Jul 04

Three Mets’ Storylines: Don’t Forget Cespedes As MVP Candidate

As impressive as the Mets’ four-game sweep was of the Cubs, a case can be made it was validated by what they did Monday afternoon with their firecracker comeback victory over the Miami Marlins. You can even argue two of the Mets’ most important victories this season came during this home stand.

There was Thursday’s rally from three runs down – call it the Brandon Nimmo Game – in a 4-3 victory over the Cubs. Today, they overcame another poor performance from Matt Harvey to come from six runs behind to win their fifth straight game, 8-6, to pull within four games of Washington.

CESPEDES: MVP Candidate. (AP)

CESPEDES: MVP Candidate. (AP)

On Thursday they put the brakes on what was turning into a severe skid; today they pressed down on the accelerator in their playoff push.

There were three significant storylines from the game, with two – Harvey and the bullpen – intertwined. The third was Yoenis Cespedes‘ clutch hitting.

CESPEDES: I keep hearing about potential NL MVP candidates, among them Daniel Murphy and Kris Bryant.

But, Cespedes can’t be ignored. He has five of his 20 homers and 28 RBI coming with RISP. His 20 homers – fourth in the NL – suggest he’s in scoring position as soon as he leaves the on-deck circle. In his last 12 home games, Cespedes is batting .419 with four doubles and four homers, including that monster drive to jumpstart Thursday’s win.

Cespedes had no chance of being the NL MVP last year because of his limited time in the league. But this year, he’d be my choice, with his game-winning, two-run double in the eighth just another sample of what he’s been doing all year.

HARVEY: Gone are the feel-good thoughts Harvey might have turned around his season after making three strong starts. Harvey encored those three starts with four bad ones in which he gave up a combined 13 runs on 30 hits and five walks with only 15 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. For the second straight game Harvey worked just 3.2 innings. (In fairness, his outing was cut short in the Washington start by rain, but even so he wasn’t pitching well.)

Harvey hasn’t come away with a victory since, May 30, some seven starts ago.

On the bright side, he hasn’t given up a homer since his May 24 loss at Washington when he gave up three. However, of his 17 starts he’s only gone seven innings twice.

For someone who considers himself an ace, this is unacceptable. For those of you who still believe him to be an ace, kindly think again if his 4-10 record and 4.86 ERA haven’t convinced you. That’s not to say he can’t be an ace in the future, but not now.

The Mets will need Harvey because of looming physical questions of Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard.

BULLPEN: The pen has been maligned, but today it stepped up with 5.1 scoreless innings.

The Mets didn’t have Addison Reed, but were picked up by Erik Goeddel, Logan Verrett, Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins and Jeurys Familia. Kudos for Verrett and Robles for working out of trouble, and again for Familia, who always seems to be on the ropes only to escape with his 29th straight victory.

A point that requires no debate: Championship teams need a strong bullpen.

May 24

Tonight’s Mets lineup: May 24 at Chicago.

After kicking away Sunday’s game at Yankee Stadium, the Mets are in Chicago tonight to face the Cubs.

When you look at Mets’ history they’ve have periodic rivals. In 1969 and again in 1973, the Cubs were a big deal on their schedule. There’s also been the Pirates, the Braves and the Phillies.

One of my favorite sports books is “The Year the Mets Lost Last Place,’’ which documented a three-series stretch in 1969. Every now and then I’ll pick up the book and start to read. It always is fresh.

Mets at Cubs used to be in the afternoon, but that’s another lost tradition. Night games at Wrigley Field? I still don’t like it.

Here’s tonight’s line-up:

Jose Reyes, SS

Daniel Murphy, 1B

Carlos Beltran, RF

Jason Bay, LF

Justin Turner, 3B

Willie Harris, CF

Ronny Paulino, C

Ruben Tejada, 2B

Jonathan Niese, LP


COMMENTS: The first game after Fred Wilpon threw Reyes and Beltran under the bus. Not inaccurate comments, but it does make you wonder what the agenda is here.


May 24

May 24.10: Mejia to stay in pen.

Until they change their minds again, the Mets have made a decision – hopefully definitive for at least the remainder of the season – on Jenrry Mejia.

The prospect with the million-dollar arm will remain in the bullpen.

Manager Jerry Manuel confirmed last night what many surmised after Manny Acosta was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo instead of Mejia to make room for Ryota Igarashi’s return from the disabled list.

“You have a young man who has a tremendous arm, tremendous upside,’’ Manuel said. “If you take what he gives you in small bits, it’s very serviceable, even at the big league level.’’

Several things went into the decision, notably when Mejia started altering his delivery Thursday in Washington. Altered deliveries lead to arm problems and the Mets want to nip possibility early.

During the series with the Nationals, Manuel had suggested Mejia was likely to be the one to go to the minor leagues to make room for Igarashi.

Starting might still be in Mejia’s future, but not for now, and you would be correct if you thought this move had something to do with Manuel’s immediate job future.

“If we wanted to have him start, he could start in the winter somewhere,’’ Manuel said. “But here, if he’s serviceable and if he’s usable, then I’d like to have him. It’s probably selfish on my part, but that’s how I feel.’’

With Igarashi back, the plan is for him and Feliciano to work the eighth and Mejia to work the seventh. Watching Mejia blow away Mark Teixeira Saturday night convinced Manuel.

“Basically, that was the plan all along,’’ Manuel said. “We felt that Igarashi could handle the eighth, and we needed someone to handle the seventh. I wanted to see Mejia pitch in this environment and see how he responded to it, and he did real well.’’

I only hope the Mets stick with this decision and not waver. To bounce him from role to role at 20 could be harmful to his development.