Apr 23

Morning Coffee With The Mets

It was a long night for the Mets, who overcame a rocky Matt Harvey start and eighth-inning rain delay to beat the Braves, 6-3, Friday night atTurner Field. The Mets have won the first game in each series during this road trip. They are now 5-2 on the trip.

Matz goes tonight.

Matz goes tonight.

Steven Matz, who was strong in his last Sunday’s start in Cleveland, starts for the Mets tonight.

Today on the blog, I’ll have:

* Today In Mets History

* A look at Matz.

* Game Wrap

ON DECK: Today In Mets History: Jay Hook Gives Franchise First Ever Win

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Apr 22

Mets Wrap: Harvey Not Sharp, But Wins

The answer was an empathic NO, Matt Harvey did not find it. Regardless of how Friday night’s game would turn out, the main storyline for the Mets was going to be Harvey, and whether he could avoid hitting the wall that marked his three losses to start the season.

HARVEY: Still searching for answers. (Getty)

HARVEY: Still searching for answers. (Getty)

Harvey was far from sharp, but came away with his first victory, 6-3, over the Braves, whom you must remember aren’t the Braves of old who routinely tormented the Mets.

Harvey, backed by a pair of Curtis Granderson home runs, struggled but pitched well enough to temporarily take the collective fingers off the Mets’ off the panic button. Even so, Harvey was pushed and despite winning the Mets know it can’t keep going on like this for the pitcher who craves the moniker of “ace.”

Manager Terry Collins finally admitted Harvey’s light spring training workload, compounded by a bladder infection, has been a strong contributor to his career-high four-game losing streak (dating back to last year).

Harvey gave up two runs on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts in five arduous innings in which he threw 101 pitches. For that many pitches, the Mets would want at least another two innings from Harvey. His primary problem was not keeping the ball down and his slider didn’t have the bite he must have to succeed.

Staked to a 4-0 lead in the second on Granderson’s grand slam homer, Harvey labored through a 33-pitch bottom of the inning to give back two of the runs.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #15   Record: 8-7    Streak: W 1

 SUMMARY: Granderson’s two homers and five RBI carried Harvey to his first victory in a performance that can kindly be called “not a gem.”

 KEY MOMENT: Granderson’s slam.

 THUMBS UP: Yoenis Cespedes threw a runner out at the plate to end the fifth. … His RBI double in the seventh marked his seventh straight game with an extra-base hit. … Strong showings by relievers Antonio Bastardo and Addison Reed.

THUMBS DOWN: Harvey’s short start forced the Mets bullpen to log four more innings. … David Wright struck out two more times and already has 21. … Juan Lagares was doubled off second in the ninth when another run would have helped. … Jeurys Familia got the save, but wasn’t sharp. … Cespedes aggravated his leg injury on the double.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Jacob deGrom threw a successful bullpen session in Port St. Lucie Fla. He will rejoin the team Saturday and start Sunday. Collins said deGrom could be limited to 85 pitches. DeGrom last pitched April 8 and has been away from the team when his son, Jaxon, was born with medical complications. … Collins was a passenger in a taxi involved in a minor traffic accident Thursday. There were no injuries. … Pitching coach Dan Warthen is away from the team for his mother’s funeral. … The Braves haven’t announced Sunday’s starter. … The game was delayed by rain in the bottom of the eighth inning.

QUOTEBOOK: “Matt can be a little aloof at times.” – Keith Hernandez on Harvey after the pitcher seemingly walked away from a conversation between innings with catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

 BY THE NUMBERS: 4: Granderson became the fourth player to hit grand slams for both the Mets and Yankees, joining Robin Ventura, Darryl Strawberry and Carlos Beltran.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz (1-1, 7.27 ERA) attempts an encore of last Sunday’s gem in Cleveland. He’ll go against Jhoulys Chacin (0-0, 2.38).

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Apr 22

Will Harvey Find It Tonight?

Both the Mets and Matt Harvey insist there’s nothing wrong with the pitcher’s surgically-repaired elbow, but, he’s Harvey, so can we really buy into that?

Whatever is ailing Harvey – outside of unflattering and sarcastic headlines – it usually surfaces in the middle innings.

HARVEY: Searching for answers. (Getty)

HARVEY: Searching for answers. (Getty)

“He’s hit a wall,” Collins told reporters about Harvey’s problems. “All of a sudden in the middle of the game he’s not making pitches that he made early in the game — he has struggled out of the stretch. He made some changes, so I know he feels good about it so I expect him to get it going.”

Excluding injuries – Collins insists Harvey “is too smart,” to pitch with an injury – the prevailing theory is a mechanical flaw with the pitcher’s back leg. That’s pitching coach Dan Warthen‘s conclusion.

“I’m not a pitching coach,” Collins said. “I believe in my pitching coach. He’s very, very good, and if that’s what he’s determined and they’ve got it fixed then Matt Harvey will be back. The way we tried to get all those young guys ready for the season, he might have not done enough extra work in the bullpen.”

Actually, Collins would be more thruthful if he said Mets pitchers didn’t get enough work in spring training games. The traditional number is close to 30 exhibition innings, but Harvey threw 12.

“I still have all the confidence in the world he’s going to get it going and at the end of the year he’s going to be right where he always is, and that’s pitching great,” Collins said.

Collins better be right because there’s a whole lot riding on Harvey pitching to expectations.

ON DECK: April 22, Mets Lineup At Atlanta

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Apr 22

Mets List: Mets-Braves Magic Moments

Unlike the Yankees, who always had the Red Sox as a historical sparring partner, the Mets haven’t had what you’d consider a for-the-ages rival. In their infant years, they had the Dodgers and Giants for obvious reasons, then in 1969, they developed a brief rivalry with the Chicago Cubs. Later, it was the Pirates, then the Cardinals, and eventually the Braves.

I have always wanted to run a weekly Mets List feature and plan to do so on Friday.

NO STRANGER GAME

NO STRANGER GAME

With the Mets in Atlanta today for the start of a three-game series, I have come up with five of the most memorable Mets-Braves moments. If you have others, please share.

Post Sept. 11 homer: On Sept. 21, in the first professional sporting event in New York following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Braves were in town. Emotions ran high, but boiled over when Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead homer off Steve Karsay.

The Mets trailed by a run entering the eighth when Piazza delivered.

The 1969 NLCS: The Mets’ reward for overtaking the Cubs was to face the powerful Braves in the first year of divisional play.

The Braves were loaded with the likes of Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and Orlando Cepeda, but the Mets swept the series, winning 9-5 and 11-6 (at Atlanta) and 7-4 (at Shea Stadium).

Tom Seaver, Ron Taylor and Nolan Ryan were the winning pitchers. From there, the Mets continued to stun the sports universe by beating Baltimore in the World Series.

The Grand Slam single: The Mets trailed in the 1999 NLCS 3-to-1 in games and 3-2 entering the bottom of the 15th inning. The Mets tied it, 3-3, when Todd Pratt drew a bases-loaded walk.

Robin Ventura followed with what appeared to be a grand slam, but was only credited with a single when the Mets stormed the field to congratulate Ventura. In the process, Mets’ runners passed each other on the bases necessitating the call. VIDEO

The Mets would lose Game 6, 10-9, when Kenny Rogers issued a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth.

The Subway Series against the Yankees would have to wait another year.

Late night fireworks: On July 4 and 5, 1985, the Mets had one of those games. The Mets tied it, 8-8, in the top of the ninth on Lenny Dykstra’s RBI single off closer Bruce Sutter.

The teams slogged around for several innings before Howard Johnson’s two-run homer off Terry Forster in the 13th inning. However, Atlanta tied it, 10-10, on Terry Harper’s two-run homer off Tom Gorman. The Mets regained the lead in the 18th on Dykstra’s sacrifice fly off reliever Rick Camp, but the Braves tied it again on Camp’s homer off Gorman.

The Mets seemingly blew open the game with five runs off Camp in the 19th, but pesky Atlanta pulled within 16-13 off Ron Darling.

The game ended shortly before 4 a.m., but the Braves went ahead with their fireworks night. That prompted many calls to police claiming their neighborhood was under attack.

Double-header treat: In a night that might have symbolized the passing of the torch was near, Mets started prize pitching prospects Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler combined for a double-header sweep on June 18 in Atlanta.

Harvey, who would pitch in the All-Star Game that year but eventually wind up on the disabled list and need surgery, won the first game, 4-3. Wheeler, who grew up near Atlanta, won the second game. 6-1.

Rarely had the Mets won in Atlanta, but sweeping a double-header was unfathomable.

ON DECK: Matt Harvey Tinkers With Mechanics

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Apr 16

Is It Time To Wonder About Harvey?

Matt Harvey clearly doesn’t have it, and it is time to wonder, not if, but what is wrong with the Mets’ pitcher. Is something bothering him physically or didn’t he get enough work during spring trainiing?

HARVEY: ``Nobody is more frustrated than I am.'' (AP)

HARVEY: “Nobody is more frustrated than I am.” (AP)

After cruising through four innings Saturday in Cleveland, Harvey suddenly lost it and ended up giving up five runs in 5.2 innings to lose his third straight game and watch his ERA balloon to 5.71.

While those are numbers, they are also the product of a fastball in the low 90s. So are opponents hitting .452 in the fifth and sixth innings. In that span his ERA is over 10.00. His sixth-inning ERA is 27.00 alone.

That’s not the stuff of aces.

“The one thing I saw was he was pounding the zone early and then he got some pitches up,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “Right now, I am worried about how he’s cruising along and loses it so fast.”

Harvey doesn’t have an answer, either, but dismissed the idea he was injured.

“I’m fine,” Harvey said. “I’m not hitting a wall. I have to figure out how to get through the fifth and sixth innings and right now I’m not doing that. It’s not only location; everything fell apart. My job is to keep us close and I didn’t do that. I’m going to have to start over and flush this one.”

This leaves greater credence to the theory he didn’t get enough work in spring training. Also supporting that theory was pitching coach Dan Warthen suggesting Harvey might be pressing because of a mechanical issue. Not only is his fastball down, but his slider has no bite and he only threw one significant curveball against the Indians.

If there’s nothing physically wrong, I’m inclined to go back to my initial theory he didn’t get enough work in spring training. Most starters aim to get in 30 innings, but Harvey got only 12, hardly enough to build up the arm strength needed to snap off a breaking ball, especially his slider.

Maybe that theory is wrong, but this much is certain. Something is not right.

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