Aug 29

Three Mets’ Storylines: Cespedes Makes Statement

It is hard to say what was the more deafening sound, the Citi Field crowd after Yoenis Cespedes’ game-winning homer or the cash register in Jeff Wilpon’s mind ringing up what the Mets might have to pay to bring him back next summer and beyond.

Cespedes has two years remaining on his contract, but can opt out after this season. The contract calls for him to make $27.5 million this year and $25 million in each of the next two seasons.

CESPEDES: Flexes Mets to win. (AP)

CESPEDES: Flexes Mets to win. (AP)

Cespedes said he’d like to stay with the Mets, but stopped short of saying he will come back. If stands to reason that the better Cespedes performs – he had three hits, including his 27th homer in the 10th inning to beat Miami, 2-1 – the greater his leverage.

To bring Cespedes back, they’ll have to increase both dollars and years. It’s easy to say, “well, just give him the money,’’ after what he did Monday, but the Mets will then have to make a decision on Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson, and what to do with Michael Conforto.

Bruce has done little since coming over from the Reds. They could buy out Granderson. And, in April, Conforto was penciled in to be the Mets’ No. 3 hitter for the next decade.

However, none of them have what Cespedes does, which is the ability to jumpstart and carry a team with one swing. The Mets have had only a handful of players that no matter, they force you to watch and not look away when they come to the plate. Dave Kingman was one, then Darryl Strawberry and Mike Piazza. Finally, there is Cespedes, who carried the Mets last season into October, and has been doing it again since coming off the disabled list.

“He’s that kind of player,” manager Terry Collins said. “You expect to see big things from him each and every time he comes up. People pay to see him. They want to see what he can do.”

Cespedes can be infuriating, such as not running out a pop-up that fell for a hit in the first. Against Jose Fernandez, you knew runs would be at a premium and not hustling into scoring position could have bitten them in the end.

Even with his tight right quad, he should have been on second. However, that gets filed away when he takes control of a game as he did facing off against Nick Wittgren with two outs in the tenth.

“In big moments I really try to focus and deliver,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I know they were pitching me away, but I was looking for something in.”

Cespedes’ game-winning drive was clearly the top storyline of the night. Jose Reyes stealing a run in the eighth and the pitching from Rafael Montero and the bullpen were the other two.

A REYES RUN: When the Mets signed Reyes at the end of June, they sold the fan base on the premise he would bring energy and speed to their station-to-station offense. What they had in mind was the eighth inning.

Down by a run, Reyes lead off the eighth with a line double into the right field corner. When it appeared Alejandro De Aza failed to advance him on a fly to left, Reyes tagged and moved to third, then scored on a head-first slide following A.J. Ramos’ wild pitch.

Reyes appeared to be hurt on the play when Ramos fell on the Met infielder’s head and left shoulder. Reyes remained in the game, but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.

MONTERO FILLS BILL: Montero made the spot start because the Mets believed normally scheduled starter Jacob deGrom – who gave up a combined 13 runs in his last two starts – was fatigued. Montero, brought up from Double-A Binghamton, gave up only two hits in five scoreless innings, but threw 100 pitches in large part because he walked six.

If Collins wanted to see if Montero could respond to a challenge, his concerns were answered in the positive. Montero was in constant trouble and left the Marlins stranded with RISP in the first, fourth and fifth.

Montero left the bases loaded in the fourth and needed a double play to get out of the fifth. With how he pitched, Montero will stay after the rosters are expanded, Sept. 1.

While Montero was the unexpected, the bullpen was something they counted on.

Addison Reed gave up a run in the eighth on doubles by Ichiro Suzuki and Xavier Scruggs. The Mets also received scoreless innings from Sean Gilmartin (6th inning), Jerry Blevins (7th), Jeurys Familia (9th) and Josh Smoker (10th).

Combined, the bullpen gave up one run on three hits, one walk and six strikeouts.

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Aug 29

Mets Today: Montero Starts Against Fish

How many crucial series can a team have in one season? I’ve lost track, but tonight starts another for the Mets, who’ll begin a four-game series with the Marlins.

The Mets go into the series two games above .500, and one game behind the Marlins in the wild-card race; two behind Pittsburgh; 2.5 games behind St. Louis and five behind San Francisco.

MONTERO: Tonight's starter for Mets. (AP)

MONTERO: Tonight’s starter for Mets. (AP)

Pitching was supposed to be the Mets’ strength this season, but you don’t hear too many people lately saying they should sign any of those arms to a long-term contract. The only arm considered to be a significant part of the Mets’ future that is starting in the series is Steven Matz, who’ll come off the disabled list Thursday.

Tonight the Mets will go with Rafael Montero (0-0, 11.57 ERA), up from Double-A; Seth Lugo (1-2, 2.91), who’ll be making his third start of the season; Bartolo Colon (12-7, 3.44) on Wednesday on short rest; and Matz (9-8, 3.40).

Matz, who will be coming off the DL with a mild shoulder strain, threw without discomfort Sunday.

Jose Fernandez (13-7, 2.91), Tom Koehler (9-9, 3.85), David Phelps (7-6, 2.52) and Jose Urena (2-5, 5.83) will start for the Marlins.

Fernandez is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts against the Mets.

Just as the Mets needed to win in St. Louis, they must win three of four against Miami. Splitting won’t do them much good, and if they lose three of four, or get swept, the ground might be too much for them to make up.

INJURY UPDATES: Three significant Mets are injured and might not play tonight. Asdrubal Cabrera (left knee), Yoenis Cespedes (right quad) and Neil Walker (lower back).

Meanwhile, the Marlins are without Giancarlo Stanton (25 homers) and Justin Bour (15 homers). However, the Marlins got Dee Gordon back from the suspended list, July 28, and he’s hitting .287 with nine steals.

The Marlins also got closer A.J. Ramos (fracture of right middle finger) back from the DL, Aug. 21.

ON DECK: Jose Reyes answers third base questions.

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Aug 28

Three Mets’ Storylines: More Injuries, But DL Should Be Avoided

There’s never a good time to be injured, but for the Mets to have three players go down the same day, now is as good a time as any for them to go day-by-day with Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes. With the rosters to be expanded Sept. 1, the Mets have three days for manager Terry Collins to juggle his lineup without having to utilize the disabled list.

GSELLMAN: Gives Mets six solid. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Gives Mets six solid. (AP)

Walker (back) and Cespedes (right quad) woke up sore and did not start Sunday’s 5-1 loss to the Phillies, while Cabrera (left knee) was hurt in a first-inning collision. Each player missed time earlier this season with a similar injury.

Were they rushed back too soon? That’s a possibility, but all have played well – actually they are the Mets’ three hottest hitters – since coming back, so that might be an oversimplification.

“This is something I’ve dealt with before,” Walker said of his back. “Sometimes it takes a couple of days; sometimes it takes a little longer. This one is taking a longer.”

If a player goes on the disabled list now, he still has to sit the full 15 days. That’s part of the Mets’ reasoning for starting Steven Matz Thursday, Sept. 1, rather than the day before.

The Mets can get by with Wilmer Flores, Ty Kelly or Kelly Johnson in place of Cabrera and Walker, and Alejandro De Aza in place of Cespedes for the next three days.

The temptation Collins must resist is thinking they all must play in the upcoming series against the Marlins, especially with the Mets forced to having pitching unknowns Rafael Montero (Monday), Seth Lugo (Tuesday) and a pitcher to be determined (perhaps Sean Gilmartin, who is currently on the 25-man roster) going Wednesday. The Mets could also move up Bartolo Colon and pitch him on short rest.

These injuries coupled with the lack of production from the offense, was today’s primary storyline. The others were sticking with starter Robert Gsellman too long and the wild card race.

PUSH ENVELOPE WITH STARTER: The Mets couldn’t have asked for more from Gsellman than they got for six innings in his first career start, which was one run.

Except they did and ran him out for the seventh. The Phillies’ first three hitters singled, and Collins went to Hansel Robles, who has been dreadful for the past month. By the time Collins replaced Robles, three runs were in and the opportunity for the Mets to sweep was gone.

With every game vital for the Mets, they would be better off using Robles in mop-up situations because it is clear he’s not getting the job done in his present role. In 13 innings this month he has given up 14 runs (all earned) on 15 hits and ten walks for a 0-1 record with a 9.69 ERA. Dreadful is as good a word as any.

The slide can be pinpointed to Aug. 3 when the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira forced Robles’ meltdown by mocking him while on second base. That night Robles gave up three runs on three hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.

THE RACE: The Mets caught a break with St. Louis and the Marlins losing, but Pittsburgh won in Milwaukee.

The Mets trail Miami by one game with the Marlins in Monday to start a four-game series. We’ve heard this before, but this is a very important series.

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Aug 16

Three Mets’ Storylines: Colon Rocked Hard

Bartolo Colon usually gives the Mets a chance to win. Not so Monday night in Arizona, when thanks to an error by third baseman T.J. Rivera to start the game, the Mets fell into a three-run hole they could not climb out of.

The Diamondbacks had four hits in the inning, all of them scorched.

COLON: Not his night. (AP)

COLON: Not his night. (AP)

Colon had given up single runs in his last two starts, but gave up five runs on nine hits and two walks over four innings in a 10-6 loss.

The Mets picked away at a six-run deficit, but it was just one of those nights where there seemed little doubt as to the outcome.

The only bright spots for the Mets were Travis d’Arnaud getting three hits, a homer by Neil Walker, and are you ready for this? Colon drew the first walk of his career in his 282nd plate appearance.

It was a bad night all around as the Nationals and Marlins both won.

The other main storylines pertaining to the Mets today was what would they do when Yoenis Cespedes comes off the disabled list and several injury updates.

PLAN FOR CESPEDES’ RETURN: The Mets signed Cespedes to play center field, but he’ll play left when he comes off the disabled list Friday in San Francisco. The Mets procrastinated for nearly a month before placing him on the disabled list, and although I’m not crazy about him calling the shots, it’s prudent to preserve him as much as possible.

However, if he can’t run or is limited defensively, then they should leave him on the disabled list and bring up Michael Conforto to play left.

Cespedes began a rehab assignment today in Port St. Lucie and went 0-for-3.

INJURY UPDATES: Zack Wheeler will be examined Wednesday by Dr. James Andrews. A negative exam could necessitate another Tommy John surgery. … Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday in Port St. Lucie. He’s expected to be activated Saturday. … Pitcher Logan Verrett is trying to get his demotion to Triple-A rescinded into a DL appointment. Verrett says he has a stiff neck. A MRI showed nothing significant. Walker update: Walker could leave the team Tuesday on paternity leave. He could be away for up to three days.

EXTRA INNINGS: Reports say the Mets aren’t interested in trading for Houston outfielder Carlos Gomez, who was designated for assignment. … There is also no interest in reliever Jonathan Papelbon, who was released by Washington. … The Mets announced their season-ticket prices would rise by 3.95 percent next year. … Original Met catcher Choo Choo Coleman died Monday three days shy of his 81st birthday. … Monday’s lineup featured five position players who were either not in the Opening Day lineup or on the roster.

 

Aug 14

Three Mets’ Storylines: Is Bone Spur Issue Over For Matz?

The Mets didn’t get their first no-hitter until their 51st season. It was too much to ask for Steven Matz to give them their second four years later.

Matz took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Alexi Ramirez lined his 105th of the game into right field. Mets manager Terry Collins jumped out of the dugout as if launched by a spring to answer the question that had been on everybody’s mind.

MATZ: Is spur issue over? (AP)

MATZ: Is spur issue over? (AP)

“I wasn’t going to visit the Johan Santana scenario again, I can tell you that,” said Collins revisiting the night of June 1, 2012, when he allowed the veteran left-hander to stay in to throw 134 pitches in the franchise’s only no-hitter.

Santana, who was coming off shoulder surgery, pitched a few good games later that season, but was never the same.

To this day, Collins regrets letting Santana stay in, and he would later say: “It was without a doubt, the worst night I’ve ever spent in baseball.”

Santana was a veteran, but Matz was making just his 28th career start. This is his first full season in the majors. Collins compared the two through the prism of his baseball roots.

“I can’t get away from my background in player development,” Collins said. “I can see the big picture. I wasn’t going to jeopardize his career for one game.”

The big picture includes that Matz has pitched with a bone spur that will require surgery this off-season. There was speculation he might be shut down for the season. However, he’s been superb in his last two starts.

Even had Matz pitched a no-hitter, perhaps the most important thing coming out of the day is he might be past that issue. Matz threw 105 pitches in beating San Diego, 5-1, Sunday; he threw a career high 120 pitches earlier in the week in a 5-3 loss to Arizona.

“I think it has been out of my mind for awhile,” Matz said of the bone spur. “It has been since I decided to pitch with it. … My arm has been feeling great. I’ve had no problems.”

Matz thanked Collins for letting him stay in for 120 pitches against Arizona.

“I think it’s good when you get deep into games,” he said. “You have to have better command of your pitches when you’re not throwing as hard.”

Matz was the story of the day. The other storylines was the offense and the upcoming schedule.

TACK ON RUNS: The Mets first got on the board with homers from Wilmer Flores and Neil Walker, but more impressive were three manufactured runs in the eighth inning.

In the epitome of a manufactured run, Jose Reyes singled, stole second and went to third on the catcher’s throw into center, and scored on a wild pitch.

They added two more on T.J. Rivera’s two-run double.

The late runs enabled Collins to by-pass Jeurys Familia because it wasn’t a save situation, thereby keeping him fresh for Monday.

THE SCHEDULE: After being swept by Arizona, the Mets have won two of three since Collins’ post-game rant to finish the homestand 2-4. They two victories marked the first time they won back-to-back games since before the All-Star break.

The Mets begin an 11-game road trip Monday in Arizona, with three games against the Diamondbacks, four with the Giants and three in St. Louis.

With the victory the Mets moved one game over .500 and are two games behind the second wild card spot. The Dodgers, Marlins, Cardinals and Pirates are ahead of them.

There have been several times this season when Collins looked ahead at a portion of the Mets’ schedule and defined it as vital. He made no such proclamation before this time.

He didn’t have to.

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