Here’s tonight’s Mets’ lineup at Chicago:
Curtis Granderson – RF
Daniel Murphy – 3B
Michael Cuddyer – LF
Lucas Duda – 1B
Wilmer Flores –SS
Kirk Nieuwenhuis – CF
Kevin Plawecki – C
Noah Syndergaard – RHP
Ruben Tejada – 2B
Just as they were with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, don’t look for the Mets to bring up Noah Syndergaard for a spot start. Once he’s here, unless he really spits the bit, he’s not going anywhere. Like everybody else, I’m excited to see him pitch, just as I was when Harvey and Wheeler first came up.
What it means is Dillon Gee will move to the bullpen or be traded, with the Mets having to take less than they want to move him – and save money. That much is inevitable when Gee comes off the disabled list. The Mets were so hot to trade him because they knew this day was coming. The only snap for the Mets was Gee getting hurt, otherwise they could have kept Syndergaard down for Super Two status.
We can talk all we want about Syndergaard’s stuff and his fall-off-the-table curveball. We know from spring training, Triple-A Las Vegas and his Tweeting he has no shortage of confidence. However, his stuff and confidence will only carry him so far tonight in Wrigley Field.
The most important thing Syndergaard must take to the mound is poise. Actually, I’d like to see him get in trouble to see how he responds to adversity and pressure. That quality is what defines a great pitcher. We’ve seen it in Harvey and until recently, in Jacob deGrom. Now, I want to see it in Syndergaard.
The standard cliche for a rookie pitcher is it’s still the same game he’s been playing in the minor leagues. Not true. In the minor leagues he’s facing minor leaguers. This is the major leagues and mistakes get hit a long way.
Syndergaard must keep the ball down and get ahead in the count. That much is obvious, But, he also needs to minimize damage when he gets in trouble. He needs to find something when that curveball is missing its spot.
The distance between the rubber and the plate is the same, but everything else will be different, including the opposition, the pressure and all those eyes watching him.
Syndergaard did a lot to get here. He must do a lot more to stay.
Should the Mets be concerned about Jacob deGrom? Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year was off from the outset Monday night and later told reporters, “it boils down to location.”
Well, it always boils to location and deGrom (3-4, 3.46 ERA) has been off in three of his last four starts. To put it bluntly, he’s been bad since his April 24, three-homer debacle at Yankee Stadium. Some hitters get their swings screwed up after a series in Fenway Park. Maybe this is the pitcher’s version.
DeGrom entered the Yankee Stadium game with a 2-1 record and 0.93 ERA and only one homer and three walks given up in his previous three starts. Since then, he has failed to pitch out of the sixth in three of those four starts. His ERA has spiked to 3.46, with five homers and nine walks given up. Batters are hitting .269 off him, which is 31 points above his career average.
“`I can’t throw the pitches that I want for strikes,” deGrom said about last night, but easily could have been speaking about the last month. “I made some mistakes over the middle of the plate and they seemed to hit it a long way.”
The pregame talk was of deGrom’s secondary pitches, but that’s the icing. The most important thing for a pitcher is getting ahead in the count with his fastball, and that’s something he’s not doing with consistency.
That’s how Collins described the problem.
“When he had to make a pitch, he didn’t make it – couldn’t make it,” Collins said. “You can talk secondary pitches all you want. You’ve got to locate your fastball. That’s what made him so good last year was the location – moving it around side to side.”
Collins said two words that are most important: locate and moving. With a fastball there’s velocity, movement and location. By order of important, it goes location, movement and velocity.
There’s no doubt his velocity is good, otherwise we would have heard of it decreasing. Because we haven’t, we can rule out something wrong with his arm.
Collins also said deGrom’s body language has been bad, which is a great, but startling admission for a manager to make. If he can see it from his dugout, the opposition can from theirs as well.
Last year was last year. DeGrom doesn’t have the same “stuff’’ or the same demeanor as he did last season.
Something is wrong. Collins didn’t come out and use the word “concerned,’’ but he didn’t have to.
ON DECK: Previewing Noah Syndergaard.
Beginning tonight, the 20-11 Mets have seven straight games against the Cubs and Brewers, teams you would think they should handle before playing St. Louis a week from today. After winning their last two games in Philadelphia, asking them to win seven more in a row would be a tall order, but 4-3 or 5-2 isn’t out of the question considering how well their starting pitching has performed.
Jacob deGrom, the unknown in Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Jon Niese will pitch against the Cubs in Wrigley Field, then we should get Bartolo Colon, deGrom and Syndergaard next weekend against Milwaukee. If these guys pitch to their capabilities, the Mets have to feel good about themselves over the next week.
When the NFL schedule comes out, you look at who your team is playing and check off games they should win or lose. Now, if you’re a fan of the New England Patriots, after you looked at their schedule, who didn’t realistically see them losing three of their first four games (Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Dallas)?
A baseball schedule is different, but this time it’s not hard to think this could be a good stretch for the Mets to right their struggling offense and pick up more ground in the NL East.
The Mets’ offense has sputtered since Travis d’Arnaud and David Wright were sidelined with injuries. The Mets lost seven of ten before seemingly rebound against Baltimore and Philadelphia (won four of five). The Mets have several offensive issues they must address.
They apparently solved one by moving Daniel Murphy to the third spot. Juan Lagares is leading off tonight with Curtis Granderson getting the night off. If Lagares does well, manager Terry Collins might keep him at the top of the order and moving Granderson to the middle of the order.
I’ve always wanted Lagares to hit leadoff if he could improve his on-base percentage, which he did during spring training. I admit I was wrong about Granderson, as his on-base percentage has been very good. However, the Mets’ haven’t hit for much power, and as Granderson’s batting average slowly rises, he might be in position to drive in more runs.
What the Mets’ 11-game winning streak did was buy time for them to endure a down stretch. They’ve had that “blip,” as Collins likes to say, now we have to see if they can build off it.
Here’s tonight’s lineup for the Mets at Wrigley Field against the Cubs:
Juan Lagares – CF
John Mayberry, Jr. – RF
Daniel Murphy – 3B
Michael Cuddyer – LF
Lucas Duda – 1B
Wilmer Flores – SS
Kevin Plawecki – C
Dilson Herrera – 2B
Jacob deGrom – RHP
LINEUP COMMENTS: Finally, we get to see Lagares in the leadoff spot, but that’s only because Mayberry is in right in place of Curtis Granderson. … Cuddyer is batting clean-up, which puts a right-handed bat between Murphy and Duda. … Herrera is back at second and Ruben Tejada returns to the bench.