May 14

Mets Wrap: Struggles Continue; Drop Into Third

It would happen eventually with the Mets, that their vaunted offense would sputter and couldn’t be carried by their pitching.

COLLINS: Bad call costs Mets. (AP)

COLLINS: Bad call costs Mets. (AP)

Logan Verrett, starting in place of Steven Matz, was shelled, and for the third straight game the offense provided little. Together it added up to a 7-4 loss Saturday night to the Colorado Rockies.

The loss, coupled with Philadelphia beating Cincinnati, dropped the Mets into third behind the Phillies. That’s third behind the Phillies.

The Mets were eight games over .500 when they began their season-long 11-game road trip. They close it out Sunday having already lost six games.

Manager Terry Collins insists on saying he has a power-hitting team, but they’ve only scored 29 runs in the ten games so far on this trip and scored three runs or less six times. Add to that Matt Harvey falling deeper into his funk; Matz is ailing; and Bartolo Colon was shelled in his last start.

Jacob deGrom hopes to put the brakes on this slide before the Mets return home to face Washington.

METS GAME WRAP

May 14, 2016

Game: #36   Score: Rockies 7, Mets 4

Record: 21-15  Streak: L 3

Standings: Third, NL East 1.5 GB Nationals and half-game behind Philadelphia   Playoffs Today: Second WC vs. Philadelphia

Runs: 143 Average: 3.97  Times 3 runs or less: 15

SUMMARY: Verrett was hammered, but by the time the offense showed signs of life in the sixth the hole was too deep.

KEY MOMENT:  Catcher Tony Wolters’ two-run double in the third broke the game open. The double came after a controversial call by home plate umpire Carlos Torres that resulted in Collins being ejected. Torres said the ball was tipped, but replays didn’t show it that way.

THUMBS UP: Neil Walker broke out of his slump with three hits, including getting back his home run trot (No. 10). … The Mets had 13 hits, including bunching four together in the sixth. … Another good appearance by Sean Gilmartin. … Ditto for Jim Henderson. … Two hits by David Wright, including a hustle double leading off the seventh.

THUMBS DOWN: Verrett gave up seven runs on ten hits in 2.2 innings. … Mets went 3-for-11 with RISP and left eight. … Only one walk? Hard to believe.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Matz might not throw tomorrow. The Mets haven’t said if he’s in or out of the Washington series. … DeGrom is 2-0 lifetime against the Rockies. … Wright could sit Sunday. There’s talk the Mets should drop Wright in the order, but his on-base percentage is a team-high .376.

QUOTEBOOK: “It’s unfair. No reason for it. [The hitter] was heading back to the dugout. [The umpire] said he heard it. You can’t challenge it. … It cost us the game. End of story.” – Collins on the blown call by umpire Torres.

BY THE NUMBERS: 43: Number of at-bats between homers for Walker. 

NEXT FOR METS:  DeGrom starts Sunday.

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May 13

Mets Wrap: Harvey Ripped Again

HARVEY: Struggles again. (Getty)

HARVEY: Struggles again. (Getty)

So much for an encore for Matt Harvey. Coming off his best start of the season and providing a reason for optimism, Harvey pitched out of early trouble but again caved in the middle innings in Friday night’s 5-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies.

Part of Harvey’s problem was a drop in velocity to 91 mph., to go along with his lack of command. Harvey (3-5, 4.93) didn’t walk a batter, but was consistently behind in the count.

Harvey gave five runs on 11 hits in 5.2 innings, throwing 101 grueling pitches. This year he has given up 26 runs on 57 hits in 45.2 innings.

Tom Glavine always said he felt more tired after games in Coors Field because of the altitude. Whether that was the problem or something else, Harvey repeatedly was seen flexing his arm on the mound and he looked positively gassed after leading the game.

Once again following a Harvey start we are wondering what is wrong.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #35   Record: 21-14   Streak: L 2

Standings: Second, NL East, 1 GB Washington

Runs: 139     Average per game: 3.97    Times scoring 3 runs or less: 15

SUMMARY:  Once again, Harvey labored in the middle innings, giving two runs in the fourth, and single runs in the fifth and sixth innings, to take his fifth loss of the season.

KEY MOMENT:  Harvey gave a leadoff single in the fifth to the opposing pitcher, Jon Gray, who scored the go-ahead run.

THUMBS UP: Kevin Plawecki’s two-run double in the second. … Asdrubal Cabrera’s play saved the Mets a run in the fifth. … A good bounce-back outing by Hansel Robles with two perfect innings.

THUMBS DOWN:  Harvey’s velocity, command and line. … Mets’ hitters struck out 11 times. … Only six hits. … David Wright struck out three times.

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets’ 11-game winning streak over the Rockies was snapped. … Wright’s string of walks in 11 straight games ended. …  Wright is now on a 0-for-14 slide. … Michael Conforto tripled and is now 6-for-42.

QUOTEBOOK: “There are two types of people in this game. Those that have been humbled and those who are going to be humbled.” – Mets manager Terry Collins on Harvey’s troubles.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0-16: Harvey’s record when the Mets score two runs or less.

NEXT FOR METS:  Logan Verrett replaces Steven Matz Saturday. Jacob deGrom starts Sunday.

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Apr 30

Revisiting Top 20 Mets’ Questions

Entering the season I suggested  20 questions the Mets would need to answer in the positive for them to return to the World Series. From performance to health to various intangibles, every team faces important questions and they don’t disappear just because it played in the World Series the year before.

At the time, I wrote I would periodically revisit those questions to measure how the Mets are progressing.

Here’s how they are doing:

Q: Will they have a World Series hangover or let down?

A: There were a few red flags and a 2-5 start, but they closed the month with a power surge, clubbing 31 homers in their last 14 games. Last April they won 11 straight. They closed the month winning eight straight and 13 of 15. There’s no appearance of any hangover and it looks as if we’ll have our Mets-Nationals pennant race.

WALKER: Mets' player for April. (AP)

WALKER: Mets’ player for April. (AP)

Q: How will manager Terry Collins respond to being a favorite?

A: So far, so good. I wasn’t crazy about him calling the eighth game of the season “must win.” And, I didn’t like him playing David Wright for the whole game Friday with the explanation he wanted him to face the Giants’ lefty relievers in preparation for facing Madison Bumgarner Sunday. What, Wright has never faced a lefty before? But, I do like him moving Michael Conforto to the No. 3 hole, which was the catalyst for the offensive surge. I also liked how he let Hansel Robles face Freddie Freeman when he could have played the lefty-righty percentages. Best of all, I liked how he admitted the Mets might have made a mistake in not giving his starters enough work during spring training. Overall, he’s done a solid job worthy of his extension.

Q: What’s going on with Matt Harvey?

A: After a 7.50 spring training ERA and 0-3 start, there were understandably questions about Harvey. A lot is always demanded from Harvey, and after making it through last season without any problems following Tommy John surgery, the expectations are even higher. He’s pitched better in his last two starts, both wins. No reason for concern right now.

Q: Will Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard pitch to ace status?

A: Syndergaard has been incredible consistently throwing in the high 90s. His secondary pitches have also been dominant. DeGrom missed time with a strained lat muscle and tending to his family because of complications following the birth of his son. Both child and lat are doing fine. He didn’t have a smooth start Saturday against the Giants, but as usually the case with him, he finds a way to pitch through trouble.

Q: What can we expect from Steven Matz?

A: I would say an awful lot. He was hammered in his first start, but won his last three. Matz has been terrific, but like deGrom and Harvey, he’s throwing too many pitches for the innings he works. That eventually could catch up to the bullpen.

Q: How long can the Mets ride Bartolo Colon?

A: Nothing has changed, the plan remains for him to be in the rotation until Zack Wheeler is brought up, which should be around July 1. He would then move to the bullpen.

Q: How thick is Jeurys Familia’s skin?

A: So far, it has been like leather. Familia recently has worked his way out of a tough stretch. He’s converted all seven of his save opportunities with a 2.45 ERA.

Q: How sturdy is the bridge to Familia?

A: This might have been the Mets’ most important pre-season issue, but the bullpen has been solid in all phases. Addison Reed has been a very capable set-up reliever and Antonio Bastardo has pitched well despite a poor spring training. Jim Henderson and Logan Verrett have been more than pleasant surprises. Robles is getting more chances to shine and he’s delivering.

Q: Paging Travis d’Arnaud, are you there?

A: Nope. Once again, he’s on the disabled list, this time with a strained rotator cuff. The Mets still don’t know what he can produce over 500 at-bats and might not find out this year, either. He wasn’t hitting or throwing well at the time of the injury.

Q: Will Lucas Duda be more consistent?

A: When Conforto was moved to the No. 3 hole, Yoenis Cespedes went to clean-up and Duda was dropped to fifth. He’s hitting .240 with four homers and 14 RBI, and again has proven streaky. Four homers a month will give him 24 for the year, which is short of his expectations. Also short of what the Mets want from him.

Q: Will Neil Walker make people forget Daniel Murphy?

A: Walker has been the Mets’ Player of the Month for April with nine homers, tying him with Dave Kingman (1976), Carlos Delgado (2006) and John Buck (2013) for the club record. Sure, Murphy was a terrific month, but Walker has been better than advertised. The question now is: How hard will the Mets try to bring him back?

Q: Is Asdrubal Cabrera an upgrade over Wilmer Flores at shortstop?

A: Cabrera has done it both in the field and at the plate. There’s no uneasiness when a grounder is hit to him.

Q: What can we expect from Wright?

A: Still nobody knows. It takes him two hours to get ready for a game and his back is always a question. Which is why it was foolish to let him play nine innings in a blowout game Friday night. Why push the envelope? Wright has two homers and only five RBI hitting mostly in the second spot in the order. He’s only hitting .143 (3-for-21) with RISP. It’s not about hitting for power, it is about hitting a single when you need it.

Q: One and done for Cespedes?

A: That’s the chance the Mets took when they gave Cespedes an out clause after one season in his three-year deal. If it does happen that way, it has been a fun ride. Cespedes still has his lapses in the field, but he’s locked in at the plate with seven homers and 23 RBI for the month. However, he is on pace to strike out over 200 times.

Q: A breakout year for Conforto?

A: it is sure looking that way. Conforto lit the offense on fire since moving to the No. 3 hole. He closed the month reaching base in 17 straight games and tying a club record with doubles in six straight. He has four homers in his last 14 games. Everything he hits seems to be hard and on a line. Plus, he’s making the plays in the field. He’s not a star in the making. He already is a star.

Q: Will we get another 90 walks from Curtis Granderson?

A: After a slow start Granderson is on a roll. He’s scored 15 runs in his last 13 games and has a .350 on-base percentage. He also has four homers. Granderson still strikes out a lot and isn’t trying to steal anymore.

Q: How deep is the bench?

A: Kevin Plawecki is now a starter with d’Arnaud’s injury. Collins needs to find a way to get Alejandro De Aza and Flores more at-bats. Eventually, the Mets will need them. Rene Rivera is now the backup catcher.

Q: Who gets injured?

A: That’s always the wild card. Right now it is d’Arnaud. Cespedes missed several games with a bruised right leg, then hit a pinch-hit three-run homer to tie a game this week against Cincinnati. Harvey entered the season a question because of a bladder infection. He’s fine now. DeGrom’s lat was a scare, but he’s also fine. Wright, of course, is always a concern.

Q: What’s going with the Nationals?

A: The Nationals sprinted out of the gate and opened up a five-game lead on April 16 that is now down to a half-game. MVP Bryce Harper is playing as if he wants to win it again. Their pitching has also been strong and Murphy is playing well.

Q: Can the Mets get off to another fast start?

A: An 11-game winning streak keyed a 15-8 April record last year and gave them a buffer to overcome injuries and a drastic hitting slump. The Mets had another strong April this year at 15-7, which they needed to keep pace with Washington. The Nationals come to town for a three-game series, May 17-19, and the Mets are in Washington, May 23-25.

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Apr 18

Mets Wrap: Wright’s Power Now A Bonus

The Mets were once a team built around the power of third baseman David Wright. Injuries sapped his power in recent seasons, and with Michael Conforto seemingly set as the No. 3 hitter, Wright is entrenched hitting second, a position in the order that doesn’t demand a lot of power. And, with Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda batting fourth and fifth, not to mention Curtis Granderson at leadoff, the Mets have sources of power from other than Wright.

So, when he has games such as he did Monday, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say his power is now a bonus. However, how he went deep was what we’ve come to expect from Wright when he’s on his game. When Wright hit a pair of opposite-field homers in Monday night’s 5-2 victory at Philadelphia, it shouldn’t come as a surprise of his power to right field. When Wright is going well, he usually drives the ball to right or up the middle.

“It’s something that when I’m feeling decent up there, I can take a pitch out over the plate in that direction,” Wright said.

In doing so, Wright continued to make Citizen Bank Park his personal playground, hitting .293 with 22 homers and 69 RBI in the Phillies’ home stadium.

“Star players should never surprise you with what they can do,” manager Terry Collins told reporters after the game. “He’s dangerous here. In this ballpark, if he puts a good swing on the ball he can be dangerous.”

And, with the other boppers in the Mets’ lineup, their whole order is dangerous.

Mets Game Wrap

Game:  #12  Record: 6-6  Streak: W 2

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard struck out eight Phillies – giving him 29 over his first three starts – and backed by the two homers from Wright, and solo drives from Lucas Duda and Neil Walker, the Mets evened their record and have now won three of their last four games on the road.

KEY MOMENT: Back-to-back homers from Duda and Walker broke open the game in the eighth.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera doubled and started a double play in the field. He keeps doing the job. So far, he’s been a big plus. … A scintillating barehand pick-up and throw by Wright to end the third. … Cespedes legged out a triple with two out in the sixth, a sure sign his legs are feeling better. … Duda followed the double with an opposite-field double. … Four homers by Walker already.

THUMBS DOWN: A dozen more strikeouts from Mets’ hitters, including two more from Cespedes, who now has 18 in 12 games with only four walks. The Mets have 98 strikeouts in 12 games (8.16 per game average). … Jeurys Familia was hit hard, but survived the ninth.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Great news. Jacob deGrom took his son, Jaxson, home from the hospital. DeGrom will throw a bullpen Tuesday and could pitch in Atlanta this weekend. … Kevin Plawecki started behind the plate. Collins said d’Arnaud could be available Tuesday. …

QUOTEBOOK:  “He’s gotten so good, so fast, that it is remarkable,” – Collins on Syndergaard.

BY THE NUMBERS: 11: Mets’ homers in their last four games.

NEXT FOR METS: Logan Verrett starts Tuesday night against the Phillies’ Vince Velasquez.

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Apr 15

Mets Wrap: Power Backs Colon

METS GAME WRAP

Mets 6, Indians 5

Game: #9 Record: 4-5 Streak: W 2

SUMMARY: The sluggish Mets’ offense got homers from Michael Conforto, Alejandro De Aza, Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker to back Bartolo Colon. The victory was the 219th of Colon’s career, tying him with Pedro Martinez for second behind Juan Marichal for a Dominican-born pitcher. For the first time in ten years, the Mets hit three homers in one inning on the road when De Aza, Cespedes and Walker connected in the fifth.

KEY MOMENT: Cleveland’s Carlos Santana’s two-run homer in the first was taken off the board after the umpires conferred and changed the call and restored the score to 1-1.

THUMBS UP: De Aza got his first three hits with the Mets, a homer, double and single. De Aza also made a sparkling diving catch in the ninth. … Wright has reached base in all nine games, and 18 straight dating back to last year. … Three hits from Cespedes. … They got what they needed from Colon.

THUMBS DOWN: A poor throw from Wright. … Still don’t like the idea of not playing Wright as the DH in the AL park. … Two Mets – Walker and De Aza – were thrown out at the plate on relays from Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. Third base Tim Teufel waved De Aza home in the eighth. … The Mets also went 0-10 with RISP and stranded ten runners. … They couldn’t avoid going to Jeurys Familia in the ninth.

EXTRA INNINGS: Jacob deGrom threw a light bullpen Friday in Florida, but is likely to miss his second straight start Tuesday because of a tight right lat muscle. Expect deGrom to be placed on the disabled list and Logan Verrett to replace him in Philadelphia. Verrett threw six scoreless innings in replacing deGrom against the Marlins. The Mets finally said deGrom underwent a MRI. … Former Met Juan Uribe had three hits.

QUOTEBOOK: “I enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun and hope to do it again.’’ – Conforto on hitting third.

BY THE NUMBERS: 14: Mets’ season-high in hits.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey starts against Josh Tomlin.

ON DECK: Don’t Give Credit For Mets’ Power Surge To Collins’ Rant

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