Oct 13

Even In Defeat, Matz Showed He’s Ready For The Big Stage

Steven Matz pitched well enough to win most games, but most games he’s not facing Clayton Kershaw, the game’s best pitcher. One of the things I like most about Mets manager Terry Collins is the confidence he displays in his players. His decision to stick with Matz as his Game 4 starter – despite only six career starts – against Kershaw screamed he had the ultimate confidence.

MATZ: Good, just not Kershaw good. (Getty)

MATZ: Good, just not Kershaw good. (Getty)

The knee-jerk reaction is to say Matz spit the bit in tonight’s 3-1 loss to the Dodgers to send the NLDS back to Los Angeles for the deciding Game 5. Tell me, if I told you Matz would have given up three runs tonight, you would have grabbed it in a second.

“He pitched very good,” Collins said. “He was outstanding. If we get to the next round we have all the confidence in the world in him.”

That’s an awfully big “if.” It’s one thing to beat Kershaw at home. It’s another for them to encore that by beating Zack Greinke on the road. That will be a daunting task.

Collins could have gone with staff ace Jacob deGrom – he said that was on the table had the Mets lost Game 3 – but as it turned out, Matz was a good choice. Remember, this was his seventh Major League start and it was on a national stage. Next year, the Mets are counting on him for at least 30 starts.

Think of the pressure on Matz. He was pitching on national television with a chance to send the Mets to the next round. That’s a lot of pressure on the 24-year-old lefty, especially considering he hadn’t pitched since Sept. 24, that he was coming off an injury, and was trying to match Kershaw pitch for pitch.

It was one bad inning that did in Matz. Adrian Gonzalez drove in the Dodgers’ first run with a bloop single to center, then two more on Justin Turner’s two-run double. That’s two bad pitches he’d like to have back.

“To sum it up, a couple of mistakes hurt me,” Matz said. “I thought I threw the ball good. I just had a bad inning, but against a guy like Kershaw you have to put up zeroes.”

Sure there were nerves, regardless of his pre-game vow to “take the emotions out of it.” Collins had to sense Matz wasn’t snowing him when he looked him in the eye and was told he was ready.

And, even in defeat, Matz showed the baseball world he was ready for this moment.

Oct 11

Utley Slide Helps Tie NLDS And Ends Tejada’s Season

Cal Ripken Jr., said it was a “hard, clean’’ play, but not dirty, and if anybody should know about take-out slides it is him. That’s not to say others didn’t have their own opinion. Chase Utley took out Ruben Tejada to break up the double play in the seventh inning Saturday night, and in doing so knocked the Mets’ shortstop out of the playoffs with a fractured right leg.

UTLEY SLIDE: Fuels Mets emotions. (Getty)

UTLEY SLIDE: Fuels Mets emotions. (Getty)

Not only did the game-tying run score on the play, but when Dodgers manager Don Mattingly appealed Tejada never touched the bag, Utley was ruled safe, and with the out taken off the board, it enabled Adrian Gonzalez to hit a two-run double that lifted the Dodgers to a 5-2 victory to change the complexion of the series.

Mets manager Terry Collins said the umpires made the right call, and added his players were an angry bunch.

“You have to take the emotion and keep your focus,’’ Collins said. “You can’t lose control.’’

Instead of returning to New York with a chance to finish the sweep behind Matt Harvey, the NLDS goes back to Citi Field tied at a game apiece.

Until then, there will be continued debate on the nature of the slide – clean or dirty?

“Only Chase knows what the intent was,’’ Mets captain David Wright said. “My opinion is he wasn’t close to the bag.’’

Utley, known for being a hard-nosed player, defended his actions.

“It was one of those awkward plays,” Utley said. “There was no intent to injure Ruben, whatsoever. My intent was to break up the double play.”

Speaking of Harvey, what immediately came to mind with the Utley slide was of him getting plunked by the Mets’ Game 3 starter before he was traded by the Phillies. Utley wasn’t thinking that when he slid into Tejada, but if there wasn’t bad blood between Utley and the Mets before, there probably is now.

One thing for sure, what has been a compelling series by its stellar pitching, now has an edge to it.

Oct 06

METS MATTERS: Harvey Misses Workout; Matz Throws

Mets Game 3 starter Matt Harvey missed a mandatory team workout today. He will be disciplined in-house, which would entail a fine.

mets-matters logo“One thing about having rich players: There’s a nice donation they’ll be making,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters this afternoon at Citi Field.

Harvey said he lost track of time, but phoned the Mets to tell them he was caught in traffic. Because of the conflicts Harvey has had with the Mets over his innings, it is easy to imagine the worst, but who among us hasn’t been caught in traffic?

Then again, there’s the old saying, “if you’re early you are never late.’’

Collins told Harvey to turn around and go home, but to his credit, Harvey showed up at Citi Field to work out, face the questions and not have his teammates bothered by the distraction.

That really is a plus on his behalf.

“Obviously today was not the greatest,’’ Harvey told reporters. “I know we had a mandatory workout. The last thing I ever want to do is not be here with my team. Basically there’s no excuse. I screwed up. I wasn’t here.

“I showed up a little late. I’ve talked to [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and I’ve talked to Terry and my teammates and apologized to them and apologized to everybody. They understand. I’m here to get my workout in and be with the team.

“Unfortunately, today I screwed up. There’s not really anything else to say. They know what happened. I told everybody and apologized to everybody and told them it’s not going to happen again. It’s never happened before. Unfortunately, it happened kind of at a bad time, a mandatory time. Truly I just screwed up.’’

That’s as stand-up as a player can be. He didn’t blame Alred for not setting the alarm or Robin for warming up the Batmobile for him. He accepted responsibility and that’s all you can ask.

MATZ WORKS OUT: Rookie lefthander Steven Matz, earmarked to start Game 4 over Bartolo Colon despite only six career starts, threw a pain-free bullpen session. He will make a simulated game Thursday, and if there are no setbacks will start Game 4.

Matz, who has been sidelined with back spasms, is expected to throw 90 to 95 pitches in the game.

If Matz can’t go, the Mets are inexplicably considering using Jacob deGrom on short rest.

URIBE TO MISS NLDS: Infielder Juan Uribe, who hasn’t played since Sept. 25 because of a bruised cartilage in his test, will be left off the NLDS roster. Expect his sport on the roster to be taken by outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis.


Oct 06

Colon Should Get Start Over Matz

Why do the Mets continually try to re-invent the wheel? GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins will wait until after Thursday’s instructional league start by Steven Matz to make a decision on whether the rookie lefthander will start Game 4 of the NLDS against the Dodgers.

COLON: Should get NLDS start. (AP)

COLON: Should get NLDS start. (AP)

The 4-0 Matz has made six major league starts, but hasn’t pitched since Sept. 24 because of a stiff back that required an injection over the weekend. At 24 and with a bright future, I understand the long-term attraction in Matz.

Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon, whom the Mets paid $20 million the last two seasons, and has won 29 games and pitched 397 innings in that span. Colon, who during his 18-year career – which he says will continue – has won 218 games. Matz can only hope to win that many games or pitch as long.

What Colon did 10 years ago is irrelevant, but unlike corporate America, let’s not devalue the variable known as experience. I like Matz’s fastball and his future, but the Mets still win the NL East without him. They don’t win without Colon.

This is too much thinking on Alderson’s part. Colon has been there, done that, and regardless of his losing record outside the division, he has earned the right to pitch in the postseason.

Instead, he’ll be shuffled off to the bullpen.

Meanwhile, if Matz can’t go, Alderson – and I say Alderson because Collins doesn’t have the power to make these calls – is toying with starting Jacob deGrom, the Game 1 starter, on short rest. Doing so would handicap deGrom in the NLCS if the Mets are fortunate enough to advance.

It has been a long, but fun season, and the Mets are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006. However, they are there in large part because of Colon and not Matz.

Colon in the rotation is the right thing to do.

Oct 01

Robles Suspended

Major League Baseball suspended Mets reliever Hansel Robles for his high-and-tight pitch directed at the head of Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

The pitch came after warnings were given to both benches after the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes and Kirk Nieuwenhuis and the Phillies Odubel Herrera were hit. The suspension applies to the regular season, so is Robles appeals, he could serve it next year. The Mets are placing a premium on getting home field in the NLDS against Los Angeles, so him serving it this weekend aren’t likely.

Robles drew the ire of the Phillies for quick-pitching earlier this season.