Sep 18

Three Mets’ Storylines: Makeshift Starter Saves Day … Again

When the final chapter of the 2016 Mets is written, it will be about pitching. The central theme will be about those lost and those who stepped into the breach. With Jacob deGrom scratched from Sunday’s start with an elbow injury that will require season-ending surgery, Gabriel Ynoa became the latest to help keep the Mets in the center of the wild-card race.

YNOA: Makes key start. (AP)

YNOA: Makes key start. (AP)

Personally, I was disappointed manager Terry Collins didn’t give Ynoa one more batter, but it worked out for the best and the Mets went on to complete their sweep of the Minnesota Twins, 3-2, to move into the lead wild-card spot, one game ahead of San Francisco and two over the Cardinals.

Ynoa gave up four hits and struck out eight in 4.2 innings, and from there manager Terry Collins turned to his “plethora of pitchers,” to complete the sweep. Five Mets’ relievers limited the Twins to a pair of runs.

While Ynoa was done when the game was decided, his contribution was vital – and worthy of another start with deGrom for the year – he personified the overriding storyline of this season (even more than their average with RISP) of the success of their emergency starters.

With Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and deGrom lost for the year, Seth Lugo, Logan Verrett, Robert Gsellman, Ynoa and Rafael Montero – all of whom were not in the Opening Day rotation – have combined to give the Mets 25 starts (seven defined as quality) and 10 victories. Another pitcher who was supposed to be out of the rotation in early July – 43-year-old Bartolo Colon – has 14 victories in 30 starts (18 defined as quality).

That’s 24 victories in 55 starts (25 quality), which is the difference between having something to keep playing for this season and thinking about spring training.

“Hey look, somebody else has got to help,” Collins said. “When you are called upon and it’s your chance, make the most of it.”

This issue will undoubtedly be raised again in the Mets’ remaining 13 starts, as Colon is slated to get three more starts, while the Band-Aid of Lugo, Gsellman and Ynoa are anticipated getting seven more.

That was today’s main storyline with Neil Walker‘s future with the team and more injury updates the others.

WALKER WANTS TO RETURN: The Mets are where they are in the playoff hunt in large part because of Walker, who hit .282 with a career-high 23 homers and 55 RBI, before being lost for the season to undergo season-ending back surgery.

Prior to Walker’s injury, GM Sandy Alderson said he’d talk with Walker’s agent about an extension, something which obviously hasn’t happened. Walker’s leverage on the free-agent market was compromised by the surgery. That explained Walker’s interest in returning.

“This is a good fit,” Walker told reporters. “This looks good, but we don’t know what else is out there. We don’t know where teams might be coming from. The free-agent market this year is kind of weak, especially at the infield position, so you never know what good happen.”

INJURY UPDATES:  Evidently, the Mets didn’t learn from their recent experience with deGrom. Why else would Collins say today Matz could come back “with an opportunity to pitch,” at the end of the week?

Matz, who hasn’t pitched in a month because of a shoulder impingement and is coming off a 30-pitch bullpen session Saturday, could pitch Friday

When it comes to Mets’ injury news, I’ll believe it when I see it, which is why I have no faith in what Collins said.

Matz was 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA when he was sidelined. The long-term goal would be to have him a viable option to pitch in a possible postseason.

“We have no plans yet,” Collins said, almost backtracking. “Nothing’s written. Steven Matz’s name certainly will be in the mix,” Collins said. “But Steven, when he gets here, is going to be a guy with a limit in workload that he has. So to get him built up and get him where we want, I am not sure we have the starts available.”So, why

So, why float the idea in the first place?

Meanwhile, Wilmer Flores‘ sore right wrist has kept him out of the lineup since it was injured in a home-plate collision with Braves’ catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Collins took responsibility for the injury saying he should have run for Flores.

Lucas Duda started for the first time since May. He was activated from the DL Saturday after being on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back. … Yoenis Cespedes left the game in the sixth inning after feeling ill. … Walker said he’s feeling better after having surgery on a herniated disk in his neck.

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Sep 16

Three Mets’ Storylines: Pushing It With DeGrom?

In announcing Jacob deGrom‘s return to the Mets’ rotation, manager Terry Collins said he’ll have a pitch count ceiling of 75 and the expectations are minimal. Again, it appears the Mets’ plan is built on hope, which smacks of pushing the envelope too far.

COLON: Terrific again. (AP)

COLON: Terrific again. (AP)

Collins said he’d like to get deGrom three starts prior to the playoffs, but what’s wrong with more rehab work and two starts?

“Our expectations right now are to kind of build him back up a little bit,” Collins said prior to the Mets’ 3-0 victory over Minnesota. “I think he will dictate a lot by how he feels. We certainly think he’s going to be fine, but we don’t have a crystal ball here to know what’s going to happen after he throws Sunday.”

Building him back up means he not there, yet.

I always fall on the side of caution when it comes to a pitcher’s injury because too often things backfire when he’s rushed back. The Mets have been lucky so far with Noah Syndergaard‘s elbow bone spur, but we still don’t know what will happen this winter.

We’ve seen the Mets get bit with Matt Harvey and Steven Matz. The Mets have too much to play for to just be hoping for the best with deGrom. Give him some more time. He’s worth the wait.

The Mets’ other storylines Friday were Bartolo Colon and back-to-back power.

COLON TERRIFIC AGAIN: With deGrom and Matz injured, Colon has helped carried the Mets, going 5-1 (14 earned runs in 57 innings) in nine starts since Aug. 1.

“With all that’s happened with our rotation, I don’t know where we’d be without him,” Collins said.

Colon was terrific, giving up three hits in seven scoreless innings, throwing an economical 94 pitches in the process as he improved to a team-high 14-7 while lowering his ERA to 3.14.

For the 43-year-old Colon, it is his 40th start that he’s given up one run or less since turning 40. Amazing. The victory was the 232nd of his career.

Colon could get three more starts this year, including the season finale.

POWER PLUS: Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera hit back-to-back solo homers in the fourth, the 11th time this year they’ve done so.

Collins said Reyes had hit for more power (seven homers) than what he anticipated. Tonight’s homer was Reyes’ fourth in 31 games since coming off the disabled list.

Cabrera has been on a tear in 26 games since coming off the disabled list with seven homers and 16 RBI. He was named the NL Player of the Week for Aug. 22-28.

The Mets have hit 199 homers, one shy of the franchise record established in 2006.

Of the Mets’ 579 runs, over 53 percent have been accounted for by home runs.

EXTRA INNINGS: Cabrera left the game in the ninth with a cramp in his right leg (not the one he had surgery on). … Yoenis Cespedes dropped a can-of-corn pop fly on a 100 percent hot dog play. When asked if he’d talk with Cespedes, Collins said, “these things speak for themselves.’’ … Addison Reed registered his 37th hold throwing nine pitches in a 1-2-3 eighth.

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Sep 13

Mets’ Three Storylines: T.J. Rivera Steps Up

Pennant races aren’t just for guys like Yoenis Cespedes and Bryce Harper. They also belong to guys like T.J. Rivera, a undrafted free agent who carried the Mets on this night over their closest rivals.

RIVERA: Blast lifts Mets over Nats. (AP)

RIVERA: Blast lifts Mets over Nats. (AP)

Getting his first start in three weeks, Rivera had three hits including a tenth-inning homer that lifted the Mets over the Nationals, 4-3 in 10 innings, at Nationals Park Tuesday night. The victory, coupled with the Cardinals beating the Cubs in St. Louis, kept the Mets with a half-game lead for the second wild-card (they are even in the loss column).

“Somebody you don’t expect has to step up and tonight it was T.J.,” manager Terry Collins said. “He’s hit everywhere he’s been. He has a simple, short swing.”

In 45 at-bats since joining the Mets, Rivera his hitting .333 with his first career homer and six RBI. He’s also been solid defensively, regardless of where Collins starts him.

“It’s definitely not to hit a home run,” Rivera said of his thinking heading to the plate against Nationals closer Mark Melancon. “I just wanted to put the bat on the ball. When you haven’t been around the team much you want to contribute.”

With Neil Walker out for the season with a back injury and Wilmer Flores currently hurting following a home plate collision Saturday in Atlanta, Rivera should get more opportunities to play. Collins said it was a gut feeling to start Rivera, who won the Triple-A batting title for Las Vegas.

It’s probably a stretch to say Rivera could make the postseason roster, but he’s made enough of an impression to where he can compete for a job next spring.

Rivera was the main storyline, with the others being Noah Syndergaard’s wasted effort and Jerry Blevins picking up for Jeurys Familia.

TOUGH LUCK NOAH: Collins said with the Mets starting their best pitcher, this was a game they had to win. Syndergaard was poised to win his 14th game until Familia blew his fourth save opportunity in the ninth.

Syndergaard gave up one run on four hits with one walk and 10 strikeouts – including his 200th of the season – in one of his best outings of the season. Unlike previous outings where he ran up his pitch count, Syndergaard was extremely pitch efficient throwing 99.

“He was amped up,” Collins said. “He knew we needed to win this game.”

Syndergaard became the second-fastest Met behind Dwight Gooden to reach 200 strikeouts.

BLEVINS PICKS UP FAMILIA:  Familia blew his fourth save opportunity when the Nationals tied it on RBI singles by Anthony Rendon and Wilson Ramos (an infield chopper over Familia’s head).

After Rivera’s drive, the Nationals to tie the game again, but Blevins struck out Daniel Murphy on a wicked curveball to end the game.

It was his first save since 2012.

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Sep 12

Mets’ Lineup, Sept. 12, At Washington

When the Mets’ schedule came out last winter, the first thing I searched for were the Washington series. I was disappointed the last two series weren’t played the last two weeks, but that’s the way it goes.

Of course, I didn’t expect them to be nine games out in early September. It’s not as if the Mets don’t have anything to play for. Last year, the Mets buried the Nationals in DC in an all but clinching series. The three-game series in Washington gives the Nationals the chance – and Daniel Murphy will love this – a chance to bury the Mets for the division this week.“We

The Mets’ focus must be on St. Louis and San Francisco for the wild-card. Within the past three weeks the Mets have gone from being all-but-buried to looking at the second wild card and hope it doesn’t entail flying to California for one game, to controlling their own destiny and play the wild-card game at Citi Field.

“We know we can certainly play with them,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday in Atlanta. “We’ve just got to go in there and play. For us, it’s about winning games. I don’t care who they are against. We’ve just got to win games.”

This week, while the Mets play the Nationals, the Cardinals are home to the Cubs. Then this weekend it will be the Cardinals in San Francisco for four games.

Here’s the Mets’ lineup tonight:

Jose Reyes, 3B: Hitting .282 (171-606) vs, Nats. … Hitting .290 (9-31) with RISP. …Hitting .290 (34-114) with .360 on-base percentage in 27 games since coming off the DL. … Has franchise-record 19 homers leading off a game.

 Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: Hitting .270 (20-74) vs. Nats. … Hitting .232 (19-82) with 20 RBI with RISP. … Hitting .385 in 22 games since coming off DL. … Still bothered by sore knee.Yoneis Cespedes – LF

Yoenis Cespedes – LF: Hitting .307 (27-88) vs. Nats. … Hitting .286 (26-91) with nine homers and 50 RBI with RISP. … His 30 homers tie him for fourth in NL.

Curtis Granderson – CF: Hitting .265 (57-215) vs. Nats. … Hitting .130 (12-92) with RISP. … Is batting .289 with six homers – including in four straight games – in last 12 games. … Production coincides with hitting fourth behind Cespedes and drawing more walks.

Kelly Johnson – 2B: Hitting .262 (79-302) vs. Nats. … Hitting .282 (20-71) with 22 RBI with RISP. … Has four pinch-hit homers.

Jay Bruce – RF: Hitting .215 (45-209) vs. Nats. … Hitting .327 (37-113) with nine homers and 59 RBI with RISP. … Mets hold option for 2017.

Travis d’Arnaud – C: Hitting .242 (29-120) vs. Nats. … Hitting .114 (5-44) with RISP. … Opponents hitting .272 when d’Arnaud catches and Mets pitchers have a 4.14 ERA. Mets are 31-31 when he’s behind the plate.

James Loney – 1B: Hitting .313 (42-134) vs. Nats. … Hitting .197 (13-66) with RISP. … Has seven homers, the most in a season since 2014.

Rafael Montero – RHP: Mets won his last two starts despite Montero walking ten in 9.1 innings. … Is 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA against Washington.

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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