May 21

Collins Made Right Call To Pull De Grom

It would have been nice to see Jacob deGrom finish today’s start for the Mets, but manager Terry Collins‘ decision to pull him was totally reasonable.

At the beginning of the season Collins said deGrom and Matt Harvey would be watched carefully in terms of pitch counts and monitoring, which fell into line his decision to not let him come out for the ninth.

DEGROM: Pulled out of caution. (AP)

DEGROM: Pulled out of caution. (AP)

In fact, even though deGrom’s pitch count was at 104 and he was cruising having retired his last 23 hitters.

Collins volunteered deGrom was dealing with soreness in his hip and shoulder recently, so it was actually a no-brainer. All Collins has to do is think about the 134 pitches Johan Santana threw in his no-hitter.

“I already lived through one of those harrowing experiences,’’ Collins told reporters. “At my age, you can’t live through too many more.’’

In that regard, it didn’t hurt the lone hit deGrom gave up came in the first inning.

Sure, deGrom wanted to stay in, but didn’t push matters with Collins.

“I haven’t thrown a complete game in the big leagues,’’ deGrom said. “That’s something I want to do. But I had a lot of pitches early on. My goal was to try to stay in there for at least seven. Then, whenever they let me go back out for the eighth, I was just happy to do that.”

The prevailing theory is deGrom altered his mechanics to compensate for hip stiffness, which consequently lead to shoulder soreness. Whether or not this was the result of mechanics remains in question, but what isn’t in doubt is Collins made the right call.

May 20

Mets Facing Critical Juncture To Season

Every season has its critical juncture and for the Mets it is now after Bartolo Colon‘s 41-year-old arm was mauled tonight by major league’s best team in St. Louis. The Mets’ 11-game winning streak and eight-game lead over Washington has faded from euphoria to the cusp of panic after Colon was ripped.

We’ve seen hot streaks from the Mets morph into inescapable slides before. The Mets’ 9-0 loss coupled with the Nationals beating the Yankees, 3-2, tonight, leaves Washington in sole possession of first place in the National League East and begs the question: Can manager Terry Collins‘ team recover?

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

COLON: Ripped again. (AP)

After a 13-3 start, the Mets are 10-15, including 3-7 over their last ten games. They aren’t hitting. Their starting pitching has faltered recently with Colon, Jon Niese and Thursday’s starter, Jacob deGrom. They haven’t won behind Matt Harvey in three starts and blew 1-0 leads in his last two. Their defense has been poor.

In two respects, the Mets’ hopes to regroup are tied to two gambles by GM Sandy Alderson: 1) the signing of Colon, whom they hoped would stem the tide tonight, and 2) the decision to see how David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud come back from the disabled list before attempting to trade for a hitter to aid their faltering offense.

The estimate on their returns is at least two weeks, and nobody knows where the Mets will be in the standings by then. Don’t forget, they lost eight games in the standings to the Nationals in a little over three weeks. Bryce Harper is hot; Stephen Strasburg is back.

It is possible the Mets could respond from tonight’s mugging and win another 11 in a row. Then again, they could continue their funk. They have another game with the Cardinals Thursday, then three in Pittsburgh before playing the Phillies, who are now playing well.

In many ways Colon personifies Alderson’s patchwork approach in building this team. Colon was signed as a stopgap after Harvey was injured. They eschewed going after a big name free-agent in favor of Colon, who was signed to eat innings and win about a dozen games. Colon won 15 games last season and sought his seventh tonight. Colon gave up five homers in splitting his previous four starts, and was hammered tonight, giving up nine runs on 11 hits – including two homers – and a pair of walks in 4.1 innings.

Meanwhile, for all the talk about the Mets’ ailing offense, it wouldn’t have mattered tonight against Colon and Tuesday against Niese, who is also proving not to be an answer.

Lately, there have been more questions than answers for the Mets, including this big one: Can they pull it together?


May 19

Mets’ Harvey Gets It

Kudos to Matt Harvey after the Mets’ bullpen kicked away an opportunity for his sixth victory of the season. Just as he did on the mound, he handled the post game like a pro.

Harvey failed in his third straight start for his sixth victory, and in his last two games saw the bullpen blow a 1-0 lead late. In those two games Harvey struck out 18 and threw 15 scoreless innings. He deserved better than two no decisions. He should be 7-1 now, but don’t feel sorry for him because he’ll win many more before he’s done.

HARVEY: Gets it. (AP)

HARVEY: Gets it. (AP)

There will be times when he gives it up, pitches lousy, but somehow come away with a victory. That’s the nature of the sport.

Harvey handled everything perfectly last night. He could have thrown both his hitters and bullpen under the bus, but didn’t. He chose the professional route.

You saw raw emotion when he left the mound. He’s human. He had to be disappointed, but didn’t show it in front of the cameras. Pitchers, like quarterbacks, can’t afford to wear emotions on their sleeves. Only a few can get away with it.

“Well, I think at that point, you just gotta hope we come out and score a run,” Harvey told reporters about went through his mind after the Cardinals tied the game in the ninth. “Take the win/loss out of the equation and concentrate on cheering your teammates on in the bottom half of the inning. … John Mayberry came up and got it done [in the 14th inning], and a win is a win.”

I’ve seen countless pitchers moan and complain about a lack of run support, or point their fingers at a fielder who committed and error, or the bullpen. These pitchers aren’t usually liked by their teammates. The Mets have had a few of them.

But, Harvey is different. His teammates like and respect him, not only for his talent but work ethic. Coming back from Tommy John surgery isn’t easy. He understands this is a team game and he’s one of 25. He knows there will be times when a reliever saves his hide, or a hitter overcomes a bad pitch Harvey made by mauling a couple of home runs. Or a fielder makes a great play. For example, last night Michael Cuddyer and Wilmer Flores made run-saving plays that without them, there wouldn’t have been a blown save.

That’s the nature of the sport, and in that respect, Harvey gets it.

ON DECK: May 19, Mets’ Lineup Vs. Cardinals

May 13

Mets Lose, Rangers Win In Dramatic Fashion

The TV remote has to be one of the greatest inventions of all time, and it allowed me to switch between the Mets and Rangers tonight. When my eyes weren’t glued on Matt Harvey and the Mets, they were focused on Henrik Lundqvist and the front of the Rangers’ goal.

HARVEY: Great effort equals no decision. (AP)

HARVEY: Great effort equals no decision. (AP)

There’s an obvious disconnect in the paces of the two sports, but each has their different kinds of mounting tensions.

Seconds after Jeurys Familia walked Chris Coghlan to force in the winning run in the ninth inning, Derek Stepan put a rebounded shot in from the left wing in overtime to win a classic Game 7.

There was a slowly, mounting tension as Familia entered a bases-loaded jam in the ninth, and as each pitch missed the strike zone you could see Harvey’s brilliant effort slip away. Meanwhile, at Madison Square Garden there was an incredible steady pressure as the Capitals were literally camped in front of Lundqvist.

Whether it was the Garden or Wrigley Field, there was no margin for error for either New York team. The Mets could afford their third straight loss because after all, it is only May. But, in Manhattan one mistake and the Rangers would welcome in summer instead of Tampa Bay for the Eastern Conference finals.

Harvey entered the game with the plan of using more breaking balls to start off hitters and it worked. A tough luck loser in his last start, Harvey gave up three hits with nine strikeouts in seven scoreless innings. He left with a 1-0 lead, but his sixth victory would not to be as Carlos Torres gave up the tying run in the eighth and loaded the bases to put Familia in a precarious jam he could not escape.

Meanwhile, as Familia struggled the Rangers cleared the puck into the Washington zone and after a brief flurry the puck came to Stepan and he knew what to do with it.

Perhaps, in several months when the Rangers are starting a new season, the Mets might be playing in a Game 7 of their own.