May 11

Mets’ Immediate Schedule Favorable In Determining Set Lineup

Beginning tonight, the 20-11 Mets have seven straight games against the Cubs and Brewers, teams you would think they should handle before playing St. Louis a week from today. After winning their last two games in Philadelphia, asking them to win seven more in a row would be a tall order, but 4-3 or 5-2 isn’t out of the question considering how well their starting pitching has performed.

Jacob deGrom, the unknown in Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Jon Niese will pitch against the Cubs in Wrigley Field, then we should get Bartolo Colon, deGrom and Syndergaard next weekend against Milwaukee. If these guys pitch to their capabilities, the Mets have to feel good about themselves over the next week.

LAGARES: How long will he stay In leadoff spot? (AP)

LAGARES: How long will he stay In leadoff spot? (AP)

When the NFL schedule comes out, you look at who your team is playing and check off games they should win or lose. Now, if you’re a fan of the New England Patriots, after you looked at their schedule, who didn’t realistically see them losing three of their first four games (Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Dallas)?

A baseball schedule is different, but this time it’s not hard to think this could be a good stretch for the Mets to right their struggling offense and pick up more ground in the NL East.

The Mets’ offense has sputtered since Travis d’Arnaud and David Wright were sidelined with injuries. The Mets lost seven of ten before seemingly rebound against Baltimore and Philadelphia (won four of five). The Mets have several offensive issues they must address.

They apparently solved one by moving Daniel Murphy to the third spot. Juan Lagares is leading off tonight with Curtis Granderson getting the night off. If Lagares does well, manager Terry Collins might keep him at the top of the order and moving Granderson to the middle of the order.

I’ve always wanted Lagares to hit leadoff if he could improve his on-base percentage, which he did during spring training. I admit I was wrong about Granderson, as his on-base percentage has been very good. However, the Mets’ haven’t hit for much power, and as Granderson’s batting average slowly rises, he might be in position to drive in more runs.

With Murphy, Lucas Duda, Michael Cuddyer and Granderson, the Mets potentially could be set in the 3-4-5-6 slots, and could strengthen themselves even further when Wright returns.

What the Mets’ 11-game winning streak did was buy time for them to endure a down stretch. They’ve had that “blip,” as Collins likes to say, now we have to see if they can build off it.

 

May 10

Murphy Produces Hitting Third

We can’t assume the Mets’ heretofore stagnant offense is suddenly vibrant after one game, but we can conclude Daniel Murphy should remain hitting third for the foreseeable future. The Mets are hoping Murphy’s three hits in today’s 7-4 victory over Philadelphia can jumpstart an offense that has scored three or fewer runs in 16 of their 31 games.

The offense broke through today to make Bartolo Colon the majors’ first six-game winner of the season.

MURPHY: Getting hot. (Getty)

MURPHY: Getting hot. (Getty)

Traditionally, the No. 3 hitter is a team’s best hitter with the combination of average and power, which is the injured David Wright. Lucas Duda had been hitting third, but he’s slumping and not hitting with power. That leaves the warming Murphy, who a week ago was being showcased for a possible trade to San Francisco. He’s not going anywhere now.

Manager Terry Collins opened the season with a twist by dropping Juan Lagares from leadoff to sixth in the order, and moving up Curtis Granderson to first. Wright was hitting second and Duda third. Later, when injuries took Wright and Travis d’Arnaud from the lineup, and with Duda slumping and Granderson still first, there was a lack of punch in the order.

The Mets thrived during an 11-game winning streak with solid starting pitching and timely hitting, but the offense wilted in losing seven of ten.

With no help coming from the minors or in a trade, Collins needed a spark and this could happen with Murphy. In a domino effect, Duda dropped to clean-up where he thrived last season and Michael Cuddyer moved to fifth.

Collins will have some decisions to make when Wright returns, and he’ll resume baseball activities Monday. He could move Wright to second, where he was hitting before he was injured. Subsequently, Lagares could go back to sixth, or he could hit first with Granderson moving to the middle of the order.

That’s to be determined, but Murphy in the third spot worked out today, and this week the Mets have the Cubs and Brewers, teams they are better than and should be able to handle. There’s no better time than to run with this lineup and see where it goes.

 

 

May 09

Tejada Makes Most Of Opportunity

Mets manager Terry Collins was rewarded with Saturday night’s decision to go with Ruben Tejada over Wilmer Flores at shortstop. It will be interesting to see how long Collins rides the hot hand after Tejada’s play in the 3-2 victory over Philadelphia.

Last weekend, Collins went with Tejada in consecutive games after a string of Flores’ errors. At the time I wondered if the Mets were greasing the skids for benching Flores full time. Tonight, with Jon Niese, who throws a lot of groundballs on the mound, Collins went with the better glove and the thought returned.

This time, Tejada did something to warrant staying in the lineup with two hits and starting a key double play that literally saved the game for the Mets. What Tejada did was give the Mets – for one game, at least – the type of shortstop play they expected of him when he assumed the job after Jose Reyes’ departure.

Tejada doubled lead to off the fifth and scored on an error, but in the eighth is when he earned his money. The Phillies loaded the bases with one out when Carlos Ruiz ripped a hard grounder Tejada backhanded to start an inning-ending and game-saving 6-4-3 double play.

“[Ruiz] hit the ball very hard,’’ Tejada said. “We had to, no matter what, had to make that play.’’

Considering Flores’ defensive problems, one had to think he wouldn’t have made that play and the Phillies could have at least tied the game.

The Mets’ hadn’t been happy with Tejada’s work ethic the past few years and some thought he might not have made the roster coming out of spring training, but that appears to have changed.

“It’s the hardest I’ve seen him work,’’ Collins said. “He’s kept himself ready to play. Here’s a guy who wants to get back in there.’’

Collins plans to start Tejada Sunday at second base and you wonder how much of a chance he will get.

 

May 08

Harvey Goes For Sixth Straight Against Phillies

By its simplest definition, a pitching ace must show up big when his team needs him most, which is what the Mets want tonight from Matt Harvey in Philadelphia.

Harvey (5-0, 2.41), who beat the Nationals and Yankees in his last two starts, will be trying to become the first pitcher in the majors to reach six victories this season. The last Mets starter to open a season at 5-0 was Pedro Martinez in 2006. The club record is 7-0 by Frank Viola in 1990.

He is 6-0 lifetime against the Philles, whom he beat April 14, 6-5 at Citi Field. If you recall, that was the game Harvey threw behind Chase Utley and plunked in the back. Utley is having a miserable season, batting .103, but is 6-for-15 lifetime against Harvey. Utley sat out the Phillies’ last two games but is in the lineup tonight.

The Mets are coming off a 5-1 win Wednesday over Baltimore, their second straight after losing seven of their previous ten games.

May 02

Wright More Than A Week Away

As they should, the Mets are treating David Wright‘s hamstring injury with kid gloves and perhaps learning from experience, aren’t making any projections about his return. GM Sandy Alderson told reporters Friday having Wright back next weekend in Philadelphia “seems a little aggressive.”

Wright went on the disabled list April 15 with what was called a right hamstring strain that was subsequently changed to a pull. At the time, Alderson said it might take three weeks, but that won’t happen. Wright said he feels it when he exerts himself running and was restricted to physical therapy yesterday and plans to resume running today.

There were rumblings earlier this week Wright might come back for the Washington series, but this is the right call all around.

Holding the best record in baseball at 16-8, there’s no reason to rush him. None. With previous injuries Wright sometimes pushed the envelope and played hurt. He acknowledged that when he went on the disabled list and said he didn’t want to risk injuring himself further.