Jul 27

Three Mets’ Storylines: Loss A Gut Check

The Mets’ 2015 signature was resiliency; their ability to bounce back from adversity and seemingly crushing defeat.

It was around this time last season when Jeurys Familia blew his last save in a rain-soaked, thought-to-be devastating loss to San Diego. The night before Wilmer Flores endeared himself to Mets Nation when he shed tears out at shortstop after thinking he’d been traded.

What happened next will forever be a part of Mets’ lore. GM Sandy Alderson got Yoenis Cespedes in a trade, Flores homered to beat Washington and become an iconic presence, and the Mets sizzled into the World Series. In their champagne drenched clubhouses in Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field, to a man, the Mets trumpeted their ability to get off the mat as to what their team about.

CESPEDES: Can't do it all. (AP)

CESPEDES: Can’t do it all. (AP)

It’s time to show that quality again, following the season’s most disappointing and potentially devastating loss of the season, 5-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals, Wednesday night after Familia’s first blown save.

“This is really a tough one to take,” drained Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters. “When you come back on Adam Wainwright and have a chance to win the game, that’s a pretty big night. And then to have your closer, who just has been lights out, give up two, that’s a little tougher to take.”

Will it turn bitter and send them on an out-of-control slide or force that character to the surface?

Logan Verrett gave the Mets a chance to win, giving up three runs in seven innings. But, in the bottom half of the inning and a run already in to pull the Mets within a run, on the ninth-pitch of a heavyweight battle, Cespedes swung to create two unmistakable sounds.

There was the crack of the bat that punctuates a Cespedes home run and the explosion of emotion that engulfed Citi Field, which hadn’t been this loud since last October.

Cespedes wasn’t even back in the dugout when the inevitable thought was raised: Could this be the at-bat, the game, to propel the Mets?

With Familia riding a streak of 52 consecutive saves, it was a logical conclusion.

Addison Reed stuffed the Cardinals, 1-2-3 in the eighth, but it wasn’t long before Familia, who has given us jitters before, showed he didn’t have it.

Familia got the first hitter, but then walked Jedd Gyorko on four pitches. Gyorko homered swinging at first-pitch fastballs in both games of Tuesday’s doubleheader, so Familia was going to be careful. He was too careful with sliders away.

Then Yadier Molina, who has broken Mets’ hearts before, doubled over the head of center fielder Juan Lagares and pinch-runner Randal Grichuk scored standing up to tie the game.

“I think I left it a little bit in the middle, and he made a good swing,” the stand-up Familia told reporters of the pitch to Molina.

The Mets appeared off the hook with no less than a tie when Molina was caught going to third on Jeremy Hazelbaker’s bouncer back to the mound. However, Hazelbaker quickly stole second and scored on Kolten Wong’s pinch-hit double.

Citi Field was now as quiet as it was in the last inning of Game 5 of the World Series.

The Mets’ season ended that night. What will become of it after Wednesday night?

“We’re hoping,” Collins said on bouncing back. “This is something we haven’t had happen for a long time … Jeurys Familia with a blown save. We have to back tomorrow.”

It might be imperative.

The emotional turmoil was the first of three main storylines. The others were:

ESSENCE OF CESPEDES: Cespedes is clearly hobbling, but plays anyway for the chance at what happened in the seventh when he hit his first homer since July 5.

Cespedes’ importance to the Mets is further underscored in that they were 2-for-14 with RISP Wednesday, and just 4-for-33 in the series.

“We didn’t get past that,” Collins said the Mets’ primary issue this season. “We had a lot of opportunities to score some runs.”

If there was a bright spot to the offense – outside of Cespedes – it was a Neil Walker sighting.

Walker entered the game on a 2-for-39 slide, but reached base four times on three hits and a walk.

VERRETT START WASTED: Last season at Colorado, in replacing an injured Matt Harvey, Verrett might have come up with the most important start of the season for the Mets.

Verrett always says his job is to give his team a chance to win and he did that by giving up three runs in seven innings.

As the trade deadline approaches there’s concern by some the Mets might need another starter, but that won’t be the case if he keeps pitching the way he has in his last two starts.

Jul 22

Three Mets’ Storylines: This Is Why They Got Reyes

The Mets gambled bringing back Jose Reyes because they needed a leadoff hitter to spark their listless offense. What they envisioned came to fruition Friday night in Miami in what truly can be described as a must-win game.

Reyes ripped three hits, scored two runs, drove in another, stole a base and had several sparkling defensive plays in a 5-3 victory to pull them within a half-game of the Marlins for the final wild-card spot.

REYES: Huge spark tonight. (Getty)

REYES: Huge spark tonight. (Getty)

“I needed to step up my game a little bit and set the tone,” Reyes told SNY. “We know we had to win the first game of the series because they have [Jose] Fernandez going tomorrow and he’s one of the best pitchers in the league.”

The Mets’ offense still has holes, but if Reyes keeps having games like Friday’s, leadoff won’t be one of them.

“This guy produces runs,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “We have a lot of games left to play and hopefully he’ll be a big part of our line-up. … Hopefully, he’ll have a lot more like this.”

In addition to Reyes, the Mets got two sacrifice flies from Yoenis Cespedes and a two-run homer by James Loney.

Reyes did commit a throwing error, but overall his defense at third has exceeded expectations. More games like Friday’s will greatly increase Reyes’ chances of coming back next year.

The following are the other two storylines in the game the Mets needed:

BULLPEN SCRIPT: In their perfect world, the Mets want a bullpen script of Hansel Robles in the seventh (he also got the last two outs in the sixth), Addison Reed in the eighth and Jeurys Familia in the ninth.

Of course, with Familia it isn’t always easy. Cespedes misplayed Christian Yelich’s line drive into a double and Familia walked Marcell Ozuna to bring the tying run to the plate.

However, as he did in Chicago, Familia regrouped and struck out Derek Dietrich, and after Martin Prado’s RBI single, Adeiny Hechavarria grounded out to lock down his 50th straight save.

The bullpen picked up Logan Verrett, who gave up two runs in 5.1 innings, which should merit another start in the rotation. However, I’m not sure if he’s shown enough to prevent the Mets

WALKER STRUGGLES: Second baseman Neil Walker, who captivated Mets’ fans with nine homers and 19 RBI in April, continued to flounder as he went 0-for-5 to see his average drop to .242 and on-base percentage slide to .311.

Walker has only two hits in his last 32 at-bats in the last nine games he’s played.

With Fernandez being a tough nut to crack, it might not be a bad idea of resting him Saturday and letting Wilmer Flores play second.

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.

 

Jun 28

Mets Messing With Matz

I recently read something pretty funny about Mets pitcher Steven Matz. Actually, not so much funny as it was maddening. Matz, scratched from Wednesday’s start in Washington because of pain in his elbow caused by a bone spur, will now go Thursday against the Cubs.

That’s not the funny part. The punchline is the Mets say they have been assured by team doctors Matz can’t hurt himself any further, at least not to his elbow. How can that be? Are these some kind of special doctors who can see into the future?

MATZ: Doctors can't guarantee anything.  (Getty)

MATZ: Doctors can’t guarantee anything. (Getty)

There are no guarantees in life, especially when it comes to health and medicine. No doctor can project the future with an injury like this. Perhaps the weekend warrior or country club tennis player, can get by being treated with anti-inflammatories, rest or a cortisone injection.

However, Matz is a baseball pitcher, and what he does requires an incredible amount of tension and torque on the elbow.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s definition, a bone spur is when bony projections develop on the surface of the bone. They can cause swelling, pain and depending what rubs against it, tearing of tissue or tendons or ligaments. Reports are Matz’s MRI showed the spurs aren’t in an area where they can imminently rub against a ligament. But, who is to say that can’t change with a violent twist of the elbow?

GM Sandy Alderson described Matz’s condition as a matter of pain tolerance, which is comforting if you’re not named Steven Matz.

“At this point, it’s a function of whether he can tolerate the discomfort while continuing to pitch,” Alderson told reporters. “What we will do is monitor that level of discomfort.”

However, history is full of examples of pitchers who overcompensate for one injury by creating another. Pain in one’s elbow can cause a pitcher to subtly alter his mechanics to where it might impact his shoulder or elsewhere in the elbow.

No doctor can guarantee Matz won’t change his mechanics. Perhaps, the change is so slight nobody will notice, and Matz might not feel anything. At first.

Maybe Matz can give us a John Wayne and pitch through this initially, but it could prohibit him from effectively throwing his breaking balls or prevent him from dialing up his fastball.

There have already been reports Matz might require surgery this winter, so this is far from being nothing. And, considering the Mets’ history in handling injuries, from the Alderson administration to Omar MInaya’s to Steve Phillips, I’m not buying this “it can’t get worse,” theory. There have been too many cases of things going wrong.

Matz won’t pitch Wednesday, but pushing him back one day hardly will make much of a difference. Matz’s career has already been sidetracked by Tommy John surgery, so it’s beyond me why he’d even fool around with this.

Jun 11

Mets Wrap: Walker Injured; Options Available

Here’s a shock, the Mets have another player down with a lower back injury and it has manager Terry Collins concerned. Very concerned.

VERRETT: Torched by Brewers. (AP)

VERRETT: Torched by Brewers. (AP)

Neil Walker left Saturday’s 7-4 loss at Milwaukee with tightness in his lower back. He won’t play Sunday and beyond that the Mets don’t know of his availability.

At this point, the disabled list can’t be discounted. David Wright (herniated disk in his neck) and Lucas Duda (stress fracture) are already on the disabled list with back-related injuries.

Walker grounded into an inning-ending double play in the third and was out of the game in the fourth.

“`With what we’ve been seeing, yeah,” Collins told reporters if he was concerned, saying Duda’s soreness turned out to be a broken back.

“Any time you’re talking about the lower back there is a concern.”

Collins said Walker will be examined Sunday, but what happens next nobody knows. Of course, you must assume the worst, which is usually what you have to do when it comes to the Mets and injuries.

Walker said he’s not concerned and hopes to play Tuesday.

Kelly Johnson will likely play tomorrow, but beyond that we could end up seeing Dilson Herrera up from the minors sooner than we expected. I floated the idea of signing Jimmy Rollins, but unless Walker’s injury is severe, they won’t do anything substantial.

METS GAME WRAP

June 11, 2016, @ Milwaukee

Game: #61          Score:  Brewers 7, Mets 4

Record: 34-27    Streak: L 1

Standings: Second, NL East, three games behind Washington.  Playoffs: First WC.

Runs: 226    Average:  3.7   Times 3 runs or less: 30

SUMMARY:  Logan Verrett gave up three homers in a spot start and Mets’ pitching surrendered five overall.

KEY MOMENT: Curtis Granderson tripled to lead off the third and was stranded. … Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta hit a two-run homer in the fourth.

THUMBS UP: Two hits by Cabrera, including a two-run homer in the second. … Granderson had three hits and fell a double short of a triple. …

THUMBS DOWN:  Verrett gave up five runs on four hits and four walks in four innings. … Reliever Hansel Robles walked two. … Antonio Bastardo gave up two homers in the seventh. … Mets’ hitters struck out nine and their pitchers walked seven.

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets had won six straight before losing Saturday. … The Mets have 83 homers, third in the league. … The Mets’ pen has given up 18 homers. … Travis d’Arnaud caught in a rehab assignment in Port St. Lucie.

QUOTEBOOK: “He threw 80 pitches in four innings. That’s a lot.’’ – Collins on Verrett’s performance.

BY THE NUMBERS:  5-for-51: The numbers behind Michael Conforto’s recent slump.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz (7-2, 2.39) vs. RP Zach Davies (4-3, 4.29) at Milwaukee, Sunday. … The Mets are off Monday then begin a three-game series Tuesday against Pittsburgh at Citi Field.

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