Jul 16

Three Mets’ Storylines: Fundamentals Lacking

It was the same old story for the Mets Saturday night in Philadelphia: No Fundies, no fun.

Although the Mets hit two sacrifice flies, their continued inability to hit with runners in scoring position – their primary first-half flaw – re-surfaced again in a 4-2 loss to the Phillies that dropped them seven games behind Washington.

VERRETT: Bright spot. (Getty)

VERRETT: Bright spot. (Getty)

After Juan Lagares’ sacrifice put runners on second and third with one out in the seventh, they came up empty. Then in the bottom of the inning, Asdrubal Cabrera’s throwing error on seemingly a routine play put on what turned out to be the winning run on base.

The seventh-inning breakdowns continued to underscore what has been a theme this season in that when the Mets don’t hit a homer then won’t win.

“We’re not driving in runs when we need to,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “We’re not taking care of those opportunities when we get them.”

We can debate from now until the trade deadline what the Mets need more: another bat; a starter; or a reliever. But none of that matters if they don’t execute the fundamentals, and tonight that was the key storyline.

The others:

VERRETT GAVE THEM A CHANCE: Logan Verrett took the ball with the very real possibility he was pitching to stay in the rotation as Matt Harvey’s replacement.

Verrett gave up a homer to Ryan Howard, but few Mets’ pitchers haven’t. Verrett gave up two runs in six innings, which is the definition of a quality start.

Verrett walked only one and struck out four and for the second straight start threw over 100 pitches. If there was a negative, it was getting ahead of hitters but not putting them away.

Even so, he should stay in the rotation.

“At this moment we don’t have a lot of options,” Collins said. “But he’s got to give us good innings. That’s the job of any pitcher. … We’re just hoping that now, with it being a little bit more of a consistent role, he starts to find that command that makes him so effective.’’

CESPEDES STATUS UNCERTAIN: Collins said Yoenis Cespedes could have pinch-hit in the ninth if the Mets put a tying run on base.

However, Collins also said he doesn’t know what would have happened had Cespedes got on base or his availability Sunday. As of now, Cespedes hasn’t played since July 8. The Mets gambled he would heal during the All-Star break, but that hasn’t happened.

It might be time to DL him and bring up Michael Conforto.

 

Jul 15

Three Mets’ Storylines: Walker The Difference

On a day the Pittsburgh Pirates demoted Jon Niese to the bullpen and their general manager Neal Huntington lamented the trade that brought him from the Mets, the player they surrendered, Neil Walker, hit a three-run homer for the difference Friday night in Philadelphia.

“In hindsight, maybe the two fringe prospects and trying to figure out where to re-allocate the money might have been a better return [for Walker],” Huntington told a Pittsburgh radio station.

WALKER: Powers Mets over Phils. (Getty)

WALKER: Powers Mets over Phils. (Getty)

I applaud honesty – the trade has not worked out for the Pirates – but it’s pretty stupid to trash Niese, whom he admitted he’s trying to deal. As a GM you can’t devalue the product you’re trying to unload. That’s GM 101.

Sandy Alderson did the same thing with Ike Davis, and also wasn’t shy about ripping Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy.

Walker’s opposite-field homer to left in the sixth powered the Mets to a 5-3 victory over the Phillies and kept them six games behind Washington. It was Walker’s 16th homer – he had 16 last year – to give him 40 RBI. He made an immediate strong impression with nine homers in April.

Walker has played well but hasn’t made Mets’ fans forget Murphy. And they certainly won’t if Walker leaves after this season while Murphy plays two more years with Washington.

Then again, and here’s a wild thought, what if the Pirates DFA’d Niese? With Matt Harvey gone for the year, and health questions with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, would the Mets bring back Niese? They did with Jose Reyes, so why not?

However, on this night Walker was the Mets’ main storyline.

The other two are:

BULLPEN BAILS OUT COLON: Bartolo Colon (W, 8-4) started strong, but gave up three unearned runs on four hits in the sixth.

Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia combined to strike out five and give up one hit in 3.1 scoreless innings. Reed worked 1.1 innings, which I like. He’s strong and if the bullpen is a concern, manager Terry Collins shouldn’t be afraid to give him the extra out.

For Familia, he is 32-for-32 in save opportunities. Earlier this year Familia got his saves, but not without angst. He’s slider has a lot more bite and the confidence level is a lot higher with him now.

The Mets entered the second half with their bullpen a priority and one game won’t alter that thinking, but until those moves are made, this is what they need.

LAGARES SHINES: Juan Lagares homered, stole a base and manufactured a run with a strong slide, and made an outstanding catch in right-center.

Collins told reporters “that’s the kind of player he can be.’’

A Gold Glover two years ago, he was out of shape and a bust last season, but is playing with an aggressiveness the Mets should continue to expect.

Jun 07

Lagares Injury Shows Lack Of Depth

What does it say about the Mets that they are willing to play shorthanded for the rest of this week in order to give Juan Lagares‘ partial tear in his left thumb a chance to heal?

For one thing, it says they aren’t comfortable with their outfield depth on the bench. For another, it says they don’t have anybody in their minor league system they are comfortable promoting now.

The Mets’ thinking is they want to see the inflammation go down and if he’s capable of gripping a bat. If he’s not by the time the Mets go to Milwaukee, a DL decision will be made then. Assistant GM John Ricco said Lagares will likely have offseason surgery.

“Because it’s on his glove hand and bottom hand on a bat, there’s a good chance he’ll be able to play with it,” Ricco told reporters in Pittsburgh. “We won’t know until some of the swelling gets out of there and he has a chance to see how it feels. … You’ve seen guys play with this and have surgery after the season. I would guess that would be the normal course.”

Against left-handers Jonathan Niese in one of the games tonight and Francisco Liriano tomorrow, Lagares would typically be playing center and Yoenis Cespedes would move to left.

Lagares was injured diving for a ball in the outfield Saturday in Miami. He didn’t play Sunday – TV cameras on him in the dugout showed he couldn’t get his glove on – and the Mets were fortunate they didn’t play Monday night.

As for Cespedes, he didn’t start the last two games in Miami because of a bruised right hip.

Alejandro De Aza represents the Mets’ outfield depth on the major league level, and there’s nobody the Mets are comfortable with in the minors to bring up now.

This isn’t a good time for the Mets to be playing shorthanded because the Pirates represent probably their closest competition for a wild card berth.

 

 

Jun 05

Mets Wrap: Harvey Says It Is Only One More Step

HARVEY: Another step. (AP)

HARVEY: Another step. (AP)

It is hard to say Matt Harvey turned the corner for the simple reason the Mets’ pitcher himself won’t acknowledge the possibility.

Harvey encored the seven shutout innings he threw in his last start against the White Sox with seven more strong innings in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to the Miami Marlins. He sure looked good, but …

“It’s still two starts,” Harvey told reporters. “Obviously, there were massive struggles that happened before. The only thing you want to think of is not letting that creep back in. Today was, I guess you could say, a second step from the last start. But obviously going deep into the game and feeling pretty good, it’s definitely a positive.”

Harvey struck out only three hitters, but that’s a positive because the Marlins put the ball in play to keep his pitch down to 104.

METS GAME WRAP

June 5, 2016, @ Miami

Game: #55          Score:  Marlins 1, Mets 0

Record: 31-24     Streak: L 1

Standings: Second, NL East, two games behind Washington.  Playoffs: First WC, 1.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh.

Runs: 54    Average:  3.8   Times 3 or less: 27

SUMMARY: Harvey was superb, but Miami starter Jose Fernandez was basically untouchable.

KEY MOMENT:  Wilmer Flores struck out to end the seventh with two runners on to end the Mets’ best scoring opportunity.

THUMBS UP:  Yoenis Cespedes did not start, but was able to bat as a pinch-hitter. He should be able to play Monday in Pittsburgh. … Michael Conforto continued his breakout signs with another hit. … Another hit by James Loney.

THUMBS DOWN:  Only four hits and 15 strikeouts by the offense. … Three strikeouts each by Curtis Granderson and Neil Walker.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Juan Lagares did not play because of a sprained left thumb. He’ll return to New York Monday to be examined by team doctors.

QUOTEBOOK: ““It was one of those game where you have a great pitching match-up head to head, and that’s exactly what you would expect — a 1-0 game,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.

BY THE NUMBERS:  2: Number of Mets to reach scoring position.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz (7-1, 2.60) vs. former Met Jonathon Niese (5-2, 4.36) at Pittsburgh on Monday.

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Jun 04

June 4, Mets’ Lineup At Miami

Bartolo Colon goes for the Mets today as they try to make it a two-game winning streak. Is two games really a winning streak? BTW: Miami is where Colon entertained us with his behind-the-back flip to first base.

Here’s today’s order:

Curtis Granderson – RF: (.203/9/16) Should have a lot more RBI for the number of homers. Hitting paltry .103 (3-29) with RISP. Hitting .217 lifetime against Marlins.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: (.275/5/19). Hitting .297 (11-37) with RISP. Lifetime .301 hitter against Marlins. Ranks third in All-Star voting.

Yoenis Cespedes – LF: (.278/15/37). Hitting .250 (10-40 with 21 RBI) with RISP. Ranks third in All-Star voting.

Neil Walker – 2B: (.284/13/25). Hitting .314 (11-35 with 10 RBI) with RISP. Hit 16 homers last year. Ranks third in All-Star voting.

Juan Lagares – CF: (.277/2/6). Hitting .273 lifetime against Marlins. Is batting .310 (13-42) on the road. Back to playing superb defense.

Wilmer Flores – 3B: (.190/1/3). Getting the first opportunity at third with David Wright on the DL. Had two hits and scored twice Friday night.

James Loney – 1B: (.231/1/2). Hit 100th career homer Friday night. Career .247 hitter against Miami. Was batting .342 in minors before trade from San Diego.

Kevin Plawecki – C: (.198/1/7). Playing time reduced because of Rene Rivera. Has gone 51 at-bats since his last homer (at Dodgers vs. Scott Kasmir).

Colon – RHP: Is 7-4 with 2.92 ERA lifetime vs. Miami. Is 3-1 on the road this year.

COMMENTS: Four of today’s starters weren’t in Opening Day lineup. … I know Michael Conforto is in a terrible hitting slump, but he’ll never learn to hit lefties if he doesn’t face them. … Mets are 12-5 in day games.  … The Mets have eight come-from-behind victories this season.

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