May 11

Why We Love Jacob DeGrom

It wasn’t Jacob deGrom at his best, but perhaps it was vintage Jacob deGrom nonetheless.

DE GROM: True Grit. (AP)

DE GROM: True Grit. (AP)

Who didn’t have flashbacks to Game 5 of last year’s NLDS when deGrom gutted out six innings to give the Mets a chance to win? On Tuesday, despite lacking his best stuff and perfect mechanics, deGrom was all grit in guile in giving the Mets seven innings in the 3-2 loss to the Dodgers.

Sure, it would have been great for him to be rewarded with a win, even so watching deGrom squirm his way out of trouble was akin to John Elway scrambling to avoid the pass rush.

Watching deGrom is watching sport at its finest and why we love this guy. No drama, no excuses, just a player competing at the highest level.

“This night showed what Jake deGrom is made of,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters. “We all talk about the ‘plus’ stuff. He’s fighting through some mechanical things right now, and this guy was in trouble for the first five innings.

“And yet you looked up and he gave you seven innings. That tells me a lot about him. … This guy is usually pinpoint, and he hasn’t been that. That’s why he’s been struggling. I’ll tell you one thing: I like running him out there every fifth day.’’

And I love watching him every fifth day.

Hopefully, fifteen years from now, when those long dark locks have been shorn and faded to gray, we’ll enjoy him at the end of a spectacular career.

All done in a Mets’ uniform.

May 11

Mets Wrap: DeGrom’s Outing Wasted

You hate to see good pitching go to waste, but that’s what happened in the Mets’ 3-2 loss to the Dodgers Tuesday night. Jacob deGrom gave up two runs in seven innings – good enough to win most games – but the Mets’ offense responded with an effort bad enough to lose most games.

Mets’ hitters struck out 13 times and only twice had as many as two runners on base in an inning at the same time.

The Dodgers scored the game-winning run in the ninth inning when Trayce Thompson homered off Hansel Robles. It came after Robles shook off catcher Kevin Plawecki’s call for a slider.

I have no problem with Robles shaking off the pitch, because as Plawecki explains in the Game Wrap, a pitcher must be confident in the pitch.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #32   Record: 20-12   Streak: L 1

Standings: First, NL East

Runs: 137     Average per game: 4.3    Times scoring 3 runs or less: 13

SUMMARY:  The Mets’ all-or-nothing offense was nothing Tuesday night against Alex Wood and three relievers. They had five hits and two walks; went 1-for-7 with RISP; and struck out 13 times to waste a strong outing from deGrom.

KEY MOMENT:  In the second, Mets had two runs home and two runners on with no outs, but Wood regrouped to get the next three hitters.

THUMBS UP: DeGrom was grit again. … Yoenis Cespedes gunned down Adrian Gonzalez at second. … Two hits from Juan Lagares. … A RBI single from Plawecki. … Antonio Bastardo worms out of trouble in the eighth inning once again.

THUMBS DOWN:  After endorsing Michael Conforto, he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. It doesn’t matter, he still should’ve hit No. 3. … Three strikeouts by David Wright. … Lagares was picked off to end the fifth.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Be honest, after Chase Utley’s double in the first, how many people thought, “deGrom should have plunked him?’’ … After appearing in three straight games, Bastardo will likely not be available Wednesday night.

QUOTEBOOK: “I put the slider down. Ultimately, I want my pitcher to have conviction with what he’s throwing. And if he doesn’t feel comfortable throwing his slider in that situation, then I’ve got to trust him on that.’’ – Plawecki on Robles shaking off his call for a slider prior to Thompson’s game-winning homer.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3: Strikeouts by Cespedes in his last 10 games. During that span he has also walked seven times and driven in eight runs.

NEXT FOR METS:  Wednesday: Noah Syndergaard (2-2, 2.58) vs. RHP Kenta Maeda (3-1, 1.66). Thursday: Bartolo Colon (3-1, 2.82) vs. Kershaw (4-1, 2.02).

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May 10

Collins Gives No Confidence Vote To Conforto

Looking at the Mets’ lineup for Tuesday’s game in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but notice a glaring mistake. Perhaps it was just an oversight on manager Terry Collins’ part, but I’m not thrilled with Michael Conforto batting sixth, protected between the red hot Wilmer Flores (.170, one homer and two RBI) and the sizzling Kevin Plawecki (.229, one homer and three RBI).

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

CONFORTO: Bad move dropping him. (AP)

The Mets touted Conforto as the team’s No. 3 hitter of the future when Collins moved him there in mid-April. The move, where he hit ahead of Yoenis Cespedes, jumpstarted the Mets’ offense and sparked their surge in the standings.

The Mets are 16-5 isince moving Conforto to third, which includes losing the first two games on this trip. Unquestionably, Conforto is on a significant slide, going 3-for-29 (.103) over his last eight games. Basically, that’s a bad week.

Although the Mets are facing a left-hander in Alex Wood, it should be noted he’s 1-3 with a 5.18 ERA. The message indicated a lack of confidence by Collins in Conforto, but the manager’s words flat out shout it loud.

Lefties are batting .367 this year against Wood, but the manager doesn’t think that’s relevant. Collins said batting Conforto sixth wouldn’t create pressure to perform, but he’s mistaken. There’s more pressure now.

Collins made a big deal saying Cespedes’ presence helped Conforto, but if you buy that logic, you must also accept he’s getting next to no protection between Flores and Plawecki. In addition, what must Conforto be thinking about this demotion?

As far as his reasoning for moving Conforto, Collins told reporters today: “I’d like to leave him in the three-hole if I thought he could do some damage.”

That’s another way of saying he doesn’t think he can do any damage against a pitcher with an ERA just under six. How’s that for a pat on the back?

No, I don’t like this decision. Confidence is essential in the development of a hitter, and this move screams Collins has doubts. When Collins moved Conforto, I wrote how important it was for him to stay with him during slumps. At least the first one.

If Conforto is to become the No. 3 hitter the Mets expect of him, he’ll have to endure dry stretches. So, what does Collins do? He bails at the first sign of a problem. Collins said Conforto will bat third against right-handers, but said nothing about lefties. You have to assume he won’t hit third against Clayton Kershaw.

It has only been eight games. Let Conforto work his way out of this, the same way he’s given a long leash to Matt Harvey.

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May 10

Mets Wrap: Another RBI, Another Brain Cramp By Cespedes

It is not piling on to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for getting doubled off second base to end the third inning Monday night in Los Angeles.

The play cost the Mets a run – Wright would have scored after tagging up – and consequently the game. The Mets came away lucky by beating the Dodgers, 4-2, but Cespedes shouldn’t come away blameless.

Manager Terry Collins called out Kevin Plawecki for not hitting. To be consistent, he needs to tell Cespedes to wake up.

Cespedes has all the tools – he has 11 homers already and is batting .303 with a .384 on-base percentage – but his hustle and concentration lapses are maddening to watch.

You can forgive a bad throw. You can forgive a dropped fly ball, unless, of course, when you hot dog it and try to make a one-handed catch.

But, you can’t forgive a brain cramp. You can’t forgive being lazy, which is what Ron Darling called him. However, Cespedes may have redeemed himself when he backed up Juan Lagares in the eighth when the latter dropped a fly ball.

I don’t expect perfection for $27.5 million, but I do expect him to think about what he’s doing in the field.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #31   Record: 20-11   Streak: W 3

Standings: First, NL East

Runs: 137     Average per game: 4.4    Times scoring 3 runs or less: 12

SUMMARY:  Once again the Mets took an early lead – 3-0 after three innings – on homers by Curtis Granderson and Plawecki, and Cespedes’ RBI single, and Steven Matz made it stand up to improve his record to 5-1 this year and 9-1 overall in 12 career starts. Matz also helped his cause with a RBI double in the sixth.

KEY MOMENT:  After the Dodgers pulled within 3-2 on Trayce Thompson’s two-run homer in the fourth, Matz regrouped to strike out Howie Kendrick with the tying run on third.

THUMBS UP: Granderson homered to lead off the game. It’s the 37th game-opening homer of his career. … Plawecki hit a solo homer in the second, his first of the season. … Love that Collins had the hit-and-run on with Matz in the fourth. Didn’t work, but it was a good call. … Flores stole second in the fourth, but not without cutting his nose. … Matz gave up two runs in six innings with five strikeouts. … Cespedes leads the NL with 31 RBI. … Jim Henderson came back from being 2-0 in the count to strike out Yasiel Puig in the eighth. Henderson then got Thompson out on a pop up to end the inning. … Three hitless innings from the bullpen.

THUMBS DOWN: Cespedes being doubled off second in the third. … Matz throwing 98 pitches in six innings. As long as the Mets keep pulling their starters around 100 pitches, it is fair game to call them out on this. … Lagares’ error in the eighth. … Sunday’s hero, Antonio Bastardo, had a rocky eighth, hurt by Lagares’ error.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Chase Utley not in the starting lineup, which isn’t a surprise against the left Matz. … Bartolo Colon was named Co-NL Player of the Week with the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist. Remember him? … Did you know Mets’ pitchers have hit Utley 28 times with pitches?

QUOTEBOOK: [The issue of retaliation] was brought up. What happened, happened. We won the series; let’s not get anybody hurt,” – Collins on retaliation against Utley.

BY THE NUMBERS: 24-5: Mets’ scoring vs. opponents in the first inning.

NEXT FOR METS:  Jacob deGrom (3-1, 1.99) vs. Alex Wood (1-3, 5.18). Wednesday: Noah Syndergaard (2-2, 2.58) vs. RHP Kenta Maeds (3-1, 1.66). Thursday: Bartolo Colon (3-1, 2.82) vs. Kershaw (4-1, 2.02).

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May 09

Going After Utley A Bad Idea

The dumbest thing the Mets can do during their four-game series against the Dodgers – starting tonight in LA – is to go after Chase Utley with a beanball. Whether it be at his head, ribs, butt or knee, there’s no reason to start something that has already been finished.

It wouldn’t be smart even if Ruben Tejada was still on the Mets. He’s not, so what’s the purpose.

UTLEY-TEJADA: Let's move on. (AP)

UTLEY-TEJADA: Let’s move on. (AP)

MLB overreacted last October during the playoffs, which was substantiated when the suspension was dropped on appeal.

We can debate all we want on whether it was a dirty play. I’m saying it wasn’t, because: 1) Daniel Murphy did not make a good throw; 2) Tejada turned into the path of the runner, and 3) Utley was within close proximity of the bag, at least according to the rules in place. (See photo).

Also, it has always been an umpire’s discretion to eject a player if he deemed the play dirty. This did not happen and MLB behavior czar Joe Torre came down with the suspension to avoid Mets fans going ballistic when the NLDS moved to New York.

Was it aggressive? Yes. Was it dirty? Debateable. Is it worth it for the Mets to retaliate and possibly get a player injured or suspended? No.

The issue will be brought up tonight and I’m betting the over/under on the times SNY shows the play to be at least 12. That would be three times per game.

Suppose Steven Matz, or Matt Harvey, or Noah Syndergaard hit Utley and a brawl ensued. Why risk one of them being injured to prove a questionable point in protecting a player no longer on the team?

And, pitchers aren’t the only ones you could be injured. Cal Ripken nearly had his consecutive games streak snapped when the Orioles were involved in a brawl with Seattle. As it was, Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina took a few bruises.

Of course, it would be fascinating to see Yoenis Cespedes against Yassiel Puig in a WWE cage death match event. But, I digress.

The Dodgers aren’t playing good right now, so why wake them up? It could only hurt the Mets in the long run. Plus, the Mets and Dodgers could meet again in the playoffs. Why give the Dodgers ammunition to use in the future?

I felt bad Tejada didn’t get to play in the World Series. and that was his last play as a Met. However, the Mets didn’t think highly enough about him to keep him on the roster. Tejada is gone, demoted to a trivia question in Mets lore.

It’s over and time to move on.

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