Apr 22

No End To Mets’ Slide

It has hit the fan early for the Mets early. Long stretches of dismal hitting coupled with a myriad of injuries took the starch out of the Mets’ pitching and nearly derailed their season in each of the last two years.

This time, it’s happening in April. It’s too soon to panic, but not too early to notice things aren’t right for the Mets.

DEGROM: Wasted start. (AP)

DEGROM: Wasted start. (AP)

The Mets’ young starters are supposed to carry them, but consecutive winnable starts from Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and today from Jacob deGrom were wasted.

After losing 4-3 in 11 innings Friday and 3-1 today, manager Terry Collins said the Mets are faced with a must-win game Sunday night with Max Scherzer going against Zack Wheeler – he of an innings limit – at Citi Field.

“It’s huge,” Collins said of the magnitude of the game. “We haven’t played well. We have pitched well, but we haven’t hit.”

The Mets are hitting .178 and averaging less than three runs a game over their last eight games. Overall, they have scored three or fewer runs in eight of their 18 games, and for those counting, the trade deadline is three months away.

Then, Collins said something I never thought I’d ever hear him say.

“We have to get away from the home runs,” said Collins. “We have to put some hits together.”

They only had two singles today, both coming in the sixth.

Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores are on the disabled list and Yoenis Cespedes might soon join them; Travis d’Arnaud also didn’t play today; eight Mets are hitting .200 or less; one of them is Jose Reyes, who didn’t start, and not coincidentally, top infield prospect Amed Rosario was moved to third base at Triple-A Las Vegas.

Collins said Michael Conforto will hit leadoff and hinted at another change for Sunday.

“We’re not hitting,” Collins said. “Our pitching has kept us in games, but we’re not giving them any help.”

Today’s non-beneficiary was deGrom, who registered double-digit strikeouts for his second straight start and walked six. DeGrom was scheduled to start Friday but was pushed back because of a stiff neck. He said his neck was all right, but his velocity dropped four mph., after the first inning.

“I just don’t walk six guys,” deGrom said. “I had command early, but I didn’t have it late. I don’t know what happened.”

And, he didn’t have Cespedes or Duda or Flores or d’Arnaud to pick him up.

“Anytime you don’t have those guys in the lineup it’s going to be tough, but we can’t use that as an excuse,” said Jay Bruce. “There’s no panic with us. It hasn’t been a lot of fun lately. We’re not winning, but there will be winning for us.”

When?

Apr 20

How Long Will Mets Play Reyes Charade?

Mets manager Terry Collins said Jose Reyes deserves the chance to turn things around, but that’s too simplistic an approach. In reality, Collins doesn’t have any choice for now but let Reyes try to flail his way out of this wretched slump to start the season.

Reyes refutes the notion he’s trying to do too much, which is often one of the first assumptions to explain a slump.

REYES: Not the same player. (AP)

REYES: Not the same player. (AP)

“When you try to do too much, it’s tough. You have to slow down a little bit and try to let it go. I don’t feel like I am trying to do too much. I am just trying to play my game,” Reyes said.

“My game.”

What exactly does that mean? Is it the style Reyes should be playing, which is to utilize his speed by being patient at the plate and hit the ball on the ground? Or is it the style he insists on playing, which is to hit the ball in the air and not worry about drawing walks or cutting his strikeouts?

For all his speed, Reyes has never been the prototypical leadoff hitter. He has always struck out too much, doesn’t walk and insists on hitting the ball in the air. Through 15 games he has 15 strikeouts and six walks with zero stolen bases. He’s hitting .094 with a .186 on-base percentage and has been dropped to seventh in the order.

The bottom line is for all his supposed physical skills, if Reyes isn’t leading off then he might as well not be in the lineup.

Wilmer Flores can play third base as well as Reyes, if not better. But, he’s off to a slow start, also, at .171. However, Flores’ main problem is he doesn’t play enough because Collins is married to the right-lefty dynamic and won’t give him the regular opportunity to hit right-handed pitching. Again, Flores will never hit right-handed pitching unless he’s given the opportunity.

Reyes’ problems are more complex and I offer several contributory explanations.

First, his mechanics are way off. He’s lunging at pitches he should take and is trying to hit everything in the air. He’s always had that style, but at 33 it is catching up to him. However, ten years ago he could get away with it because the Mets gave him free reign to do what he wanted at the plate. They did so because he gave them enough so they would settle.

Reyes will never be the work-the-count, slap-hitter, get on base and steal his way to third type of player. Reyes always wanted to play like Rickey Henderson, but he was never as good.

Now, it’s too late to transform, and I don’t think he has the discipline to try.

Secondly, I believe this slow start is weighing on him and he is trying to do too much. Reyes will get his money – the Colorado Rockies are paying it – but he could be thinking if it doesn’t work with the Mets this could be his last chance and what else does he know besides baseball?

Could Reyes’ slow start be partially explained by him being away from camp for the World Baseball Classic? This was an important year for Reyes and he could have used the work a full spring training provides.

Finally, and this hasn’t been mentioned in the mainstream media as a cause, but his double life – a mistress with a child and ensuing court case – has to be an emotional burden. Couple that with his domestic abuse suspension and he has a lot of toxic baggage.

Most teams would run away from Reyes, but the Mets aren’t because it isn’t costing them any significant money and they are desperate because they are afraid to go with Flores as David Wright’s replacement.

The only question is how long are they willing to play this charade?

Apr 18

Game Wrap: Reyes’ Error, Bullpen Sinks Mets

It has been thought since spring training the Mets’ bullpen would always be their Achilles Heel that turned out to be the case in tonight’s 6-2 10-inning loss to the Phillies.

The Mets took a 2-1 lead in the first but didn’t score the rest of the night. The Mets only managed four hits all night. They went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position – Jay Bruce’s RBI single in the first – and stranded seven runners.

Meanwhile, the pen – not helped by Jose Reyes’ monumental error in the eighth – coughed up the lead, then caved in tenth with four runs against Rafael Montero.

“It’s frustrating because we’ve lost four in a row,” manager Terry Collins said. “We just didn’t make pitches when we needed to.”

ANOTHER STEP FOR WHEELER: Zack Wheeler’s pitch count remains too high for the number of innings he throws, but you can sense his progress. He gave up a run on four hits with seven strikeouts on 99 pitches spanning five innings.

Did Wheeler pitch well enough to win? Yes, if the offense had scored.

“I’ve been impressed with the way he’s handled things and kept up in the game,” Collins said.

INTERESTING LINEUP: Collins’ batting order bears watching, especially if Reyes continues to flounder. Michael Conforto started in center in place of Curtis Granderson and hit leadoff, with Reyes dropped to seventh.

With Reyes not getting on base or running, Conforto’s .417 on-base percentage is eye-popping, especially in comparison to Reyes’ .100 average and .182 on-base percentage.

Reyes doubled in four at-bats and committed a costly error in the eighth when he dropped Freddy Galvis’ pop-up.

The Phillies had runners on the corners after the error, but could have won the game in regulation had Galvis hustled and taken second.

Collins said he’ll stick with Reyes.

“He’s earned the right to get the chance to turn it around,” Collins said.

 

Apr 14

Mets Try To Keep Rolling

Tonight is one of the few times I wish the Mets could use the designated hitter. Damn, after the last two games I’d love to see d’Arnaud starting, but not after catching 16 innings. He might even rest again tomorrow.

SYNDERGAARD: Mets going for six straight. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Mets going for six straight. (AP)

The Mets will be seeking their sixth straight victory tonight in Miami behind their best pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, going against Edinson Volquez.

The Mets crushed four homers last night – d’Arnaud hit the game winner, plus two from Yoenis Cespedes and one from Wilmer Flores – but credit also needs to go to a bullpen that threw 11 scoreless innings.

The Mets have homered in nine straight games and lead the majors with 20, with Cespedes the individual leader with six.

While it is way too early to make projections, it isn’t too soon to make some assumptions about this team, especially after last night.

The Mets came in at 3:30 in the morning and their No. 5 starter was torched, several of their starters were sputtering, but they rallied from a four-run deficit and behind their power, d’Arnaud – who sparked the comeback with a bases-loaded triple – and their bullpen, the came up with a signature victory.

Much has been written about how this could be a make-or-break season for d’Arnaud, but the same can be said of reliever Hansel Robles, who pitched two scoreless innings in his fourth straight game.

They don’t win last night without Robles, or d’Arnaud, or Cespedes, or Michael Conforto, or several other guys.

That’s what being a team is all about.

Here’s tonight’s starting lineup:

Curtis Granderson, CF: Speculation is if the Mets keep Conforto, the player whose time will be reduced most will be Granderson. He is homerless with three RBI on the season.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: Is batting .304 and taking an eight-game hitting streak into tonight’s game. Hit 23 homers last season.

Jay Bruce, RF: Moves up to third with Cespedes getting the night off. Bruce needed a good start and he’s getting one, hitting .300 with four homers and eight RBI.

Lucas Duda, 1B: He’s another who is having a good start, hitting .250 with three homers and six RBI. Has shown no signs of back injury that limited him last season.

Michael Conforto, LF: He finally gets a start. He needs at-bats. If Conforto is to stay up with the Mets, manager Terry Collins needs to come up with a rotation system, and that includes resting Cespedes in left.

Wilmer Flores, 2B: Starts tonight in place of Neil Walker. Is hitting better against right-handed pitching.

Jose Reyes, 3B: Is a career .323 hitter at Marlins Park. Got a hit last night as a pinch-hitter and batting just .079 on the season. Needs to wake up.

Noah Syndergaard, RP: Is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA lifetime against the Marlins. Perhaps as a tribute to Tony La Russa, Collins has him hitting eighth.

Rene Rivera, C: Gets the start for two reasons, 1) to put the brakes on the Marlins’ running game, and 2) because d’Arnaud caught 16 innings last night. Has thrown out two of three potential base stealers.

 

Apr 11

Cespedes Leads Power Onslaught; Harvey Strains Hammy

If it came easy, they wouldn’t be the Mets. There they were, crushing the Phillies behind the power of seven homers – three from Yoenis Cespedes – and the stellar pitching of Matt Harvey, when the reclamation project pitcher strained his left hamstring covering first base.

HARVEY: Tight hammy ends night early. (AP)

HARVEY: Tight hammy ends night early. (AP)

Any injury involving Harvey, whether it appears serious or not, supersedes anything else happening to the Mets that day. There they were, pounding on the Phillies’ pitching staff the way United Airlines does its customers when Harvey came away hobbling in the sixth inning.

There was no fooling around with warm-up pitches as manager Terry Collins immediately went to the bullpen.

“He cramped up going past first base,” Collins said of Harvey’s injury. “We’ll keep him hydrated and know more tomorrow.”

Collins didn’t appear too concerned about Harvey, and wouldn’t speculate on him possibly missing his next start. Harvey isn’t worried, either.

“When I took my last step it cramped up a bit,” said Harvey, who speculated he might have tightened up sitting in the dugout watching his team hit. “It’s nothing serious.”

Harvey has been dominant in his first two starts. Maybe not like in 2013 or 2015, but pretty close.

“It’s definitely a work in progress,” Harvey said. “It’s been definitely fun and I’ll keep working.”

Before Harvey left he was seemingly on cruise control, backed by an offensive onslaught in a 14-4 rout that also featured two homers from Lucas Duda, and one each from Asdrubal Cabrera, and Travis d’Arnaud among their 20 hits, including 14 for extra-bases.

“Don’t think for a second this guy won’t have a good year,” Collins said.

The outcome never seemed in doubt after Cespedes’ three-run homer in the first, but people hung around to see if he could make history by hitting four homers in a game, something no Met has done.

“I wasn’t trying to hit a home run,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I was really seeing the ball well tonight. I was just looking for a good pitch and making contact.”

Apparently, the game was a lot closer than the score indicated, as the Mets couldn’t find a way to get Michael Conforto into the game until the eighth inning as a defensive replacement.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright began throwing in Florida but a return date has not been determined. … Zack Wheeler will look to complete the sweep in his second start of the season Wednesday. … Cespedes’ first-inning homer was his 50th as a Met. … Jay Bruce added a two-run single. … Jose Reyes singled.