Aug 30

Montero Shows What Fuss Has Been All About

Tonight, my friends, is what all the fuss surrounding Rafael Montero has been about. There it was, the eighth incredible inning in Cincinnati, and Montero was still dealing.

MONTERO: Wears the crown tonight. (AP)

MONTERO: Wears the crown tonight. (AP)

He worked quickly and confidently, challenging the Reds inside with his fastball, his slider, his changeup. It was art to watch Montero change speeds and hit his spots.

Above all, Montero pitched fearlessly, changing speeds and throwing his change-up off the inside corner. If he missed, the ball would tail further inside and not fade over the middle of the plate.

“He established inside and pitched off of that,’’ said catcher Kevin Plawecki. “He’s throwing effectively inside. That’s why he’s had so much success lately.’’

Montero is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA over his last four starts, but so importantly, averaged 6.2 innings. That length has gone a long way toward earning the trust from manager Terry Collins.

“He got easy outs,’’ Collins said. “He had a lot of 1, 2, 3-pitch outs. He probably thinks he has a home in the rotation, and he should feel that way.’’

The last time the Mets farmed out Montero, Collins told him he needed to throw strikes if he was to have a future with the Mets.

Montero took that to heart.

“When I was sent down, I said to myself, `I can’t go back there. I have to make changes.’ ’’

Montero took a one-hit, shutout into the ninth. He retired the first Red – Billy Hamilton on a grounder to second. Phillip Ervin singled to center, but Collins chose to give Montero one more batter, Zack Cozart, who promptly doubled.

Joey Votto was intentionally walked to load the bases, and put the winning run on base.

Enter AJ Ramos, who struck out Adam Duvall and Scooter Gennett to end the game and give the Mets their most significant victory in months.

And to Montero, the most significant victory of his short and tumultuous career.

Aug 19

Montero Solid Again; Flores Has Superb Effort

Rafael Montero is finally showing signs of getting it. Tonight’s outing against the Marlins encored a strong six-inning effort – only two runs – against the Yankees.

MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

         MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

That’s two of at least six innings, and seven over all that he’s worked into the sixth.

Montero’s recent success stems from working inside with his fastball to set up his change-up away. Montero also worked quickly and ahead in the count, two things he failed to do in previous years when he struggled.

“He pitched in and had good movement on his fastball,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “That’s why he got so many ground balls. We’ve been preaching to him to pound the strike zone.’’

Montero has made significant improvement, enough to where he could fit into their future plans.

Working with Kevin Plawecki, who caught him at Las Vegas, Montero gave up one run on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts in six innings to win his second game and first at Citi Field, 8-1.

Montero said his sinker was working which resulted in him getting four double plays.

If all five of the Mets vaunted starters are healthy next year, Montero could be used as a long reliever.

FLORES AT THIRD: Wilmer Flores made a diving stop of a hard-hit ball by Marcell Ozuna in the first inning to possibly save a run. He also started three double-plays.

Although he’s not Graig Nettles, Flores has always played third base reasonably well. If the Mets are looking for answers for 2018, I’d like to see them finish the season with Flores at third.

Flores also hit his 15th homer, a two-run blast in the Mets’ seven-run sixth inning. Nine of those homers have come against right-handed pitching.

I’ve long been a Flores supporter, something GM Sandy Alderson is not. I want to play Flores full time, and I can see a contender wanting him.

In addition to Flores, Plawecki also hit a two-run homer, and Dominic Smith hit his first Citi Field homer. Perhaps more important than the homer was Smith drew his first career walk.

LEADOFF HITTER: Another thing to look at is their leadoff hitter. Tonight it was Brandon Nimmo, who went 1-for-4. His .380 on-base percentage definitely works in his favor.

If not Nimmo, I’d like to see Amed Rosario get a shot. With his speed, if he walks more he could be a 50-stolen base candidate. Rosario hitting first, with Nimmo second to protect him, the Mets could have something special.

However, for Rosario to be an effective leadoff hitter he must improve his on-base percentage (it’s only .256).

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets tied a franchise record by turning five double plays. … Jeurys Familia threw 25 pitches in a scoreless inning in his second rehab appearance. … Curtis Granderson went 0-for-4, but reached on an error and scored the first run in the Dodgers’ victory over Detroit. … Smith has hit safely in five of his first nine major league games. … The win was the Mets’ 54th of the season. Conversely, the Dodgers are 53 games over .500.

 

Aug 18

Today’s Question: What Carnage Will Stanton Bring To Mets?

After being mauled the past four games by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the Mets now get the luxury of facing a career franchise killer Giancarlo Stanton.

So, today’s question is: What kind of damage will Stanton do this weekend against Mets pitchers, Chris Flexen, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom?

If the Marlins were a playoff contender this year, Stanton might be the NL MVP frontrunner. He just might win it regardless, especially if he comes close to 60 homers.

Stanton has 11 homers with 21 RBI for August after having 12 homers with 23 RBI in July.

Overall, he has 32 homers with 71 RBI and a .903 OPS against the Mets, with five homers and ten RBI coming this season. Six games remain between the two teams.

Stanton is three years into a 13-year, $325-million contract with the Marlins.

 

Aug 14

A Good Game, But Still Interleague Play

It was well played, but tonight’s Mets-Yankees game was still interleague, so it only gets a half-hearted thumbs-up. I make no apologies, I can’t stand interleague play.

If it is a true rivalry game, then I’d rather see the Mets play the Nationals, the Braves, or even the Phillies. Then again, it would be nice to see a dozen more games in Citizens Bank Park.

Hell, I’d rather see them play another four games with the Dodgers than four with the Yankees this week.

There are so many reasons why interleague play doesn’t make it for me:

No integrity to schedule: Interleague play coupled with the unbalanced schedule means teams in the same league don’t travel the same course to the playoffs. That’s not an issue when everybody plays the same schedule, home and away.

I’m sorry, but 19 games a year against the Nationals, Braves, Phillies and Marlins is just too damn much.

Speaking of the schedule, does it make sense for the Angels to play three games at Citi Field while the Yankees are only in for two? Or the Mets in Seattle for three games, but only two games in the Bronx?

There are so many complications with the current schedule, such as teams playing out of their leagues and divisions in April, when the schedule is prone to rainouts. That the Yankees had to wait out a three-hour-plus rain delay because the Tigers made only one trip to New York is simply the epitome of arrogance and taking their fans for granted.

Commissioner Rob Manfred, like Bud Selig before him, is so hell bent on cutting three minutes from the time of game – and selling T-shirts in China and Europe, that he ignores the basic structure that served the sport well for over a century.

Regarding the Mets and Yankees, the two teams are competing for different objectives, so what’s the point of these games? It has been said a baseball season is a marathon, but with different schedules how fair is it for one team to run 26 miles while another runs only 25?

Attendance and original premise are irrelevant: There are only four teams playing in antiquated stadiums – Boston, the Cubs, Tampa Bay and Oakland – with the Athletics and Rays hurting at the gate.

Interleague play was introduced as a gimmick to boost attendance, with some critics of Selig saying it was to have the Cubs play in Milwaukee. But, with nearly everybody playing in new stadiums, attendance is rarely an issue.

Another selling point for tearing the fabric of the game was for the fan in Cleveland to watch the Padres. But, with cable TV and the various MLB packages, viewers in Wyoming can see most any team at most any time.

Different rules: Can you imagine an AFC team getting to use a two-point conversion with NFC teams not being able to? There’s simply no good reason why the NL doesn’t have the DH while the AL teams do. It is ridiculous this still goes on, especially in the World Series.

It doesn’t work everywhere: I can appreciate the premise in New York, Chicago and maybe Los Angeles. Weak arguments can be made for Cleveland-Cincinnati, Baltimore-Washington, St. Louis-Kansas City and San Francisco-Oakland. But, who are the “natural interleague rivals’’ for Atlanta, Boston, Seattle, Arizona, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and San Diego? Or, Minnesota and Detroit?

Unless a player is returning to face his former team – or the teams in question are having outstanding seasons, what’s the appeal of Twins-Pirates, or Mets-Mariners, or Marlins-Tigers?

I’m old school: Call me what you will, but I grew up watching baseball a certain way. I respect and appreciate, but I have yet to hear an argument interleague play is for the betterment of the game.

The 2000 World Series was special, it was an event. but everything since just didn’t do it for me. I mean other than Shawn Estes throwing behind Roger Clemens. Yeah, that was interesting.

MONTERO SHARP: Rafael Montero was as good tonight as we’ve ever seen him, giving up two runs in six innings, which by every stretch was a quality start.

Montero gave up five hits and two walks with six strikeouts, so he was adept at pitching out of trouble. What was most impressive about him was how he challenged Yankee hitters inside with his fastball, including Aaron Judge, whom he struck out in the first.

Judge did get a measure of revenge with a game-tying homer in the sixth.

Aug 09

Montero’s Spot In Rotation Not Secure

It is all about pitching for the New York Mets. It is why this season went down the toilet a couple of months ago, and it is why they lost today and why Rafael Montero might not be long for the rotation.

MONTERO: Not getting it done. (AP)

MONTERO: Not getting it done. (AP)

Montero left today’s 5-1 loss to Texas for a pinch-hitter in the third inning after giving up four runs on five hits and three walks, with two of his 87 pitches hitting batters. After Montero fell to 1-8 with a 6.06 ERA, manager Terry Collins was understandably asked whether he would stay in the rotation.

“That’s something that will have to be discussed in the next couple of days,’’ Collins said. “If we don’t [find somebody better] he’ll go back out there.’’

Montero walked three of the eight batters Mets’ pitching issued free passes to. The staff has walked 398 batters, fourth worst in the National League and sixth overall (3.5 per game).

Eighty-seven pitches in three innings meant Montero was working deep into counts to numerous hitters.

“It’s a tough league to pitch in when you get three balls on a hitter,’’ Collins said. “We have not walked people like this in the past. You can’t keep putting runners on base. On this level, you have to throws strikes when you need to. He has got good enough stuff to go after guys.’’