Apr 11

Mets Wrap: Wheeler Sterling In First Start

The most important thing to take away about the Mets from tonight’s victory in Miami isn’t that it was their eighth straight, but how well Zack Wheeler pitched in his first start of the season.

If I were into bandwagon hopping, I would say if Wheeler continues to bring it as he did in beating the Marlins, 4-1, to extend the best start in franchise history to 10-1.

WHEELER: Solid debut. (AP)

WHEELER: Solid debut. (AP)

Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched for the Mets in two years, gave up one run on two hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in seven innings. It is the longest a Mets’ starter has gone this young season.

“I thought he did a really good job of staying ahead,’’ said manager Mickey Callaway. “He pitched with a lot of confidence.’’

Wheeler, who had a spring training ERA north of eight, gave up a first-inning homer to Miguel Rojas in the first, was in complete control after that and retired the last 16 batters he faced.

“I was trying to go out there and give up a chance to win,’’ Wheeler said. “I was able to pound the zone and have command of my fastball for the most part. It was very satisfying.’’

We can presume Wheeler will get at least another start with Jason Vargas on the disabled list.

PLAWECKI GETS HIS BREAK:  Catcher Travis d’Arnaud was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The Mets recalled catcher Tomas Nido from Binghamton (AA), who was activated for tonight’s game.

The ten days enables the Mets time to evaluate the injury, including the possibility of Tommy John surgery. If that happens, d’Arnaud could be transferred to the 60-day disabled list, and former Washington National Jose Lobaton would be promoted to the Mets. That decision could be reached as soon as Friday.

“That’s a long road if he goes the surgery route,’’ Callaway said. “Anytime anybody has to go through that, that’s tough.’’

Callaway had a sense something was wrong with d’Arnaud’s arm from watching try to throw runners out at second – unsuccessfully.

Plawecki was struck on the left hand by a pitch and sustained a deep bruise. X-Rays were negative.

GONZALEZ DOES IT AGAIN: Veteran Adrian Gonzalez, who hit a grand slam in Washington, drove in the game-winning runs with a two-run, pinch-hit single in the eighth inning.

Gonzalez, who made the Opening Day roster in large part because of Dominic Smith’s leg injury, is hitting .298 with a .406 on-base percentage. Gonzalez’s two-run single gave the Mets their sixth-come-from-behind victory of the season.

“When we’re down, we know how to get the job done,’’ Callaway said. “You can feel the energy in the dugout.’’

 

Apr 09

Shouldn’t The Mets Always Play This Way?

Ron Darling made a big deal about Noah Syndergaard backing up a play at third base tonight in the fifth inning. In fact, SNY has been gushing non-stop how fundamentally sound the 8-1 Mets have been so far this season.

From their hustle and aggressive baserunning, to their situational hitting, to manufacturing runs without the benefit of the home run, to their defense, to their bullpen. SNY has been gushing non-stop and newspaper columnists are doing the same.

Their points are valid, but also painfully obvious. How the Mets are playing is how they should be playing all the time. It begs the question: Why weren’t they doing this for the past ten years?

Is it just Mickey Callaway? Was Terry Collins that bad? Although my head still hurts from him saying, “we are a home run hitting team.’’

That, of course, stemmed from GM Sandy Alderson’s love affair with analytics. However, as much as Major League Baseball seems married to sabermetrics and launch angles, and seemingly has abandoned the game’s traditions, it really remains a simple sport relying on pitching, defense and timely hitting, one-two-three, with home runs a distant fourth as a matter of importance.

SYNDERGAARD STRUGGLES: Syndergaard threw 46 pitches through four innings, then threw 44 combined in the fifth and sixth innings. For all the talk about Syndergaard being an overpowering pitcher – and at times he can be – he’ll never all he can be until he lowers his pitch count and goes deeper into games.

The same applies to Steven Matz and Matt Harvey, and to a lesser extent, Jacob deGrom.

We’re only nine games into the season and the Mets have already had two days off and a rainout, so their bullpen has not been taxed despite the starters not working long innings.

However, eventually, the starters will have to do better than the six innings Syndergaard gave them in tonight’s 4-2 victory.

SNY TAKES SHOT AT JETER: SNY took a not-so-subtle jab at Miami figure-head owner Derek Jeter after the third inning when it ran a montage of departed Marlins stars Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna with a sentimental ballad in the background.

EXTRA INNINGS: Assuming nothing happens and Zack Wheeler starts Wednesday’s game at Miami, it will mark the first the Mets’ highly-touted rotation. … I realize Hansel Robles gave up a homer to Bryce Harper the other day, but overall, he’s pitched very well. I liked that Callaway went right back to him. … It might be time to give Yoenis Cespedes a day off.  He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, including with the bases loaded.

Apr 07

Mets Wrap: Matz Keeps Club Streak Hot

Much, much better was Steven Matz today for the Mets. Hammered by St. Louis in his previous start, Matz was everything the Mets could have hoped for in today’s 3-2 victory at Washington.

MATZ: Marked improvement. (AP)

MATZ: Marked improvement. (AP)

Once again Matz threw too many pitches for the innings worked – 93 over five innings – but this time for the most part he avoided getting hit. He allowed three singles, walked two and struck out eight while giving up an unearned run.

“There was a lot more confidence,’’ manager Mickey Callaway said. “Total conviction on most of his pitches. You could see it in the way he released the ball. He did a great job of making an adjustment.’’

Matz said pitching coach Dave Eiland helped him finish off his pitches.

“It was just a minor adjustment, something I was doing in spring training as well early on, just not having that last bit of conviction with my pitch,’’ Matz said. “Mentally and physically as well, just finishing.’’

BORN TO RUN: Mets’ pitching has been terrific so far, but an old nemesis resurfaced today as the Nationals stole five bases. Even so, the Mets still managed to escape. That’s a problem that must be corrected because they won’t always be so lucky as they were today.

“We have to do a better job,’’ Callaway said. “We don’t want runners going at will against us.’’

Matz gave up for stolen bases but said he wasn’t worried, “because none of them scored,’’ which isn’t the right attitude to have.

ROSARIO MAKES SENSE LEADING OFF: They won’t do it now because you never want to mess with a streak, but if Amed Rosario stays hot, shouldn’t the Mets consider moving him to the leadoff spot? After all, he’s the fastest Met.

LAGARES STARS IN CENTER: Centerfielder Juan Lagares came up with the play of the game when he threw out Brian Goodwin at the plate in the second inning.

“That feels great, especially how the game was,” said Lagares. “I felt great in the moment.’’

Apr 05

The Only Statement Today Is An Old One, Jacob deGrom Is Special

As always, it was great to see Jacob deGrom beat the Nationals today, 8-2, but let’s not get carried away, the Mets didn’t make any great statement other than to say they are off to a great start.

Nobody expected the Mets to get off to a 5-1 start, so let’s just enjoy it while we can. Let’s just see where the Mets are at the end of April or after 50 games before making any proclamations about making any statements or sending any messages.

There’s no reason not to be excited, but let’s keep things in perspective. After all, that’s what they are doing in that clubhouse.

DeGrom Defines Being an Ace: Despite hitting three homers, the game’s turning point came in the sixth after back-to-back walks loaded the bases for the Nationals with no outs.

The Mets were clinging to a 4-2 lead with the Nationals’ 4-5-6 hitters coming up. DeGrom got Ryan Zimmerman on a shallow pop to right, got Howie Kendrick on a liner to shortstop and struck out Trea Turner looking on three pitches.

Manager Mickey Callaway already knew deGrom was good, that inning showed he was special.

“Obviously his stuff is really good to bail him out when times start getting tough,’’ Callaway said. “But he never backs down.’’

DeGrom had trouble gripping the ball in the 40-degree temperatures, but composed himself to turn around the game.

“I slowed it down and was able to locate,’’ said deGrom, who now has seven straight quality starts at Nationals Park.

Outfield does damage: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce all homered, with the latter’s a grand slam in the seventh.

After deGrom escaped the sixth, Brandon Nimmo pinch-hit for him and doubled. Conforto, who was activated from the DL before the game, and Cespedes walked to load the bases. Then Bruce unloaded for the slam.

If Nimmo continues to hit, Callaway has to find a spot for him in the lineup.

Apr 04

Mets’ Bullpen Rising To Occasion

It has only been five games for the Mets, but the early returns on manager Mickey Callaway’s use of his bullpen, especially with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, have been good.

Tuesday night, Lugo relieved Matt Harvey – and two other relievers – after five innings and pitched two scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory, and today, Gsellman relieved Noah Syndergaard after four innings (92 pitches) in a 4-2 victory.

Gsellman pitched two scoreless innings in earning the victory, then was followed by single scoreless innings from Hansel Robles, AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia.

After Harvey was pulled, Ramos entered and allowed two runners to reach and got two outs before he was replaced by Jerry Blevins, who closed out the sixth. Normally, Ramos and Blevins wouldn’t have been in the game that early.

However, Callaway’s theory is to not restrict his relievers by assigned innings, but go with the best match-ups.

And, Lugo and Gsellman pitching multiple innings is something Terry Collins normally wouldn’t have done.

“Our bullpen has done a fantastic job so far this season and we have faith in them,’’ said Callaway. “Everybody is doing the right thing. We are working on the small things, like Robles for example. He went down [to minor league camp], worked on the right things and comes out today and pitches a huge inning for us. I am really proud of those guys for that.”

Robles, who I’m not a fan of, has been terrific and today struck out the side in the seventh.

It has been a good start of the season for the Mets, who at 4-1, will be in Washington for the start of a three-game series. Oh, by the way, snow is forecast for Washington this weekend.

There are a lot of reasons why the Mets collapsed last season after consecutive playoff appearances and the bullpen was as big of an explanation as any. A lot of things have to happen if they are to recover enough to be competitive. And, the bullpen has to play a big part.

So far, so good.