May 02

Mets’ April Review And Looking At May

Just as they did last season, the Mets won 15 games in April, and again the spark was a long winning streak. Last year it was 11 games; this year it was eight.

WALKER: My Mets' MVP for April. (AP)

WALKER: My Mets’ MVP for April. (AP)

As much as the Mets like to boast about their young pitching – as well they should – the springboard this time was power. It was not, as has been suggested, Terry Collins’ knee jerk managing in the eighth game of the season.

Yes, they won that game and have gone on to win five straight series. That’s purely coincidental.

The Mets tied a club record with 33 homers for the month, which enabled them to overcome Jacob deGrom’s two missed starts because of a strained lat muscle and Matt Harvey’s 0-3 start.

A key that can’t be underestimated has been the Mets’ ability to get an early lead, as they scored first in 10 of their last 14 games in April. Overall, they are 13-3 when they scored first this year.

The Mets crushed three homers and took a 4-0 lead in the first inning Monday against the Braves.

APRIL MVP

Contrary to the popular opinion of Yoenis Cespedes, I’m going with Neil Walker, who was hitting before Michael Conforto was moved to third in the order. Walker is tied for third in the majors with nine homers and finished the month with a career-high 19 for April.

Conforto would be my second choice and Cespedes third.

PITCHER OF THE MONTH

Noah Syndergaard took a pounding Sunday, but has been overpowering with 38 strikeouts with a 1.69 ERA for the month.

KEY GAME OF THE MONTH

Matt Harvey lost his first three starts, but finally won, April 22, 6-3, at Atlanta. He wasn’t totally on his game, but he pitched out of trouble enough times to turn it around. Sure, the game when Cespedes hit a three-run pinch-hit homer was more dramatic, but in the big picture getting Harvey going was more important.

KEY MOVE OF THE MONTH

On April 15 in Cleveland, Collins moved Conforto to the No. 3 spot in the batting order and the Mets have sizzled since going 12-3. When hitting third or fourth, Conforto is batting .373 with nine doubles, four homers and 15 RBI.

RED FLAGS ENDURED

Jacob deGrom missed two starts because of a strained right lat; Harvey lost his first three starts; closer Jeurys Familia sustained a rocky stretch, but has converted all eight of this save opportunities.

KEY ISSUE RESOLVED

Shortstop and the bullpen were two significant issues facing the Mets entering the season, but Asdrubal Cabrera has been superb both in the field and at the plate. The bullpen converted nine of 11 save opportunities and stranded 26 of 35 runners.

HEALTH ISSUES

Travis d’Arnaud was placed on the disabled list with a strained rotator cuff. … Cespedes missed close to a week with a bruised right leg. … David Wright ended the month without a problem, but his back remains an issue.

SIX QUESTIONS RAISED

Will the power continue?

Power of not, can Conforto keep it up?

Can Wright stay healthy?

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

Will we see deGrom and Harvey go on a roll?

Can the bullpen keep it up?

BY THE NUMBERS

.333: Walker’s average with RISP.

4: Times the Mets hit back-to-back homers.

5: Consecutive series the Mets won to close the month.

9: Consecutive games in which Cespedes had at least one extra-base hit.

22: Strikeouts by Cespedes.

29: Strikeouts by Wright.

33: Homers hit by the month.

LOOKING AT MAY’S SCHEDULE

They began May losing to Madison Bumgarner Sunday and close their current homestand against Atlanta.

The Mets are on a stretch of 17 games in 17 days, including their first West Coast trip, with four games in San Diego and Los Angeles and three in Colorado.

They’ll return home for a pair of three-games series against Washington (May 17-19) and Milwaukee (May 20-22), then go to Washington (May 23-25) for three more against the Nationals.

They’ll close out the month with three at home against the Dodgers (May 27-29) and two against the Chicago White Sox (a three-game series that ends June 1).

 

Apr 28

Optimistic About Harvey

I am the first to admit I have had reservations about Matt Harvey and his future with the Mets.

I still believe they would be smart to explore the trade market because if healthy, he’ll bolt for the Bucks in the Bronx when he becomes a free-agent after the 2019 season. That is based on the innings fiasco and agent Scott Boras’ reputation. The driving force is money.

HARVEY: Still hopeful for him. (AP)

HARVEY: Still hopeful for him. (AP)

There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s the way of the baseball world.

I believe the Mets gambled wrongly with Harvey and their pitchers in spring training by limiting their innings. Their heart might have been in the right place, but the mistake they made was pitchers need work to get sharp.

Harvey was hammered in his first three starts; Jacob deGrom hurt his lat muscle in his first start; and Steven Matz was also hit hard in his first start. The exception was Noah Syndergaard, And, Bartolo Colon is, well, there are no words to describe him.

Harvey’s pitch counts have been high, but he was better in his last two starts – including last night’s game against the Reds – and his ability to work out of trouble was a positive sign. Since Harvey’s early troubles was a sign of rust more than injury, I don’t have any reason to think he still can’t have a big year.

Apr 27

April 27, Mets’ Lineup Against Cincinnati

Matt Harvey will be pitching tonight to give the Mets’ consecutive series sweeps and extend their winning streak to six games. Harvey, after losing his first three starts, is coming off his first victory of the season.

Here’s the Mets’ lineup behind him:

Alejandro De Aza – RF; Curtis Granderson finally gets a rest. De Aza is hitless in seven at-bats this year with RISP.

David Wright – 3B: Drove in the winning run Tuesday. Back in the two hole.

Michael Conforto – LF: Back to hitting third. Has hit in five straight games, going 9-for-18.

Lucas Duda – 1B: Has 105 career homers as a Met, 11th on the franchise’s all-time list. Ed Kranepool is 10th with 118.

Neil Walker – 2B: Seven homers in his last 11 games. Tied for second with eight homers, trailing only Bryce Harper.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: Has hit safely in 11 of his last 13 games.

Juan Lagares – CF: Yoenis Cespedes not starting again. As long as he can pinch-hit there should be no worries.

Kevin Plawecki – C: Taking over the job with Travis d’Arnaud on the the disabled list.

Harvey – RHP: Hitters have a .538 on-base percentage against Harvey when runners are in scoring position.

Apr 26

Mets Wrap: Cespedes Revisits 2015

The power is reminiscent of last year, but it finally felt, and sounded, like 2015 for the Mets in Tuesday night’s dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Cincinnati.

The Mets had done nothing against Reds’ left-hander Brandon Finnegan and trailed 3-0 heading into the seventh.

CESPEDES: Gives us 2015 feel. (AP)

CESPEDES: Gives us 2015 feel. (AP)

With one out, Juan Lagares – playing instead of Yoenis Cespedes who was missing his fourth straight game – walked, and Kevin Plawecki, starting for Travis d’Arnaud, who went on the DL earlier in the day, singled.

As Lucas Duda mulled around the on-deck circle, Reds manager Bryan Price conferred with Finnegan. Collins wasn’t trying to trick Price, but it turned out that way.

During this time, Cespedes was hitting in the batting cages behind the Mets’ dugout. Price could have gone out and pulled Finnegan, but left him in and Cespedes hit a rope on the first pitch to tie the game.

“You have to be special,’’ Collins told reporters about the type of player able to sieve the moment as Cespedes did. “You have to believe in yourself 100 percent.’’

Citi Field sounded this loud last August when Cespedes literally carried the Mets for a month. Curtis Granderson followed with a triple, and David Wright, who had struggled all night, singled to right for the go-ahead run.

“It helps for these guys to know they can come back and win,’’ Collins said. “That’s what helped us in the second half [last year].’’

Jeurys Familia’s third straight save sealed the Mets their first come-from-behind victory of the season. That’s something the Mets did regularly last year.

All the things that made the Mets magical last season: their ability to rally; their power and Cespedes’ ability to live in the moment; Bartolo Colon early in the game and Familia at the end, all were on display.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #19 Record: 12-7 Streak: W5

 SUMMARY: Cespedes carried the Mets to the playoffs last season after the deadline deal. He did so again Tuesday night with a dramatic three-run, pinch-hit homer

KEY MOMENT: The Mets trailed by 3-0 and had two runners on with one out when Cespedes pinch-hit for reliever Logan Verrett and drilled the first on a line for a game-tying home run.

THUMBS UP: Verrett picked up the victory for the second straight night. … Not only did Michael Conforto start against a left-hander, but was in the clean-up position where he had two hits. … Granderson had two hits. … No runs given up by the bullpen. … Familia seems to have re-gained his groove.

THUMBS DOWN: Two more strikeouts by Wright gives him 28 in 67 at-bats. … Wilmer Flores looks helpless at the plate with a .087 average.

 EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets didn’t score first, but they did win for the tenth time in 12 games. … Colon surpassed 3,000 career innings pitched. … Since April 15, the Mets lead the majors with 27 homers. … Familia has 56 career saves tying with Randy Myers for 11th place on the Mets’ career list.

QUOTEBOOK:   “He’s hurting and for him to come through like that gives everybody a lift,’’ – Collins on Wright’s game-winning hit in the seventh.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10: Consecutive victories by the Mets over the Reds.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey goes after his second victory Wednesday night. Harvey is 2-0 with a 2.36 ERA in four career starts against the Reds.

 

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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