May 15

Mets Wrap: Losing Streak Reaches Six Straight

The Mets received a strong outing from Shaun Marcum and Rick Ankiel hit a two-run homer, but that was the extent of the highlights as the Cardinals scored the game-winning run in the seventh inning on Scott Rice’s run-producing wild pitch in the 4-2 loss. John Buck was doubled off second base and was caught stealing, and David Wright dropped the ball attempting to tag John Jay, who eventually scored. The Mets dropped to 14-23 with their sixth straight loss.

ANKIEL: Homered to tie game. (AP)

ANKIEL: Homered to tie game. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: Marcum had his best moment with the Mets, giving up three runs on five hits in 6.2 innings. Marcum walked one, but as fate would have it for the Mets, Daniel Descalso came around to score the go-ahead run on Rice’s wild pitch.

AT THE PLATE: Ankiel had two hits, including a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh. … Seven more strikeouts by Mets hitters, including three by Wright. … Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are hitting .164 and .205, respectively.

METS MATTERS: Zack Wheeler took a cortisone injection to his right shoulder and will resume throwing in 48 hours. He will miss at least one start.

THEY SAID IT: “Oh boy,’’ sighed Keith Hernandez when Cardinals went ahead in seventh on run-scoring wild pitch from Scott Rice.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5: Number of Mets in tonight’s lineup hitting less than .240.

ON DECK: Jon Niese (2-4) tries to win for the first time in six starts Thursday afternoon against Adam Wainwright.

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May 06

Amazin’ Moments: Eric Valent Hits For The Cycle

Contributed by Gerry Silverman of MetsMerizedOnline.com

Hitting for the cycle has always been one of the more singular batting feats in baseball. It is a relatively rare occurrence but not one that guarantees anything in particular for the team of the player who achieves one beyond a mention on the sports page. Granted, it involves getting four hits (a good thing) with three being for extra bases (a very good thing), but from a pure baseball perspective one could propose that if a batter had four singles in a game, he might well provide a greater benefit to his team than a cycle would, provided those singles occur with runners in scoring position.

In other words, a cycle is a feat we regard with admiration primarily because it is COOL. It is so COOL that it even has a more refined version, the so-called “natural” cycle (single, double, triple, home run in order). This unique quality allows a cycle to actually transcend the game itself, remaining COOL even if your team loses the game in which it occurs, kind of like a consolation prize.

At this point in baseball history, only two teams remain cycle-less: the San Diego Padres (who also hold the distinction of being the only franchise not to have recorded a no-hitter) and the Miami Marlins whose relative youth as a franchise functions as something of an excuse. By way of contrast, the Red Sox have pulled off the feat an impressive twenty times.

eric valentSeven Mets had achieved the cycle prior to the day in July, 2004 when Eric Valent got one of his infrequent starts, spelling regular left fielder Cliff Floyd in a game against the Montreal Expos. Valent was a 27 year-old outfielder/first baseman who had been a late first round draft pick by the Phillies in 1998. After a couple of uneventful cups of coffee with the Phils, he was dealt to the Reds for catcher and future Met Kelly Stinnett in August of 2003. That winter, he was left off the Reds’ 40 man roster and was selected by the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft.

The Mets timing was fortuitous, as Valent was about to turn 27, the apparent “magic” age for certain players when whatever baseball skills they possess coalesce long enough to produce some evidence to support their place on a major league team. The 2004 season would mark Eric’s high water mark as a player as he produced a respectable .267/.337/.481 slash line in 270 AB’s spread out over 130 games. He would hit all of his big league homers that season, including one that day in Montreal.

Facing Expos starter Rocky Biddle, Valent collected a single in the second inning and a double in the third. He then homered off reliever Sunny Kim, launching a shot that clanked off one of the speakers suspended from the roof of Olympic Stadium. That left him a triple short of achieving a cycle, generally regarded as the toughie of the bunch.

When he came to the plate in the top of the seventh, the Mets had opened a substantial lead in what would end up a 10-1 win for Al Leiter. Consequently, a discussion on going for a three-bagger had preceded his next plate appearance.  Mets coach Don Baylor had told Valent to expect third base coach Matt Galante to be “waving” him on anything hit down the line or in the gap.

When his subsequent at-bat produced a liner into the right field corner, “I just kept going when I hit it” Valent would say after the game

“When I hit the ball in the corner like that, I knew I was going to third. I just wanted to hit the ball hard. It was cool. There aren’t a lot of guys that can say they hit for the cycle, no matter how long they play. It’s a lot of luck.”

By virtue of that statement to MLB.com, we can trace an awareness of the cycle’s aforementioned “coolness factor” to the players themselves.

Of the ten Mets who have hit for the cycle (the most recent being Scott Hairston on April 27th of last year), Valent could be said to tie with infielder Mike Phillips of the 1975 team for “least likely.” After a few more desultory appearances with the Mets the following season, he was out of baseball, but in the record books. That moment of his career at least, was pretty cool.

Mets Who Have Hit For The Cycle

April 27, 2012, Scott Hairston at Colorado

June 21, 2006, Jose Reyes vs. Cincinnati

July 29, 2004, Eric Valent at Montreal

Sept. 11, 1997, John Olerud vs. Montreal

July 3, 1996, Alex Ochoa at Philadelphia

Aug. 1, 1989, Kevin McReynolds at St. Louis

July 4, 1985, Keith Hernandez at Atlanta (19 innings)

June 25, 1976, Mike Phillips at Chicago

July 6, 1970, Tommie Agee vs. St. Louis

Aug. 7, 1963, Jim Hickman vs. St. Louis

Mets Country

May 06

Lucas Duda Unfairly Criticized On Plate Approach

Ever since Lucas Duda burst into our consciousness in 2010, nobody has been satisfied with his plate approach. Too many strikeouts and not enough walks, I frequently wrote. He gives away too many at-bats. He tries to pull too much and doesn’t use the entire field.

All valid in the early Duda critique.

DUDA: Has the right approach (AP).

DUDA: Has the right approach (AP).

Now, unbelievably, he’s become too selective, too patient at the plate. No matter how hard I try, I don’t get this one.

Even Keith Hernandez, who has forgotten more about hitting than most of us will ever know, has been after Duda on his patience. Hernandez believes Duda should be more aggressive with runners in scoring position. Yesterday in that position, Duda worked deep into the count. And, as the at-bat continued and the talk was for him to be more aggressive, Duda lashed a 3-and-1 pitch through the right side of the infield for a RBI single in a perfect piece of hitting.

Until that swing, the conversation was about Duda’s growing patience, as if it was a fatal, fundamental flaw  instead of a strength.

Duda has a .417 on-base percentage, in large part to 21 walks. While the season is still young, his on-base percentage and OPS are the best of his career. For much of the spring he had more walks than strikeouts, but that has reversed.

However, what people are noting most are his six homers with only 11 RBI. Surely, with that much power, he should have more RBI. It it is a plausible argument, but not an all inclusive one.

Pitchers, wary of Duda’s power, have been exceedingly cautious and try to get him to chase. However, when he might have swung earlier in his career, he’s now waiting them out. Instead of giving away at-bats, he’s learned to take the walk, but that’s not a flaw.

Do you really want to see Duda be another Ike Davis, who gives away countless at-bats by flailing a pitches he has no chance of hitting?

The best thing for Duda would be to continue being patient and taking his walks. If somebody – are you listening Davis? – provided more protection behind him, then Duda might see more pitches, fastballs to be exact, in the zone.

Trust me on this one, the last thing you want is for Duda reverting to bad habits and chasing junk. The more walks he takes, the better he’ll become at recognizing pitches. He’ll waste fewer at-bats and eventually get his pitch to drive.

The expectations for Duda to walk less and swing more have been brought on by the Mets’ overall woeful offense.  The problem isn’t in Duda is taking too many pitches, but others in the batting order are not.

Mar 13

Matt Harvey, Bobby Parnell Ripped As Mets Lose

Nearly flawless in his last start, Matt Harvey took his lumps today, but on a positive note rebounded and regained control.

HARVEY: Gives up homer to Harper.

HARVEY: Gives up homer to Harper.

Harvey gave up a three-run homer to Washington’s Bryce Harper in the first inning, but rebounded to throw three scoreless innings and strike out six in an 8-5 loss.

Harvey settled down to retire 11 of the final 12 hitters against him; a very good sign for any pitcher let alone a young one after a rough start.

“I struggled there in the first inning, obviously. I think I came out a little too excited and needed to tone that down a little bit,’’ Harvey told reporters. “I made one bad pitch and it cost me three runs.’’

Harvey said he came out pumped in trying to atone for a three-homer rocking by the Nationals last year in spring training.

Bobby Parnell had a rough outing, giving up four runs in the seventh inning, which included a run-producing error by left fielder Lucas Duda and RBI single by Harper.

Continue reading

Mar 09

Keith Hernandez Knows A Lot Of Stuff, Including Baseball

There are few television analysts as knowledgeable and entertaining as Keith Hernandez, who, if you asked him the time would tell you how to build a watch.

HERNANDEZ: Don't forget to tip your waitresses.

HERNANDEZ: Don’t forget to tip your waitresses.

Not only does he know baseball, but today showed he could work on Animal Planet, The Weather Channel and do QVC, which ironically has its corporate headquarters across the street from Tradition Field.

When the Mets are in Washington, always expect a history lesson.

After the starting pitcher leaves the game during spring training, writers wander in and out of the pressroom and clubhouse, where the televisions are always on.

Today, Hernandez was in mid-season form, talking about the spinner sharks gathering off the beaches on the Atlantic post; how to survive a tornado; and hawked Icky Poo, a product designed to eliminate pet odors.

When somebody in the pressroom asked: “What is Icky Poo?”

As if on que, one writer said: `He’s coming into pitch.”