May 12

Mets Waste Another Matt Harvey Start

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METS CAN’T AFFORD TO WASTE HARVEY (AP)

Terry Collins said the Mets are a different team with Matt Harvey, and that he gives them a presence a chance to win once every five days.

That makes it is especially troubling when they waste one of his starts, as they did in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Harvey, who flirted with perfection in his previous start Tuesday against the White Sox, has given up two runs over 16 innings in his last two games. After winning his first four starts, he’s had four no-decisions in his last four, giving up just five runs.

“He did his job,’’ Collins said of Harvey. “He can’t do the hitting for us. We needed him to take us deep into the game and that’s what he did. Matt did exactly what we wanted.’’

In defeat, the Mets lost three of four to Pittsburgh – a team they thought they should to beat, or at least compete against – and finished their homestand 2-4. They didn’t score more than three runs in any game of the homestand, and scored four or fewer runs in 15 of their last 17 games.

Since beating the Dodgers, April 24, the Mets have gone from 10-9 to 14-20. The Mets will try to get better Monday when they begin a four-game series at St. Louis, which has the best record in the National League.

RECORD/STANDINGS: 14-20, 4th place NL East.

ON THE MOUND: Harvey did not have his best stuff, but gave up only two runs on five hits in seven innings. He walked two, but struck out a season-low four. It was still a quality start, and one the Mets would take every time.

“That’s what we’re going to come to expect from that guy,’’ Collins said.

The Mets’ bullpen wasn’t able to pick up Harvey, with the Collins inexplicably letting lefthander Scott Rice in to walk Andrew McCutchen with one out in the eighth.

AT THE PLATE: Collins juggled his batting order once again, making it 30 different lineups in 34 games. For the first time this season he had Ike Davis and Lucas Duda back-to-back. He said he’ll leave it that way for the immediate future.

Duda homered, but Davis continued to give them nothing, striking out two more times, including taking three miserable swings on balls out of the strike zone with one out and the tying run on third in the eighth.

THEY SAID IT: “It was a disappointing at-bat for him,’’ Collins said of Davis’ strikeout in the eighth.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28: Strikeouts by Mets’ hitters the past two games.

ON DECK: Jeremy Hefner (0-4), Dillon Gee (2-4), Shaun Marcum (0-3) and Jon Niese (2-4) is the schedule rotation as the Mets begin a four-game series Monday in St. Louis. That’s a combined 4-15 before Harvey starts again.

Following the Cardinals, the Mets have a three-game series at Wrigley Field before three games each against Cincinnati and four against the Yankees.

May 08

Mets-White Sox Lineups

Overcast at Citi Field. The grounds crew is raking the infield and a few pitchers are heading to the bullpen.    Terry Collins should be speaking in about a half hour. He’s already posted his batting order for tonight’s game against the White Sox.

Jordany Valdespin, CF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Lucas Duda, LF

John Buck,  C

Mike Baxter, RF

Ike Davis, 1B

Ruben Tejada, SS

Jeremy Hefner, RHP

 

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.

May 05

Niese’s Struggles Continue; Mets Have Lost His Last Four Starts

There will be days like today, where the meltdown is complete in all phases, beginning with Jon Niese’s inability to get hitters out, an offense offering little resistance to Tim Hudson, and a porous defense.

NIESE: Didn't have it. (AP)

NIESE: Didn’t have it. (AP)

It’s not alarming the Mets couldn’t do anything to Hudson, but what should be a source of concern is Niese, who was hit hard in his fourth straight start – all lost by the Mets, today 9-4 at Turner Field.

Manager Terry Collins said Niese was too strong and overthrew his pitches, leading to his lack of control. Collins gave his pitcher an out, but Niese didn’t take it, saying he can’t afford to have games like this.

ON THE MOUND: Niese gave up seven runs on seven hits and six walks in four innings, and has been rocked for 14 runs in his last four starts, totaling 19 innings. One of those games was April 23, when he took a hard comebacker off his right ankle and lasted 2.1 innings. With Saturday’s rainout and tomorrow’s off day, the four innings worked by the bullpen shouldn’t be too taxing.

AT THE PLATE: David Wright had two hits, including another homer. That’s three in three days. … Mets had a chance in the eighth inning, but Marlon Byrd struck out swinging on a pitch that would have been ball four to end the inning.

IN THE FIELD: The official scorer was kind to the Mets, giving hits on balls misplayed by Lucas Duda and Wright. … John Buck failed to block two pitches in the dirt.

HARVEY PUSHED BACK: With Niese’s start rained out Saturday, Collins had the option of going with Niese, or starting Matt Harvey on normal rest. However, with Harvey throwing 121 pitches in his last start, Collins opted for extra rest, which was the right call. Harvey will start Tuesday against the White Sox. “You try to keep them as prepared as you can,’’ Collins said. “I don’t like it. That’s one of the issues we’ve talked about. We talked about it on the road trip in Colorado. This game is about routines and repetitions. When you get these guys out of these routines and their reps, it’s a problem.’’

BY THE NUMBERS: 6: Walks issued by Niese, tying a career high.

THEY SAID IT: “They were flat today.’’ – SNY analyst Ron Darling describing today’s loss that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

ON DECK: The Mets are off Monday, and then open a two-game series Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox.

May 03

Mets April Review: Matt Harvey The Bright Spot; Ike Davis Not

As it often has been with the Mets over the years, what was once good quickly and dramatically turned sour as 5-2 fell to 10-15.

The Mets rode Matt Harvey’s blistering start – they won five of his six starts – but have to be alarmed he was responsible for half their victories. Once again, the Mets fell victim to the same old vices that have crippled them for years.

The bullpen collapsed, the team went cold hitting with runners in scoring position, and they couldn’t overcome the gaping hole in the back end of their rotation and ended the month with a six-game losing streak and finished at 10-14.

DAVIS: Biggest disappointment of the month. (AP_

DAVIS: Biggest disappointment of the month. (AP)

PITCHER OF THE MONTH: Harvey was everything as advertised and yesterday was named the National League’s Pitcher of the Month, going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA. In 40.1 innings, Harvey struck out 46 while walking just 12.

PLAYER OF THE MONTH: The Mets’ biggest bat belonged to John Buck, who hit nine homers with 25 RBI. The Mets insist he wasn’t a throw-in in the R.A. Dickey trade, but with Travis d’Arnaud out for two months with a fractured foot, Buck will not be dangled soon. The pitchers swear by him.

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE MONTH: It can’t be anybody else but Ike Davis, who is on pace to strike out 196 times. Last year the Mets did not option Davis and let him work his way back to where he hit 32 homers. If this year’s start continues much longer, will they make the same decision?

SERIES OF THE MONTH: Playing in unbearable conditions, the Mets outscored the Twins in Minnesota by a combined 20-7 in winning two of three games. Harvey flirted with a no-hitter in the second game and the third was snowed out.

WORST SERIES OF THE MONTH: It would be easy to say their three losses in snowy and freezing Colorado, but that would be too easy. And, they deserve a break because of the weather. So, let’s make it the three games they were swept in Citi Field by the Phillies, April 26-28. The losses to Philadelphia comprised half their six-game losing streak. From there, the Mets lost consecutive one-run games in Miami, coughing up the lead in the ninth inning both times.

GAME OF THE MONTH: April 24, at Citi Field. The Mets couldn’t win a Harvey start, but sent the game into extra innings on David Wright’s two-out single in the ninth and Jordany Valdespin’s grand slam homer in the tenth.

WORST GAME OF THE MONTH: There were several to choose from, but let’s take Monday’s heartbreaker in Miami. Not only did they waste a Harvey start, but went 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position and blew two save opportunities in losing 4-3 in 15 innings.

METS’ APRIL BY THE NUMBERS: Buck’s nine homers and 25 RBI. … Davis’ .159 average with 29 strikeouts, which outnumbered his walks and hits combined. … Lucas Duda is second in the NL with 20 walks. … Daniel Murphy hit .350 (7-for-20) with RISP. … Wright hit .462 (12-for-26) with RISP. … The bullpen blew three save opportunities and has a 5.09 ERA. The Mets are 3-13 when the pen gives up a run. … Seven times the pen worked at least five innings, a direct reflection on the back end of the rotation. … Longest winning streak was three games and the longest losing streak was six games. … The Mets were 1-6 in one-run games. … Longest hitting streak: Eight games by Murphy. … The Mets used 22 different batting orders in 25 games for the month. … The Mets have used six different leadoff hitters. … Seven different pitchers started games, including Aaron Laffey, who started two and is no longer with the team. … The Mets hit three grand slams for the month.

QUESTIONS COMING OUT OF THE MONTH

Q: Is Matt Harvey for real?

A: Who really knows, but all indications are he is. Harvey’s numbers are impressive, but not as much as is composure and tenacity on the mound.

Q: How long will the Mets stay with Ike Davis?

A: Working in Davis’ favor is the Mets’ reluctance to move Lucas Duda to first base. Davis’ struggling also indicates how thin the Mets are in the minor leagues.

Q: Will they quit fooling around with Jordany Valdespin?

A: The Mets have used six different leadoff hitters. Also, Valdespin won two games with homers, but still languishes in a non-starting role.

Q: Is bullpen and outfield help on the way?

A: There has been some juggling and movement on the Vegas shuttle, but nothing of any substance.

Q: Zack Wheeler, how soon?

A: Wheeler is coming off his best start, but that’s not enough for the Mets to promote him. Should he have two or three like the last one, perhaps the end of the month?

THE MONTH AHEAD: The Mets snapped their losing streak May 1 with Valdespin’s homer Wednesday. The Mets are in Atlanta this weekend, a place where they have not fared well. There are few easy putts this month, as their schedule includes four games in St. Louis, three against Cincinnati and three more with the Braves at Citi Field, and four interleague games with the Yankees.

ON DECK: Later today I’ll continue my series on the 1973 World Series team, take a look at tonight’s starter and preview the Braves series.

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