Aug 15

Ten Things To Happen For Mets To Turn It Around

It’s a logical question: Have the Mets survived the undertow that was dragging their season out to sea After consecutive well-pitched games – and they were sterling efforts – from Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, the temptation is to say yes.

However, you know what they say about temptation.

CESPEDES: Must hit when he returns. (AP)

CESPEDES: Must hit when he returns. (AP)

It’s an oversimplification to say after winning won two straight over the weekend against San Diego – a team they should beat at home – all is right with the Mets.

Frankly, that’s not enough to be writing a check for playoff tickets. The Mets will have turned things around when the following happens:

Yoenis Cespedes returns healthy and in center field: Cespedes begins a rehab assignment today as a DH in Port St. Lucie. He’s expected back when the Mets are in San Francisco. When Cespedes comes back I don’t want to hear anything about him not playing centerfield. The Mets signed him to play center. From left to right, the outfield should be Curtis Granderson, Cespedes and Jay Bruce.

Granderson and Bruce need to hit: The Mets haven’t gotten much from Granderson all season (see 18-31 HR to RBI ratio) and Bruce hasn’t hit since coming over from the Reds. Both hitting will take pressure off Cespedes and return Alejandro De Aza to the bench.

Paging Syndergaard: Noah Syndergaard has lost four of his last five decisions, increasing speculation the bone spur is taking a toll. His pitch count limits him to around six innings, and they haven’t been effective.

Leave Flores alone: Just let Wilmer Flores play and be done with it. Give him a chance against right handed pitching because the platoon isn’t working.

RISP must improve:  Yes, we know the Mets can hit home runs, and the expectations of more will rise with Cespedes. However, they are dead last in the majors hitting with runners in scoring position. It might be too much to expect that will turn around with six weeks remaining to the season, but that’s a priority.

Cabrera’s return important: His contributions can’t be understated, and they include more than taking off the helmet of the home run hitter. Yes, there was that long stretch when he didn’t hit with RISP. However, he gave the Mets a lot of clutch hits and played solid defense in the first half.

Need Niese: Jon Niese is now the No. 5 starter. The Mets aren’t in the position where they can afford to lose every fifth game.

Run Reyes Run: The Mets signed Jose Reyes for what he can do with his speed. Yesterday it paid off when he singled, went to second on a short wild pitch and continued to third on a throw into center. He then scored on a wild pitch. Reyes isn’t going to steal 60 bases anymore, but his speed is a threat and we haven’t seen it much since he came back.

Bullpen stability: Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia have been lockdown in the eighth and ninth. Hansel Robles was going well for awhile, but lost his composure in Yankees game and really hasn’t been the same. They should get more help when the rosters expand, but for now they need Jerry Blevins and Erik Goeddel to pitch well as a bridge to Reed.

Somebody has to step up: Somebody other than Neil Walker has to step up. James Loney has done it; so has Kelly Johnson. But, there will be games down the stretch when Walker and Cespedes and Bruce don’t hit. In those games, they’ll need Flores, or T.J. Rivera, or how about one of the catchers? They’ve gotten little from Travis d’Arnaud all year.

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Aug 15

Mets Start Crucial Trip

Several times this season Mets manager Terry Collins said his team faced an important stretch. They start another one Monday night in Arizona.

They have three games with the Diamondbacks, who swept them last week at Citi Field; four with the NL West-leading Giants, and three in St. Louis. The Giants and Cardinals are direct competition for the wild card. {The Giants become a wild card threat if they are overtaken by the Dodgers.}

COLON: Goes tonight. (AP)

COLON: Goes tonight. (AP)

You hate to project numbers, but I’m thinking they need to go at least 7-4. A 6-5 t only puts them two games over .500, and that won’t cut it.

Bartolo Colon goes tonight, followed by Noah Syndergaard and Jon Niese. Of the three, right now I have the most confidence in Colon, who is coming off back-to-back strong starts against the Diamondbacks (a no-decision in a Mets’ loss) and a win over the Yankees. He gave up one run in each game.

However, before that he gave up a combined 11 runs in starts against Colorado and the Cubs.

So, is Colon due to get hit tonight?

As for Syndergaard, the Diamondbacks ran wild against him last week in a loss. He’s lost four straight decisions and five of six. Once 8-2 with Cy Young whispers, he’s now 9-7.

And Niese, well he’s done little since coming back from Pittsburgh.

ON DECK:  Have The Mets Turned It Around?

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Aug 14

Three Mets’ Storylines: Is Bone Spur Issue Over For Matz?

The Mets didn’t get their first no-hitter until their 51st season. It was too much to ask for Steven Matz to give them their second four years later.

Matz took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Alexi Ramirez lined his 105th of the game into right field. Mets manager Terry Collins jumped out of the dugout as if launched by a spring to answer the question that had been on everybody’s mind.

MATZ: Is spur issue over? (AP)

MATZ: Is spur issue over? (AP)

“I wasn’t going to visit the Johan Santana scenario again, I can tell you that,” said Collins revisiting the night of June 1, 2012, when he allowed the veteran left-hander to stay in to throw 134 pitches in the franchise’s only no-hitter.

Santana, who was coming off shoulder surgery, pitched a few good games later that season, but was never the same.

To this day, Collins regrets letting Santana stay in, and he would later say: “It was without a doubt, the worst night I’ve ever spent in baseball.”

Santana was a veteran, but Matz was making just his 28th career start. This is his first full season in the majors. Collins compared the two through the prism of his baseball roots.

“I can’t get away from my background in player development,” Collins said. “I can see the big picture. I wasn’t going to jeopardize his career for one game.”

The big picture includes that Matz has pitched with a bone spur that will require surgery this off-season. There was speculation he might be shut down for the season. However, he’s been superb in his last two starts.

Even had Matz pitched a no-hitter, perhaps the most important thing coming out of the day is he might be past that issue. Matz threw 105 pitches in beating San Diego, 5-1, Sunday; he threw a career high 120 pitches earlier in the week in a 5-3 loss to Arizona.

“I think it has been out of my mind for awhile,” Matz said of the bone spur. “It has been since I decided to pitch with it. … My arm has been feeling great. I’ve had no problems.”

Matz thanked Collins for letting him stay in for 120 pitches against Arizona.

“I think it’s good when you get deep into games,” he said. “You have to have better command of your pitches when you’re not throwing as hard.”

Matz was the story of the day. The other storylines was the offense and the upcoming schedule.

TACK ON RUNS: The Mets first got on the board with homers from Wilmer Flores and Neil Walker, but more impressive were three manufactured runs in the eighth inning.

In the epitome of a manufactured run, Jose Reyes singled, stole second and went to third on the catcher’s throw into center, and scored on a wild pitch.

They added two more on T.J. Rivera’s two-run double.

The late runs enabled Collins to by-pass Jeurys Familia because it wasn’t a save situation, thereby keeping him fresh for Monday.

THE SCHEDULE: After being swept by Arizona, the Mets have won two of three since Collins’ post-game rant to finish the homestand 2-4. They two victories marked the first time they won back-to-back games since before the All-Star break.

The Mets begin an 11-game road trip Monday in Arizona, with three games against the Diamondbacks, four with the Giants and three in St. Louis.

With the victory the Mets moved one game over .500 and are two games behind the second wild card spot. The Dodgers, Marlins, Cardinals and Pirates are ahead of them.

There have been several times this season when Collins looked ahead at a portion of the Mets’ schedule and defined it as vital. He made no such proclamation before this time.

He didn’t have to.

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Aug 13

Three Mets’ Storylines: On This Night Lady Luck Smiled

Jacob deGrom gave the Mets the kind of performance Saturday they desperately needed from him as they hoped to snap a four-game losing streak. For a long time it looked as if deGrom would come away with another no-decision when Jeurys Familia coughed up the lead.

However, the Mets manufactured the game-winning run in the 11th when Neil Walker scored on Wilmer Flores’ fielder’s choice grounder up the middle to give them a 3-2 victory over the San Diego Padres.

WALKER: Celebrates. (AP)

WALKER: Celebrates. (AP)

The play was set up by Walker’s hustle as he went from first-to-third on James Loney’s bloop single to left.

“That was a heads up play,” a relieved Mets manager Terry Collins said. “This was a good game for us to win.”

The Mets won it on Flores’ grounder up the middle, but instead of trying for the double play, Padres second baseman Ryan Schimpf tried for the play at the plate.

“I thought it was going to be a double play,” Collins said of his first thoughts after the ball was hit.

For a team that has played in back luck lately, this could be a sign things could turn.

DeGrom was brilliant in his effort to pick up his struggling team and took a 1-0 lead into the seventh, but Yangervis Solarte homered with two outs to tie the game.

DeGrom had to be thinking “here we go again,’’ until Kelly Johnson’s pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning regained the lead for the Mets.

Addison Reed stuffed the Padres in the eighth, but Wil Myers tied the game with two outs in the ninth on a homer off Familia. It was Familia’s third blown save and the first homer he has given up this year.

The other key storylines from the game were Jose Reyes‘ return and Curtis Granderson‘s continuing struggles.

REYES RETURNS: Reyes came off the disabled list, hit leadoff, and played shortstop. He went 0-for-3 and scored on Walker’s single.

Reyes took second on a wild pitch, and on the same play advanced to third on a wild throw by catcher Christian Bethancourt. The sequence illustrated Reyes’ speed, an element the Mets have lacked.

However, later Reyes struck out with a wild swing, an element we’ve often seen from the Mets, and by him frequently in his first tenure here.

GRANDERSON’S FUNK CONTINUES: There’s no let up in Granderson’s miserable season as he went 0-for-5 with a strikeout.

Overall, he is 10-for-77 with RISP, including 2-for-39 with two outs and RISP.

Prior to the game, Collins said Granderson’s playing time might be cut once Yoenis Cespedes returns.

If things continue like this for Granderson maybe the Mets will consider benching him before.

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Aug 13

Mets Matters: Wheeler Should Be Shut Down; Consider Papelbon

The Mets won’t see Zack Wheeler this season as his comeback gets hit with setback after setback. He has persistent soreness in his right elbow and will be examined by orthopedic surgeon James Andrews.

The prudent decision would be to forget him for this season, give him a closely monitored conditioning and throwing program in the offseason and start again next spring.

mets-matters logoIt is time to shut him down.

The original plan was for Wheeler to be activated before the All-Star break and replaced in the rotation by Bartolo Colon.

Wheeler threw an inning in a rehab start last Saturday, which started the clock for him to be activated the first week in September.

He obviously isn’t throwing and the wonder is what he’ll bring to the table if anything when he’s activated. That begs the issue of whether they should just shut him down.

INTERESTING POSSIBILITY: The Mets say they are interested in acquiring another reliever. This afternoon the Nationals released Jonathan Papelbon.

The move seemed inevitable after the Nationals acquired closer Mark Melancon from Pittsburgh two weeks ago.

Papelbon is having a miserable season, ranking a league-worst among relievers in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts-to-walks ratio and he’s not considered a great clubhouse presence, although he was right to call out Bryce Harper last year.

Washington manager Dusty Baker said of Papelbon: “It wasn’t a real fit anymore.’’

If the Mets need a warm body, what will it hurt? Perhaps a change of scenery could help. Stranger things have happened and the situation is getting dire for the Mets.

ROSTER MOVES: Jose Reyes was activated from the disabled list. He’ll leadoff and play shortstop. The Mets also promoted pitcher Gabriel Ynoa. Logan Verrett and Matt Reynolds were demoted.

INJURY UPDATES: The plan is to activate Yoenis Cespedes from the disabled list (strained quad) on Thursday. He will play in a rehab game Monday. … Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera could get in a rehab game Tuesday.

A NEW LINEUP … AGAIN: The Mets will field their 92nd lineup tonight in their 116th game.

Reyes, SS

Curtis Granderson, LF

Neil Walker, 2B

Jay Bruce, RF

James Loney, 1B

Wilmer Flores, 3B

Alejandro De Aza, CF

Travis d’Arnaud, C

deGrom, RP

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