Sep 28

Lugo Puts Mets On Cusp

The Mets aren’t closing in on a wild-card berth for a lot of reasons, not the least of which has been emergency starter Seth Lugo.

An after thought in spring training, Lugo figures to be the Mets’ third starter in the NL Division Series should they advance that far.

LUGO: Puts Mets on verge. (AP)

LUGO: Puts Mets on verge. (AP)

The victory, coupled with the Cardinals losing at home to the Reds, reduced the Mets’ magic number to two over St. Louis. The Mets are off Thursday then have three games over the weekend in Philadelphia, while the Cardinals have four games remaining.

Lugo is as much an unsung contributor as anybody to have the Mets in this position.

“This kid has come here and done nothing but save us,’’ manager Terry Collins said of Lugo, who hasn’t given up more than three runs in any start.

In beating the Marlins, 5-2, Wednesday night, Lugo won his fifth game, and the Mets are undefeated in his last seven starts, impressive numbers as he helped fill the voids created by injuries to Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom.

Couple what Lugo did with three wins by Robert Gsellman – Friday’s starter in Philadelphia – and the Mets wouldn’t even be sniffing October.

Credit Lugo’s five victories in large part to his batting-average allowed with RISP to .149.

COLLINS SHOWED CLASS: The Mets and Marlins exchanged embraces prior to Monday’s tribute game to Jose Fernandez.

But, after the game Collins walked towards the Miami dugout to exchange hugs with Marlins manager Don Mattingly, hitting coach Barry Bonds, second baseman Dee Gordon, outfielders Christian Yelich and Jeff Francoeur, and later club president David Samson.

During the series, numerous Marlins – notably Gordon – had high praise for the Mets, who signed the Fernandez jersey that hung in their dugout presented it to the Miami front office.

“We have a special group of guys they are respectful of the game and respectful to people,’’ said Collins, who lead the way.

BRUCE, GRANDERSON STILL SMOKING: Jay Bruce’s miserable slump is behind him as he homered for the third time in four games.

After being benched and on the verge of being written out of the Mets’ postseason plans, Bruce regained his spot in the lineup.

Bruce has 32 homers overall and seven with the Mets.

“He’s locked in for me,’’ Collins said. “It couldn’t come at a better time.’’

Bruce said his timing is a lot better and spoke with a feeling of relief.

“Ever since the day I got here I wanted to play good baseball and be a contributor to the team,’’ Bruce said. “This is a good team and I’m having a lot of fun being here.’’

Also having a lot of fun is Granderson, who went 4-for-4 and reached base five times, and eight straight overall.

Once mired below .180, Granderson is up to .233 with a .331 on-base percentage.

Granderson’s surge coincides with Yoenis Cespedes’ return from the disabled list, which enabled him to settle in at the clean-up spot.

“He’s been a different animal since he moved to fourth,’’ Collins said. “He’s been getting walks and hitting home runs.’’

EXTRA INNINGS: If the Mets have a playoff berth wrapped up by Sunday, they are likely to skip Noah Syndergaard’s start to have him ready for a start Wednesday. If the Mets need to win Sunday to secure the home field for the wild-card game, they are still likely to skip him. … Lucas Duda, who had two hits Tuesday, was scratched with soreness in his lower back. James Loney was back in the lineup and homered (eighth). … Addison Reed registered his 39th hold and Jeurys Familia his 50th save. … Tim Tebow homered on the first pitch he saw in an Instructional League game.

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Sep 27

Good Postseason Signs For Mets In Rout

The Marlins would have been hard-pressed to continue to ride the emotional wave from Monday’s ceremonies and victory over the Mets following the tragic death of pitcher Jose Fernandez.

That would be hard to do when you run into the kind of pitching they faced against Noah Syndergaard. It also didn’t hurt their offense resurfaced with a pair of two-run homers from Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes in Tuesday’s 19-hit, 12-1 mauling of the Marlins.

SYNDERGAARD: Good sign. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Good sign. (AP)

It was the first time since Bruce was acquired that he and Cespedes homered in the same game.

As the Mets look ahead to a possible postseason appearance, they took numerous positives from the game.

The most important, of course, was Syndergaard, whose last start was scratched because of a strep throat. Syndergaard last pitched, Aug. 19 in a loss to Atlanta, gave up a run on five hits with eight strikeouts.

“It was huge,” Syndergaard said about getting back into a groove. “I tried to keep each pitch simple. I felt I could locate my sinker on both sides of the plate.”

It was a smart move by manager Terry Collins to pull him when he did after 93 pitches. Syndergaard is next in line to pitch Sunday in Philadelphia. If the Mets don’t need that game, Collins will undoubtedly hold him back to start the wild-card play-in game, Wednesday, perhaps against San Francisco.

Maybe in a match-up against Madison Bumgarner at Citi Field? Or, perhaps in St. Louis against Adam Wainwright?

If there’s a three-way tie, it is presumed Syndergaard would start Sunday, which would probably leave the start to Seth Lugo.

There aren’t any questions about Syndergaard’s health or endurance, which considering the announcement earlier in the day that Steven Matz will have elbow surgery and be lost for the year.

If the Mets are to go anywhere in the playoffs, a lot will fall on Syndergaard.

After Syndergaard, the other key storylines were Bruce and Lucas Duda and the lengthening of the Mets’ batting order.

Bruce, who has started three straight games, has five hits in that span, including two homers. His two-run homer in the second put the Mets ahead for good.

After a dreadful slump sent him to the bench and raised questions about his spot on the playoff roster and even if the Mets would bring him back for 2017.

“It’s been very encouraging,” Collins said of Bruce’s resurgence. “If he’s back, we’re going to have a different line-up.”

Bruce said the slump was a difficult stretch, but he never lost faith of his talent.

“I feel comfortable at the plate,” Bruce said. “I just kept preparing and kept working. I just focus on preparing and always think today is the day I’ll come out of it.”

Curtis Granderson, who drove in three runs on two hits, is now entrenched in the clean-up spot with Bruce hitting fifth.

Duda drove in three runs on two hits and again played the field. At first, the Mets thought Duda would only be used as a pinch-hitter. That notion could be gone now, which could make it a Duda (two hits and two walks) vs. James Loney battle for a playoff roster spot.

“It’s definitely tough,” Duda said of his return from back surgery. “The more I play the more comfortable I get. It’s a work in progress. From rehabbing to here is a pretty big jump. The speed of the game, both offensively and defensively, is faster.”

While these were positive signs as the Mets gear for the playoffs, one negative is Wilmer Flores’ wrist, which could sideline him for the rest of the regular season and put his spot on a playoff roster in jeopardy.

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Sep 06

Three Keys For Mets: Montero, Granderson And Bruce

Rafael Montero gets the ball tonight for the Mets in Cincinnati in replacing Jacob deGrom. He’ll be making his second start of the season.

Montero walked a career-high six in fine innings in his first start against Miami.

Command is always important for him and is among the keys for victory for the Mets.

FIRST KEY: Montero has to cut down on the walks. He was lucky the Marlins didn’t knock him out. He can’t afford a walk an inning. It will bounce back to bite him.

SECOND KEY: Curtis Granderson is showing signs of warming up. He was given Monday to rest and is batting seventh today. The Reds are starting LHP Brandon Finnegan.

THIRD KEY: Jay Bruce has hit more homers (135) than any player at Great American Ball Park. Maybe the friendly surroundings will continue to warm him up. He is 8-23 (.348) with two homers and four RBI in his last six games.

ON DECK: Tonight’s lineup.

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Aug 31

Mets Today: Young Pitching Steps Up; Walker Update

There was a lot to like about the Mets’ victory over Miami Tuesday night. After winning the first two games of this series with Miami, the Mets moved ahead of the Marlins and are tied with Pittsburgh 2.5 games behind St. Louis.

“We’re trying to get into the postseason,” manager Terry Collins said after Tuesday night’s 7-4 victory over Miami. “We know where we stand. We know we have to take care of our own business and try to win as many games as possible.”

The Mets won the first two games of the series with Rafael Montero and Seth Lugo as the starters. Montero outlasted Jose Fernandez Monday.

“Our young guys have stepped up,” Collins said. “These guys have literally saved us.”

The Mets have Bartolo Colon (tonight) and Jacob deGrom (tomorrow) in the last two games of the series before Washington comes in this weekend.

Later today I’ll look at Neil Walker’s injury and the possible impact it will have in the future, including whether it will preclude him coming back next season. Collins said he doesn’t know if Walker will play or whether Wilmer Flores will be in the lineup again.

Today is the last day the Mets can make a waiver trade and have that player eligible for the postseason. They are not expected to make a major acquisition.

ON DECK: Looking at Neil Walker’s back situation.

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Aug 30

Three Mets’ Storylines: Lugo Gives Big Effort

On a day the Mets received sobering injury news on left-hander Steven Matz, they also got a positive outing from Seth Lugo in his third career start.

Lugo gave up two runs on five hits in six innings Tuesday night in a 7-4 victory over Miami to help the Mets leapfrog the Marlins in the wild-card race.

LUGO: Gives big start. (AP)

LUGO: Gives big start. (AP)

Lugo has averaged just under six innings in his three starts, which means he’ll stay in the rotation.

The Marlins got to Lugo with Christian Yelich’s two-run homer in the first, but the Mets responded for three in their half of the inning on Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run homer and Wilmer Flores’ RBI single.

“It was really big,” manager Terry Collins said of the quick response. “Just getting on the board was important.”

Lugo said the three runs allowed him to look at the rest of the game from a different perspective.

“That was big time,” Lugo said. “It helped me with my confidence. I looked at it as a 0-0 ball game.”

Lugo worked out of jams in the third and fourth innings and retired the last seven hitters he faced.

With Matz injured and Jacob deGrom needing to be skipped for rest, Lugo has been terrific with three straight strong starts. Lugo left his previous start with a cramp in his right calf, but showed no ill-effects. He is on schedule to pitch Sunday against the Nationals.

I chose Lugo as the main storyline because of the Mets’ current pitching situations. The two others were the resurgence of Curtis Granderson and Hansel Robles’ positive appearance.

GRANDERSON SHOWS A PULSE: Granderson hit for Lugo in the sixth and homered, and also homered in the seventh. He became the third Met to hit two homers in a game he did not start. The others were Scott Hairston in 2011 and Hawk Taylor in 1964.

Granderson hasn’t had a good season according to his expectations but still has 22 homers with 38 RBI, not a good ratio.

If Granderson is getting on track, it will give Collins leverage as he sorts out his outfield alignment down the stretch. Yoenis Cespedes’ strained right quad limits him to playing only left field and Jay Bruce – despite a double Tuesday – continues to struggle.

Cespedes will need a rest eventually.

Things will get tighter when Michael Conforto is brought up from Triple-A Las Vegas.

ROBLES MUCH BETTER: Robles was superb in June and July, but gave up 15 runs in 13 innings this month before giving the Mets two strong innings Tuesday.

Robles gave up one hit in two scoreless innings for a positive sign the Mets desperately needed. Robles in perhaps their most versatile reliever, and by going two innings, it enabled Collins to avoid using the overworked Addison Reed.

EXTRA INNINGS: With the victory, Collins had to use Jeurys Familia when the Marlins got to Jim Henderson for two runs in the ninth. … Jose Reyes continued to rake with his second four-hit game of the month. Reyes, along with Cabrera (who had two hits) are forming a formidable 1-2 combination at the top of the order. … With the victory, the Mets moved to four games over .500, their best record since they were 56-52 after beating the Yankees, Aug. 4. … Bartolo Colon starts against David Phelps Wednesday night.

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