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 30

DeGrom Aces Phillies

There can be no doubt if the Mets are to salvage their season, if not make a run, they’ll need more of the same from Jacob deGrom, who pitched like the ace he is in keeping his team hot.

The Mets have now won six of their last seven games tonight in beating the Phillies, 2-1, at Citi Field, to pull within five games of .500.

De GROM: Aces Phillies. (AP)

De GROM: Aces Phillies. (AP)

“Going into LA was a wake-up call for us,’’ deGrom said. “We got our teeth kicked in. We know we had to play better. If we’re going to do it, we’re running out of time.”

Getting going means beating the teams you’re supposed to, which includes the Giants and Phillies.

This still could turn into a “trap series,’’ if the Mets stumble the next two days, but deGrom wouldn’t let that happen tonight. DeGrom had to be dog tired as the Mets’ flight from Miami didn’t land in New York until after 4:30 a.m.

DeGrom has turned things around since back-to-back starts when he gave up 15 runs. Since then, he’s gone 4-0 with a 0.84 ERA, walking only eight but with 31 strikeouts.

“He’s in a groove for sure,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’s such a competitor. He won’t give in and throw one over the middle.’’

DeGrom’s fastball was superb tonight, but he also commanded his secondary pitches well, particularly his slider early in the game and his change-up in the later innings.

DeGrom, who had worked at least eight innings in his last three starts, worked seven innings and gave up one run on three hits and one walk. DeGrom, who had a string of double-digit strikeout games earlier this year, but not recently, struck out 12, which contributed to his higher than normal pitch count of 111. It is the sixth time this year he struck out at least ten.

“I was able to throw it tonight when I needed to and where I needed to,’’ deGrom said of his change-up. “My fastball command was good tonight. I was able to control it on both sides of the plate. Everything worked off the fastball tonight.’’

STILL NO CONFORTO: Today is Day Five without Michael Conforto and he’s still not close to coming back after being struck on his left wrist by a pitch last Sunday in San Francisco.

And yet, the Mets refuse to put him on the 10-day disabled list and continue to play shorthanded.

The only reason I can come up with is the Mets are reluctant to pay the major league salary to whoever would come up from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace him, even if it is only for ten days.

That’s speculation on my part, but would anybody really be surprised?

“There’s no break,’’ Collins said. “It’s the bone bruise that is causing him problems. He tried to swing the bat today and he had trouble.’’

CESPEDES SLUMPING: One of the ramifications of not having Conforto available is not being able to rest Yoenis Cespedes, who, with a broken-bat single in the eighth has four hits in his last 24 at-bats.

Of course, would it kill the Mets to start Brandon Nimmo for a game?

THINKING ABOUT COLON: The Mets are kicking the tires on bringing back Bartolo Colon, who was designated for assignment by the Braves.

Atlanta has ten days to either trade, release outright or assign him to the minor leagues (won’t happen). After which, the player becomes a free agent.

“He’s still a member of the Braves,’’ GM Sandy Alderson said when asked about Colon.

EXTRA INNINGS: Lucas Duda is still weakened with flu-like symptoms and was a late scratch. … Addison Reed has converted save opportunities in the last two games. … Curtis Granderson singled to extend his hitting streak to nine games. … Zack Wheeler will come off the disabled list and start Saturday.

 

Jun 30

Mets Beware Of Trap Series

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression of a “trap series,’’ and the Mets are cruising into one this weekend at home against the Phillies, owners of the worst record in the sport.

DE GROM: Needs to keep things rolling.  (AP)

DE GROM: Needs to keep things rolling. (AP)

Sandwiched between the end of a road trip they closed by winning five of six games and a three-game series in Washington, the Mets could be in a precarious situation should they take the Phillies lightly.

After being swept in a four-game series in Los Angeles, the Mets were staring into the abyss. Instead, they swept the Giants – it still counts in the standings – and won two of three in Miami, a place where they traditionally have trouble.

Seth Lugo pitched brilliantly for six innings last night and the Mets have Jacob deGrom going tonight.

“We’re hoping our pitching is starting to fall in place right now,’’ Collins said Thursday in Miami. “And if it does, we’ve got an exciting second half ahead of us.’’

If the Mets sweep the Phillies, they then travel to Washington, whom they trail by 10.5 games. They made up wild-card ground this last week and trail Colorado by 9.5 games for the second wild card. They open the second half with three games against the Rockies at Citi Field.

However, to catch the Rockies they must first leapfrog the Cardinals, whom they play seven times over the next two weeks.

That’s a lot of looking ahead, and sometimes when you look too far ahead you miss what’s right in front of your face. And, we’ve seen this before from the Mets. Just when they start feeling good about themselves they walk into the door.

Jay Bruce said last night the Mets haven’t been consistent, and “we need to play great baseball’’ if they are to have a chance.

The Mets said all the right things. Yes, the Mets talk a good game. Now they have to play a good game. Beginning tonight.

Apr 18

Game Wrap: Reyes’ Error, Bullpen Sinks Mets

It has been thought since spring training the Mets’ bullpen would always be their Achilles Heel that turned out to be the case in tonight’s 6-2 10-inning loss to the Phillies.

The Mets took a 2-1 lead in the first but didn’t score the rest of the night. The Mets only managed four hits all night. They went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position – Jay Bruce’s RBI single in the first – and stranded seven runners.

Meanwhile, the pen – not helped by Jose Reyes’ monumental error in the eighth – coughed up the lead, then caved in tenth with four runs against Rafael Montero.

“It’s frustrating because we’ve lost four in a row,” manager Terry Collins said. “We just didn’t make pitches when we needed to.”

ANOTHER STEP FOR WHEELER: Zack Wheeler’s pitch count remains too high for the number of innings he throws, but you can sense his progress. He gave up a run on four hits with seven strikeouts on 99 pitches spanning five innings.

Did Wheeler pitch well enough to win? Yes, if the offense had scored.

“I’ve been impressed with the way he’s handled things and kept up in the game,” Collins said.

INTERESTING LINEUP: Collins’ batting order bears watching, especially if Reyes continues to flounder. Michael Conforto started in center in place of Curtis Granderson and hit leadoff, with Reyes dropped to seventh.

With Reyes not getting on base or running, Conforto’s .417 on-base percentage is eye-popping, especially in comparison to Reyes’ .100 average and .182 on-base percentage.

Reyes doubled in four at-bats and committed a costly error in the eighth when he dropped Freddy Galvis’ pop-up.

The Phillies had runners on the corners after the error, but could have won the game in regulation had Galvis hustled and taken second.

Collins said he’ll stick with Reyes.

“He’s earned the right to get the chance to turn it around,” Collins said.

 

Apr 12

Wheeler, Conforto Give Mets Glimpse Of Future

Sometime next season or the year after, Zack Wheeler and Michael Conforto will combine to lift the Mets. They did for awhile Wednesday night in Philadelphia until Hansel Robles sprayed graffiti on their near masterpiece.

i-5Wheeler, backed in large part by Conforto’s homer and Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run single, cruised into the sixth with a five-run lead. It looked as if manager Terry Collins would let him pitch out of trouble, but pulled him with two outs and the bases loaded in favor of Robles.

Collins feared the Phillies would break through and spoil Wheeler’s night and he’d suffer an emotional setback. Instead, Maikel Franco turned around Robles’ first pitch for a monster grand slam that changed the complexion of the game, but the Mets held on to win 5-4 to complete the sweep.

In winning his first game since coming off Tommy John surgery in 2014, Wheeler gave up three runs on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He threw the target 85 pitches, but the key was working ahead in the count with his secondary pitches. Miami hurt Wheeler in his first start – of a cold damp day – when he fell behind in the count and waited on his fastball.

Wheeler coasted into the sixth but the Phillies worked him hard to load the bases.

“I was very happy with the way he pitched tonight,” Collins told reporters of Wheeler’s start. “He threw the ball as well as he could but he ran out of gas all of a sudden.”

Pitchers usually won’t admit to getting tired, but Wheeler was stand-up. He knows the score.

“I was a little tired at the end,” Wheeler said. “It’s all about building myself up. …I had better command. That’s what I needed from my first start. It felt good to bounce back after that rough outing. I was nice to go out there and do well.  It’s a weight off my shoulders.”

Conversely, it hasn’t appeared the Mets were all that interested in building up Conforto’s at-bats. They had a huge lead, but Conforto sat until the end. Conforto was a surprise start over Curtis Granderson and responded with two hits and a walk and scored three runs.

One of those hits was an opposite-field homer to give the Mets an early 2-0 lead.

Conventional wisdom has Conforto going to the minors when Juan Lagares is activated from the disabled list. He needs at-bats, but Collins would not commit to starting him Thursday in Miami.

Conforto hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time but responded with what little he has.

“I’m getting good pitches to hit and getting deep into the count,” said Conforto, who continues to refuse to get drawn into the debate on his immediate future.

Another positive note to the day was the report Matt Harvey, who strained his left hamstring Tuesday night, would be able to make his next start Sunday in Miami.

While Wheeler and Conforto were the headliners, Robles served as a reminder of one of the Mets’ biggest weaknesses, which is the bridge to the back end of the bullpen.