Apr 26

Mets Wrap: Cespedes Revisits 2015

The power is reminiscent of last year, but it finally felt, and sounded, like 2015 for the Mets in Tuesday night’s dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Cincinnati.

The Mets had done nothing against Reds’ left-hander Brandon Finnegan and trailed 3-0 heading into the seventh.

CESPEDES: Gives us 2015 feel. (AP)

CESPEDES: Gives us 2015 feel. (AP)

With one out, Juan Lagares – playing instead of Yoenis Cespedes who was missing his fourth straight game – walked, and Kevin Plawecki, starting for Travis d’Arnaud, who went on the DL earlier in the day, singled.

As Lucas Duda mulled around the on-deck circle, Reds manager Bryan Price conferred with Finnegan. Collins wasn’t trying to trick Price, but it turned out that way.

During this time, Cespedes was hitting in the batting cages behind the Mets’ dugout. Price could have gone out and pulled Finnegan, but left him in and Cespedes hit a rope on the first pitch to tie the game.

“You have to be special,’’ Collins told reporters about the type of player able to sieve the moment as Cespedes did. “You have to believe in yourself 100 percent.’’

Citi Field sounded this loud last August when Cespedes literally carried the Mets for a month. Curtis Granderson followed with a triple, and David Wright, who had struggled all night, singled to right for the go-ahead run.

“It helps for these guys to know they can come back and win,’’ Collins said. “That’s what helped us in the second half [last year].’’

Jeurys Familia’s third straight save sealed the Mets their first come-from-behind victory of the season. That’s something the Mets did regularly last year.

All the things that made the Mets magical last season: their ability to rally; their power and Cespedes’ ability to live in the moment; Bartolo Colon early in the game and Familia at the end, all were on display.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #19 Record: 12-7 Streak: W5

 SUMMARY: Cespedes carried the Mets to the playoffs last season after the deadline deal. He did so again Tuesday night with a dramatic three-run, pinch-hit homer

KEY MOMENT: The Mets trailed by 3-0 and had two runners on with one out when Cespedes pinch-hit for reliever Logan Verrett and drilled the first on a line for a game-tying home run.

THUMBS UP: Verrett picked up the victory for the second straight night. … Not only did Michael Conforto start against a left-hander, but was in the clean-up position where he had two hits. … Granderson had two hits. … No runs given up by the bullpen. … Familia seems to have re-gained his groove.

THUMBS DOWN: Two more strikeouts by Wright gives him 28 in 67 at-bats. … Wilmer Flores looks helpless at the plate with a .087 average.

 EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets didn’t score first, but they did win for the tenth time in 12 games. … Colon surpassed 3,000 career innings pitched. … Since April 15, the Mets lead the majors with 27 homers. … Familia has 56 career saves tying with Randy Myers for 11th place on the Mets’ career list.

QUOTEBOOK:   “He’s hurting and for him to come through like that gives everybody a lift,’’ – Collins on Wright’s game-winning hit in the seventh.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10: Consecutive victories by the Mets over the Reds.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey goes after his second victory Wednesday night. Harvey is 2-0 with a 2.36 ERA in four career starts against the Reds.

 

Apr 25

Mets Wrap: Conforto Should Stay At No. 3 Against Finnegan

When Terry Collins moved Michael Conforto to the third slot in the batting order, he left open the possibility of moving him against a left-hander.

Conforto ripped three more hits Monday night’s 5-3 victory over Cincinnati – including a homer in the first – but with left-hander Brandon Finnegan going Tuesday for the Reds, what will Collins do?

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

Here’s hoping he lost his righty-lefty book and keeps Conforto batting third. Most importantly, you don’t want Collins messing with a hot hitter and giving even the slightest hint of not having complete confidence in Conforto against left-handers.

Maybe, against Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner – the Giants are in this weekend – Conforto might move, but against Finnegan?

That would make no sense.

In going 3-for-3 with a walk, Conforto is hitting .378 (14-for-37) with eight runs scored, five doubles, three homers and eight RBI since moving to the No. 3 spot. He’s hitting .333 overall without even a whisper of a reason why he should be moved.

Even if Yoenis Cespedes can play Tuesday, Conforto should stay third. He said he’s always hit third and relishes the role. Those aren’t reasons why he should stay there. He should stay because he’s the best player for that role, even over Cespedes.

Tell me, the Mets have a runner on third with one out, who would you rather have at the plate, Cespedes of Conforto?

“It’s where you want to be,’’ Conforto told reporters about hitting third. ““You have to be a guy who uses the whole field,’’ Conforto said. “You have to have a good [hitting] zone and be able to shrink that and you want to be a guy who tends to hit well in big situations, a guy who drives runs in, you have to make sure those situations don’t get too big.’’

Third is the spot where a team traditionally bats its best hitter. Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays usually hit third in another era, as did Keith Hernandez for the 1986 champion Mets. Barry Bonds and a healthier David Wright most recently flourished hitting third.

I’m not saying Conforto will turn into an elite player like them – in his wildest dreams he probably hasn’t considered it – but he is the Mets’ best overall hitter.

“He drove in big runs, that’s why he’s hitting third,’’ Collins said.

Conforto spent a lot of time this winter working on situations a No. 3 would face, such as pulling inside fastballs; cutting down his hitting zone on specific counts; and hitting the ball on the ground or in the air depending on the game situation.

Collins said Conforto would likely be the Mets’ long-term No. 3 hitter. Don’t change things now.

METS GAME WRAP

 Game: #18 Record: 11-7 Streak: W4

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard labored most of the night, but home runs from Conforto, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker gave the Mets their fourth straight victory.

KEY MOMENT: Walker’s two-run homer in the seventh. When the Mets were on defense in the eighth fans chanted Walker’s name. Sweet.

THUMBS UP: Two hits, including a two-run homer in the third from Lucas Duda. … Logan Verrett struck out Ivan De Jesus with the go-ahead runner on third to end the seventh. … A 1-2-3- eighth in relief from Addison Reed. … Twelve strikeouts from Mets’ pitchers, including nine from Syndergaard. … A 1-2-3 stress-free ninth from Jeurys Familia.

THUMBS DOWN: The Reds stole five bases against the Syndergaard-Travis d’Arnaud battery. … Antonio Bastardo had a blown save. … Mets’ hitters struck out 10 times. … An 0-for-4 night from Wright with two strikeouts. … They were 1-for-9 with RISP. … d’Arnaud left the game with a sore right shoulder. Collins said it is too early to project it being a DL situation.

EXTRA INNINGS: The homer was Walker’s eighth of the month, the most he’s ever hit in a month. … The Mets have won nine of their last 11 games. … They have scored in the first inning in eight of their last ten games. … They’ve won nine straight against the Reds.

QUOTEBOOK: “That was pretty awesome,’’ Walker on he crowd chanting his name after his homer.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28: Mets’ homers in 18 games.

NEXT FOR METS: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 2.89) starts for the Mets against Reds’ Finnegan (1-1, 3.74). Colon gave up three runs in six innings with a no-decision in his last start, April 20, at Philadelphia. Colon in 4-1 with a 3.77 ERA in five career starts against the Reds.

Apr 23

April 23, Mets’ Lineup At Atlanta

Steven Matz will attempt to encore last Sunday’s stellar performance at Cleveland with another one tonight in Atlanta. If he pulls it off it will give the Mets their third straight series victory.

Curtis Granderson – RF
David Wright – 3B
Michael Conforto – LF
Lucas Duda – 1B
Neil Walker – 2B
Asdrubal Cabrera – SS
Travis d’Arnaud – C
Juan Lagares – CF
Matz – LHP

COMMENTS:  Lagares starts over Yoenis Cespedes, who aggravated his leg injury running the bases Friday night.

Apr 21

Today In Mets’ History: Gee Stuffs Nationals

On this date in 2013, Dillon Gee and four relievers combined to shut out the Washington Nationals, 2-0, at Citi Field. With the victory, the Mets moved over .500 at 9-8.

They wouldn’t stay there long.

GEE: A solid Met. (AP)

GEE: A solid Met. (AP

David Wright and Lucas Duda are the only starting position players from that game still on the team.

Gee threw a solid )game, giving up three hits with six strikeouts in 5.2 innings. LaTroy Hawkins, Brandon Lyon, Scott Rice and Bobby Parnell threw a combined 3.1 scoreless innings.

Catcher John Buck homered off the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmerman in the second and Mike Baxter hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Wright in the fourth.

Gee had a lot of these games for the Mets, where he’d make a solid spot start, but he never impressed them enough to get a real opportunity to make the rotation.

Mets fans should remember Gee as a solid pro who always took the ball regardless of the circumstances.

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Apr 20

Mets Must Leave Conforto Hitting Third

It won’t be long before the Mets  face a dominating left-hander such as Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw or Gio Gonzalez. When they do, I hope Terry Collins resists the temptation to move Michael Conforto out of the No. 3 hole. I also hope he resists moving him if Conforto has a couple of 0-for-4 nights.

CONFORTO: Needs to stay hitting third. (AP)

CONFORTO: Needs to stay hitting third. (AP)

The Mets are sizzling since moving Conforto to the third spot and scoring close to six runs a game during that span. It’s not all Conforto, but he certainly deserves some credit. What the Mets have had during this span is something they haven’t for a long time, and definitely not last year, and that’s a consistent batting order.

“I think that is where he’s going to end up hitting one of these days full time,” Collins told reporters. “We thought he was swinging the bat good, so we thought it was time to put him there and see if he can springboard the offense.”

That he’s done. This is easily the Mets’ best lineup since 2006, when they had Jose Reyes leading off and David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado lumped in the middle. However, this lineup is potentially better because it is strong 1-through-9. The additions of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker have made this lineup incredibly long.

Conforto in the three hole gives the Mets’ order a sense of stability. Curtis Granderson is a fixture leading off because the Mets don’t have a traditional No. 1 hitter the way Reyes once was. The Mets don’t have to count on Wright for power, so he’s fine batting second. Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda offer a right-left combination at Nos. 4 and 5, with both having 30-homer potential. Walker, Cabrera and Travis d’Arnaud are Nos. 6-7-8, with all having the potential of 15 homers.

Few lineups can match this potential.

Things might cool off at the bottom of the order. For example, I don’t expect Walker to continue this pace and hit 40 or more homers. But, what I do expect is Conforto to develop into a star. Another Carl Yastrzemski? Another Ted Williams? That’s dreaming. But, he can become a star and for that to happen he needs to stay in the lineup against left-handers.

The Mets are committed with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, but Collins seems to have hedged his bets with Conforto by saying he’ll sit, or move lower in the order, against lefties. Please NO. The only way Conforto will become the player the Mets hope is for him to hit lefties, and for this to happen he must bat against them.

Conforto said he’s comfortable hitting third because he’s always hit there.

“I never had any nervousness about it,” Conforto told reporters. “It just kind of felt natural, where I have been in college and through the minor leagues, so I felt pretty good there.”

Collins attributed part of Conforto’s success hitting third to batting ahead of Cespedes, who offers protection. Pitchers don’t want to walk Conforto because they don’t want to face Cespedes with men on base. Consequently, he’s getting better pitches and isn’t being worked around.

And, when pitchers make a mistake Conforto doesn’t miss.

Let’s hope Collins doesn’t become the man at the grill who can’t resist poking at the embers. Things are good now. Don’t fool with it.

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