Jun 08

What’s Your Concern Level For Mets?

We know the Mets aren’t playing well, but are they in trouble? They have coughed and sputtered for the past six weeks, and if not for their outstanding starting pitching, they could have conceivably fallen back to .500 if not below.

So what’s your concern level with the Mets?

In addition to a month-long hitting funk, there have been injuries and bullpen lapses. For all their home runs, this team hasn’t hit with runners in scoring position, has a low on-base percentage and strikes out way too much.

I liked reacquiring Kelly Johnson, but considering the depth of their offensive funk he won’t be enough.

For the most part the pitching has been good, but their three top starters came away empty in Pittsburgh.

Last season the Mets’ hitting slump began around this time before the overhaul that brought in Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Juan Uribe and Johnson at the trade deadline.

It remains to be seen what GM Sandy Alderson can accomplish before July 31. The next month should tell the Mets what they might get from Lucas Duda and David Wright in the second half and the level of urgency for Alderson to deal.

It’s premature to say the Mets can’t get back to the World Series, but it isn’t too early to draw the conclusion from now until All-Star break can be very telling as they have three more games with Pittsburgh; two against Kanas City; three with the Marlins; four against the Cubs and seven with the Nationals.

In trouble? Not yet, but there is cause for concern.

Jun 04

Mets Wrap: No-Names Spark Victory

If the Mets return to the World Series, they’ll get there with their young starting pitching and the power that has become their offensive trademark. However, they’ll also need what they received in Saturday’s 6-4 victory at Miami; a representative start from Bartolo Colon and important contributions by their non-descript players; those off the bench, at the bottom of the order and newcomers.

CONFORTO: Breakout signs. (AP)

CONFORTO: Breakout signs. (AP)

All came into play to support of Colon, who gave up two runs in five innings.

“We’ve said all along that we need guys to step up and pick each other up,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

With David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list, and on a day when Yoenis Cespedes was a late scratch with a sore right hip and they didn’t homer, the Mets got:

* Three more hits from Wilmer Flores, Wright’s replacement at third. He has five hits over the last two games.

* Matt Reynolds, who collected his first career RBI with a pinch-hit single in the eighth for what proved to be the game-winning hit.

* James Loney, acquired to replace Duda, had three hits, including a double in the eighth, and scored the tying run on Michael Conforto’s single hit.

* Juan Lagares made a diving backhand catch to rob Ichiro Suzuki of two RBI to end the sixth.

* Alejandro De Aza hit a two-run double iced the game in the ninth.

* Another strong relief appearance from Addison Reed.

Although the Mets didn’t homer and stranded 14 runners, they did string together 15 hits and went 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

There will be more days like Friday when they ripped three homers – something they’ve done 11 times this year – there will be more when they don’t and will need what they received today.

METS GAME WRAP

June 4, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #54          Score:  Mets 6, Marlins 4

Record: 31-23     Streak: W 2

Standings: Second, NL East, 1 game behind Washington.  Playoffs: First WC, 1.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh.

Runs: 54    Average:  3.8   Times 3 or less: 26

SUMMARY:  Reynolds, Loney and De Aza – the non-stars – backed Colon, who gave the Mets five innings despite not having his best start.

KEY MOMENT:  Lagares’ diving catch – in which he bruised his left thumb – robbed Suzuki of two RBI and possibly stave off a potential big inning.

THUMBS UP:  The struggling Conforto drove in two runs with a single and sacrifice fly. … Another strong inning from Reed, who has 12 holds. … Jim Henderson relieved Jerry Blevins to get out of the seventh. … Reynolds, Loney, Flores and De Aza combined for eight hits and four RBI. … Lagares’ defense.

THUMBS DOWN:  Kevin Plawecki failed to touch the plate on a force play. … Jeurys Familia remains an adventure in the ninth. … Hansel Robles, quick pitch or not, gave up a run on a hit and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Cespedes was scratched 30 minutes before the game with a sore right hip and is day-to-day. … Lagares bruised his left thumb on the catch and was unable to grip a bat. The DL is a possibility. … Jacob deGrom pinch-hit for Reed and popped out to end the ninth. The Mets had a three-run lead at the time. It begs the question of why risk an injury to a starting pitcher. Just let Reed hit.

QUOTEBOOK: “I bruised my finger a little. We’ll see how it feels [Sunday],’’ Lagares on his thumb injury.

BY THE NUMBERS:  13.1: Consecutive scoreless innings by Reed.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey (4-7) goes for the sweep Sunday against Marlins ace Jose Fernandez.

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Jun 02

Mets’ May Review And Looking At June

Considering all that went wrong for the Mets in May, ranging from key injuries to slumps to Matt Harvey’s horrendous pitching, they were lucky finish the month at 14-15 and two games behind Washington.

The Mets ended the month by losing four series, but they enter June with the expected news third baseman David Wright will be placed on the disabled list for an extended period with a herniated disk in his neck.

CESPEDES: Mets May MVP. (AP)

CESPEDES: Mets May MVP. (AP)

June starts with a ten-game road trip, beginning with consecutive three-game series at Miami and Pittsburgh, places where they have struggled. It ends with four games in Milwaukee.

Noah Syndergaard (5-2), Bartolo Colon (4-3) and Harvey (4-7) will start against the Marlins.

MAY MVP

It has to go to the only batter who hit with any consistency, which would be Yoenis Cespedes, who hit .342 with eight homers and 14 RBI for the month. Making that more impressive is he’s entering the Miami series on a 1-for-22 (.045) slide. It should also be noted Michael Conforto, Lucas Duda and Wright didn’t offer much protection.

PITCHER OF THE MONTH

Despite spitting the bit in his last start, Steven Matz was named the NL Rookie of the Month by going 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA for the month. He leads all rookie pitchers with seven victories, a 2.60 ERA and 53 strikeouts.

KEY GAME OF THE MONTH

There were several notable games and moments, beginning with Colon’s homer in San Diego and Harvey’s hoped-for turnaround victory on Monday. However, there’s really only one game that ratcheted everybody’s emotions, and that was when Syndergaard threw out Mets’ nemesis Chase Utley. Syndergaard was ejected in the in the third inning which disrupted the Mets’ bullpen for a week and Utley responded with two homers, including a grand slam.

KEY MOVE OF THE MONTH

The Mets had several options as what to do with the frustrated and struggling Harvey, but opted to give him one more start. Harvey responded by pitching the Mets to a 1-0 victory over the White Sox.

RED FLAG ENDURED

After losing Travis d’Arnaud to the disabled list, but Mets brought up catcher Rene Rivera, who has been impressive with his defense and throwing.

KEY ISSUE RESOLVED

The Mets traded for James Loney to replace Duda, who went on the disabled list with a back issue.

HEALTH ISSUES

Wright will be on the disabled list with a herniated disk for an indefinite length of time. … Duda and d’Arnaud are on the DL with no timetable for their return. … Hansel Robles has a sprained ankle.

SIX QUESTIONS RAISED

Will they generate any offense outside of hitting home runs?

How long will they be without Wright, Duda and d’Arnaud and can their replacements pick up the slack?

Will the new guys, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, keep hitting?

Was Harvey’s start Monday a fluke or a sign of things to come?

Can the bullpen pull itself out of its funk?

BY THE NUMBERS

1-4: Harvey’s record for May.

3-3: Record in May vs. Nationals.

5: Homers given up by Robles this season.

5: Third baseman used so far.

6: Extra-base hits by Conforto for May.

33: Strikeouts by Curtis Granderson in May.

.208: Mets’ average with RISP.

3.56: Bullpen ERA in May after it was 2.71 in April.

LOOKING AT JUNE’S SCHEDULE

It begins with ten games on the road, including three at Pittsburgh, where they have not played well. Perhaps Walker can catch a Penguins’ game.

They return home for three games each the Pirates and Braves, and two against World Series opponent Kansas City.

They end the month with four games in Atlanta and three more in Washington, before starting a four-game series at home against the Cubs that extends into July.

Apr 24

Mets Wrap: DeGrom Passes Big Test

It is safe to say Jacob deGrom passed the audition. How deGrom responded in his second start of the season and first since April 8 could turn out be one of the most pertinent issues of the year.

DeGROM: Passes big test. (AP)

DeGROM: Passes big test. (AP)

His 16-day absence was first caused because of a strained right lat muscle that turned into something far more serious following health complications of his newborn son.

That deGrom threw 82 pitches and said his lat felt fine gave the franchise a huge sigh of relief.

“He got after it,” manager Terry Collins told reporters about deGrom’s start. “After what he’s gone through he gave us plenty.”

In beating the Braves, 3-2, deGrom gave up one runs on eight hits with no walks and just three strikeouts. His ERA dropped to 1.54. His fastball velocity was clocked in the low 90s, not where he wants it to be. The eight hits were indicative of getting the ball up.

“It was nice to be back out there,’’ deGrom told reporters. “I was a little nervous, but excited to be out there. Everything feels fine.”

What deGrom didn’t like was his inability to put away hitters ahead in the count, but especially was pleased he didn’t walk any hitters.

“I had a lot of guys with two strikes I couldn’t put away,” deGrom said. “Other than that I was pretty happy with the outcome.”

We’ve seen deGrom be more dominant, but this was a great sign for him and the Mets. It was a huge sigh of relief.

Mets Game Wrap

Game: #17  Record: 10-7  Streak: W 3

SUMMARY: DeGrom worked into the sixth and the offense manufactured three runs, two coming of sacrifice flies. “It was great to see,” Collins said. “Personally, I’d like to get four homers every game.”

KEY MOMENT: Two stood out. … The Braves got two hits off deGrom in the first after the Mets gave him a 1-0 lead. A big inning is his first start was not something he needed. … When the Braves got to him for a run in the fifth deGrom minimized the damage.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera remains a bright spot with his timely hitting. … Michael Conforto drove in two runs. … A question entering the season and an issue early, the bullpen has pitched very well. Jim Henderson, Hansel Robles and Jerry Blevins were bright spots. … Wilmer Flores legged out his second hit of the season. … No walks issued from five pitchers.

THUMBS DOWN: Despite their power, the Mets struggle hitting with RISP, ranking last in the National League. … You don’t want to go to the bullpen four times, but considering the circumstances it was understandable. … Despite the save, Jeurys Familia is still not crisp. He gave up a run on three hits. … Cabrera failed to get the lead runner on a grounder in the ninth and it cost the Mets a run.

EXTRA INNINGS: Yoenis Cespedes didn’t play for the second straight game because of a bruise to his right upper leg. He will be examined Monday in New York. … David Wright had the day off, but was available to pinch-hit. … Kevin Plawecki started at catcher and Flores at third.

QUOTEBOOK: “You can’t hang sliders. The more he’s out there the better he’s going to feel.” – Collins on Familia’s problems.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7-5: Mets’ record vs. NL East. Braves (3-0), Phillies (3-3), Marlins (1-2). With the sweep of the Braves, the Mets have won seven straight games at Turner Field.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets return home to start a three-game series against Cincinnati Monday at Citi Field. Noah Syndergaard (2-0), Bartolo Colon (1-1) and Matt Harvey (1-3) are scheduled to start.

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Apr 12

Mets Not In “Panic City”

This column is in response to Adam Rubin’s question at the bottom of today’s Morning Briefing, I will say no. Rubin asked his readers if they were yet a resident of “Panic City,’’ what GM Sandy Alderson called some Mets fan when the team floundered last season before regrouping to reach the World Series.

SYNDERGAARD: Big start tonight. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Big start tonight. (Getty)

My readers know me for calling it straight. Many of them believe I might be too critical of the team. The over/under for Mets’ victories I posted Opening Day was 92, believing they could improve on last season by having Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, David Wright, Travis d’Arnaud and Yoenis Cespedes full time.

That’s still very possible.

It’s very easy to spot the problems six games into the season: the offense has not produced and their vaunted starting pitching hasn’t lived up to expectations. The bullpen was overworked in Matz’s start, but giving up three runs in 7.1 innings isn’t that bad.

The three best starts were made by Syndergaard in Kansas City, Jacob deGrom in the home opener and Bartolo Colon Saturday night. Matt Harvey has been roughed up twice and Matz was torched Monday night.

I want to go back to a column I posted earlier suggesting the rotation didn’t get enough work during spring training. Normally starters work about 30 innings during spring training, but no Met pitcher worked more than 15. This was done with the objective of protecting those young arms, and the immediate by-product has been location.

The only real concern here is with deGrom’s tight right lat muscle. Perhaps he wasn’t in his best condition before of the shortage of work. His velocity has been off. Is that injury or lack of work? We don’t know yet.

I posted last night I wasn’t concerned with Matz, but let’s go back early in spring training when he was worried about results and manager Terry Collins questioned whether he was in his best condition.

The lack of work will eventually resolve itself as the season continues. After all, they can’t go back to spring training.

Hopefully, Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen will learn from this and tweak their offseason and spring training workout programs. There’s nothing they can do now.

Offensively, we’re seeing signs of life from Cespedes and Wright.

Curtis Granderson hasn’t produced, but the same thing happened last year. His track record is he’ll get better. The Mets have only two homers in six games, but that will change. There have been too many strikeouts and missed scoring opportunities.

You can blame the weather, but it was just as cold for the Royals, Phillies and Marlins. It won’t get any easier tonight against Jose Fernandez or over the weekend in Cleveland.

We also should remember something Wright said at the start, and that’s the Mets will have a bullseye on their backs all year. Philadelphia and the Marlins, not surprisingly want a piece of the Mets. They were the National League champs, every team should want to knock them down a peg.

Tonight’s Mets’ lineup has only two hitters – Granderson and Lucas Duda – who were with the team all of 2015.

The others were either injured and missed significant time – Wright and d’Arnaud – or are in their first full seasons with the team. That would be Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera.

You can’t tell much about a team or a player after six games. Let’s see how things are at the end of the month. We all knew getting back to the Series wouldn’t be a breeze.

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