Mets’ biggest bat belonged to John Buck, who hit nine homers with 25 RBI. The Mets insist he wasn’t a throw-in in the R.A. Dickey trade, but with Travis d’Arnaud out for two months with a fractured foot, Buck will not be dangled soon. The pitchers swear by him.

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE MONTH: It can’t be anybody else but Ike Davis, who is on pace to strike out 196 times. Last year the Mets did not option Davis and let him work his way back to where he hit 32 homers. If this year’s start continues much longer, will they make the same decision?

SERIES OF THE MONTH: Playing in unbearable conditions, the Mets outscored the Twins in Minnesota by a combined 20-7 in winning two of three games. Harvey flirted with a no-hitter in the second game and the third was snowed out.

WORST SERIES OF THE MONTH: It would be easy to say their three losses in snowy and freezing Colorado, but that would be too easy. And, they deserve a break because of the weather. So, let’s make it the three games they were swept in Citi Field by the Phillies, April 26-28. The losses to Philadelphia comprised half their six-game losing streak. From there, the Mets lost consecutive one-run games in Miami, coughing up the lead in the ninth inning both times.

GAME OF THE MONTH: April 24, at Citi Field. The Mets couldn’t win a Harvey start, but sent the game into extra innings on David Wright’s two-out single in the ninth and Jordany Valdespin’s grand slam homer in the tenth.

WORST GAME OF THE MONTH: There were several to choose from, but let’s take Monday’s heartbreaker in Miami. Not only did they waste a Harvey start, but went 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position and blew two save opportunities in losing 4-3 in 15 innings.

METS’ APRIL BY THE NUMBERS: Buck’s nine homers and 25 RBI. … Davis’ .159 average with 29 strikeouts, which outnumbered his walks and hits combined. … Lucas Duda is second in the NL with 20 walks. … Daniel Murphy hit .350 (7-for-20) with RISP. … Wright hit .462 (12-for-26) with RISP. … The bullpen blew three save opportunities and has a 5.09 ERA. The Mets are 3-13 when the pen gives up a run. … Seven times the pen worked at least five innings, a direct reflection on the back end of the rotation. … Longest winning streak was three games and the longest losing streak was six games. … The Mets were 1-6 in one-run games. … Longest hitting streak: Eight games by Murphy. … The Mets used 22 different batting orders in 25 games for the month. … The Mets have used six different leadoff hitters. … Seven different pitchers started games, including Aaron Laffey, who started two and is no longer with the team. … The Mets hit three grand slams for the month.

QUESTIONS COMING OUT OF THE MONTH

Q: Is Matt Harvey for real?

A: Who really knows, but all indications are he is. Harvey’s numbers are impressive, but not as much as is composure and tenacity on the mound.

Q: How long will the Mets stay with Ike Davis?

A: Working in Davis’ favor is the Mets’ reluctance to move Lucas Duda to first base. Davis’ struggling also indicates how thin the Mets are in the minor leagues.

Q: Will they quit fooling around with Jordany Valdespin?

A: The Mets have used six different leadoff hitters. Also, Valdespin won two games with homers, but still languishes in a non-starting role.

Q: Is bullpen and outfield help on the way?

A: There has been some juggling and movement on the Vegas shuttle, but nothing of any substance.

Q: Zack Wheeler, how soon?

A: Wheeler is coming off his best start, but that’s not enough for the Mets to promote him. Should he have two or three like the last one, perhaps the end of the month?

THE MONTH AHEAD: The Mets snapped their losing streak May 1 with Valdespin’s homer Wednesday. The Mets are in Atlanta this weekend, a place where they have not fared well. There are few easy putts this month, as their schedule includes four games in St. Louis, three against Cincinnati and three more with the Braves at Citi Field, and four interleague games with the Yankees.

ON DECK: Later today I’ll continue my series on the 1973 World Series team, take a look at tonight’s starter and preview the Braves series.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 02

Not Buying Terry Collins’ Explanation; Jordany Valdespin Needs To Start

Pinch-hitting is one of the more difficult things to do in the sport. After sitting for up to two hours, you are given little time to get loose and thrust into position of trying to hit a 90-mph., fastball or nasty fall-off-the-table breaking stuff.

Few do it well, but the Mets’ Jordany Valdespin has a knack for coming through with power. His three-run homer Wednesday was his sixth in two years with the Mets. He is indeed, a unique weapon.

VALDESPIN: Must play.

VALDESPIN: Must play.

“That’s what he does,’’ manager Terry Collins said, conveniently forgetting that’s what Valdespin does because he’s rarely given opportunity to do anything else. “For some reason he loves to come off the bench. Everybody likes to play, but he loves to come off the bench when the pressure is on, the heat is on.’’

Sure, Valdespin might relish batting in the clutch, but it’s a misnomer to think that’s all he wants to do. However, as tempting as it is for Collins to want to save him for that spot, one that might not present itself for days.

Given the dismal state of the Mets’ offense, and futility of using six leadoff hitters in 25 games, Valdespin must stay at the top of the order playing center field until he proves he can’t handle the role. His temperament and demeanor sometimes more represent a NBA diva, but that’s peripheral stuff that should be back-burnered until it proves to be a detriment to the team.

Collins tried to create the ideal image for Valdespin yesterday, but came woefully short in selling his position.

“One of those things with those bench players like that, you create the scene for them,’’ Collins said. “If he’s hitting third, he doesn’t come up in that situation. If he’s hitting first, he doesn’t come up there. All of a sudden, here comes the eighth hitter in a big situation. Here he is. Now you can put him in.’’

Is that a load of garbage, or what? That’s manager-speak for what, I really don’t know.

While the clutch spot of the order might not surface until late in the game, had Valdespin started he might have had two or three chances to produce, and perhaps break open the game to where there is no clutch spot. Ever think of that, Terry?

Collins did say Valdespin sometimes changes his approach to where he’s too aggressive and goes outside himself when he plays as a starter. If that is the case, then spare us the other excuses and have him work on that part of his approach.

Collins wants it both ways and that can’t be. The problem is the Mets aren’t talented enough to where they can afford the luxury of a designated pinch-hitter. They have too many holes in their order and outfield to keep Valdespin in that role.

He needs to play, if for no other reason, to find out he can’t.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 01

Mets Wrap: Jordany Valdespin Homer Stops Slide

Well, the Mets weren’t going to lose them all. Jordany Valdespin, whose personality would be ideal for an NBA point guard, hit a three-run pinch-hit home run in the sixth inning to lift the Mets to a 7-6 victory to snap a six-game losing streak. “We got some offense going,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “The most frustrating thing about the past six days is we’ve been in the games. We’ve given ourselves a chance, we just haven’t been able to create any offense. Hopefully today is a start.’’

VALDESPIN: High-fives all around after homer.

VALDESPIN: High-fives all around after homer.

ON THE MOUND: Dillon Gee (2-4) picked up the victory despite so-so effort, giving up four runs on nine hits in five innings. Perhaps him winning was justice served, as the Mets had given him just ten runs in his previous five starts. … Bobby Parnell, who was testy about being bypassed for a save opportunity in Tuesday’s loss, used just seven pitches in a 1-2-3 ninth for the save.

AT THE PLATE: Valdespin’s homer was one of many important hits for the Mets. … David Wright and John Buck each had three hits. Wright hit his third homer of the year and Buck added a two-run double to give him 27 RBI.

PARNELL BACK IN: Parnell was upset at not being used Tuesday, but was all business this afternoon. Collins’ explanation was he didn’t want to overuse Parnell and risk injury. “I heard it and understood it right off the bat,’’ Parnell said. “I’m competitive. Your competitive nature, you want to be out there and help the team. I understand what he said completely and I agree with it. Sometimes you don’t want to hear it.’’

BY THE NUMBERS: 6. Career pinch-hit homers by Valdespin, second to Mike Carreon in franchise history.

THEY SAID IT: “I wasn’t really pleased with anything I did today. I’m happy the team won. We needed that. That was good. Everybody did a great job. But as far as I’m concerned, I actually almost feel bad for getting a win today.” – Dillon Gee on his performance.

ON DECK: The Mets are off Thursday, then begin a three-game series Friday in Atlanta, with Shaun Marcum (0-2, 7.94 ERA) going against Mike Minor (3-2, 3.13).

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 29

Has Mets’ Freefall Begun Early This Year?

Rocky might be sugar coating what is going on with the Mets these days. Do you remember the beginning of the month when the Mets were off to a semi-good start and the Yankees – beset by injuries – stumbled out of the gate and the talk was could they actually finish with a better record?

Not happening. We are looking at a fifth straight losing season, and please, don’t delude yourselves into thinking the Mets will suddenly go on a spending spree this winter. Now that the Mets have substantially reduced their payroll and after this year will be finally rid of the contractual anchors of Johan Santana and Jason Bay, do you honestly believe they’ll be writing a lot of checks this winter?

HARVEY: Bright spot. (AP)

HARVEY: Bright spot. (AP)

Next year could be more of the same.

After being swept over the weekend by Philadelphia, going 3-6 on their recent homestand and losers of nine of their last 12 games overall, all appearances have the Mets are packing it in before the All-Star break this season. I’m not saying the effort isn’t there, just the talent.

The weekend proved the Mets don’t need Arctic conditions to play their worst. Without Matt Harvey to protect them against the Phillies, the Mets had breakdowns with their rotation, bullpen, defense and hitting this weekend. It was as complete a sweep as can be.

* The Mets are 5-0 when Harvey starts and 5-13 when he doesn’t. He goes tonight at Miami against fellow phenom Jose Fernandez.

* The last two winters GM Sandy Alderson made rebuilding the bullpen the priority. However, this year’s nightmarish edition is the major league’s worst with an ERA nearing 5.50. It doesn’t even matter how close Frank Francisco is to returning as he proved he’s not the answer, either. Typical Mets. Their best reliever is closer Bobby Parnell and they can’t even get to him.

* Terry Collins said at the beginning of the season he wanted to use set line-ups. Twenty-three games later he has used 20 different batting orders/line-ups. That’s not even close to being stable.

* The outfield remains fluid, with something different each day. Jordany Valdespin provides a spark and then sits. Does anybody really think Juan Lagares is the answer? Collin Cowgill won the starting center field job coming out of spring training, but was sitting by the fourth game of the season and only has 47 at-bats.

* Ike Davis continues to flounder and look overmatched at the plate with half as many hits (13) as strikeouts (26). He’s on pace to strike out 183 times. He’s also on track to hit 28 homers, but drive in only 56 runs. Need I say he’s hitting less than .200?

With the way the Mets are playing, there’s no guarantee they’ll get better with three games in Miami. About the only encouraging thing you can come up with concerning this series is even if the Mets are swept, they can’t fall into the cellar behind the Marlins.

Ah, good times.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

ON DECK: David Price vs. Tom Hallion

Apr 26

Mets’ Juggle Lineup Again Tonight Against Phillies

Terry Collins wanted to keep a set lineup, but that hope has long since gone.  Here it is, Game #21 and the Mets are on their 19th different batting order.

Tonight against Kyle Kendrick as several new twists, beginning with David Wright hitting clean-up, Lucas Duda batting fifth and Ike Davis dropping to seventh.

That seems logical; especially considering Wright is 9-for-18 against Kendrick, including two doubles and two homers.

However, what I don’t understand is why Ruben Tejada, who is batting .217, including .118 over his last seven games, is hitting second while Jordany Valdespin is eighth. You might not like Valdespin’s demeanor, but he does make things happen and he has speed.

Until Tejada snaps out of his funk, keep him eighth, and the same applies to Davis at seventh.

Here’s the order:

Mike Baxter, RF

Ruben Tejada, SS

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck, C

Ike Davis, 1B

Jordany Valdespin, CF

Dillon Gee, RHP

Overall, the Mets are averaging just under six runs a game, but are hitting .207 in their last seven games. With runs scarce lately, the Mets are hoping Gee can give them what Jeremy Hefner did yesterday.

Gee snapped his three-game losing streak with a strong start last Sunday with 5.2 scoreless innings against Washington.

“I think he needed it bad. I think it’s a great confidence builder for him,’’ Collins said.

Gee is 2-2 with a 7.03 ERA in six career starts against the Phillies. He’ll need the change-up that was so effective against the Nationals. The Phillies hammered Gee for seven runs on ten hits – including homers by Ryan Howard, Michael Young and John Mayberry – in a 8-3 rout of the Mets, April 9, at Philadelphia.