Sep 01

Wilpon To Get Meaningful September Games

Several years ago Mets owner Fred Wilpon said he wanted his team “to play meaningful games in September.” Well, here we are, Sept. 1, and the Mets – after winning nine of 11 games – are just 1.5 games behind St. Louis for the second wild-card.

WILPON: Meaningful games in September. (AP)

WILPON: Meaningful games in September. (AP)

This week alone they leapfrogged Miami – they can complete a four-game sweep of the Marlins today behind Jacob deGrom – and Pittsburgh.

“I like our chances,” GM Sandy Alderson told reporters at Citi Field.

Manager Terry Collins said he told his players “there would be no more meetings,’’ and he thanked them for not rolling over. Huh? Translation: He thanked them for doing their jobs.

Despite numerous injuries – today Neil Walker will announce his intent to have season-ending back surgery – the Mets are in the hunt for a variety of reasons:

* Walker was scorching since late July before going down.

* Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera turned it on after coming off the disabled list.

* Bartolo Colon – who did it again Wednesday night – has kept the Mets in nearly every game he’s pitched.

* Spot starters Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero are responsible for three victories alone.

* The starters have generally been good. Noah Syndergaard overcame his funk; Steven Matz was solid before his shoulder did him in; and deGrom had a stretch of ten straight good starts before his last two stinkers.

* Wilmer Flores has continued to hit, and lately that includes against right-handers.

* The bullpen has been good, and twice needed to work over six innings to help either an injured or battered starter.

* They’ve gotten production from role players Kelly Johnson, Alejandro De Aza and Rene Rivera.

All that together adds up to a team. Yes, there has been praise for Cespedes, but he’s been far from the only one. They are in position to compete because they’ve been the essence of a team.

Last night Colon pitched and Johnson and Flores combined to drive in all their runs. Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia closed it for Colon.

You can’t say they were carried by a star.

Will the Mets get back into the playoffs, much less the World Series? I don’t know, but at least they have a chance.

If told at the beginning of the season the Mets would have been 1.5 games behind the wild card with a month to go, would you have taken it?

I would have.

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Aug 31

Walker’s Season Likely Over; What Of Career With Mets?

UPDATED: Walker facing surgery.

Before leaving the podium, Mets manager Terry Collins dropped the other shoe. After all, they wouldn’t be the Mets if they didn’t encore good news with bad. This time, it was the sobering news Neil Walker was facing having season-ending back surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

“This is a big disappointment,” said a dejected Collins. “He’s had a big year for us.”

The announcement came moments after Kelly Johnson‘s three-run double in the eighth inning proved the difference in the Mets’ 5-2 victory over Miami. The other two runs came on Wilmer Flores‘ two-run homer. Ironically, Johnson and Flores figure to get the lion’s share of the time at second base with Walker gone.

WALKER: Status unknown. (AP)

WALKER: Facing surgery. (AP)

With the victory, the Mets have won nine of their last 11 games to climb back into the wild-card race. They are in it, also in large part, because of what Walker gave them in April with nine homers and 19 RBI and his hot streak in early August.

In April, there were numerous reports about the need to bring Walker back for 2017, because with Yoenis Cespedes expected to opt out, the Mets couldn’t afford to lose both.

With Walker’s season over, one must wonder if the same can be said of his Mets’ career. Walker can leave as a free agent this winter, but the injury takes away whatever leverage he had because a bad back represents a terrible credit report.

As good as Walker played, perhaps an even longer-lasting impression is David Wright. Looking at how long Wright struggled might have been a deciding factor in Walker’s decision. After all, having surgery now might enhance his chances of playing next season considering a six-month recovery time.

Somebody will sign Walker, but it will likely be a one-year deal with incentives based on games played. Considering what they’ve gone through with Wright, I’m not sure they’ll go in that direction with Walker.

Walker was having a tremendous season, hitting .282 with 23 homers and 55 RBI. In 23 games since July 27, Walker was batting .440 with seven homers, 15 RBI and 19 runs scored. That’s a significant loss for a team in a pennant race.

For the short term, the Mets are in decent position at second base with Flores and Johnson.

When Daniel Murphy left, there was speculation Flores could inherit second base, but that notion was quickly dashed when the Mets signed Walker. Then, when Wright went down, Flores was to play third, but that changed when Jose Reyes was signed.

Now, with Walker gone, Flores might finally be getting his chance.

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Aug 18

Three Mets’ Storylines: Niese Rocked

Jon Niese’s return to the rotation turned out to be a tease for the Mets. Starting in place of Logan Verrett Wednesday night, Niese threw three scoreless innings before Arizona unloaded on him with three runs in the third and knocked him from the game the following inning.

Niese, making his first start in over a month (when he was with Pittsburgh), gave up homers to Yasmany Tomas and Rickie Weeks, in the third before he was chased in favor of Erik Goeddel in the fourth.

Niese gave up four runs on four hits in 4.2 innings, but struck out six in the 13-5 loss. Last week in New York, the Diamondbacks got to him for six runs in one inning.

With no imminent help coming up from Las Vegas or from the waiver wire, Niese will likely remain in the rotation.

OFFENSE DISAPPEARS … AGAIN: The Mets scored seven runs Tuesday, but after scratching out a run in the first did precious little.

The Mets produced only four hits.

Manager Terry Collins, in trying to “take something off his plate,’’ dropped Curtis Granderson to sixth, but was 1-for-4 with a meaningless homer in the ninth and two strikeouts.

The Mets expect Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera to be activated this weekend in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Michael Conforto, who the Mets seemingly have no intention of bringing up from Triple-A, is 12-for-18 in his last four games.

DOESN’T GET EASIER: After finishing their season series 1-5 against the Diamondbacks, the Mets are off to San Francisco for a four-game series then three in St. Louis.

The match-ups will be: Thursday, Jacob deGrom vs. Madison Bumgarner; Friday, Steven Matz vs. Johnny Cueto; Saturday, Bartolo Colon vs. Matt Moore; Sunday, Noah Syndergaard vs. Jeff Samardzija.

Sunday’s game was moved to the night.

Niese, deGrom and Matz are scheduled to start in St. Louis.

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Aug 17

Time To Sit Granderson

There are cold stretches, slumps and what Mets’ outfielder Curtis Granderson is currently in, which has gone on long enough.

Manager Terry Collins said if you don’t hit, you’ll sit, and Granderson hasn’t hit all season. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve met around baseball, but his smile doesn’t drive in runs. Come to think about it, neither do his home runs. His 32 RBI off 18 homers is one of the most staggering statistics I’ve ever seen.

GRANDERSON: The Grandy Man can't. (AP)

GRANDERSON: The Grandy Man can’t. (AP)

So, why is he still in the lineup when Michael Conforto is in the minor leagues? Ditto for Brandon Nimmo.

Let’s look at more frightening numbers: Granderson is hitting .224 this season; is batting .127 (10-79) with RISP; and .165 (15-91) over his last 23 games.

Somehow, none on this has sunk in on Collins.

“You still look up and this guy is going to end up with over 20 homers,” Collins told reporters. “He’s not necessarily a RBI guy, so no matter where you think you should hit anybody in the order, they are going to end up coming up with guys on base at times.”

It might be one of the dumbest things I’ve heard from a manager in nearly 25 years around this game.

First of all, he has 18 homers now, so what’s two more? Secondly, and even more importantly, if you end up with runners on base your job is to drive them in. Memo to Collins: Everybody is a RBI guy.

Perhaps Granderson is spending too much time around Collins because his explanation made no sense. None.

“Initially, I was in the position where I was going to lead off and set the tone and things like that,” Granderson told reporters.

“And, I’ve mixed when to be aggressive versus when to set the tone for everybody else, so there’s been pitches I could have gone after and attacked and maybe did something with that I let go by.”

Huh?

Granderson’s responsibility as a hitter is two-fold: 1) if there’s nobody on base he’s supposed to get on base, but a .317 on-base percentage says he’s not doing it, and 2) if there are runners on base his job is to advance them or drive them in.

It’s not all that hard to understand, but obviously with Granderson this season, much harder to do.

Granderson’s job is to always be aggressive, and he hasn’t been. It’s time to get somebody in the lineup that can be.

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Aug 12

Mets Matters: Conforto Optioned; Lineups

Michael Conforto gave the Mets a spark last year in their second-half push toward the playoffs. He started this season in the lineup, but low in the order. Manager Terry Collins said Conforto’s future was third in the order, but that fizzled, as did the plan for him to play against left-handers.

When Yoenis Cespedes was injured, Collins said Conforto would get time in center. That didn’t happen, either. The Mets placed Conforto on the Vegas Shuttle today when they optioned him to Triple-A to make room for righty reliever Seth Lugo.

We’ll see Conforto again, perhaps even before the rosters are expanded Sept. 1.

Collins keeps saying Conforto is a big piece of the Mets’ future, so why doesn’t he show it?

WHEELER NOT CLOSE:  Perhaps the Mets should start thinking about shutting down Zack Wheeler for the season. The plan was to activate him from the disabled list around July 1, but he’s had several setbacks.

He made his first rehab start earlier this week, but it lasted 17 pitches before being washed away by rain. Today the Mets said Wheeler will be examined by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews because of persistent elbow discomfort.

There’s no reason to push him when he’s clearly not ready.

LINEUP vs. SAN DIEGO:  The Mets are supposed to beat up on the San Diego Padres, then again they were going to get back into the wild-card race against Arizona. Instead, they were swept and have lost 11 of their past 15 games to fall to .500 at 57-57.

On Thursday, Collins said, “starting tomorrow we’re going to go after it.” They try to do so with Logan Verrett (3-7, 4.66).

Here’s the lineup behind him:

Curtis Granderson – LF:  Batting .229 with 18 homers and 31 RBI. … Career .288 hitter (21-73) vs. Padres. … Hitting .135 (10-74) with RISP.

T.J. Rivera – 3B: Made his major league debut Wednesday and got a hit. … Was leading the International League with a .349 average.

Neil Walker – 2B: Is batting .275 with 20 homers and 51 RBI. … Lifetime .232 hitter (36-155) vs. Padres. … Batting .270 (20-74) with RISP.

Jay Bruce – RF: Is batting .257 with 27 homers and 84. … Lifetime .232 hitter (41-177) vs. Padres. … Overall, is batting .344 (33-96) with nine homers and 55 RBI with RISP.

James Loney – 1B: Is batting .277 with six homers and 25 RBI. … Lifetime .255 hitter (83-325) vs. Padres. … Batting .229 (11-48) with 16 RBI with RISP.

Travis d’Arnaud – C: Is batting .228 with three homers and 11 RBI. … Lifetime .235 hitter (4-17) against Padres. … Batting .147 (5-34) with RISP.

Alejandro De Aza – CF: Is batting .200 with three homers and nine RBI. … Lifetime .226 hitter (7-31) vs. Padres. … Is hitting .080 (2-25) with RISP.

Matt Reynolds – SS: Is batting .208 with two homers and 10 RBI. … Has never faced Padres. … Is hitting .294 (5-17) with RISP.

Verrett – RHP: Has no decisions in four of last five starts. … Hitters are batting .235 (20-85) with 14 strikeouts with RISP.

SERIES ROTATION:

Saturday: RHP Jacob deGrom (7-5, 2.35) vs. RHP Jarred Cosart (0-1, 5.79), 7:10 p.m. ET

Sunday: LHP Steven Matz (8-8, 3.60) vs. LHP Clayton Richard (0-1, 6.46), 1:10 p.m. ET