Apr 10

Hefner Clobbered In Mets 7-3 Loss To Phillies

jeremy hefner

The Philadelphia Phillies handed the Mets their first series loss of the season tonight as they pounded the Amazins’ by a score of 7-3 in a game that featured six home runs at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

Jeremy Hefner took the hill for the Mets and and for the second night in a row a Mets starting pitcher failed to get past the third inning. Hefner struggled right from the get-go surrendering five earned runs including home runs from Chase Utley and Dominic Brown. All of his offerings were up and in the hot zone and the Phillies made him pay dearly for it.

The bullpen was forced to deliver six innings of relief for the second night in a row and once again it was a mixed bag. Josh Edgin was nearly flawless, delivering two scoreless innings and striking out four in his sixth appearance of the season with a 1.59 ERA. He won’t last long at this pace. Scott Rice and Bobby Parnell also kept the Phillies off the board. LaTroy Hawkins was nailed for a two run homer and his ERA has now ballooned to 8.59 so far this season. He’s not missing any bats and hitters are feasting on him.

Lucas Duda had a coming out party with two home runs and a double and he’s getting his mojo back. He has his average up to .308 now and look is comfortable at the plate again. Good for him…

Jordany Valdespin is an absolute stud and made Terry Collins eat his words tonight with two more spectacular catches in centerfield that were jaw-dropping grabs.

On Opening Day, when Collins was asked why Valdespin didn’t win a starting job after arguably the best performance in spring training, he responded’ “We’re very concerned about Jordany’s outfield defense.” You may want to get your eyes examined, Skip…

Valdespin was a catalyst both on the field and at the plate where he banged out three hits while batting leadoff in his first start of the season. It was the first three-hit game of his career and they were all infield singles that relied on his blazing speed.

Did someone say John Buck? Man oh man, Buck is on one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now. He is unstoppable and at this point pitchers have got to be nuts for trying to get a fastball by him. His eyes expand as big as golf balls and he makes a meal out of them.

Buck hit his fifth homer of the season, matching what all the Mets catchers combined to hit last season.  I have no idea how long this hot-streak will last, but I’m buckled in and I’m enjoying the thrill ride.

Right now, the Mets have just two reliable pitchers in the rotation and it doesn’t look like there’s any urgency to fix the backend of the rotation. That spells doom for the bullpen who may become completely gassed before the end of the month.

When that happens, it will be a struggle to avoid a 90 loss season, and even the eventual debuts of Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud won’t keep that from happening. This team is in trouble and needs some real production from David Wright who has yet to homer, and Ike Davis who looks like a butcher at the plate. It’s not time to hit the panic button yet, but it’s certainly time to start passing around the life jackets just in case.

The Mets are off tomorrow and travel to Minnesota for a three-game weekend series that begins Friday night. Collins has got a lot of thinking to do tomorrow, and he may want to start by reconsidering some of his ill-advised lineup and roster choices.

Apr 10

Valdespin Heads Tonight’s Mets Lineup

VALDESPIN: Now a candidate. (AP)

VALDESPIN: Earn’s a start after a tripling and scoring on Tuesday.

The Mets will attempt to win their third consecutive series tonight in Philadelphia, but the match-up of starter Jeremy Hefner against the Phillies is not a good one for them.

Hefner took the loss in his last start against Miami, but gave the Mets a good effort, giving up a run in six innings. It was a quality start that manager Terry Collins will take every time.

What Collins can’t afford – if for no other reason than to save his bullpen – is what Hefner gave the Mets in his last start against the Phillies. Last September, Hefner lost 16-1 in a game where he gave up seven runs on six hits and a walk without recording an out. It rarely gets worse than that, simply because pitchers don’t get to stay in that long when they are that bad.

Hefner is 1-1 with a 15.95 career ERA against the Phillies. The assumption is Collins will have somebody get up in the bullpen early, but the reality is Hefner might have to take one for the team if the game gets out of hand quickly.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against the Phillies Kyle Kendrick:

Jordany Valdespin, CF: Hit .313 in spring training to earn a spot on the roster. Tripled last night to earn himself a start tonight.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Raised average to .333 by going 10-for-his-last-30, which includes a five-game hitting streak.

David Wright, 3B: Is 8-for-28, including 2-for-5 with RISP.

Ike Davis, 1B: Back in lineup tonight after resting against Cliff Lee. Has four hits this season and ten strikeouts.

John Buck, C: Hitting .393 and leads team with four homers and 14 RBI, the latter leads the NL. Has homered in consecutive games.

Lucas Duda, LF: Has seven walks, which is a most encouraging stat. Has a .452 on-base percentage, which is seventh in NL.

Mike Baxter, RF: Gets a start, but still think he deserves a chance to lead off. … Led majors with .458 average as pinch-hitter.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Is on a 5-for-26 slide to start the season. Also has four errors.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Was ninth in NL in ERA last year at 5.09.

Apr 10

Mets Have Rotation Concerns; Wheeler Not Answer

The night Dillon Gee had in Philadelphia happens to all pitchers. It happened to Stephen Strasburg the other day. It will happen to Matt Harvey. It is premature to worry about Gee two starts into the season. It was not a game worthy of capital punishment.

It was a file-and-forget game.

GEE: Spent week in Philly last night. (AP)

GEE: Spent week in Philly last night. (AP)

“There’s not a whole lot to say. A terrible night,’’ Gee told reporters. “But you’ve got to move past it.’’

He’s right, so let’s move on to something worthy of concern.

With Gee’s short outing and Aaron Laffey not getting through five innings Sunday, the Mets’ bullpen has worked 4.2 and five innings in two of the last three games. That’s over the equivalent of an entire game.

The accumulation of innings by the bullpen is already a concern for manager Terry Collins as it indicates a three-fold problem: 1) the Mets have a problem with the back end of their rotation, 2) they lack a quality long man, somebody who can give them three or more innings when a game gets away early, and 3) this will eventually add up to a bullpen meltdown.

That is why Collins took Lucas Duda out of the game in a double-switch in the fourth inning. He explained the need to get two innings out of Greg Burke, and the No. 9 spot in the order was due up second the next inning.

It makes total sense.

Last night was the 51st start of Gee’s career, and he’s gone at least five innings in 47 of them, so let’s not get crazy with him. However, he’s also a No. 3 starter and the Mets need him to get out of the sixth on a consistent basis.

The difference between five and six innings over a full season – considered 34 starts – is 34 innings, or roughly four games. It adds up and if Collins is already thinking of these things, it isn’t an indication of comfort.

That’s why the Mets’ refusal to consider Aaron Harang is puzzling. Since 2005, he’s worked at least 180 innings in all but two years. Three times he’s gone over 200 innings. That’s acceptable for a No. 4 and No. 5 starter. Unless Harang has an injury we don’t know about, if he becomes a free-agent in a week (he was recently designated for assignment) the Mets should be calling him.

The Mets were fortunate to have Harvey to slot in between Gee and Laffey – caused by the off day last week – but that won’t always be the case. If Collins can maneuver it, he should separate Gee and Laffey whenever possible to avoid consecutive short days by the starters.

However, he is limited because there’s also Jeremy Hefner, who is not a proven long haul starter. With the exception of last night and Laffey, the Mets have received strong starts in every game, but that won’t last all season.

Naturally, when the topic is the Mets needing a quality starter the talk turns to Zack Wheeler. Let’s say it one more time about Wheeler: He is not ready.

Wheeler was rocky again last night as he gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in 5.1 innings and 92 pitches. For Wheeler’s stuff, 92 pitches should translate into eight or nine innings, not one out into the sixth. It doesn’t matter that three of the runs were unearned. The unearned runs indicates Wheeler strained to get out of trouble.

So, unless Wheeler proves he can get himself out of trouble, he won’t be able to get the Mets out of trouble.

ON DECK:  A look at Jeremy Hefner.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos


Apr 09

Mets Game #8 Wrap; Phillies Rock Dillon Gee

This one was over early when the Phillies scored four runs in the second and three more in the third off Dillon Gee. Ryan Howard, Michael Young and John Mayberry all homered within five pitches. The game wasn’t worth watching after that explosion in the Phillies’ 8-3 rout.

ON THE MOUND: In losing his second straight start, Gee authored the worst outing by a Met starter this season. Gee threw 56 pitches, many of them hit hard, in giving up seven run on ten hits.

AT THE PLATE:  John Buck hit a two-run homer in the fourth, but that was pretty much it off Cliff Lee. Both Buck and Daniel Murphy had two hits. … Lee pitched 8.2 innings.

METS MUSINGS: Mets assistant GM John Ricco told ESPN that Buck was always considered a significant piece of the R.A. Dickey because of the Blue Jays intent to shed his $6 million salary. … With Kirk Nieuwenhuis not getting much playing time the Mets might consider recalling reserve infielder Omar Quintanilla. … Although Ike Davis did not play last night, manager Terry Collins never considered starting Lucas Duda at first base. … The Mets’ starters in Minnesota this weekend will be Jonathon Niese (against Vance Worley), Matt Harvey (no starter named yet by the Twins) and Gee (against Kevin Correla). Former Met Mike Pelfrey, started Tuesday and was rocked in Kansas City, won’t face his former team.

ON DECK: The Mets conclude this series in Philadelphia tomorrow with Jeremy Hefner against Kyle Kendrick.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Apr 09

Slumping Ike Davis Benched

If the Mets are to beat Cliff Lee tonight – the second Phillies’ ace in as many nights – they’ll have to do it without Ike Davis.

Davis is struggling out of the gate, hitting .148 with one homer and showing no signs of breaking out. He’s on the way of repeating last spring, which morphed into a miserable first half.

DAVIS: Haven't seen much of this lately.

DAVIS: Haven’t seen much of this lately.

“I don’t know if I can say I am better for going through that,’’ Davis said during spring training. “But, you do learn that eventually you’ll come out of it. That’s what happened to me.’’

Davis had strong second half to finish with 32 homers; that’s what gives him confidence now.

Tonight is as good a night as any to give Davis a break as he is 1-for-11 with four strikeouts in his career against Lee.

It was suggested in this column earlier today that if Terry Collins needed to adjust his lineup he might consider dropping Daniel Murphy to third and David Wright to fourth.

Instead, Collins chose to keep Murphy and Wright in their respective, two-three, slots and play Justin Turner at first base and insert hot-hitting catcher John Buck in the clean-up spot.

It is premature to say Davis is evolving into a left-handed hitting Dave Kingman, but there are signs he is not far off, such as 10 strikeouts to only four hits this year in only 27 at-bats this year. For his career, Davis has 320 strikeouts to 154 walks and 299 hits.

“I like to him home runs,’’ Davis said when asked if he considered changing his approach. “I’m going to strike out.’’

The Mets are seeking their fourth straight victory tonight behind Dillon Gee, who is coming off a masterful performance last week in a 2-1 loss to San Diego in which gave up a run on three hits in 6.1 innings.

Gee’s changeup was especially good that day, and must be so again tonight as he is 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in four games against the Phillies.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Collin Cowgill, CF: Struggling at .176 with two homers and five RBI, with most of it on his Opening Day slam. Hitless in two at-bats Monday.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Has eight hits, five for extra bases. Was 5-for-16 with two doubles off Lee last year. Is riding an eight-game hitting streak in Philadelphia, going 12-for-36.

David Wright, 3B: Including two hits and an RBI Monday, has hit .413 in his last 19 games in Philadelphia.

John Buck, C: His 12 RBI is a club record through the first seven games of a season. Lifetime is a .292 hitter with three homers against Lee. Said Buck: “The key is I just feel good and I’m not trying to do too much.’’

Marlon Byrd, RF: Hitting .278, but .375 with runners in scoring position.

Lucas Duda, LF: With Davis sitting, Collins wisely chose not to move Duda, instead giving him more time to learn the outfield.

Justin Turner, 1B: Starting for Davis. Turner had three hits in his first start of the season, April 4, vs. San Diego.

Ruben Tejada, SS: In both fielding (four errors) and hitting (.211) slumps.

Dillon Gee, RHP: Has gone at least five innings in 47 of 50 career starts.

I will have another post following tonight’s game.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos