Apr 30

Revisiting Top 20 Mets’ Questions

Entering the season I suggested  20 questions the Mets would need to answer in the positive for them to return to the World Series. From performance to health to various intangibles, every team faces important questions and they don’t disappear just because it played in the World Series the year before.

At the time, I wrote I would periodically revisit those questions to measure how the Mets are progressing.

Here’s how they are doing:

Q: Will they have a World Series hangover or let down?

A: There were a few red flags and a 2-5 start, but they closed the month with a power surge, clubbing 31 homers in their last 14 games. Last April they won 11 straight. They closed the month winning eight straight and 13 of 15. There’s no appearance of any hangover and it looks as if we’ll have our Mets-Nationals pennant race.

WALKER: Mets' player for April. (AP)

WALKER: Mets’ player for April. (AP)

Q: How will manager Terry Collins respond to being a favorite?

A: So far, so good. I wasn’t crazy about him calling the eighth game of the season “must win.” And, I didn’t like him playing David Wright for the whole game Friday with the explanation he wanted him to face the Giants’ lefty relievers in preparation for facing Madison Bumgarner Sunday. What, Wright has never faced a lefty before? But, I do like him moving Michael Conforto to the No. 3 hole, which was the catalyst for the offensive surge. I also liked how he let Hansel Robles face Freddie Freeman when he could have played the lefty-righty percentages. Best of all, I liked how he admitted the Mets might have made a mistake in not giving his starters enough work during spring training. Overall, he’s done a solid job worthy of his extension.

Q: What’s going on with Matt Harvey?

A: After a 7.50 spring training ERA and 0-3 start, there were understandably questions about Harvey. A lot is always demanded from Harvey, and after making it through last season without any problems following Tommy John surgery, the expectations are even higher. He’s pitched better in his last two starts, both wins. No reason for concern right now.

Q: Will Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard pitch to ace status?

A: Syndergaard has been incredible consistently throwing in the high 90s. His secondary pitches have also been dominant. DeGrom missed time with a strained lat muscle and tending to his family because of complications following the birth of his son. Both child and lat are doing fine. He didn’t have a smooth start Saturday against the Giants, but as usually the case with him, he finds a way to pitch through trouble.

Q: What can we expect from Steven Matz?

A: I would say an awful lot. He was hammered in his first start, but won his last three. Matz has been terrific, but like deGrom and Harvey, he’s throwing too many pitches for the innings he works. That eventually could catch up to the bullpen.

Q: How long can the Mets ride Bartolo Colon?

A: Nothing has changed, the plan remains for him to be in the rotation until Zack Wheeler is brought up, which should be around July 1. He would then move to the bullpen.

Q: How thick is Jeurys Familia’s skin?

A: So far, it has been like leather. Familia recently has worked his way out of a tough stretch. He’s converted all seven of his save opportunities with a 2.45 ERA.

Q: How sturdy is the bridge to Familia?

A: This might have been the Mets’ most important pre-season issue, but the bullpen has been solid in all phases. Addison Reed has been a very capable set-up reliever and Antonio Bastardo has pitched well despite a poor spring training. Jim Henderson and Logan Verrett have been more than pleasant surprises. Robles is getting more chances to shine and he’s delivering.

Q: Paging Travis d’Arnaud, are you there?

A: Nope. Once again, he’s on the disabled list, this time with a strained rotator cuff. The Mets still don’t know what he can produce over 500 at-bats and might not find out this year, either. He wasn’t hitting or throwing well at the time of the injury.

Q: Will Lucas Duda be more consistent?

A: When Conforto was moved to the No. 3 hole, Yoenis Cespedes went to clean-up and Duda was dropped to fifth. He’s hitting .240 with four homers and 14 RBI, and again has proven streaky. Four homers a month will give him 24 for the year, which is short of his expectations. Also short of what the Mets want from him.

Q: Will Neil Walker make people forget Daniel Murphy?

A: Walker has been the Mets’ Player of the Month for April with nine homers, tying him with Dave Kingman (1976), Carlos Delgado (2006) and John Buck (2013) for the club record. Sure, Murphy was a terrific month, but Walker has been better than advertised. The question now is: How hard will the Mets try to bring him back?

Q: Is Asdrubal Cabrera an upgrade over Wilmer Flores at shortstop?

A: Cabrera has done it both in the field and at the plate. There’s no uneasiness when a grounder is hit to him.

Q: What can we expect from Wright?

A: Still nobody knows. It takes him two hours to get ready for a game and his back is always a question. Which is why it was foolish to let him play nine innings in a blowout game Friday night. Why push the envelope? Wright has two homers and only five RBI hitting mostly in the second spot in the order. He’s only hitting .143 (3-for-21) with RISP. It’s not about hitting for power, it is about hitting a single when you need it.

Q: One and done for Cespedes?

A: That’s the chance the Mets took when they gave Cespedes an out clause after one season in his three-year deal. If it does happen that way, it has been a fun ride. Cespedes still has his lapses in the field, but he’s locked in at the plate with seven homers and 23 RBI for the month. However, he is on pace to strike out over 200 times.

Q: A breakout year for Conforto?

A: it is sure looking that way. Conforto lit the offense on fire since moving to the No. 3 hole. He closed the month reaching base in 17 straight games and tying a club record with doubles in six straight. He has four homers in his last 14 games. Everything he hits seems to be hard and on a line. Plus, he’s making the plays in the field. He’s not a star in the making. He already is a star.

Q: Will we get another 90 walks from Curtis Granderson?

A: After a slow start Granderson is on a roll. He’s scored 15 runs in his last 13 games and has a .350 on-base percentage. He also has four homers. Granderson still strikes out a lot and isn’t trying to steal anymore.

Q: How deep is the bench?

A: Kevin Plawecki is now a starter with d’Arnaud’s injury. Collins needs to find a way to get Alejandro De Aza and Flores more at-bats. Eventually, the Mets will need them. Rene Rivera is now the backup catcher.

Q: Who gets injured?

A: That’s always the wild card. Right now it is d’Arnaud. Cespedes missed several games with a bruised right leg, then hit a pinch-hit three-run homer to tie a game this week against Cincinnati. Harvey entered the season a question because of a bladder infection. He’s fine now. DeGrom’s lat was a scare, but he’s also fine. Wright, of course, is always a concern.

Q: What’s going with the Nationals?

A: The Nationals sprinted out of the gate and opened up a five-game lead on April 16 that is now down to a half-game. MVP Bryce Harper is playing as if he wants to win it again. Their pitching has also been strong and Murphy is playing well.

Q: Can the Mets get off to another fast start?

A: An 11-game winning streak keyed a 15-8 April record last year and gave them a buffer to overcome injuries and a drastic hitting slump. The Mets had another strong April this year at 15-7, which they needed to keep pace with Washington. The Nationals come to town for a three-game series, May 17-19, and the Mets are in Washington, May 23-25.

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Apr 30

Mets Wrap: Conforto Stars Again

Just cut in out SNY. We all know Michael Conforto is on fire, and Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are superstars and have been for several years. So, after another big outing from Conforto – three hits and three RBI – in the 77th game of his career on Saturday, SNY compared him to Trout and Harper at a similar stage of his career.

CONFORTO: Comparisons already being made. (AP)

CONFORTO: Comparisons already being made. (AP)

Why, 77 games isn’t even half of season. Also ridiculous was The Post comparing him to Barry Bonds in a headline.

Can we just let him play?

Manager Terry Collins was asked after the Mets’ 6-5 victory over San Francisco whether Conforto was a surprise to opposing pitchers or was just good?

“If he’d just ben called up, I’d say [they] don’t know him,” Collins told reporters. “But, he’s played in the World Series. They know him. `He’s going to be a really good hitter. Some guys are outstanding players, I don’t care what level you put them at, they adjust. He’s adjusted. He’s going to be a force.”

He’s already there. I’m not saying he’s Trout or Harper, but when the Nationals come to town in a little over two weeks, there will be a lot of Harper-Conforto talk. Maybe SNY was getting a head start.

Conforto ended April on a tear by reaching base for the 17th straight game and hitting a double in his sixth consecutive game. He also hit his fourth homer and finished the month hitting .365 with four homers and a .442 on-base percentage.

“`It’s been a lot of fun,” Conforto said earlier this week. “I just have to keep an even keel to things and not ride the roller coaster.”

That means letting him continue to grow and resist the temptation of making comparisons.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #22 Record: 15-7  Streak: W 8

SUMMARY: Jacob deGrom pitched through a rocky start, and backed by homers from Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores, he hung in to win his third game. DeGrom had a 4-0 lead entering the third, but Flores’ throwing error led to three unearned runs.

KEY MOMENT: After pulverizing the Giants for 13 runs, including a club-record 12 in the third inning, the Mets immediately jumped on Matt Cain with two runs in the first. They scored two more in the second to give deGrom the cushion needed to hold on.

THUMBS UP: Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera turned a nifty 4-6-3 double play in the ninth. … Flores homered. … Three hits and three RBI by Conforto and two more RBI from Neil Walker. … Jerry Blevins relieved Hansel Robles and retired Gregor Blanco to end the eighth with the tying run in scoring position. … Lucas Duda came off the bag to save Flores from another error in the ninth. … Jeurys Familia saved his eighth game. … Curtis Granderson robbed Brandon Crawford with a run-saving catch in the eighth.

THUMBS DOWN: Cain hit Rene Rivera and Cabrera with pitches in the second. … Flores’ error. … DeGrom walked four. … Mets pitchers walked seven overall. … The bullpen gave up two runs.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright had the game off. Who didn’t think of Wright being beaned by Cain in 2009 when the Giants’ pitcher plunked Rivera?

QUOTEBOOK: “It’s impressive what he’s doing. He played in big games for us last year and he’s picked up this year.’’ – DeGrom on watching Conforto.

BY THE NUMBERS: 33: Homers hit by the Mets in April to tie a club record.

NEXT FOR METS: The finale Sunday pits Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64) starts against Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69).

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Apr 22

Today In Mets’ History: Big Day For Seaver

Days don’t get much better than they did for Tom Seaver on this date in 1970.

SEAVER: Strikes out 19 Padres. (AP)

SEAVER: Strikes out 19 Padres. (AP)

Seaver was presented his 1969 Cy Young Award prior to the game and then went out and struck out 19 San Diego Padres in a 2-1 win at Shea Stadium.

The Mets took a 1-0 lead in the first on Ken Boswell’s RBI double.

Al Ferrara homered for San Diego in the second, but the Mets regained the lead, 2-1, on Bud Harrelson’s run-scoring triple.

Seaver gave up two hits and walked two to go along with the 19 strikeouts, including the last ten batters he faced.

Seaver went 18-12 that year with a league-leading 2.82 ERA. Seaver pitched 290.2 innings and lead the league 283 strikeouts. He made the NL All-Star team that season for the fourth straight year and pitched three scoreless innings.

ON DECK: Mets List: Memories From Mets-Braves

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Apr 19

Mets Wrap: Amazin’ Power Rocks Phils

Manager Terry Collins insists on calling his Mets a “home run hitting team,’’ and he’s turning out to be right.

The Mets crushed six more homers – two from Neil Walker, Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson – to back six scoreless innings from spot starter Logan Verrett.

The Mets have hit a team-record 17 homers in their last five games, the length of this current road trip. The Mets always had the potential to hit for power, and now they are living up to it. Now, the Mets’ lineup is longer than any they’ve had in recent memory.

“[Power is] the way our club has been build,’’ Collins told reporters. “There’s no easy guy in that lineup. It’s tough on the opposition when they know they have to make quality pitch after quality pitch.’’

One guy not expected to hit for a lot of power was Walker, but six homers and 11 RBI in just a dozen games has more than made up for losing Daniel Murphy.

“Hitting is contagious,’’ said Walker, repeating one of baseball’s most enduring clichés. “It’s really great when things are flowing like that.’’

Walker’s six homers trail Bryce Harper by one. Both homers Tuesday came from the right side, which he attributes to getting rid of a toe tap.

“My approach from the right side is to simplify things,’’ said Walker, who still utilizes the toe tap from the left side.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #13  Record: 7-6  Streak: W3

SUMMARY: Verrett threw six scoreless innings and the Mets crushed six homers. Pretty simple, actually.

KEY MOMENT: The Mets never trailed after Conforto’s two-run homer in the first.

THUMBS UP: Verrett continues to sparkle in spot start assignments. … Juan Lagares made a homer-robbing catch of Maikel Franco to end the eighth. … Mets hitters only struck out seven times.

THUMBS DOWN: Rafael Montero struggled, but the game was no longer in doubt. But, in a rout like tonight, that’s a reach.

EXTRA INNINGS: DeGrom is scheduled to start Sunday in Atlanta. … Travis d’Arnaud returned to the lineup. … A strong relief effort by Jim Henderson.

QUOTEBOOK: “He stepped up and gave us what we needed, which was big innings. It means a lot for us.’’ – Collins on Verrett’s start.

BY THE NUMBERS: 29: Homers by the Mets in their last 12 games in Philadelphia.

NEXT FOR METS: Bartolo Colon attempts to give the Mets a series sweep Wednesday night.

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Apr 18

Mets Wrap: Wright’s Power Now A Bonus

The Mets were once a team built around the power of third baseman David Wright. Injuries sapped his power in recent seasons, and with Michael Conforto seemingly set as the No. 3 hitter, Wright is entrenched hitting second, a position in the order that doesn’t demand a lot of power. And, with Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda batting fourth and fifth, not to mention Curtis Granderson at leadoff, the Mets have sources of power from other than Wright.

So, when he has games such as he did Monday, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say his power is now a bonus. However, how he went deep was what we’ve come to expect from Wright when he’s on his game. When Wright hit a pair of opposite-field homers in Monday night’s 5-2 victory at Philadelphia, it shouldn’t come as a surprise of his power to right field. When Wright is going well, he usually drives the ball to right or up the middle.

“It’s something that when I’m feeling decent up there, I can take a pitch out over the plate in that direction,” Wright said.

In doing so, Wright continued to make Citizen Bank Park his personal playground, hitting .293 with 22 homers and 69 RBI in the Phillies’ home stadium.

“Star players should never surprise you with what they can do,” manager Terry Collins told reporters after the game. “He’s dangerous here. In this ballpark, if he puts a good swing on the ball he can be dangerous.”

And, with the other boppers in the Mets’ lineup, their whole order is dangerous.

Mets Game Wrap

Game:  #12  Record: 6-6  Streak: W 2

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard struck out eight Phillies – giving him 29 over his first three starts – and backed by the two homers from Wright, and solo drives from Lucas Duda and Neil Walker, the Mets evened their record and have now won three of their last four games on the road.

KEY MOMENT: Back-to-back homers from Duda and Walker broke open the game in the eighth.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera doubled and started a double play in the field. He keeps doing the job. So far, he’s been a big plus. … A scintillating barehand pick-up and throw by Wright to end the third. … Cespedes legged out a triple with two out in the sixth, a sure sign his legs are feeling better. … Duda followed the double with an opposite-field double. … Four homers by Walker already.

THUMBS DOWN: A dozen more strikeouts from Mets’ hitters, including two more from Cespedes, who now has 18 in 12 games with only four walks. The Mets have 98 strikeouts in 12 games (8.16 per game average). … Jeurys Familia was hit hard, but survived the ninth.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Great news. Jacob deGrom took his son, Jaxson, home from the hospital. DeGrom will throw a bullpen Tuesday and could pitch in Atlanta this weekend. … Kevin Plawecki started behind the plate. Collins said d’Arnaud could be available Tuesday. …

QUOTEBOOK:  “He’s gotten so good, so fast, that it is remarkable,” – Collins on Syndergaard.

BY THE NUMBERS: 11: Mets’ homers in their last four games.

NEXT FOR METS: Logan Verrett starts Tuesday night against the Phillies’ Vince Velasquez.

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