Oct 03

Scherzer’s Brilliance Overshadows Syndergaard And Harvey

Outstanding pitching was the story in the Mets’ doubleheader loss Saturday to the Nationals. Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey were brilliant, but paled in comparison to Max Scherzer, who struck out 17 in no-hitting the Mets, 2-0, in the second game.

In doing so, he became the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in one season, and first since Nolan Ryan in 1973.

SCHERZER: Simply outstanding. (Getty)

SCHERZER: Simply outstanding. (Getty)

“I felt great tonight,” Scherzer said. “I had command of all of my pitches. These things are special. To do it twice in one season, my gosh, it doesn’t seem possible.”

Scherzer lost his perfect game bid in the sixth on Yunel Escobar‘s throwing error. He struck out nine of the last 10 Mets, with the game ending on a pop-up by Curtis Granderson. He also lost a perfect game chance when he hit a batter in the eighth inning of his June 20 no-hitter over Pittsburgh.

“He made every pitch he had to make,” said Mets manager Terry Collins, whose team has lost five straight and scored only nine runs in that time. So weak has been the Mets’ offense that it has scored one run in the last 35 innings.

In being swept, and with the Dodgers beating San Diego, the Mets kicked away home field, and Game 1 will begin Friday in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw. Sunday’s starter, Jacob deGrom, will pitch Game 1 for the Mets.

With several key injuries and a struggling offense, the Mets have their issues entering the playoffs. Syndergaard is not among them. Overpowering isn’t an adequate enough description of what Syndergaard was to the Nationals. In the final start of his rookie season, Syndergaard gave up two hits in seven innings with 10 strikeouts in getting a no-decision in the Mets’ 3-1 loss in the first game.

Earlier this year, there was concern about Syndergaard’s ability to win on the road, but seeing how he stuffed Cincinnati last weekend, that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.

Another positive was Harvey, who gave up one run in six innings with 11 strikeouts in an impressive tune-up for the pivotal Game 3. Harvey finished the season with 189.1 innings, 9.1 more than the proposed hard cap.

The flip side is Steven Matz, the projected Game 4 starter, who took an injection for his sore back. Matz’s start this week in Philadelphia was scratched and it was hoped he would throw several innings this weekend.

Now the thinking is the Mets will send him to the Instructional League this week. The better thinking would be to hold him off the NLDS roster, knowing they could bring him back in the proceeding rounds. Why take the risk of a re-injury, especially with a five-game first round the Mets have depth in Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese? They would lose that advantage in a seven-game NLCS and World Series.

Actually, the best decision could be to shut him down for the year.

Matz isn’t the Mets’ only injury concern.

Utility infielder Juan Uribe has a slight cartilage tear in his chest and might not be ready for the first round. Uribe has been a spark on the field and calming influence in the clubhouse. His absence was felt in the second game when Kelly Johnson – who hasn’t played third for the Mets – committed an error in place of David Wright to set up the Nationals’ first run.

Yoenis Cespedes, who has two bruised fingers on his left hand after being hit by a pitch, returned and went 1-for-3 in the first game. Cespedes appeared in the ninth inning in the second game as a pinch hitter and was Scherzer’s 16th strikeout victim.

Infielder Wilmer Flores has been bothered by back spasms. He didn’t play in either game and has missed seven of the last nine games.

Collins is not happy with how the Mets are closing.

“We’ve got to get the edge back,” Collins said. “We got to get the focus back, the concentration back. Those are the things that when you clinch early, you can lose. And those are the things we’ve got to regain.”

How long their season lasts depends on it.

Sep 25

Duda Powers Mets Closer To Title

As scintillating as Noah Syndergaard was, the most important thing for the Mets Friday night was Lucas Duda‘s continued breakout signs. Duda, on the disabled list from Aug. 22 to Sept. 7 with soreness in his lower back, is on a three-game tear, highlighted by a pair of three-run homers Friday.

DUDA: Getting power stroke back. (Getty)

DUDA: Getting power stroke back. (Getty)

The concern about Syndergaard was to get through the sixth, an inning in which he had an ERA over eight, but he was positively brilliant in giving up two runs with 11 strikeouts in 7.2 innings. However, Duda carried the Mets with his bat.

Syndergaard is damn good, but he will pitch in the playoffs. But, believe it or not, there had been talk about Duda not being on the playoff roster. Hard to believe, but true.

In his last three games, Duda is 5-for-9 with three doubles, two homers, seven RBI, three walks and no strikeouts. In fact, Duda hasn’t struck out since Sept. 20.

Prior to those last three games, Duda had driven in just two runs in his previous 14 games.

Duda’s offensive revival will be essential in the playoffs as he and Curtis Granderson represent the bulk of the Mets’ left-handed power.

With their 12-5 rout of the Reds, coupled with Philadelphia’s torching of the Nationals, the Mets’ magic number for winning the NL East for the first time since 2006 was reduced to one. Once the Mets’ clinch, manager Terry Collins will undoubtedly rest some of the regulars, but after the game Duda said there’s more work for him to do.

“It’s very exciting to be a part of this,” Duda said. “But, [after clinching] it’s important to use this time.”

As for Syndergaard, he not only pitched well and through the sixth inning, but also won on the road.

If the Dodgers get home field in the NLDS, Syndergaard could get Game 3 at Citi Field. However, if the NLDS opens in New York he could get Game 2.

Meanwhile, Collins is remaining mum on all things playoffs, as well as Matt Harvey‘s innings for Saturday. Reports have it anywhere from three to five innings.

 

Sep 03

Injuries Might Give Conforto More Playing Time

When it comes to rookie outfielder Michael Conforto, the Mets plan to choose the path of least of resistance and will continue their platoon system in left field. But, these are the Mets, so expect obstacles.

“We’ve brought people in here that hit lefties, that have a career record of hitting lefties,” manager Terry Collins said. “And right now that’s what we’ve been doing, and I’m going to stay with it.”

One of those hitters is Michael Cuddyer, but with injuries to Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy, Collins might not execute this platoon plan as they want – and that’s not a bad thing if it gives more playing time to Conforto.

Conforto is on a hot streak going 20-for-50 (.400) with five doubles, four homers and nine RBI in his last 17 games. He is hitting .311 overall, and attributes his success to going to the opposite field.

Sure, Cuddyer is hitting well since coming off the disabled list and is in the first season of a two-year contract. The way he’s hitting he should be playing, but with Duda on the DL it should be at first. Murphy has been playing a lot of first lately, but he’s day-to-day with a strained quad, which should remove some of the obstacles.

Nobody knows how long Duda and Murphy will be sidelined, but this is a perfect opportunity to give Conforto major league at-bats, including against lefties.

As for Yoenis Cespedes, stick him center and leave him there. Juan Lagares hasn’t done anything to justify his multi-year contract, so keep him as late-inning defense.

Conforto will be the starting left fielder with Cuddyer coming off the bench. There’s no reason why the Mets can’t get a head start on things now.

 

 

Aug 11

Five Questions If The Mets Are To Contend

The Mets answered one of the most important questions if they are to contend, which is whether they would add to their roster. The additions of Yoenis Cespedes, Tyler Clippard, Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson energized this team. They created further sparks when Travis d’Arnaud was activated from the disabled list and now the pending return of David Wright.

However, there are more questions to be answered, with these being the most pertinent:

QUESTION: How will they handle the pressure?

ANSWER: There’s a minimum of postseason experience on this roster, and Wright still hasn’t returned. Uribe and Johnson have been there before, but not Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Wilmer Flores or Juan Lagares. Eventually they will be faced with a critical situation, one they have yet to encounter.

QUESTION: How will the young arms hold up?

ANSWER: Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom have been stellar, but as the season progresses they will surpass career highs in innings pitched. None of them have pitched meaningful games in September.

QUESTION: How good will Wright be when he returns?

ANSWER: Nobody can say, but if he’s his former self considerable pressure will be alleviated down the lineup. The Mets will need another RBI bat in the middle of their order down the stretch.

QUESTION: Will the bullpen hold up?

ANSWER: This is all new for Jeurys Familia, but Clippard has playoff experience. It will be interesting to see if manager Terry Collins has a shorts leash when it comes to his bullpen.

QUESTION: Will they stay healthy?

ANSWER: We’re waiting on Wright, but Duda missed Tuesday’s game. Lagares has had a sore are all year and runners are taking liberties off him on the bases. Fortunately, Harvey has so far responded coming off Tommy John surgery.

Jul 31

Alderson Rallies At Deadline

After arguably one of the most frustrating 48-hour periods in franchise history, Mets GM Sandy Alderson rallied at the trade deadline by securing slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from Detroit for pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa.

CESPEDES: Mets get slugger. (AP)

CESPEDES: Mets get slugger. (AP)

The deal came on the heels of a trade Wednesday for Milwaukee outfielder Carlos Gomez that culminated with Mets infielder Wilmer Flores – who, along with Zack Wheeler, was going to the Brewers – breaking down in tears while taking his position in the field. The next day, the Mets blew a six-run lead while losing to San Diego.

So, with the trade deadline ticking down, Alderson went for broke and came up with an enigma of a player who could be exactly what the Mets need – if his head is screwed on correctly – before he becomes a free agent after the season.

“We’re going for it,” Alderson said. “He’s a very dynamic player. We think he’s going to impact us in a number of different ways. But I think also just his presence in the lineup and his presence on the team will raise the energy level — and I hope it raises the energy level in the dugout and in the stands. I think that this is the kind of player that could have a big impact both in terms of the game on the field and how the team is perceived.”

Cespedes had been linked to the Mets before, and Alderson is right, he can be a dynamic player. However, at 29, the Mets will be his fourth team. That’s a lot and raises questions, in particular: What’s wrong with him that somebody with that much talent can’t find a home?

Cespedes is hitting .293 with 18 homers and 62 RBI, that would put him at the top of the Mets’ leaderboards.

Alderson has taken considerable criticism, including from me, about his inactivity, and I was especially vocal after the Gomez deal fell through. Numerous reports said it was financial, with the Mets wanting the Brewers to eat part of Gomez’s salary, which was highly plausible considering the Mets’ and Alderson’s reputation. However, today Alderson said it was concern about Gomez’s healthy, although the Houston Astros had no such problems. But, in fairness to the Mets, different medical staffs can have varying opinions.

Although I have concerns with Cespedes, he might not be here next season for it to become an issue. What’s important is that waiting for the Mets to act like a contender, they are doing just that – good for them.