Aug 24

Microcosm Of Mets’ Season Seen In This Series

The essence of the 2016 Mets could be seen in the first two games of this Cardinals series. On Tuesday the Mets produced one of the gutsiest performances of this season when starter Jon Niese left with a knee injury after getting just one out forcing the bullpen to work 8.2 innings.

After the game manager Terry Collins said how impressed he was with rookie Robert Gsellman. Great defense, timely hitting and superior relief pitching; it was the ultimate formula and something we haven’t often seen.

DE GROM: Off again. (AP)

DE GROM: Off again. (AP)

Unquestionably, the victory was one of the Mets’ most inspirational, and one they could build on. After all, it was their third straight victory, something they hadn’t done since before the All-Star break.

However, instead of building off that with Jacob deGrom, their best pitcher, the Mets responded with another egg in an 8-1 loss to the Cardinals.

It didn’t get off to a good start when Matt Carpenter lead off the St. Louis first with a homer off deGrom, one of five runs and 12 hits he gave up in his second straight bad start.

Offensively, the Mets had just four hits as they fell back to .500 and 4.5 games behind the Cardinals for the second wild-card berth.

Not only did they show no signs of life and have to be concerned with deGrom – who has given up 13 runs on 25 hits in his last two starts – but Jay Bruce left the game in the second inning with a cramp in his right calf. In addition to Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes still looks gimpy.

It is widely considered 87 victories could be enough for the wild card, but for that to happen, the Mets must go 24-12 in their remaining 36 games.

The math says it is possible. Logic says it is not.

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Aug 23

Mets’ Three Storylines: Niese Injured; Bullpen Picks Up Team

The Mets gambled and lost with Jon Niese, but somehow managed to win a game that easily could have gone the other way.

GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins knew Niese had a sore left knee, but started him anyway in hope of getting as much as they could.

GSELLMAN: Saves day. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Saves day. (AP)

They got one-third of an inning.

Niese worked to four hitters – with three reaching base and eventually scoring – before leaving the game.

“After [Niese] walked the first hitter, you could tell something was wrong with him,” Collins said.

With Steven Matz going on the disabled list and Collins not wanting to move Jacob deGrom up a day, the Mets pushed the envelope.

Collins said he doesn’t expect Niese to make his next start and will likely end up on the disabled list. That start could end up going to Robert Gsellman, who came up from Triple-A Las Vegas and pitched 3.2 innings in long relief in his major league debut and got the win in the Mets’ 7-4 victory over the Cardinals.

With the victory the Mets moved to within 3.5 games of St. Louis for second wild card. The victory gave the Mets their first three-game winning streak since the first week

The other two storylines were the bullpen and production from unexpected sources.

BULLPEN STELLAR: The Mets got 8.2 innings from the pen, which means deGrom needs to go deep Wednesday night.

“They told me to be ready and I was,” Gsellman told reporters.

In addition to Gsellman’s 3.2 scoreless innings, the Met got two innings from Josh Smoker; one-third of an inning from Jerry Blevins; two-thirds of an inning from Jim Henderson; and an inning each from Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia.

Henderson entered the game with two on and one out in the seventh, he got the final two outs, including striking out Jedd Gyorko to end the inning.

Reed also had two runners on against him in the eighth, but got Matt Carpenter on a fly to center.

THE UNEXPECTED: If the Mets are going to sneak in, they’ll need production from the unexpected, and that’s what they got.

It started with Wilmer Flores’ three-run homer in the first, and then Justin Ruggiano homered in the fourth.

Overall, the Mets collected 12 hits, with eight by their first three hitters, Jose Reyes (three hits, three runs scored); Asdrubal Cabrera (three hits) and Yoenis Cespedes (two hits).

The Mets also got a run-saving play from Cabrera to end the fourth, and a homer-robbing catch from Cespedes off Stephen Piscotty’s long fly in the sixth.

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Aug 21

Is There Connection Between Elbow And Shoulder For Matz?

In ascertaining Steven Matz’s shoulder issue, perhaps the Mets should revisit their earlier proclamation the left-hander’s bone spur injury was simply a matter of pain tolerance, as suggested by both GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins.

On June 28 – nearly two months ago – I wrote that was nonsense. Everybody knows, and I should lump Alderson into that group, any injury with a pitcher should be considered more serious than it is and, injuries/hurts leads to overcompensation with another part of the body.

MATZ: Is there connection between elbow and shoulder? (AP)

MATZ: Is there connection between elbow and shoulder? (AP)

I undoubtedly admire Matz’s warrior spirit, but let’s face it, this is his first full season in the major leagues and he doesn’t have the resume to call his own shots. He wants to pitch, I get that, but like most young players he doesn’t have the smarts or backbone to tell his real feelings to Collins or management.

As baseball lifers, both Collins and Alderson should realize what was going on with Matz and protect him.

This is what Alderson said in late June: “At this point, it’s a function of whether he can tolerate the discomfort while continuing to pitch. What we will do is monitor that level of discomfort.”

I take two things from that statement. The first is, and I said it at the time, Alderson’s comment was garbage, that pain tolerance is simply a misguided assumption. You can’t assume anything with an injury. Can’t be done.

The second is if Matz’s shoulder is now an issue their level of monitoring leaves a lot to be desired.

Look, I can’t say with 100 percent certainty there is a connection between the elbow and the shoulder, but the flip side Alderson can’t say with 100 percent absoluteness it isn’t.

I believe, and this comes from years of following the Mets, they too frequently play fast and loose with injuries.

The Mets’ first course of action with injuries should always be caution. They weren’t with Matz and the same it appears is happening with Noah Syndergaard. They weren’t with Matt Harvey.

Matz will travel to New York Monday to be examined by team doctors, something that should have been done as soon as he was scratched from his last start.

Nobody knows what the doctors will find with Matz, but the Mets’ appropriate response should be getting him better and stronger, not seeing if he can throw five innings next weekend against the Phillies.

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Aug 19

Not Buying Cespedes Can Do It Alone

Yoenis Cespedes returns to the Mets tonight, but I’m not buying for a second his presence will make everything all right for the Mets. If he hits the way he’s supposed to, and starts doing it immediately and continues for the remainder of the season, he should make the Mets better.

But, he’s not enough to carry them to the finish line. The news Steven Matz is scratched from Saturday’s start because of a sore shoulder is just the latest. Neil Walker has tightness in his lower back. Plus, we don’t know just how stable Cespedes’ strained right quad and Asdrubal Cabrera‘s knee will be coming off the DL.

CESPEDES: Need more than him.  (Getty)

CESPEDES: Need more than him. (Getty)

The Mets don’t hit with RISP and Curtis Granderson doesn’t hit period. Jay Bruce hasn’t hit since coming over from Cincinnati. The Mets said Michael Conforto won’t be brought up until Sept. 1 when the rosters are expanded, which makes no sense.

Noah Syndergaard hasn’t pitched well in the past six weeks. The bullpen has been erratic. Nobody can say how long Matz will be down.

The Mets are out of the NL East race and four games behind in the wild-card. They lost a crushing game Thursday night and this 10-game stretch against Arizona (they lost two of three); San Francisco (they blew a four-run lead and lost Thursday in the first of four against the Giants); and go to St. Louis to play three with the Cardinals.

Unquestionably, this is the Mets’ most important stretch of the season, and frankly, the return of Cespedes – even if he gets hot – isn’t enough.

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Aug 18

Stop Fooling Around And Bring Up Conforto

Just a few months ago when optimism still surrounded the Mets, manager Terry Collins moved Michael Conforto to the No. 3 spot in the order and promised he would get at-bats against left-handers. After all, Collins said at the time, Conforto represented the future.

CONFORTO: Needs to play. (Getty)

CONFORTO: Needs to play. (Getty)

None of that lasted long when Conforto went into a slump, as young players frequently do, Collins and the Mets showed no patience. First, Conforto was dropped in the order, then dropped off at the airport to ride the Vegas Shuttle.

Collins said Conforto still “is a big piece of what we want to do,” and when he turns it around in Triple-A he would be back soon. Conforto is tearing it up in Vegas but remains 2,500 miles from New York. So much for that promise.

Things have changed. The Mets are no longer a threat to the Nationals in the NL East and are fading in the wild card. They are four games out and are in danger of being overtaken by Colorado (Mets lead by 2.5 games) and Philadelphia (they lead by 4.5 games).

Yeah, you read that last part correctly.

Conforto needs to come up now. The best position for him is left field, but that won’t happen because the Mets insist on placating Yoenis Cespedes, who can’t, or refuses, to play center. Conforto is willing to try center, but where does that leave Curtis Granderson?

Since Cespedes won’t budge – the Mets should hope he opts out and leaves – it’s down to the young guy they can push around in Conforto or the veteran with the big salary and small production in Granderson. The Mets won’t touch Cespedes; GM Sandy Alderson must talk to him through “his people.”

The decision on what to do with the Mets’ outfield is a battle of egos and dollars over the potential of young talent. That’s not the way to go about turning your season around.

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