Jul 03

Mets Suffer Crushing Defeat; Waste Matz Start

The Mets are like my last girlfriend, the ultimate tease. I mean, if you’re going to tie the game on a pinch-hit homer in the top of the ninth, you might as well hang around and win the damn thing. Instead, the Mets’ bullpen gave it up, and tonight’s 3-2 loss to the Nationals dropped them to 10.5 behind, and in the process waste a sterling Steven Matz start.

MATZ: Great start wasted. (AP)

MATZ: Great start wasted. (AP)

Yes, you have to win the first game before you can sweep, but make no mistake, the Mets needed to sweep this three-game series at Washington. Even if they win the next two games, the most they closest they’ll get is 8.5 games. Still time, but very disappointing.

Curtis Granderson tied it 2-2 in the ninth on a pinch-hit, two-run homer, but the bullpen – using three relievers in the bottom half of the inning – gave the game away. Why not use your best reliever, Addison Reed, for two innings? Reed didn’t pitch Sunday, so he had some rest.

The bullpen has been an issue this season, and Fernando Salas, who gave up the game-winning hit, really has no business being in the game if the ninth inning of a tie game. Another issue is all the Mets’ pitchers’ walks. Two of the Nationals’ three runs were the result of walks. Overall, they’ve walked 305, good for third in the National League.

You thought, maybe the Mets would pull it out once Granderson homered, but when they didn’t take a big lead that inning, you understood disappointment could still loom, as it did tonight.

 

Jul 02

Mets Lose, But Montero Gives Encouraging Effort

C’mon, you really didn’t think Rafael Montero would be solid four games in a row, did you? Probably the Mets didn’t think he would, either. However, it wasn’t a total loss for Montero despite the Mets losing, 7-1, today to the Phillies.

MONTERO: Helps save bullpen. (AP)

MONTERO: Helps save bullpen. (AP)

The Phillies got to Montero for four runs in the second, but he hung around and took the Mets into the seventh. In the big picture, Montero’s 6.1 innings – coming on the heels of Zack Wheeler’s cameo appearance yesterday – helped save the bullpen with the Nationals series coming up.

“That was it,’’ manager Terry Collins said of the second. “He had a bad inning. After that, he kept attacking the zone. He kept us right there. … I trust him because he’s throwing strikes.’’

Montero gave the Mets a chance to win, which is all you can expect from a relatively inexperienced pitcher.

Command has always been a problem from Montero, but he only walked two hitters – consecutive batters in the sixth – which enabled him to work into the seventh. Montero gave up four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts.

In previous games, Montero’s problems would escalate, but today he regrouped after the second to give the Mets more than they could have expected.

“It would have been easy for him to throw up his hands and feel sorry for himself,’’ Collins said. “But, he bore down and kept us in the game.’’

However, the Mets managed one hit against rookie Nick Pivetta.

GRANDERSON SITS: The red-hot Curtis Granderson didn’t play because of tightness in his left hip. Granderson was originally in the starting lineup but was scratched after complaining of a tight hip.

“He tried to hit, but couldn’t,’’ Collins said, leading to speculation he might not be available to face Stephan Strasburg Monday in Washington.

CESPEDES COLD: If Granderson hadn’t come up lame, today would have been a good day to rest Yoenis Cespedes, who is on a 3-for-21 slide.

Cespedes has looked overmatched – if not tired – at the plate and has been chasing pitches low-and-away.

“He’s human,’’ Collins said of Cespedes’ struggles. “Everybody who has ever played this game is going to have [bad days]. Yoenis Cespedes will turn it around. He’s too good a player.’’

NATIONALS NEXT: This is probably as good a time as any to face the Nationals. Trea Turner is out indefinitely with a broken wrist and their bullpen has blown 13 save opportunities. The Mets also catch a break in not facing Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez.

Jul 01

Wheeler Needs To Step It Up

It’s now three early exits in a row for the Mets’ Zack Wheeler. Because today’s came in his first start coming off the disabled list, he’ll get a pass along with a no-decision in the Mets’ 7-6 victory over the Phillies.

Wheeler lasted 3.2 innings – two runs on two hits and two walks – but in that time threw 82 pitches, of which 47 were strikes. The two walks came after his own error.

WHEELER:  No pain in return from DL. (AP)

WHEELER: No pain in return from DL. (AP)

“Physically felt fine,’’ Wheeler told reporters in answering the most important question. “I struggled a little bit, of course, but I feel like I’m on the right track. I feel a little better mechanically and stuff like that.’’

Manager Terry Collins said Wheeler’s ceiling was for 90 pitches, which should be good enough for seven innings. Collins said 3.2 innings won’t cut it.

“We’ve got to get him through those [innings],’’ Collins said. “We’ve got to get him over that hump, where something like that [error] happens, we’ve got to get out of that inning right now.

“Obviously, due to the fact he hadn’t pitched for a while, he might have been a tad fatigued.’’

With the victory, the Mets have won seven of their last eight games to move to four games under .500. With the Nationals losing to St. Louis, the Mets are 8.5 games behind.  If the Mets win Sunday, they’ll be three games under .500 when they go to Washington for the start of a three-game series.

If the Mets do what they hope in Washington, they’ll officially be in a pennant race, and they’ll need Wheeler to pitch the way he did prior to his two disastrous starts – 15 runs and 3.2 total innings – before going on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis.

He knows what’s at stake.

“I wasn’t sharp before [the DL],’’ Wheeler said. “It’s three bad starts in a row and I have to pick it up. Like I said, I think I’m on the right direction right now. It really didn’t show today, but personally, I feel like I’m in the right direction. Hopefully next start I can turn it around.’’

Jun 29

Mets Wrap: Bruce, Lugo Beat Fish To Salvage Trip

The way things started on this road trip by being pummeled four straight in Los Angeles, the Mets stared at the end of their season.

However, after Seth Lugo and Jay Bruce combined to beat the Marlins, 6-3, tonight they have now won five of their last six games. They are still miles behind the Nationals, but went from ten games under .500 after the Dodgers’ series to six games under heading into a three-game series against Philadelphia tomorrow at home.

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

Should they sweep the Phillies, entering the All-Star break at .500 is possible. That’s something most of us couldn’t imagine a few weeks ago.

“I thought we played very well [following the series in Los Angeles],’’ manager Terry Collins said. “It showed we won’t back down. … We have to continue to play well. We have to continue to pitch. If we keep pitching it could be an exciting second half.’’

Bruce wasn’t biting on the notion the Mets turned their season around. He was being a realist.

“We still have a lot of work to do,’’ Bruce said. “We have to play great baseball. We have to be consistent with our approach and mindset. We know the talent that we have, and we know what we have to do.’’

The Mets close the first half with three games each in Washington and St. Louis, two clubs that traditionally have bullied them.

On the positive, the Nationals bullpen is suspect after blowing another ninth-inning lead against the Cubs and losing Trea Turner indefinitely with a broken wrist. The Cardinals have been inconsistent this year, but have won four of their last five games to pull within 3.5 games of Milwaukee.

The Mets open the second half with a ten-game homestand against the suddenly slumping Rockies, Cardinals and Oakland. They close the month with four games at San Diego and three in Seattle.

BRUCE MERITS ALL-STAR CONSIDERATION: Bruce is ranked 13th in the fan voting for National League outfielders, but his statistics dictate he should be much higher and deserves a spot on the All-Star team.

Wouldn’t that be wild? The player Sandy Alderson was practically begging teams to take him off his hands could represent the Mets in Miami.

Bruce was a force in the Mets’ victory over the Marlins tonight going 2-for-3 with two RBI (he has 54) and two runs scored. Overall, he’s hitting .270 with 20 homers (tied for third).

Quite simply, Bruce is playing the way the Mets envisioned when they traded for him last year at the deadline. Bruce pressed trying to make a good impression, but had a strong last two weeks in helping the Mets clinch a wild card.

The Mets re-signed him as a hedge to losing Yoenis Cespedes, but after they extended the latter, they made it clear they wanted to trade Bruce.

However, Alderson’s public desire to trade Bruce lessened his value and he opened the season as the starting right fielder.

With injuries to Cespedes, David Wright, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, Bruce literally carried the Mets in the first half. While the Mets floundered for much of June, Bruce hit .299 with eight homers and 17 RBI and a .346 on-base percentage and .934 OPS.

Bruce could go based on every team needing one representative. However, based on that premise, tomorrow’s starter, Jacob deGrom (7-3) might go.

DeGrom has been lights out in winning his last three starts – going at least eight innings in each – following those two dreadful games in which he gave up 15 runs. During his winning streak he’s given up just three runs over 25 innings.

LUGO TREMENDOUS: You wouldn’t expect Seth Lugo to be listed with Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, but he joined those two pitching icons by winning his sixth straight road decision.

For his second straight start, Lugo struggled in the sixth, but he made it out of the inning to close his line at three runs on six hits and importantly, only one walk.

“I think everything was there,’’ Lugo said. “What I’d like to improve on is going deeper into games.’’

Jun 28

Mets’ Pitching Could Determine Role At Trade Deadline

Watching Steven Matz toy with the Marlins tonight I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been or what could be. The Mets were supposed to go deep into the playoffs this season with five starters and two reliable reserves just in case something happened.

Well, something did happen and six of those pitchers have spent some time on the disabled list.

MATZ: He's back. (AP)

MATZ: He’s back. (AP)

Matz is back and going strong, working into the seventh inning in three of his last four starts, including seven scoreless in beating the Marlins, 8-0.

Teamed with Jacob deGrom, manager Terry Collins, said the Mets have the beginnings of a strong core.

“It’s going to take pitching if we’re going to get back into this thing,’’ Collins said.

Matz was superb despite only four strikeouts as he pitched to contact.

“I let them put the ball in play,’’ Matz said. “I got a lot of groundball outs [12] and that helps me go deep into games.’’

Matz’s control was on tonight as he not only painted the corners but brushed Giancarlo Stanton off the plate, something Mets’ pitchers don’t always do.

Robert Gsellman went on the disabled list today which gives Rafael Montero another chance to stay in the rotation. Montero has made three straight strong appearances and is coming off a good start.

While the Mets are optimistic about him, they are also hoping for innings from Seth Lugo, Thursday, in Miami, plus a positive medical report on Zack Wheeler.

Even should all those things materialize, the Mets are in such a hole that catching the Nationals isn’t likely to happen, but .500 is within reach.

Perhaps more importantly – and you can decide for yourself whether it is good or bad – the Mets open the second half with ten straight at home, which could make them competitive enough to where it could decide their direction at the trade deadline.