Apr 22

Mets Today: On The Blog

Good morning. The Mets are in Atlanta today for the beginning of a three-game series with one of their biggest rivalries, although things have cooled off in recent years as the Braves plunged into mediocrity.

mets-logoball-2 Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom will start for the Mets who will be going after their third straight series win.

Today on the blog I’ll have for you:

* Today In Mets History.

* A list on some of the most memorable moments in the Mets-Braves rivalry, with the promise Armando Benitez won’t be in any of them.

* A short piece on Harvey.

* Today’s lineups.

And, of course, an analysis on any breaking news.

ON DECK: Today In Mets History: Big Day For Tom Seaver

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Apr 21

Put Up Time For Matt Harvey

It’s time Matt Harvey put on his “Big Boy Pants’’ and begins pitching up to all the expectations, from the Mets, the public whose attention he craves, the media whom he disdains, and of course, himself.

After a dismal start to a season many projected would be a breakout year – I even said he’d win 20 – Harvey needs to come up with a performance to change the talk from whispered questions to shouts of adulation.

HARVEY: Walking off the mound dejected. (AP)

HARVEY: Walking off the mound dejected. (AP)

It’s not a stretch to say outside his first start last season following Tommy John surgery Friday’s game in Atlanta will be the most important regular-season start in his still young career.

Harvey shot into our Mets’ consciousness in 2013 with his All-Star caliber pitching and remained there with his elbow injury, how he handled himself in his rehabilitation program and his penchant for the trappings of being the Dark Knight and a New York sports hero.

Then there was the World Series and Game 5 when he pitched like the star we all hoped he’d be, but who morphed into selfishness when he let his ego run wild in the ninth inning that ended the Mets’ season.

Harvey, by his own admission, entered spring training with a chip on his shoulder grew inflamed after a bladder infection and his immature reaction following the expected response from the tabloids. What, he didn’t expect sarcastic headlines? The tabloids aren’t The Player’s Tribune, which grants the free pass of no accountability he knew as a prep star and foolishly demands in the major leagues.

Somebody who professes to be a New York star should understand that; just as should have known of the anticipated concern over his 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA start. It’s one thing to go through a rough stretch, but Harvey’s command and fastball aren’t what they used to be. His valued slider doesn’t have its usual bite.

That’s more than mildly worrisome.

Is Harvey injured? He hasn’t always been forthcoming about health issues, so that can’t be ruled out. He says he’s fine, but his believability index is low.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen said after his loss in Cleveland last Saturday Harvey’s confidence was shaky and mechanics were off. Confidence comes from pitching well and winning, but Harvey isn’t doing either. After that game Harvey admitted “nobody is more frustrated than I am.”

Correcting mechanics takes time and rarely are fixed after one session, although manager Terry Collins said this week he had a good one.

“He was very confident,’’ Collins told reporters. “He thought it was the best bullpen he’s had in a long time. So that was really good news.’’

Of course, if Harvey was having poor bullpens why wasn’t this brought out earlier? But, therein lies the complex dilemma that has marked his career. He’s not forthcoming and the Mets go out of their way to protect him.

Just as there are expectations, there is always something with Harvey, always some issue that takes our eyes off the mound. Only this time our eyes remain fixated on the mound and Harvey. And, it will remain that way until he starts pitching.

It’s put up time

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Apr 21

Today In Mets’ History: Gee Stuffs Nationals

On this date in 2013, Dillon Gee and four relievers combined to shut out the Washington Nationals, 2-0, at Citi Field. With the victory, the Mets moved over .500 at 9-8.

They wouldn’t stay there long.

GEE: A solid Met. (AP)

GEE: A solid Met. (AP

David Wright and Lucas Duda are the only starting position players from that game still on the team.

Gee threw a solid )game, giving up three hits with six strikeouts in 5.2 innings. LaTroy Hawkins, Brandon Lyon, Scott Rice and Bobby Parnell threw a combined 3.1 scoreless innings.

Catcher John Buck homered off the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmerman in the second and Mike Baxter hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Wright in the fourth.

Gee had a lot of these games for the Mets, where he’d make a solid spot start, but he never impressed them enough to get a real opportunity to make the rotation.

Mets fans should remember Gee as a solid pro who always took the ball regardless of the circumstances.

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Apr 20

Mets Wrap: Small Ball Would Have Been Nice

Sometimes small ball has value, even for the Mets, who lost 5-4 Wednesday in 11 innings at Philadelphia.

The Mets hit two more homers among their 14 hits, but also struck out 17 times.

GALVIS: Scores game-winner. (AP)

GALVIS: Scores game-winner. (AP)

The Mets hit back-to-back homer in each game of the series – this time it was Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda – but when they needed a single in the 11th with Curtis Granderson on second they got nothing.

It was that way all night as the Mets stranded 12 runners and went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

Granderson tagged up from first and took second on David Wright’s fly to center, but Michael Conforto and Cespedes struck out. Granderson’s play was the epitome of small ball and is the stuff that usually wins games. Usually.

The Phillies took advantage of their opportunity when Freddy Galvis doubled, took third on Hansel Robles’ wild pitch and scored on Peter Bourjous’ infield single to third.

Mets manager Terry Collins seems to like to boast that “we’re a home run hitting team.’’

However, as the season wears on there will be more games like tonight than Tuesday when they hit six home runs.vThere’s nothing wrong with advancing the runner, drawing a walk (only two tonight), maybe dropping down a bunt, and hitting a sacrifice fly.

That’s how the Kansas City Royals played and didn’t they win the World Series?

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #14  Record: 7-7 Streak L 1

SUMMARY: The Mets’ power-laden offense hit two more homers, but they also left 12 runners and struck out 17 times.

 KEY MOMENT: Asdrubal Cabrera had a three-run homer taken off the board by replay in the second. There would not have been extra innings had the homer counted.

THUMBS UP: It wasn’t totally smooth for Bartolo Colon, who gave up three runs on four hits in six innings. A blown save cost him his 220th career victory. … A good defensive play by Conforto going against the rail in foul territory to end the fifth. … No homers from Neil Walker, but he had four hits and seven for the series. … Continued breakout signs from Granderson with two more hits.

THUMBS DOWN: Seventeen strikeouts by Mets hitters, including four by Wright. … Addison Reed’s blown save in the seventh. … After his homer was taken away, Cabrera struck out three times. … Hansel Robles‘ wild pitch doomed the Mets.

EXTRA INNINGS: Jacob deGrom will throw a bullpen session Friday and is expected to start Sunday in Atlanta.

QUOTEBOOK: “Every team talks about situational hitting and wants to do it better.’’ – Collins on the Mets’ offense.

BY THE NUMBERS: 29: Jayson Stark of ESPN reports the Mets have hit as many homers in Citizen Bank Park (29) as the Phillies since August 24 of last year. The Phillies played 33 games in that span while the Mets played 10.

 NEXT FOR METS: The Mets are off Thursday, and then begin a three-game series against the suddenly hot Atlanta Braves. The Mets’ rotation for the series will be Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and deGrom.

NATIONALS UPDATE: The Nationals (11-3) won at Miami, 3-1, and increased their lead to four games ahead of the Mets. Washington and New York play for the first time this season, May 17-18-19 at Citi Field. They will then play May 23-24-25 in Washington.

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Apr 20

Mets Must Leave Conforto Hitting Third

It won’t be long before the Mets  face a dominating left-hander such as Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw or Gio Gonzalez. When they do, I hope Terry Collins resists the temptation to move Michael Conforto out of the No. 3 hole. I also hope he resists moving him if Conforto has a couple of 0-for-4 nights.

CONFORTO: Needs to stay hitting third. (AP)

CONFORTO: Needs to stay hitting third. (AP)

The Mets are sizzling since moving Conforto to the third spot and scoring close to six runs a game during that span. It’s not all Conforto, but he certainly deserves some credit. What the Mets have had during this span is something they haven’t for a long time, and definitely not last year, and that’s a consistent batting order.

“I think that is where he’s going to end up hitting one of these days full time,” Collins told reporters. “We thought he was swinging the bat good, so we thought it was time to put him there and see if he can springboard the offense.”

That he’s done. This is easily the Mets’ best lineup since 2006, when they had Jose Reyes leading off and David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado lumped in the middle. However, this lineup is potentially better because it is strong 1-through-9. The additions of Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker have made this lineup incredibly long.

Conforto in the three hole gives the Mets’ order a sense of stability. Curtis Granderson is a fixture leading off because the Mets don’t have a traditional No. 1 hitter the way Reyes once was. The Mets don’t have to count on Wright for power, so he’s fine batting second. Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda offer a right-left combination at Nos. 4 and 5, with both having 30-homer potential. Walker, Cabrera and Travis d’Arnaud are Nos. 6-7-8, with all having the potential of 15 homers.

Few lineups can match this potential.

Things might cool off at the bottom of the order. For example, I don’t expect Walker to continue this pace and hit 40 or more homers. But, what I do expect is Conforto to develop into a star. Another Carl Yastrzemski? Another Ted Williams? That’s dreaming. But, he can become a star and for that to happen he needs to stay in the lineup against left-handers.

The Mets are committed with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, but Collins seems to have hedged his bets with Conforto by saying he’ll sit, or move lower in the order, against lefties. Please NO. The only way Conforto will become the player the Mets hope is for him to hit lefties, and for this to happen he must bat against them.

Conforto said he’s comfortable hitting third because he’s always hit there.

“I never had any nervousness about it,” Conforto told reporters. “It just kind of felt natural, where I have been in college and through the minor leagues, so I felt pretty good there.”

Collins attributed part of Conforto’s success hitting third to batting ahead of Cespedes, who offers protection. Pitchers don’t want to walk Conforto because they don’t want to face Cespedes with men on base. Consequently, he’s getting better pitches and isn’t being worked around.

And, when pitchers make a mistake Conforto doesn’t miss.

Let’s hope Collins doesn’t become the man at the grill who can’t resist poking at the embers. Things are good now. Don’t fool with it.

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