Oct 03

Scherzer’s Brilliance Overshadows Syndergaard And Harvey

Outstanding pitching was the story in the Mets’ doubleheader loss Saturday to the Nationals. Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey were brilliant, but paled in comparison to Max Scherzer, who struck out 17 in no-hitting the Mets, 2-0, in the second game.

In doing so, he became the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in one season, and first since Nolan Ryan in 1973.

SCHERZER: Simply outstanding. (Getty)

SCHERZER: Simply outstanding. (Getty)

“I felt great tonight,” Scherzer said. “I had command of all of my pitches. These things are special. To do it twice in one season, my gosh, it doesn’t seem possible.”

Scherzer lost his perfect game bid in the sixth on Yunel Escobar‘s throwing error. He struck out nine of the last 10 Mets, with the game ending on a pop-up by Curtis Granderson. He also lost a perfect game chance when he hit a batter in the eighth inning of his June 20 no-hitter over Pittsburgh.

“He made every pitch he had to make,” said Mets manager Terry Collins, whose team has lost five straight and scored only nine runs in that time. So weak has been the Mets’ offense that it has scored one run in the last 35 innings.

In being swept, and with the Dodgers beating San Diego, the Mets kicked away home field, and Game 1 will begin Friday in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw. Sunday’s starter, Jacob deGrom, will pitch Game 1 for the Mets.

With several key injuries and a struggling offense, the Mets have their issues entering the playoffs. Syndergaard is not among them. Overpowering isn’t an adequate enough description of what Syndergaard was to the Nationals. In the final start of his rookie season, Syndergaard gave up two hits in seven innings with 10 strikeouts in getting a no-decision in the Mets’ 3-1 loss in the first game.

Earlier this year, there was concern about Syndergaard’s ability to win on the road, but seeing how he stuffed Cincinnati last weekend, that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.

Another positive was Harvey, who gave up one run in six innings with 11 strikeouts in an impressive tune-up for the pivotal Game 3. Harvey finished the season with 189.1 innings, 9.1 more than the proposed hard cap.

The flip side is Steven Matz, the projected Game 4 starter, who took an injection for his sore back. Matz’s start this week in Philadelphia was scratched and it was hoped he would throw several innings this weekend.

Now the thinking is the Mets will send him to the Instructional League this week. The better thinking would be to hold him off the NLDS roster, knowing they could bring him back in the proceeding rounds. Why take the risk of a re-injury, especially with a five-game first round the Mets have depth in Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese? They would lose that advantage in a seven-game NLCS and World Series.

Actually, the best decision could be to shut him down for the year.

Matz isn’t the Mets’ only injury concern.

Utility infielder Juan Uribe has a slight cartilage tear in his chest and might not be ready for the first round. Uribe has been a spark on the field and calming influence in the clubhouse. His absence was felt in the second game when Kelly Johnson – who hasn’t played third for the Mets – committed an error in place of David Wright to set up the Nationals’ first run.

Yoenis Cespedes, who has two bruised fingers on his left hand after being hit by a pitch, returned and went 1-for-3 in the first game. Cespedes appeared in the ninth inning in the second game as a pinch hitter and was Scherzer’s 16th strikeout victim.

Infielder Wilmer Flores has been bothered by back spasms. He didn’t play in either game and has missed seven of the last nine games.

Collins is not happy with how the Mets are closing.

“We’ve got to get the edge back,” Collins said. “We got to get the focus back, the concentration back. Those are the things that when you clinch early, you can lose. And those are the things we’ve got to regain.”

How long their season lasts depends on it.

Sep 09

The Dream Continues

Not only did the Mets sweep the Nationals for a second straight series, all three games this time were done in come-from-behind fashion. Not only that, the Mets’ pitchers in the first two games – Jon Niese and Matt Harvey – were torched, and Jacob deGrom was off Wednesday night.

None of that mattered as the Mets found away to win because they willed the outcome. As good as Stephen Strasburg was, you never had the feeling the Mets were out of it, but instead, it was only a matter of time.

“ I love where we’re at. We’re rolling,” said Kelly Johnson, who tied the game with a pinch-hit homer off Strasburg in the eighth. And. of course, Yoenis Cespedes, continued his push for MVP consideration, with a game-winning homer in the eighth.

That roll included Michael Conforto driving in an insurance run and making a run-saving catch. It seems like a long time ago that the Mets were reluctant to bring up Conforto as not to damage his confidence. It doesn’t seem like anything can phase Conforto these days.

And, for the third straight night, the bullpen pitched well, despite Bryce Harper‘s cosmetic homer in the eighth.

The Mets left Florida Sunday night having lost two walk-off games to the Marlins and their lead down to four. The Nationals were hot, having won five straight.

For those who remember the titanic collapse of 2007, when they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play, there’s the thought that these are the Mets so anything can happen. However, it’s a different year with different players, and above all, a different chemistry.

For the past several years, the Nationals simply bullied the Mets. But, this year, the little guys have the muscle.


Mar 03

Delcos Sunday Column: Selig The Cause And Cure For Drug Problem

Major League Baseball already has the strictest doping policies among the four major professional sports, yet commissioner Bud Selig wants them even tighter.

Even prior to the expiration of the current CBA, Selig asked his VP of labor relations, Rob Manfred, and MLB Players Association chief Michael Weiner to hammer out a new agreement.

“I’ve always wanted (fans) to understand that I’ll always regard cleaning up this situation as something I’m very proud of,’’ Selig told reporters.

Selig wants his legacy to be that he’s the commissioner that got rid performance-enhancing drugs, which sound about right because it was under his watch that the problem mushroom into its current mess.

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Feb 08

Something To Look Forward To From The Mets

As I watch the snow pile up outside my window, I am thinking of three of the best words in sports, “pitchers and catchers.’’

NIESE: Needs to take the next step.

                       NIESE: Needs to take the next step.

The official deadline for the Mets is Monday, but the lockers are already being filled in Port St. Lucie. I am hoping to get down there this spring and have already started looking at flights.

Most of the prognosticators have the Mets fighting the Marlins to stay out of the NL East. Many of them have them losing close to 100 games. I think they’ll finish ahead of Miami and I don’t see them losing that many games. I’d like to see .500, but I’m not ready to go there, yet.

For those thinking the worst, and as Mets fans I know you’ve all done it one time or another, I’d like to give you several things to watch for that could make this an interesting, if not exciting summer.

If you’re already writing off this season, here’s a few things to talk you down off the ledge.

The soundest road to contention is with young pitching. For those lamenting the lack of power and a weak outfield, just remember what the San Francisco Giants did in two of the past three years. Speaking of sparse outfields, was the Mets’ 2000 outfield all that good?

Hardly. It’s all starts with pitching and the Mets have three bright spots they are developing.

Jon Niese won a career-high 13 games last season and has the potential, if he stays healthy, to possibly win 17 or more. To reach that level he needs to win four more games in six months. That’s roughly one more every five weeks. That’s not that big a stretch with his stuff.

Niese had a nearly 3-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and 1.17 WHIP in 2012 while working 190 innings in 30 starts. If he makes four more starts over 200 innings and maybe 17 wins are possible.

The Mets jumped from habit and signed Niese to a long-term contract way before they needed to because he throws hard, is lefthanded, pitches with guile and has experienced major league success. For those reasons, any team would want him but the Mets continually say no.

Two other rising pitching stars are Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The Mets have brought along Harvey at a good pace and he started ten games last year, showing overpowering stuff and more importantly, composure beyond his years. His is the type of arm franchises are built around.

While Harvey is in the Opening Day rotation, the timetable for Wheeler is later in the summer after more time in Triple A. There’s no rush to promote Wheeler early, but we’ll see him soon enough.

We should also see catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud before the year is out, and I like the idea he’ll get a lot of time with Wheeler. The key to the R.A. Dickey trade from the Mets’ perspective, d’Arnaud has power potential, but he’s also coming off knee and back injuries.

Should he pan out then the Mets can argue success in the trade of their Cy Young Award winner.

Also something to look forward to is Ike Davis’ power. Davis, skillful around the first base bag, clubbed 32 homers last year after a bad start. He’s healthy now and two good halves could make 40 homers a realistic possibility. That’s a little over one a month. He could get that, along with more walks and fewer strikeouts, with an improved plate presence.

Then there is David Wright, who played at a MVP clip in the first half before the pressures of carrying the Mets on his back became too great a burden.

I’m looking at .300, 30 and 100 from Wright, nothing less. He rarely talks about numbers, but he’d probably say the same if pressed.

No, I don’t know how the Mets will do this year. However, if these six players can play to what is expected of them, this has a chance to be an interesting summer.

Jan 27

Stan Musial And Frank Thomas Recall A Cleaner Time

Today I’d like to respond to two stories from yesterday, neither of them Mets related because, well, they haven’t done anything.

The first is Stan Musial’s funeral and the second Frank Thomas’ comments from the White Sox’s annual fan convention.

In different ways, both speak to baseball’s history in a profound light. Both return us to a cleaner, simpler time.

Let’s look at Musial first. Here was a three-time MVP and seven-time NL batting champion with 3,630 hits fr which 475 were home runs. But, numbers never gave us the true appreciation of this man.

I once saw him in the dining room at old Busch Stadium and thought of introducing myself and shaking his hand, but there was a crowd around him and I didn’t want to intrude. I told one of the Cardinals writers and he said, “You should have, Stan wouldn’t have mind.’’

Reading of his graciousness this week and the thoughtful eulogy from Bob Costas, I have little regret. I’ll always wish I saw him play. Even more, I wish I approached him that day.

One point Costas made was Musial didn’t have a singular achievement, such as Ted Williams hitting .406 and Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Musial also didn’t have the advantage of playing in a media center sof New York such as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and DiMaggio, or chasing a record like Hank Aaron. Timing and location mean a lot, but not everything.

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