Jul 18

Mets Wrap: Wheeler Unravels In Loss; Gets No Help From Pen

Sometimes too much is made of baseball’s specialized statistics, but one of them speaks volumes of the Mets’ Zack Wheeler. It all fell apart for Wheeler in the Cardinals’ six-run sixth inning, which raised his ERA for that particular inning this year to a lofty 13.50.

WHEELER: Sixth inning blues. (AP)

WHEELER: Sixth inning blues. (AP)

Outside of injuries that sidelined him for the past two years, what has primarily prevented Wheeler from reaching stardom has been high pitch counts, often culminating into hitting a wall in the sixth inning.

Such was the case again tonight, as Wheeler cruised through four innings, but things began to unravel in the fifth, and he completely lost it in the sixth, highlighted by a two-run homer by Paul DeJong and a RBI double by pitcher Adam Wainwright.

As puzzling as Wheeler has been was manager Terry Collins’ decision to send him out for the sixth inning, considering he walked the bases loaded in the fifth.

“He certainly didn’t look tired or like he was laboring,’’ Collins said.

Wheeler said he lost the feel for his curveball and it wasn’t spinning out of his hand the way it should.

Asdrubal Cabrera robbed Jedd Gyorko of a two-run single to get out of the inning. Instead of being grateful, Collins pushed the envelope with Wheeler in the sixth.

Collins not only made a mistake in trusting Wheeler, but compounded it by keeping him in after DeJong’s homer, and doubled down on that mistake by bringing in Hansel Robles, who promptly gave up a three-run to Tommy Phan.

“It was my fault,’’ said Wheeler, who was stand-up and refused to throw his bullpen under the bus. “I should have made my pitches and gotten out of it.’’

Wheeler gave up four runs on seven hits and four walks in 5.1 innings and has gone eight straight starts without a victory.

So, after routing Colorado in the first two games coming out of the All-Star break, Mets’ pitchers Steven Matz and Wheeler were routed themselves.

“You can’t go on a run if you don’t get consistent pitching,’’ said Collins, stating the obvious.

Meanwhile, prior to the game, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey played catch on flat ground. Both were pleased, but it was only catch.

Of course, what Collins couldn’t say is he stuck with Wheeler and went to Robles because GM Sandy Alderson gave him no other alternative.

Jul 15

Mets’ Lineup, July 15, Colorado

Seth Lugo makes his first career start against the Colorado Rockies. In his last start, he gave up six runs in an 11-4 loss at Washington, July 4. Here’s the lineup behind him:

Michael Conforto – CF: Ranks sixth in the NL with a .963 OPS.

Asdrubal Cabrera – 2B: Is hitting .281 (16-57) with two homers and seven RBI since coming off the DL, June 23.

Yoenis Cespedes – LF: Has five homers and 12 RBI in 15 career games vs. Rockies.

Jay Bruce – RF: Is tied for fourth in the NL with 23 homers.

T.J. Rivera – 3B: Takes a career-high nine-game hitting streak into tonight’s game.

Lucas Duda – 1B: Is tied for eighth with Kevin McReynolds with 122 homers.

Jose Reyes – SS: Is hitting .395 with two homers and six RBI in his last 12 games.

Travis d’Arnaud – C: Six of his nine homers have either given the Mets the lead or tied the game.

Seth Lugo – RHP: Mets have won 10 of Lugo’ last 12 starts.

Jul 10

Something Not Right With Cespedes

In analyzing the Mets’ first half, manager Terry Collins said what many of us speculated all along – that Yoenis Cespedes is not playing at full strength.

Was he rushed off the disabled list following his hamstring injury? That seems to be the case as Cespedes looks stagnant at the plate with little to no leg drive, and I’ve forgotten the last time he ran full steam.

CESPEDES: Something isn't right.  (AP)

CESPEDES: Something isn’t right. (AP)

“He is just not getting the barrel to the ball,’’ Collins said. “I can’t explain it. I think it tells you: You miss a lot of time, this is a hard game, especially when everybody else is in shape and you’re trying to get there.

“It tells you the importance of rehabs and all the at-bats, which you try to accumulate on the side, which he had a bunch of in Florida. I tip my hat to him, he couldn’t run, but yet he got at-bats.

“He’s just not hitting. You have to stay healthy. You cannot play this game at 75 percent. The league is too good.’’

There’s so much wrong in what Collins said. One, if Cespedes can’t run, he shouldn’t have been taking at-bats in Florida. So much of hitting is with the legs and if you’re not strong enough to run you’re not strong enough to hit.

And, if Cespedes is only at 75 percent, why isn’t he on the disabled list, or at least rested more often?

Since Cespedes isn’t talking these days, one can only guess what is going on.

I’m thinking he feels obligated to play because of the contract. He pushed himself because with all the time he missed he would feel guilty asking for time off.

Cespedes was hitting the first ten days after coming off the DL, but in his past 11 games is hitting .133 with no extra-base hits over a stretch of 46 plate appearances. Overall, he’s batting .265 with nine homers and only 19 RBI, 17 extra-base hits and only 13 walks with 27 strikeouts. His OPS has steadily declined from .942 in 2015 to .884 last year to .822 this season.

He’s certainly not living up to the $110-million contract the Mets will pay him through 2020.

Cespedes’ build is tightly wound, making him susceptible to muscle pulls and the Mets have not treated him properly. When he was initially injured in late April, instead of going on the 10-day disabled list, he missed three games, then was hurried back to play two games against Atlanta only to blow out the hamstring in the second game.

Cespedes finally went on the DL, April 28 until June 10. When he came back the Mets said they would periodically rest him, but that rest came roughly once a week, which probably wasn’t enough.

But, as the Mets were struggling, what was Cespedes to do, tell Collins he couldn’t play? And, Collins, of course, instead of being proactive, took Cespedes at his word he was fine.

Only he isn’t, and neither are the Mets.

Jul 03

Player Mets Avoid Playing, Conforto, Is All-Star

The first thing I thought of when I heard Michael Conforto would be the Mets’ representative in the All-Star Game was: Isn’t this the guy they don’t want to play?

The guy GM Sandy Alderson didn’t want to bring up, and manager Terry Collins doesn’t want to start, will be in Miami next week, hopefully for the first of many All-Star appearances. And, hopefully, when he rejoins the Mets, Collins will find a place for him in his outfield.

CONFORTO: Player Mets don't want to play is All-Star?

CONFORTO: Player Mets don’t want to play is All-Star?

Perhaps the Mets will clear a spot for him by trading Curtis Granderson or Jay Bruce, but what they do this week in Washington and St. Louis will determine whether they are buyers or sellers.

Yoenis Cespedes, foolishly re-signed by Alderson, has a no-trade clause in his four-year, $110-million contract so he isn’t going anywhere.

Conforto began the season coming off the bench, primarily as a pinch-hitter, but moved into the starting lineup when Cespedes was injured (his injury history, along with his salary and the Mets’ other needs are why I didn’t want him back).

Conforto started hitting the way he did at the end of the 2015 season and in April of 2016 before he tailed). At the time, Collins proclaimed him as the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future. He dropped off again this season, then sustained a bruise bone when he was struck by a pitch last week in San Francisco.

“I really didn’t think back to that,’’ Conforto told reporters of his role coming out of spring training. “Really, what I thought back to was the hard work that I’ve put in this offseason and in spring training. I always had a feeling that even if I didn’t start with the team, I knew I was going to make an impact at some point.’’

Conforto is hitting .285 with a .405 on-base percentage and .356 with 26 RBI with runners in scoring position.

“Obviously, last year was a learning experience for me and something I had to go through,’’ Conforto said. “I look at it as part of my journey. … You have to let it fuel your fire, which is definitely something it did for me.’’

 

Jun 29

Mets Wrap: Bruce, Lugo Beat Fish To Salvage Trip

The way things started on this road trip by being pummeled four straight in Los Angeles, the Mets stared at the end of their season.

However, after Seth Lugo and Jay Bruce combined to beat the Marlins, 6-3, tonight they have now won five of their last six games. They are still miles behind the Nationals, but went from ten games under .500 after the Dodgers’ series to six games under heading into a three-game series against Philadelphia tomorrow at home.

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

Should they sweep the Phillies, entering the All-Star break at .500 is possible. That’s something most of us couldn’t imagine a few weeks ago.

“I thought we played very well [following the series in Los Angeles],’’ manager Terry Collins said. “It showed we won’t back down. … We have to continue to play well. We have to continue to pitch. If we keep pitching it could be an exciting second half.’’

Bruce wasn’t biting on the notion the Mets turned their season around. He was being a realist.

“We still have a lot of work to do,’’ Bruce said. “We have to play great baseball. We have to be consistent with our approach and mindset. We know the talent that we have, and we know what we have to do.’’

The Mets close the first half with three games each in Washington and St. Louis, two clubs that traditionally have bullied them.

On the positive, the Nationals bullpen is suspect after blowing another ninth-inning lead against the Cubs and losing Trea Turner indefinitely with a broken wrist. The Cardinals have been inconsistent this year, but have won four of their last five games to pull within 3.5 games of Milwaukee.

The Mets open the second half with a ten-game homestand against the suddenly slumping Rockies, Cardinals and Oakland. They close the month with four games at San Diego and three in Seattle.

BRUCE MERITS ALL-STAR CONSIDERATION: Bruce is ranked 13th in the fan voting for National League outfielders, but his statistics dictate he should be much higher and deserves a spot on the All-Star team.

Wouldn’t that be wild? The player Sandy Alderson was practically begging teams to take him off his hands could represent the Mets in Miami.

Bruce was a force in the Mets’ victory over the Marlins tonight going 2-for-3 with two RBI (he has 54) and two runs scored. Overall, he’s hitting .270 with 20 homers (tied for third).

Quite simply, Bruce is playing the way the Mets envisioned when they traded for him last year at the deadline. Bruce pressed trying to make a good impression, but had a strong last two weeks in helping the Mets clinch a wild card.

The Mets re-signed him as a hedge to losing Yoenis Cespedes, but after they extended the latter, they made it clear they wanted to trade Bruce.

However, Alderson’s public desire to trade Bruce lessened his value and he opened the season as the starting right fielder.

With injuries to Cespedes, David Wright, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker, Bruce literally carried the Mets in the first half. While the Mets floundered for much of June, Bruce hit .299 with eight homers and 17 RBI and a .346 on-base percentage and .934 OPS.

Bruce could go based on every team needing one representative. However, based on that premise, tomorrow’s starter, Jacob deGrom (7-3) might go.

DeGrom has been lights out in winning his last three starts – going at least eight innings in each – following those two dreadful games in which he gave up 15 runs. During his winning streak he’s given up just three runs over 25 innings.

LUGO TREMENDOUS: You wouldn’t expect Seth Lugo to be listed with Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, but he joined those two pitching icons by winning his sixth straight road decision.

For his second straight start, Lugo struggled in the sixth, but he made it out of the inning to close his line at three runs on six hits and importantly, only one walk.

“I think everything was there,’’ Lugo said. “What I’d like to improve on is going deeper into games.’’