May 12

Frank Francisco Spoils Script; Dickey Starts Today

Frank Francisco proved again last night a team is as strong as its bullpen. When the door isn’t slammed, defeat walks through it, and last night the Mets’ winning streak was snapped at five.

A fifth straight comeback win, and six straight victories overall would have represented another step, but they’ll have to start from scratch now. The thing about this team is the feeling it can be done.

It was exciting to see the Mets rally again, getting key pinch-hits from Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Mike Baxter. With how the game began, it looked like a long night.

But the way the Mets fought back, working long counts and playing fundamental baseball was good to see. Lucas Duda hitting a grounder to the right side to advance David Wright; Nieuwenhuis coming back from two strikes; Mike Baxter running up the count before he delivered.

For the most part that is how the Mets have played lately and it reflected in the standings.

Then comes the bullpen, which I’m not sold on. Francisco already has two blown saves and two losses. There’s a reason why the Blue Jays let him go and we’ve seen glimpses of that already.

He’s another reliever that brings to the mound with him an uneasy feeling this might not be a pretty inning. He proved that last night.

The Mets attempt to rebound this afternoon with R.A. Dickey, who has been their most reliable starter. Ricky Nolasco pitches for the Marlins, so this could be low scoring.

 

May 10

Terry Collins Has Changed Culture

Several times this season the Mets answered a winning streak with a losing one. They have won five straight and you wouldn’t be wrong to wonder if the other shoe will drop this weekend in Miami.

Great timing to have Johan Santana start in the opener.

COLLINS: Getting it done.

While you and I might wonder, nobody in the Mets’ clubhouse is thinking along those lines. Terry Collins won’t allow it.

The book on Collins going in was he could get uptight and lose a clubhouse. There’s been nothing to suggest he’s going that way. It does show one can adjust, and even change, over time.

Collins came with little fanfare or declarations. There was no timetable to get the Mets into contention. Instead, he promised to change the culture. His teams are prepared and seldom come out flat, with the Houston debacle an exception.

We’ve seen hustle, better pitching and defense than expected, and a manager who sticks by his players. The Mets are hitting at an extraordinary clip with two outs and lead the majors in comeback victories with 11.

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May 09

Mets Go For The Throat; Dillon Gee Gets Crack

The Mets have won 17 games this young season, ten of the come-from-behind variety and seven by one run. They have won six series, sweeping two. They go for the sweep today in Philadelphia.

Doing so will represent another step in their development. Contending teams close out games and close out series. Winning a series winning two of three is great, but sweeping is better.

Sweeping represents a sense of dominance and reinforces confidence. I know what you’re thinking; I’m being greedy. Maybe so, but doesn’t that signify a new attitude about this team?

Today it’s Dillon Gee going, and twice now Terry Collins let him pitch out of trouble when he was on the ropes. That demonstrates confidence, something you rarely saw Jerry Manuel give his pitchers.

I mention that not to rip Manuel as that would be piling on. I do say it to show the difference in attitude and culture between Manuel and Collins.

Manuel came on strong at first, taking out Jose Reyes in his first game. He then regressed, taking an unequal approach in dealing with players and afraid to be forceful with the deadwood. Then again, in all fairness, that message – in dealing with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo – came from up top.

Things are different now. The Mets are infusing themselves with young, homegrown talent. You don’t often see guys not running out ground balls. There are occasional fundamental lapses, but they aren’t as frequent. That explains in part the winning.

The Mets haven’t hit this well with two outs in as long as I can remember. The defense from early questions – Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Josh Thole – is better than anticipated, as is the starting pitching.

Something else the Mets have done, and this is another mark of a contender, is winning within the division and beating teams when they are done. They’ve won two series from the struggling Phillies, swept the Braves when they limped out of spring training without Chipper Jones, and swept the Marlins during their slow start.

Things have changed with the 2012, and that includes the expectations. Have yours changed?

 

May 08

Mets, May 8, At Philadelphia

Last night’s hero, Jordany Valdespin, is rewarded with a start tonight at shortstop. Here’s who is the lineup with him:

Andres Torres, cf
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, lf
David Wright, 3b
Lucas Duda, rf
Daniel Murphy, 2b
Ike Davis, 1b
Jordany Valdespin, ss
Mike Nickeas, c
Miguel Batista, rhp

LINEUP COMMENTS: I like when Terry Collins rewards his bench players with starts after a good game. It keeps the bench focused. …

 

May 07

Mets May 7 Lineup At Philadelphia

The Mets are back in Philly tonight for the start of a three-game series. The Mets won two or three last time and the Phillies continue to struggle. While nobody expects the Phillies to flounder all season, the Mets have a chance to step on them when they are down.

The lineup:

Andres Torres, cf
Kirk Nieuwenhuis, lf
David Wright, 3b
Lucas Duda, rf
Daniel Murphy, 2b
Ike Davis, 1b
Justin Turner, ss
Josh Thole, c
Jon Niese, lhp

LINEUP COMMENTS: Justin Turner replaces the injured Ruben Tejada. I like Kirk Nieuwenhuis elevated in the batting order, but still want him returned to leadoff. I thought the team played with more spark with him leading off.

ON DECK: Tejada update.