Apr 15

DeGrom Start Wasted; Let Second Guessing Begin

Sooner or later you had to wonder when the Mets’ overworked bullpen would betray them.

It happened tonight.

Fernando Salas, working for the eighth time in 12 games, surrendered eighth-inning, back-to-back homers to Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, to power the Marlins over the Mets, 5-4, and trash another superb start from Jacob deGrom.

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

Not only has Salas been overused, it must be remembered he arrived in spring training late because of a visa issue.

Salas retired his first two batters and then walked Miguel Rojas. When a reliever walks a hitter on four straight pitches, he needs to be pulled.

Yelich is already a slugging star, and the Mets had lefties Jerry Blevins and Sean Gilmartin manager Terry Collins could have gone to in that situation. Considering how much Salas has worked lately, why did Collins keep him in the game?

“I didn’t want to go with Blevins because he has pitched in five of the last six games,” Collins testily barked to reporters.

However, Gilmartin, who was brought up after the 16-inning game Thursday for the sole purpose of pitching late in a game, was fresh.

Salas fell behind 3-and-1 before grooving a pitch Yelich couldn’t help but crush. Over-managing and stubborn to the end, Collins let Salas face Stanton.

You knew that wasn’t going to end well.

Collins said he wanted Salas to face Stanton, but what does that say about his confidence in Addison Reed and Hansel Robles?

The second-guessing of Collins began before Salas entered the game. DeGrom got off to a rocky start, giving up back-to-back homers in the second to Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna, then regrouped to retire the next 11 hitters. The Mets really needed deGrom’s effort considering how their bullpen has been taxed recently, including throwing 11.1 scoreless innings Thursday.

DeGrom gave up two runs on four hits and one walk and tied his career-high with 13 strikeouts in seven innings. He was on cruise control and had only thrown 97 pitches. He struck out his last four hitters.

“He was pitching great,” Collins said. “It’s easy to second-guess. We made a commitment to protect these guys. … If I let him stay in and he got hit you’d be asking me, `Why did I let him pitch?’ ”

That’s fair, but it comes with the territory with managing in the major leagues. DeGrom could have, but did not, throw his manager under the bus.

“Honestly, I didn’t know how many pitches I had,” deGrom said. “I thought I was out after that inning anyway.”

As far as stretching out his start, deGrom said: “The goal is to stay healthy. Salas had been doing a good job. I felt comfortable handing the ball over to the next guy.”

One of the beautiful aspects of baseball is it being ripe to second guess and discuss and debate strategy. Few basketball fans will second guess Gregg Popovich, but what baseball fan doesn’t feel comfortable scratching his head about the manager he follows?

CONFORTO DELIVERS: One of the hardest things in baseball to do is to pinch-hit, and it is even harder when all eyes are on you and you’re expected to produce in order to stay. Well, that’s exactly the case with the Mets’ Michael Conforto, who drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.

Sure, Conforto wants to start, what young player doesn’t? But, when things haven’t gone his way, he’s stayed quiet and gone about his business. Overall, he’s hitting .400 with two homers and six RBI, including 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI as a pinch-hitter.

Neil Walker lead off the seventh with a bunt single to third against Marlins starter Adam Conley, and scored on a triple by Curtis Granderson, who scored on Conforto’s deep fly to center.

Asdrubal Cabrera homered with one out in the eighth against reliever Junichi Tazawa. It marked the 11th straight game in which they homered and gave them a major league-high 22.

LOVE THOSE BUNTS: The other night it was Jay Bruce laying one down towards third against the shift. Tonight it was Walker leading off the seventh with a bunt single. Last year Collins made a big deal out of calling his team a “home run hitting team,” and that they aren’t built to manufacture runs. This year, they lead the majors with 22 homers but have shown the ability to scratch out runs.

Walker also doubled in the Mets’ first run in the first.

EXTRA INNINGS: Lefty-hitters Bruce, Lucas Duda and Conforto did not start against Conley. … All players wore No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. Granderson wore special spikes for the occasion that he will auction and donate to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. … Wilmer Flores made a run-saving grab of a hard hit ball down the first base line by Stanton.

HARVEY STARTS SUNDAY: Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.92) goes Sunday for the Mets against RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 7.56). Harvey is 12-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 17 career starts in April, easily his best numbers in any month.

 

Apr 14

Mets Try To Keep Rolling

Tonight is one of the few times I wish the Mets could use the designated hitter. Damn, after the last two games I’d love to see d’Arnaud starting, but not after catching 16 innings. He might even rest again tomorrow.

SYNDERGAARD: Mets going for six straight. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Mets going for six straight. (AP)

The Mets will be seeking their sixth straight victory tonight in Miami behind their best pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, going against Edinson Volquez.

The Mets crushed four homers last night – d’Arnaud hit the game winner, plus two from Yoenis Cespedes and one from Wilmer Flores – but credit also needs to go to a bullpen that threw 11 scoreless innings.

The Mets have homered in nine straight games and lead the majors with 20, with Cespedes the individual leader with six.

While it is way too early to make projections, it isn’t too soon to make some assumptions about this team, especially after last night.

The Mets came in at 3:30 in the morning and their No. 5 starter was torched, several of their starters were sputtering, but they rallied from a four-run deficit and behind their power, d’Arnaud – who sparked the comeback with a bases-loaded triple – and their bullpen, the came up with a signature victory.

Much has been written about how this could be a make-or-break season for d’Arnaud, but the same can be said of reliever Hansel Robles, who pitched two scoreless innings in his fourth straight game.

They don’t win last night without Robles, or d’Arnaud, or Cespedes, or Michael Conforto, or several other guys.

That’s what being a team is all about.

Here’s tonight’s starting lineup:

Curtis Granderson, CF: Speculation is if the Mets keep Conforto, the player whose time will be reduced most will be Granderson. He is homerless with three RBI on the season.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: Is batting .304 and taking an eight-game hitting streak into tonight’s game. Hit 23 homers last season.

Jay Bruce, RF: Moves up to third with Cespedes getting the night off. Bruce needed a good start and he’s getting one, hitting .300 with four homers and eight RBI.

Lucas Duda, 1B: He’s another who is having a good start, hitting .250 with three homers and six RBI. Has shown no signs of back injury that limited him last season.

Michael Conforto, LF: He finally gets a start. He needs at-bats. If Conforto is to stay up with the Mets, manager Terry Collins needs to come up with a rotation system, and that includes resting Cespedes in left.

Wilmer Flores, 2B: Starts tonight in place of Neil Walker. Is hitting better against right-handed pitching.

Jose Reyes, 3B: Is a career .323 hitter at Marlins Park. Got a hit last night as a pinch-hitter and batting just .079 on the season. Needs to wake up.

Noah Syndergaard, RP: Is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA lifetime against the Marlins. Perhaps as a tribute to Tony La Russa, Collins has him hitting eighth.

Rene Rivera, C: Gets the start for two reasons, 1) to put the brakes on the Marlins’ running game, and 2) because d’Arnaud caught 16 innings last night. Has thrown out two of three potential base stealers.

 

Apr 10

Bruce Red Hot; Value Enhanced

How can you not feel good for Jay Bruce? Booed by when he floundered last year following the trade that brought him from Cincinnati and into a pennant race, and whom GM Sandy Alderson desperately wanted to trade over the winter, has emerged as the Mets’ hottest hitter.

And, it isn’t close.

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

BRUCE: Sizzling (AP)

It started with three walks on Opening Day and continued Monday night in Philadelphia with a pair of homers in a 4-3 victory over the Phillies.

Bruce hit a solo drive off Phillies starter Jared Eickhoff to pull the Mets within 2-1 in the fourth, then put them ahead with a two-run drive off his image on the video board against reliever Joely Rodriguez.

“I think it is an approach,” was how Bruce explained his hot start to reporters. “I concentrate on being ready. Every day, I go into the game looking for the right pitches and taking a good swing.”

Bruce insisted he wasn’t daunted by the pressures of playing in New York when he struggled last summer, and that he didn’t want to leave his new team.

And, Alderson shouldn’t be in any hurry to deal Bruce, even if those teams that played hardball with him over the winter start calling him now.

It’s early, but Bruce leads the Mets with four homers and six RBI, and overall, they aren’t hitting, and in each of the last two seasons, they went into lengthy hitting droughts in the second half.

Quite simply, there will be a time this summer when the Mets have to count on Bruce carrying them the way he did the Reds for so many years.

Bruce, who has had 30-plus homers in four of his last six years, was moved to the clean-up slot to replace Curtis Granderson, and will likely remain there in the foreseeable future as the latter struggles.

Bruce, 30 is making $13.1 million this year, while the 36-year old Granderson is pulling in $15 million, which could give him a greater long-term value to the Mets.

Granderson has more of an immediate value to the Mets because he can play center field. However, that shouldn’t last too long because Juan Lagares will be coming off the disabled list shortly, at which time Michael Conforto will be shipped to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets will need Bruce this year, and likely they’ll need him next year. I can’t see the Mets bringing back both Bruce and Granderson. If they don’t bring back either, having just Lagares and Conforto next season to complement Yoenis Cespedes probably won’t be good enough and the Mets could go shopping again in July.

Meanwhile, at 37 next season, the Mets could lowball Granderson and bring him back for less in 2018. However, they couldn’t pull that off with Bruce because after a good year, his free-agent market value would he higher than Granderson’s.

 

Apr 05

Mets’ Lineup, April 5, Braves

Mar 23

Mets Boast Formidable Lineup

The Mets’ batting order will vary depending on the opposing pitcher and who are the hot hitters. However, the lineup manager Terry Collins started Wednesday against the Miami Marlins is the one he’ll likely write in most days.

And, when clicking it can be very formidable.

REYES: The catalyst. (AP)

REYES: The catalyst. (AP)

Jose Reyes, 3B: With David Wright to open the season on the disabled list and Reyes playing every day, there’s no need to search for another leadoff hitter and we won’t see him in the outfield. Backup: Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: He produced in this slot last year and there’s no reason to change. He has the power to be a run- producer high in the order and bat control to advance runners. Backup: Reyes with Flores playing third that day.

Yoenis Cespedes, LF: Traditionally, your best hitter bats third. That’s Cespedes, no question. Backup: It will depend whether Michael Conforto or Brandon Nimmo are on the roster.

Curtis Granderson, CF: He homered twice Wednesday and if he’s hitting that’s sufficient protection for Cespedes. A potential issue is stacking two high-strikeout hitters back-to-back. Backup: The only true center fielder is Juan Lagares.

Neil Walker, 2B: I like putting a switch-hitter between Granderson and Jay Bruce. Let’s hope he shows the power he did last season. Backup: Rivera and/or Flores.

Bruce, RF: Let’s face it, there will be no immediate trade involving Bruce. And, with the $13 million they are paying him, he will play which could leave Conforto on the outs. He could open the season in the minor leagues to get consistent at-bats. Backup: If he stays, Conforto could be a factor. If not, Granderson would return to his natural position.

Lucas Duda, 1B: He’s healthy – knock on wood – for now. With the hitters immediately ahead of him, Duda should have plenty of RBI opportunities. Duda has had a good spring and has been driving the ball to the opposite field. Backup: Flores is the first option. Potential backup Bruce hasn’t gotten enough playing time at the position.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: Somebody has to hit eighth. He’s had a good spring at the plate, but his throwing needs work. Backup: Rene Rivera, but we’ll see Kevin Plawecki this summer.

Collins consistently said last year’s offense was built to hit the long ball, and this season should be no different as he has four sluggers who have hit 30 homers in a season, with three of them – Granderson, Bruce and Duda – left-handed added to Cespedes. Even so, it was encouraging to hear Collins say he wanted to push the envelope offensively and manufacture runs. The flip side is those four are also capable to strike out over 100 times.

For that to happen, the Mets must strike out less and walk more and emphasize the need for making productive outs and improve their hitting with runners in scoring position.