Aug 31

Walker’s Season Likely Over; What Of Career With Mets?

UPDATED: Walker facing surgery.

Before leaving the podium, Mets manager Terry Collins dropped the other shoe. After all, they wouldn’t be the Mets if they didn’t encore good news with bad. This time, it was the sobering news Neil Walker was facing having season-ending back surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

“This is a big disappointment,” said a dejected Collins. “He’s had a big year for us.”

The announcement came moments after Kelly Johnson‘s three-run double in the eighth inning proved the difference in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over Miami. The other two runs came on Wilmer Flores‘ two-run homer. Ironically, Johnson and Flores figure to get the lion’s share of the time at second base with Walker gone.

WALKER: Status unknown. (AP)

WALKER: Facing surgery. (AP)

With the victory, the Mets have won nine of their last 11 games to climb back into the wild-card race. They are in it, also in large part, because of what Walker gave them in April with nine homers and 19 RBI and his hot streak in early August.

In April, there were numerous reports about the need to bring Walker back for 2017, because with Yoenis Cespedes expected to opt out, the Mets couldn’t afford to lose both.

With Walker’s season over, one must wonder if the same can be said of his Mets’ career. Walker can leave as a free agent this winter, but the injury takes away whatever leverage he had because a bad back represents a terrible credit report.

As good as Walker played, perhaps an even longer-lasting impression is David Wright. Looking at how long Wright struggled might have been a deciding factor in Walker’s decision. After all, having surgery now might enhance his chances of playing next season considering a six-month recovery time.

Somebody will sign Walker, but it will likely be a one-year deal with incentives based on games played. Considering what they’ve gone through with Wright, I’m not sure they’ll go in that direction with Walker.

Walker was having a tremendous season, hitting .282 with 23 homers and 55 RBI. In 23 games since July 27, Walker was batting .440 with seven homers, 15 RBI and 19 runs scored. That’s a significant loss for a team in a pennant race.

For the short term, the Mets are in decent position at second base with Flores and Johnson.

When Daniel Murphy left, there was speculation Flores could inherit second base, but that notion was quickly dashed when the Mets signed Walker. Then, when Wright went down, Flores was to play third, but that changed when Jose Reyes was signed.

Now, with Walker gone, Flores might finally be getting his chance.

Please follow me on Twitter

 

 

Aug 30

Three Mets’ Storylines: Lugo Gives Big Effort

On a day the Mets received sobering injury news on left-hander Steven Matz, they also got a positive outing from Seth Lugo in his third career start.

Lugo gave up two runs on five hits in six innings Tuesday night in a 7-4 victory over Miami to help the Mets leapfrog the Marlins in the wild-card race.

LUGO: Gives big start. (AP)

LUGO: Gives big start. (AP)

Lugo has averaged just under six innings in his three starts, which means he’ll stay in the rotation.

The Marlins got to Lugo with Christian Yelich’s two-run homer in the first, but the Mets responded for three in their half of the inning on Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run homer and Wilmer Flores’ RBI single.

“It was really big,” manager Terry Collins said of the quick response. “Just getting on the board was important.”

Lugo said the three runs allowed him to look at the rest of the game from a different perspective.

“That was big time,” Lugo said. “It helped me with my confidence. I looked at it as a 0-0 ball game.”

Lugo worked out of jams in the third and fourth innings and retired the last seven hitters he faced.

With Matz injured and Jacob deGrom needing to be skipped for rest, Lugo has been terrific with three straight strong starts. Lugo left his previous start with a cramp in his right calf, but showed no ill-effects. He is on schedule to pitch Sunday against the Nationals.

I chose Lugo as the main storyline because of the Mets’ current pitching situations. The two others were the resurgence of Curtis Granderson and Hansel Robles’ positive appearance.

GRANDERSON SHOWS A PULSE: Granderson hit for Lugo in the sixth and homered, and also homered in the seventh. He became the third Met to hit two homers in a game he did not start. The others were Scott Hairston in 2011 and Hawk Taylor in 1964.

Granderson hasn’t had a good season according to his expectations but still has 22 homers with 38 RBI, not a good ratio.

If Granderson is getting on track, it will give Collins leverage as he sorts out his outfield alignment down the stretch. Yoenis Cespedes’ strained right quad limits him to playing only left field and Jay Bruce – despite a double Tuesday – continues to struggle.

Cespedes will need a rest eventually.

Things will get tighter when Michael Conforto is brought up from Triple-A Las Vegas.

ROBLES MUCH BETTER: Robles was superb in June and July, but gave up 15 runs in 13 innings this month before giving the Mets two strong innings Tuesday.

Robles gave up one hit in two scoreless innings for a positive sign the Mets desperately needed. Robles in perhaps their most versatile reliever, and by going two innings, it enabled Collins to avoid using the overworked Addison Reed.

EXTRA INNINGS: With the victory, Collins had to use Jeurys Familia when the Marlins got to Jim Henderson for two runs in the ninth. … Jose Reyes continued to rake with his second four-hit game of the month. Reyes, along with Cabrera (who had two hits) are forming a formidable 1-2 combination at the top of the order. … With the victory, the Mets moved to four games over .500, their best record since they were 56-52 after beating the Yankees, Aug. 4. … Bartolo Colon starts against David Phelps Wednesday night.

Please follow me on Twitter

Aug 29

Mets’ Lineup, Aug. 29, Against Miami

Asdrubal Cabrera – today named the NL Player of the Week, and Neil Walker, will sit out tonight’s game against Miami at Citi Field. Citing his recent performance in his last two starts, Jacob deGrom‘s start is being skipped and Rafael Montero will pitch.

Montero was recalled from Class AA Binghamton to make the start. Montero, 25, was 4-2 with a 1.70 ERA in eight starts at Binghamton. Montero appeared in two games with the Mets in April and gave up three runs in 2.1 innings.

Here’s the Mets’ order behind Montero:

Jose Reyes – SS: Was 0-4 Sunday vs. Phillies. … Hitting .360 (9-25) with RISP.

Alejandro De Aza – CF: Was 1-4 Sunday. … Has 13 RBI in August.

Yoenis Cespedes – LF: Did not play Sunday. … Hitting .337 (31-92) lifetime vs. Miami.

Kelly Johnson – 3B: Went 1-4 Sunday. … Hit pinch-hit grand slam Saturday. … Has four pinch-hit homers this year.

Curtis Granderson – RF: Went 0-2 is last game. … Is hitting .160 (19-119) over his last 32 games.

Wilmer Flores – 2B: Went 1-3 in hlast game. … Hitting .282 (33-117) lifetime vs. Miami.

James Loney – 1B: Went 1-3 in last game. … It’s been 88 at-bats since his last homer.

Travis d’Arnaud – C: Went 1-4 in his last game. … Mets are 25-29 when d’Arnaud starts.

Montero – RHP: Last major league start was April 28, 2015 at Miami.

Please follow me on Twitter

Aug 29

Mets Have One Less Question With Reyes At Third

Jose Reyes has lived up to all expectations since he was signed. He’s provided an offensive spark, he’s been far more than adequate replacing David Wright at third base, and Reyes being Reyes, he’s also been hurt with a strained muscle.

REYES: Has answered questions. (AP)

REYES: Has answered questions. (AP)

The Mets signed Reyes to a minor league contract in late June after he served a 52-game suspension stemming from a domestic abuse incident. Reyes expressed remorse in his initial statement with the Mets and has been a good soldier since.

He’s been great in the clubhouse and also in dealing with the media and public. In that regard, the Mets couldn’t have asked for more. There were some negative articles written at the time he was signed, but nothing since.

Offensively, Reyes has provided spark and energy at the top of the order. He’s hitting .285 with a .333 on-base percentage, with 14 extra-base hits, including four homers. It took awhile, but he’s starting to run more and has six steals.

I think the biggest surprise is how he’s taken to the position defensively. It’s one thing for Reyes to pick Wright’s brain, but there’s been nothing glaring about how he’s played.

The ball comes to him a lot quicker at third, but he’s been adept and hasn’t been handcuffed. He’s also shown he can handle the bare-handed pick-up and throw.

Is Reyes polished at third? No, that’s premature to say, but he’s by far not a liability. Is he the second coming of Wright in his prime? Nope, but in case Wright doesn’t come back full strength next season, the Mets will be in good hands with Reyes.

Since it is clear the Mets won’t give Wilmer Flores a shot at the job full time, they have one less question facing them this winter.

Please follow me on Twitter

Aug 29

Mets Today: Montero Starts Against Fish

How many crucial series can a team have in one season? I’ve lost track, but tonight starts another for the Mets, who’ll begin a four-game series with the Marlins.

The Mets go into the series two games above .500, and one game behind the Marlins in the wild-card race; two behind Pittsburgh; 2.5 games behind St. Louis and five behind San Francisco.

MONTERO: Tonight's starter for Mets. (AP)

MONTERO: Tonight’s starter for Mets. (AP)

Pitching was supposed to be the Mets’ strength this season, but you don’t hear too many people lately saying they should sign any of those arms to a long-term contract. The only arm considered to be a significant part of the Mets’ future that is starting in the series is Steven Matz, who’ll come off the disabled list Thursday.

Tonight the Mets will go with Rafael Montero (0-0, 11.57 ERA), up from Double-A; Seth Lugo (1-2, 2.91), who’ll be making his third start of the season; Bartolo Colon (12-7, 3.44) on Wednesday on short rest; and Matz (9-8, 3.40).

Matz, who will be coming off the DL with a mild shoulder strain, threw without discomfort Sunday.

Jose Fernandez (13-7, 2.91), Tom Koehler (9-9, 3.85), David Phelps (7-6, 2.52) and Jose Urena (2-5, 5.83) will start for the Marlins.

Fernandez is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts against the Mets.

Just as the Mets needed to win in St. Louis, they must win three of four against Miami. Splitting won’t do them much good, and if they lose three of four, or get swept, the ground might be too much for them to make up.

INJURY UPDATES: Three significant Mets are injured and might not play tonight. Asdrubal Cabrera (left knee), Yoenis Cespedes (right quad) and Neil Walker (lower back).

Meanwhile, the Marlins are without Giancarlo Stanton (25 homers) and Justin Bour (15 homers). However, the Marlins got Dee Gordon back from the suspended list, July 28, and he’s hitting .287 with nine steals.

The Marlins also got closer A.J. Ramos (fracture of right middle finger) back from the DL, Aug. 21.

ON DECK: Jose Reyes answers third base questions.

Please follow me on Twitter