May 29

Harvey Not Vintage, But Good Enough

We’ve seen Matt Harvey better, but we’ll take the version we saw last night in Pittsburgh. Last night Harvey pitched with more poise than we’ve seen in a long time; he pitched out of trouble and survived through a season-high six innings in carrying the Mets over the Pirates.

Harvey threw in the mid-90s last night, not the 98 he carried as a punch-them-out weapon in 2013 when he terrorized National League batting orders. His command last night was better as he issued only two walks, and most importantly gave up a season-low one run.

HARVEY: Good enough. (AP)

HARVEY: Good enough. (AP)

The Mets will win most games if he gives up one run, and if that’s the Harvey we’ve been waiting for, it will be worth the wait.

“We’ve been talking about it: He doesn’t have to throw 97 [mph] to get people out,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters. “Tonight he showed that.”

Harvey has endured two season-ending surgeries since he became a cartoon superhero in 2013. Once defiant, Harvey was acceptant of what has happened.

“Obviously, it’s just taken a little bit of time,” said Harvey. “It’s been frustrating for me. But a lot of the work has been paying off, and really, it’s a huge, huge positive for me being able to execute those pitches tonight.”

At the end of the 2015 season, when Harvey’s innings became an issue when he spoke of his agent Scott Boras, he said he hired him to secure his future, which we all know is his 2018 walk year for a crosstown trip to the Bronx.

The Mets would take that right now because it would mean a Harvey that could be good enough to pitch them into an October or two.

May 26

Walker, DeGrom Key Rout Of Pirates

It was a sweet homecoming for Neil Walker, who returned to his Pittsburgh hometown Thursday night to get caught up in the euphoria of his beloved Penguins going to the Stanley Cup Finals, and tonight hitting a pair of homers in the Mets’ 8-1 rout of the Pirates.

WALKER: Goes home with two homers. (AP)

WALKER: Goes home with two homers. (AP)

“I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now,” Walker said. “It’s always special coming back here and nice for people to cheer for you.”

Walker, who is coming off back surgery, accepted a $17.2 million qualifying to return to the Mets rather than test the free agent market. Walker can become a free agent this winter but said he wants to remain with the Mets.

There is reciprocal interest by the Mets in Walker, but there won’t be talks until this winter.

DeGROM BENEFICIARY: The primary beneficiary of Walker’s flexing was Jacob deGrom, who took advantage of the support to be given the opportunity to start the ninth.

DeGrom gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, but Collins left him in to strike out David Freese for his tenth strikeout. DeGrom gave up one run on six hits in 8.1 innings in the longest outing of a Mets’ starter this season.

“He did exactly what we needed,” manager Terry Collins said. “He gave the bullpen the night off.”

ANSWER TO TODAY’S QUESTION: As expected, the Mets optioned Rafael Montero to Triple-A Las Vegas and promoted reliever Tyler Pill.

Pill was 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA for Vegas. The Mets haven’t named a starter for Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee and Pill could get the ball.

CESPEDES UPDATE: Yoenis Cespedes went 0-for-2 with a walk in a rehab start for Class A St. Lucie. The expectations are Cespedes should be activated from the disabled list (left hamstring) next week.

UP NEXT: Zack Wheeler (3-2, 3.74) is coming off a win, May 20, against the Angels. In that game, he gave up two runs on four hits with five strikeouts and five walks.

Aug 25

Mets Should Not Hold Pat Hand At Deadline

Most reports indicate the Mets won’t make a deal by the August 31 deadline. However, after watching Seth Lugo’s first career victory cut short by a cramp in his right calf, they shouldn’t be so sure about that position.

All teams put players on waivers throughout the season to ascertain who might be interested in making a deal later. If nobody claims that player – the term is “clears waivers,” – then he could be available. You’d be surprised who might show up on the list.

LUGO: Solid before injury. (AP)

LUGO: Solid before injury. (AP)

We can assume most contenders are adding this time of season. We can also assume the teams sparring with for the Mets for a wild-card would also be interested in adding a pitcher, but since these things are done in reverse order, as of now that player would slip to the Mets before the Pirates, Marlins, Cardinals or Giants could block the deal.

There’s such fragility with starting pitchers as the Mets learned this season with Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler – neither will pitch again this year – and now Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and possibly Noah Syndergaard are suspect. Matz is on the DL, deGrom’s next start will be pushed back, and everybody is waiting for the other shoe to fall on Syndergaard.

The Mets have been fortunate with Lugo, so far, but what will they get Sunday from Robert Gsellman, who’ll be making his first career start?

Also fragile are playoff opportunities. Prior to last season, 2006 was when the Mets were in the postseason. As we learned this year, injuries and bad luck happen. Will the Mets be in contention next year? Nobody can say.

However, everybody in the wild-card hunt has issues. Everybody.

The Mets are now 3.5 games behind for the second wild-card with 35 games remaining following Thursday’s 10-6 victory in St. Louis. Sometime in that span, the Mets might need somebody to step up and take the ball. Who are they going to give it to? Rafael Montero? Sean Gilmartin? Gabriel Ynoa? Surely, the Logan Verrett boat has sailed.

The Marlins are going after it. Reportedly, they are interested in the Braves’ Julio Teheran after a proposed deal for Arizona’s Shelby Miller fell through.

Meanwhile, the Mets seem they will go with a pat hand. And, it isn’t all that great a hand.

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Aug 17

Has Syndergaard Turned The Corner?

UPDATED: Adding quotes by Syndergaard and Collins.

For awhile last night it appeared Noah Syndergaard turned the corner and all would be right with the Mets again. However, as has been his pattern, he ran into the wall otherwise known as the sixth inning and was haunted by familiar ghosts.

I won’t go into the bone spur issue because when you live in a 98 mph., neighborhood, your arm has to be sound. Stolen bases are a problem – the Diamondbacks had four more Tuesday night and nine in his two starts against them – but one he should eventually solve with his experience.

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

The main issue with Syndergaard has been his pitch-count efficiency and inability to put away a hitter or shut down an inning. It’s why he doesn’t give the Mets the number of innings he should considering the number of pitches he throws.

Of his 23 starts, he has gone at least seven innings only nine times. Only twice did he venture into the eighth inning. Twice.

Last night he cruised through five innings and was good as advertised but unraveled in the sixth. Yes, he was hamstrung by T.J. Rivera‘s defense, but when you’re supposed to be an ace, you must find a way to get out of the inning. The Mets survived the inning, but not Syndergaard.

This is not what you’d expect from somebody deemed an ace, much less a Super Hero.

Roughly one of four pitches he throws is fouled off, meaning he’s not putting away hitters. He averages over a strikeout an inning, but only four times has he reached double-digits in strikeouts, the last being June 15 against Pittsburgh.

Double-digit strikeout games signify going deep into games. Syndergaard went deep with a two-run homer in the fifth but was done an inning later. He expects more of himself.

From how he overpowered the Diamondbacks early in the game, his final line of four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings was a disappointment despite going to 10-7 in the Mets’ 7-5 victory. Also discouraging was he threw 106 pitches.

Syndergaard took a six-run lead into the sixth. He should have coasted the way he did against Pittsburgh and the Cubs on July 3, his last win before last night. He went into the eighth in those games.

Jake Lamb reached on Rivera’s error and moved to second on a wild pitch. Syndergaard struck out Yasmany Tomas, but gave up a single to Wellington Castillo and two-run triple to Mitch Haniger. A second error by Rivera let in another run. After an infield single, Syndergaard left in favor of Jerry Blevins and the last image of him was throwing his glove in anger in the dugout.

Sure, blame the inning on Rivera, but it’s up to the pitcher to overcome disaster and put away the next hitter, something Syndergaard didn’t do. With his mounting pitch count manager Terry Collins didn’t have the confidence to let him finish the inning.

When Syndergaard cruised early in the game, he challenged hitters inside, his command was sharp and his curveball had bite. All encouraging signs.

“In the middle innings I thought he threw the ball great,” Collins said. “When he commanded his fastball in the right spots they weren’t able to do much against him.”

But, he couldn’t sustain. Whenever he loses it quickly, it raises the question about the bone spur. The Mets believe – and Syndergaard concurs – this is a pain tolerance issue. The spur is something that should be dealt with by surgery in the offseason as it will be with Steven Matz.

“My arm felt great,” Syndergaard said. “I was fluid in my delivery. I felt it was a step in the right direction.;;

There are games, like those against the Pirates and Cubs – and for five innings last night – where he dominates and pitches to the ace-like levels of Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver. But, he’s not there yet on a consistent basis.

The elbow spur bothers me, and I’m sure it bothers Syndergaard more than he lets on. Of his last seven starts he reached the sixth three times before being pulled. Is it the spur or did hitters catch up to him?

Before last night, Syndergaard had four losses and two no-decisions in his previous six starts. In looking for an explanation for what’s happening one thing surfaces.

This is Syndergaard’s first full season and there are growing pains. His fastball averages 98 and his changeup averages 89, but there’s more to pitching than throwing hard. Just because he throws lightning and is built like a linebacker doesn’t mean he’s automatically Don Drysdale.

Syndergaard is ahead of most with his experience level, but not where he envisions himself. He needs more polish. He must learn to take something off his pitches; to reach back for the 100 mph., heater when he needs it, not with every pitch.

The bone spur is an issue, but one surgery should resolve. The real problem with Syndergaard is the expectations are exceedingly high from the Mets, his teammates, the media, and the fans. Everybody expects more of him – including the pitcher himself – than he is capable of giving.

Too many expect him to be the second Seaver instead of letting him develop into the first Syndergaard. He is still growing. He’s not the force he expects of himself to be.

Not yet, anyway.

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Aug 16

Three Mets’ Storylines: Colon Rocked Hard

Bartolo Colon usually gives the Mets a chance to win. Not so Monday night in Arizona, when thanks to an error by third baseman T.J. Rivera to start the game, the Mets fell into a three-run hole they could not climb out of.

The Diamondbacks had four hits in the inning, all of them scorched.

COLON: Not his night. (AP)

COLON: Not his night. (AP)

Colon had given up single runs in his last two starts, but gave up five runs on nine hits and two walks over four innings in a 10-6 loss.

The Mets picked away at a six-run deficit, but it was just one of those nights where there seemed little doubt as to the outcome.

The only bright spots for the Mets were Travis d’Arnaud getting three hits, a homer by Neil Walker, and are you ready for this? Colon drew the first walk of his career in his 282nd plate appearance.

It was a bad night all around as the Nationals and Marlins both won.

The other main storylines pertaining to the Mets today was what would they do when Yoenis Cespedes comes off the disabled list and several injury updates.

PLAN FOR CESPEDES’ RETURN: The Mets signed Cespedes to play center field, but he’ll play left when he comes off the disabled list Friday in San Francisco. The Mets procrastinated for nearly a month before placing him on the disabled list, and although I’m not crazy about him calling the shots, it’s prudent to preserve him as much as possible.

However, if he can’t run or is limited defensively, then they should leave him on the disabled list and bring up Michael Conforto to play left.

Cespedes began a rehab assignment today in Port St. Lucie and went 0-for-3.

INJURY UPDATES: Zack Wheeler will be examined Wednesday by Dr. James Andrews. A negative exam could necessitate another Tommy John surgery. … Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday in Port St. Lucie. He’s expected to be activated Saturday. … Pitcher Logan Verrett is trying to get his demotion to Triple-A rescinded into a DL appointment. Verrett says he has a stiff neck. A MRI showed nothing significant. Walker update: Walker could leave the team Tuesday on paternity leave. He could be away for up to three days.

EXTRA INNINGS: Reports say the Mets aren’t interested in trading for Houston outfielder Carlos Gomez, who was designated for assignment. … There is also no interest in reliever Jonathan Papelbon, who was released by Washington. … The Mets announced their season-ticket prices would rise by 3.95 percent next year. … Original Met catcher Choo Choo Coleman died Monday three days shy of his 81st birthday. … Monday’s lineup featured five position players who were either not in the Opening Day lineup or on the roster.