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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Aug 30

Matz Won’t Pitch Thursday; Is Having Surgery Now Best Option For Mets?

Let’s face it, they wouldn’t be the Mets if bad news didn’t follow the good. It has been that kind of season and appears it will continue that way with Tuesday’s announcement Steven Matz won’t make Thursday’s start with an impingement in his left shoulder.

MATZ:  Is it best to shut him down now? (AP)

MATZ: Is it best to shut him down now? (AP)

Matz said everything is structurally fine and this isn’t a surgery issue, but many Mets pitchers said the same. He’s currently on the disabled list with soreness in his left shoulder, and also has a bone spur that will require off-season surgery.

Sigh …

“[It’s] just a little irritation … it’s still bugging me a little bit,” Matz told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t quite feel like I can let it go yet. … `I felt like I was making progress, and then I threw off the mound a little bit, and I felt OK coming out of the there. And then [on Monday] I tried to throw and it was kind of barking at me a little bit again.

“For me to get on the mound and throw a bullpen and tell them I’m ready for a game would just be unrealistic in my mind.’’

Good for him.

Robert Gsellman will take Matz’s spot in the rotation, although Jacob deGrom – who was scratched Monday in favor of Rafael Montero because it was believed he was fatigued – will start Thursday against the Marlins. When the rosters are expanded Thursday the Mets will bring back Montero and can afford to go day-by-day with Matz.

But, is that the best thing for Matz?

At most, he would get four more starts, but would a better option be to shut him down completely, have the elbow surgery immediately, which would give him another full month for recovery and rehabilitation?

The obstacle to that thinking is the Mets are only 2.5 games out of the wild-card race. The playoffs are a possibility, and if the Mets get there they’ll want Matz.

But, will they really have him, and at what capacity?

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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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