Sep 07

Mets’ Three Storylines: Taking Care Of Business

The Mets did more than complete a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, they did what all contenders must do, which is take care of business.

It’s hard enough to beat a team in three straight games, but the streak is now 14 straight for the Mets over the Reds with a 6-3 victory Wednesday.

REYES: Big time addition. (AP)

REYES: Big time addition. (AP)

The Reds showed why they are 24 games below .500, but manager Terry Collins said there was no danger of the Mets playing down to their competition, which they frequently have this summer.

“Our guys are completely focused on what they’ve got to do and how they’ve got to go about it,” Collins said.

Beginning with the game’s first pitch, which Jose Reyes crushed over the wall in right, the Reds did everything they could to give the game to the Mets, who gladly accepted.

The Reds had three runners thrown out attempting to steal, including one at the plate; they went 3-for-13 with RISP; they struck out 13 times; they left 12 runners. When offered such gifts, a contender must capitalize, which the Mets did, something they often didn’t do for nearly three months this summer.

Now, with a little over three weeks remaining, the Mets have sliced into a once 5.5-game wild-card deficit to mere percentage points behind St. Louis for the second wild-card after the Cardinals lost in Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Taking advantage of opportunities is why the Mets are back in the race and today’s primary storyline. The others are Reyes’ continued solid play and winning with Noah Syndergaard not at his best.

REYES DOES IT ALL: Reyes not only homered, but also stole a base, singled and scored two runs. Again, he played a solid third base.

“I thought he was going to be a guy that could create some runs by getting on base,” Collins said of Reyes. “But he’s gotten big hits, huge hits. There’s no question there’s a lot of baseball left in that guy.”

The Mets acquired Reyes as a spark plug and a stopgap, and he’s responded by hitting.287 with six homers, 15 RBI, eight stolen bases and a .341 on-base percentage as a reliable leadoff hitter.

Reyes’ production enabled Collins to drop the struggling Curtis Granderson to the middle of the order, where he’s finally showing signs of production.

Granderson hit his second homer in as many games hitting behind Yoenis Cespedes in the clean-up spot. Granderson now has 25 homers and 45 RBI.

Wilmer Flores also homered, his 16th of the season.

SYNDERGAARD STRUGGLES: All this power picked up Syndergaard, who pitched five scoreless innings, but allowed ten runners (six hits and four walks).

Syndergaard’s problem was again command, evidenced by 95 pitches, of which only 61 were strikes.

Syndergaard’s short outing forced Collins to dip deep into his bullpen using five relievers. Of the five, only one – Gabriel Ynoa, who gave up three runs – isn’t expected to be on the playoff roster if the Mets are fortunate to have one.

And, right now that’s a good possibility because they are taking care of business.

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Sep 06

Three Mets’ Storylines: Cespedes Primetime Player

When you’re a star, you come through in big moments. You live for them, and that’s what Yoenis Cespedes does for the Mets.

They Mets got Cespedes, and will likely break the bank for him, for nights like Tuesday when he slugged and threw the Mets into a vital crunch-time victory.

CESPEDES: Has a flair for dramatic. (AP)

CESPEDES: Has a flair for dramatic. (AP)

“When you’re a star, that’s what they do,” manager Terry Collins said. “That’s what Ces does. That’s why he’s here. That’s why he gets paid.”

Of his 70 RBI, seven have given the Mets the lead for good, including his two-run homer to dead center in the seventh inning of their 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

“When the team is down, I know I have to focus,” Cespedes told SNY.

As I’ve written several times, extending his current three-year, $75-million contract could hamstring the Mets financially in other areas, but there’s no denying this guy is a primetime player. Cespedes carried the Mets last year into the World Series, and he’s doing the same this summer. Five of his 28 homers have tied a game, while eight put the Mets in the lead.

As if that isn’t enough, Cespedes threw out Brandon Phillips at second to end the eighth.

There’s no other descriptor other than clutch.

Cespedes was one of four Mets’ homers, giving them 189 for the season. Curtis Granderson, Jose Reyes and Alejandro De Aza (he hit their 11th pinch-hit homer of the season) crushed the others.

Clearly, Cespedes was the storyline tonight. The others were Rafael Montero and newly acquired reliever Fernando Salas.

MONTERO OFF: Probably the best thing one could say about the performance of the Montero is it could have been worse.

The problem of command that has been an anchor to Montero dragged him down again.

Montero walked four in 4.1 innings. The killer was the walking Zack Cozart in the third as he scored ahead of Adam Duvall’s home run that tied the game.

The two walks Montero gave up in the first two innings, as well as the six in his first start, didn’t hurt him. But, you can only dance out of trouble for so long. Wildness would eventually catch up, and that’s what happened to Montero.

Throwing 79 pitches in less than five innings is the kind of stuff that has always hindered Montero, and is the obstacle keeping him out of the major leagues.

“He’s working hard to stay out of the middle of the plate and he’s missing,” Collins said. “That’s what gets him in trouble. But, I’m very impressed with his arm.”

SALAS LEADS BULLPEN: The Mets have been looking for a seventh-inning stopper for their bullpen all season.

Hansel Robles spit the bit, but perhaps Salas could fit the bill. The Mets picked up Salas in a waiver deal, Aug. 31, from the Angels in exchange for minor league pitcher Erik Manoah.

Robles was sensational from June 21 to August, going 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA. However, he had a meltdown on the mound at Yankee Stadium, Aug. 3, when Mark Teixeira rattled his cage. Since then, he’s given up 15 earned runs in his last 16 innings.

Salas was the fifth of seven Mets’ pitchers – the September call-ups issue must eventually be addressed – and put the Reds down in order in the seventh.

Josh Edgin, Gabriel Ynoa, Josh Smoker, Salas, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia – who registered his 46th save – followed Montero, just the way Collins drew it up.

Sort of.

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Sep 06

Mets’ Lineup, Sept. 6, At Cincinnati

The Mets came to Cincinnati and whipped the Reds on no sleep Monday. Well rested, they send out Rafael Montero and this lineup tonight:

Jose Reyes 3B: Didn’t play Monday. Hitting .321 (9-28) with RISP. He’s playing a good third base. Would like to see him try to steal more.

Asdrubal Cabrera SS: Singled as a pinch-hitter Monday. Is tearing it up since coming off the DL, going .418 with six homers and 15 RBI in 17 games.

Yoenis Cespedes LF: Didn’t play Monday. Right quad still bothers him at times. Overall, has 27 homers and 68 RBI. With September call-ups would like to see him rested more often late in the game.

Wilmer Flores 1B: Went 3-4 Monday. Yeah, I did a double-take when I saw him in clean-up spot. Is batting .295 with 14 homers and 45 RBI since June 3.

Jay Bruce RF: Was 0-4 with two strikeouts Monday. Batting .202 with four homer and 10 RBI with the Mets.

Travis d’Arnaud C: Went 1-3 Monday. Is making more solid contact. Hit .282 in August. Mets are 29-30 when he starts and pitchers have a 4.17 ERA with him behind the plate.

Curtis Granderson CF: Did not play Monday. Has 23 homers with only 43 RBI. Hitting .301 (28-93) lifetime against Cincinnati.

Matt Reynolds 2B: Went 3-4 with a homer and two RBI Monday. Has three homers and 13 RBI on the season.

Montero RHP: Making his second start of the season. Has never pitched against Reds.

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Sep 06

Three Keys For Mets: Montero, Granderson And Bruce

Rafael Montero gets the ball tonight for the Mets in Cincinnati in replacing Jacob deGrom. He’ll be making his second start of the season.

Montero walked a career-high six in fine innings in his first start against Miami.

Command is always important for him and is among the keys for victory for the Mets.

FIRST KEY: Montero has to cut down on the walks. He was lucky the Marlins didn’t knock him out. He can’t afford a walk an inning. It will bounce back to bite him.

SECOND KEY: Curtis Granderson is showing signs of warming up. He was given Monday to rest and is batting seventh today. The Reds are starting LHP Brandon Finnegan.

THIRD KEY: Jay Bruce has hit more homers (135) than any player at Great American Ball Park. Maybe the friendly surroundings will continue to warm him up. He is 8-23 (.348) with two homers and four RBI in his last six games.

ON DECK: Tonight’s lineup.

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Sep 04

Three Mets’ Storylines: Has Granderson Answered Wake-up Call?

The Mets have waited all season for Curtis Granderson to answer his wake up call. Did he finally pick up the phone?

Moved to the cleanup spot, Granderson drove in three runs with a sacrifice fly and two-run homer in the Mets’ 5-1 victory Sunday over the Washington Nationals.

i-1Granderson drove in two runs with a bases load single Saturday.

“When he’s hitting we’re a completely different team,” said manager Terry Collins.

Granderson has three homers, eight RBI and has scored six runs over his last six games, but even if he continues on a streak of historic proportions, he won’t finish with the numbers he envisioned coming out of spring training.

He’s hitting .222, but what is alarming is his homers-to-RBI ratio of 23-43.

Perhaps also warming up – just in time to his return to Cincinnati – is Jay Bruce, who had two hits, including a two-run homer.

With Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom currently out with injuries, the Mets might be in position where their offense must carry them.

With the victory, the Mets remain one game behind St. Louis for the second wild card. They have now won 11 of their last 15 games.

LUGO SUPERB AGAIN: About that comment about the offense carrying the Mets, well, that might not be the case if they continue to get strong pitching from Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

Starting on the heels of Gsellman’s strong start the previous night, Lugo was terrific, giving up one run on six hits in seven innings.

He’s now 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA since joining the Mets.

If there was a turning point, it came in the first inning when the Nationals loaded the bases, but Lugo escaped untouched.

“Absolutely,” Collins said when asked if that was a deciding factor. “He needed to get out of it and he did. He settled down and pitched well.”

Lugo, Gsellman and Gabriel Ynoa have a combined six victories as spot starters.

KEEPING IT GOING: Yes, the Mets are hot, and yes, their schedule is seemingly easier than the rest of their competitors for the wild card.

“We need to go and have a good road trip and see where we are when we get back,” Collins said.

Here’s hoping the Mets sleep fast tonight as they have a 1 p.m., game tomorrow in Cincinnati.

Brilliant scheduling.

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