May 25

Last Night’s Meltdown Was On Collins

This one was on Terry Collins. For all the talk about the Mets’ faulty bullpen – and to be sure there aren’t enough quality arms – occasionally the manager has to step up and say, “this was on me.”

Such was the case in last night’s 6-5 loss to the San Diego Padres, a game in which the Mets held a four-run lead.

COLLINS: Bad game. (AP)

COLLINS: Bad game. (AP)

The box score will reveal the Mets used five pitchers from the seventh inning; not quite the formula it wants to use in getting to the closer.

Robert Gsellman had given the Mets a quality outing – three runs in six innings – but Collins wouldn’t let him come out for the seventh, instead, giving the ball to Fernando Salas.

Why? Gsellman was still strong after throwing 84 pitches. Sure, he had been struggling lately, but he appeared to have righted himself. At least it looked that way during his six innings.

“I knew that was going to get brought up,” was Collins’ reply to Gsellman’s pitch count. “This kid has really been struggling. At times, you want him to leave with a good feeling and he gave us six good innings and we just say, ‘Hey, look, he did exactly what we were hoping he’d do tonight to get us to that point.’ ”

Part of me likes Collins’ rationale, but the other part makes me scream: “Enough with the good feelings. Let the precious snowflake try to win the !@#$% game. What’s next, a participation trophy for playing?

At least let him pitch until a runner got on. That should have also been the plan with Salas, who got the first two hitters then unraveled.

A pinch-single, wild pitch and two walks loaded the bases Collins pulled Salas for Neil Ramirez. Why would you keeps s struggling reliever like Salas in long enough to load the bases, with two of the runners by walks?

The Mets had been getting decent production from Jerry Blevins and Paul Sewald, but neither was available having pitched the night before in a 9-3 win. A note: The bullpen was taxed that night before because Matt Harvey couldn’t give the Mets more than five. Incidentally, both Sewald and Blevins pitched with at least a five-run lead.

If you’re going to tinker with your bullpen, why not see what Ramirez can do with a six-run lead instead of with the game on the line?

It was almost a foregone conclusion Wil Myers would tie the game with a two-run single, just missing a grand slam by inches, and Hunter Renfroe would put the Padres ahead with a mammoth homer in the eighth against lefty Josh Smoker.

Why pull Gsellman when he’s throwing well? Why let a lefty pitch to Renfroe? Why save Addison Reed for the ninth when the Mets were losing? All those were questions Collins needed to address. We can point fingers, and rightly so, at GM Sandy Alderson for not providing quality arms in the bullpen, but this was in-game decision making by Collins, and it was bad.

May 05

Mets Wrap: Small Ball And Bullpen Lift Comeback

The Mets can play small ball, and yes they can play it very well. They compiled 20 hits – with no homers – in Wednesday’s rout of the Braves, and then strung together six straight hits in the season’s largest comeback to beat the Marlins.

FLORES: Game-winning walk. And he does. (AP)

FLORES: Game-winning walk. And he does. (AP)

“I think [this game could give us] a huge lift,” manager Terry Collins said. “You have to be resilient you have to play nine innings and put up good at-bats.”

The Mets fell behind 7-1 with Rafael Montero, and began their comeback with a two-run homer by Curtis Granderson in the fourth.

Then came what could become one of the most important innings of the season when they strung together six hits against Brad Ziegler.

It began with a single by Wilmer Flores and a double by Jose Reyes. Rene Rivera and pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera followed with RBI singles. Michael Conforto singled to load the bases and T.J. Rivera – who hit a solo homer – ripped a two-run double.

“I was looking for something up in the zone where I could out the barrel on it … it just so happens it came on the first pitch,” said T.J. Rivera.

Right-hander Kyle Barraclough relieved Ziegler and struck out Jay Bruce and Neil Walker. He intentionally walked Granderson to load the bases and then walked Flores to force in the game-winner.

“I’m just trying to be patient,” said Flores.

The Mets have now scored at least five runs in eight straight games, all without Yoenis Cespedes. Collins, who managed his 1,000th game with the Mets – to trail Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine – said his hitters aren’t trying to do too much, which is common for teams losing its best hitter.

BULLPEN OVERLOOKED: As impressive as the Mets’ offense was, it was made possible by the bullpen. After the lines of Montero (five runs in 3.2 innings) and Josh Smoker (two runs in one inning), five Mets relievers combined to throw 4.1 scoreless innings.

A key moment came in the sixth when Hansel Robles gave up a leadoff double to Marcell Ozuna and one-out later a single to J.T. Realmuto, but escaped without giving up a run.

MONTERO TO START AGAIN: There was no waffling by Collins when asked if Montero will get the ball again.

Considering Montero has never taken advantage of previous opportunities and gave up five runs in 3.2 innings tonight, it was a logical question.

So was Collins’ answer: “If it’s not him, I don’t know who it will be. We have to get him going.”

UP NEXT: Rookie Robert Gsellman (1-2, 6.75 ERA) is coming off his first victory of the season Monday in Atlanta.

Apr 07

Game Wrap: Wheeler Rocked

GAME:  #4

SCORE: Marlins 7, @Mets 2

RECORD: 2-2    RISP: 2-for-5,  8 LOB

HOMERS: 1: Yoenis Cespedes (1).

ANALYSIS

In one of the most anticipated starts by a Mets’ pitcher in years, Zack Wheeler, pitching for the first time since September of 2014 after being shelved from Tommy John surgery, was hit early and hard, giving up five runs on six hits in four innings, logging 80 pitches.

“He needed this,” manager Terry Collins said. “He needed to get back in the flow. For the first game, it was OK.”

WHEELER: Rough start in return. (AP)

WHEELER: Rough start in return. (AP)

Is velocity a big deal? He touched 97 in the first inning, then was in the low 90s two innings later. Was it the weather? Was it coming off surgery? Whatever the reason, the circumstances were such that we can’t make any real assessments until we see how he feels tomorrow and after his next start, Wednesday in Philadelphia.

That’s how Collins saw it. He chose to look at some of the positives, such as his early velocity and building his pitch count up to 80.

“It was not what I wanted tonight, but it was good to get out there,” Wheeler told reporters. “I didn’t have my best stuff tonight. I didn’t have good control and they were able to sit on the fastball. … It’s a long season and I will get better.”

ON THE MOUND: Good relief efforts from Rafael Montero and Josh Edgin, both of whom worked two innings. … Josh Smoker gave up two runs.

AT THE PLATE:  Two hits each by Curtis Granderson and Rene Rivera. … Michael Conforto had a pinch-hit single. … Jose Reyes was hitless in five at-bats and is hitting .056 on the season with only one hit. Maybe a day off would help. … Marlins pitchers struck out eight Mets.

IN THE FIELD: The Mets are getting ripped and the wind chill had to be in the low 30s. Seemed like it would have been a good opportunity to get the bench some work.

ON DECK: The Mets continue their homestand Saturday against Miami with Robert Gsellman getting the start.

 

Oct 15

Bullpen Bridge Key For Mets

The Mets will have no shortage of offseason issues, and we’ll discuss them all. Let’s put Yoenis Cespedes on the back burner for now in terms of importance and go directly to the bullpen. Conor Gillespie’s fly ball hadn’t even cleared the wall and there was the question as to whether Jeurys Familia was a problem. Could this guy pitch in October?

MLB: New York Mets at Milwaukee BrewersI’m not worried about Familia. I think he’ll be fine. He saved 51 games this year with that nasty pitch of his that moves into lefty hitters and away from right-handers. His slider/cutter/sinker is one of the game’s hardest pitches to hit. About his psyche? Well, he was stand-up after the wild-card game, admitted he threw a bad pitch location-wise and said it was time to learn and move on.

As many of you know, I covered the Yankees for eight years before moving to the Mets and had many conversations with Mariano Rivera. He said giving up the game-winning homer to Cleveland’s Sandy Alomar was one of the best things that happened to him ibecause it taught him how to forget and move on; to develop a thick skin.

I’m positive the same will happen with Familia.

My bullpen concern is the bridge leading up to Familia. The Mets have four pitchers coming off surgery and we don’t know yet about Noah Syndergaard‘s bone spur, although indications are he’ll be fine. Ideally, the Mets want seven innings from their starters, but realistically can’t expect that on a nightly basis. Early on, at least, they’ll be happy to get six.

That leaves at least three innings to cover.

Bringing back Addison Reed is essential, and I might argue, on a par with Cespedes. They’ll need to make sure they are covered in the sixth and seventh innings. They liked Fernando Salas, and he pitched well. Hansel Robles was good until he was not. He’s still a question, but one with great stuff.

The Mets have three situational lefties to choose between Josh Smoker, Jerry Blevins and Josh Edgin.

We don’t know what we’ll get from the injured starters, which makes building the pen a paramount issue.

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Sep 06

Three Mets’ Storylines: Cespedes Primetime Player

When you’re a star, you come through in big moments. You live for them, and that’s what Yoenis Cespedes does for the Mets.

They Mets got Cespedes, and will likely break the bank for him, for nights like Tuesday when he slugged and threw the Mets into a vital crunch-time victory.

CESPEDES: Has a flair for dramatic. (AP)

CESPEDES: Has a flair for dramatic. (AP)

“When you’re a star, that’s what they do,” manager Terry Collins said. “That’s what Ces does. That’s why he’s here. That’s why he gets paid.”

Of his 70 RBI, seven have given the Mets the lead for good, including his two-run homer to dead center in the seventh inning of their 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

“When the team is down, I know I have to focus,” Cespedes told SNY.

As I’ve written several times, extending his current three-year, $75-million contract could hamstring the Mets financially in other areas, but there’s no denying this guy is a primetime player. Cespedes carried the Mets last year into the World Series, and he’s doing the same this summer. Five of his 28 homers have tied a game, while eight put the Mets in the lead.

As if that isn’t enough, Cespedes threw out Brandon Phillips at second to end the eighth.

There’s no other descriptor other than clutch.

Cespedes was one of four Mets’ homers, giving them 189 for the season. Curtis Granderson, Jose Reyes and Alejandro De Aza (he hit their 11th pinch-hit homer of the season) crushed the others.

Clearly, Cespedes was the storyline tonight. The others were Rafael Montero and newly acquired reliever Fernando Salas.

MONTERO OFF: Probably the best thing one could say about the performance of the Montero is it could have been worse.

The problem of command that has been an anchor to Montero dragged him down again.

Montero walked four in 4.1 innings. The killer was the walking Zack Cozart in the third as he scored ahead of Adam Duvall’s home run that tied the game.

The two walks Montero gave up in the first two innings, as well as the six in his first start, didn’t hurt him. But, you can only dance out of trouble for so long. Wildness would eventually catch up, and that’s what happened to Montero.

Throwing 79 pitches in less than five innings is the kind of stuff that has always hindered Montero, and is the obstacle keeping him out of the major leagues.

“He’s working hard to stay out of the middle of the plate and he’s missing,” Collins said. “That’s what gets him in trouble. But, I’m very impressed with his arm.”

SALAS LEADS BULLPEN: The Mets have been looking for a seventh-inning stopper for their bullpen all season.

Hansel Robles spit the bit, but perhaps Salas could fit the bill. The Mets picked up Salas in a waiver deal, Aug. 31, from the Angels in exchange for minor league pitcher Erik Manoah.

Robles was sensational from June 21 to August, going 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA. However, he had a meltdown on the mound at Yankee Stadium, Aug. 3, when Mark Teixeira rattled his cage. Since then, he’s given up 15 earned runs in his last 16 innings.

Salas was the fifth of seven Mets’ pitchers – the September call-ups issue must eventually be addressed – and put the Reds down in order in the seventh.

Josh Edgin, Gabriel Ynoa, Josh Smoker, Salas, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia – who registered his 46th save – followed Montero, just the way Collins drew it up.

Sort of.

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