Jun 30

Mets Get Resilient Effort When They Need It Most

They wouldn’t be the Mets if things were easy. Last year they reached the World Series because of their young arms, a hot month from Yoenis Cespedes, but perhaps most of all, with their resiliency. They overcame injuries and dreadful two-month team hitting slump to find themselves standing at the end.

With those arms, reaching the playoffs this year would be a formality. It sure looked that way with a sizzling April. However, they’ve played sub-.500 baseball the past two months, and after being swept out of Washington, not many gave much for their chances this weekend against the hot Cubs, especially with Steven Matz starting with a painful bone spur in his valuable left elbow.

NIMMO: Scores game-winner. (AP)

NIMMO: Scores game-winner. (AP)

I thought Matz shouldn’t have started, and despite working into the sixth, I’m not yielding on that sentiment. We’ll see how he feels Friday and the days beyond. I really hope I am wrong. The Mets gambled and won when they pushed the envelope with Matz, who overcame a two-run first to throw 104 painful pitches in a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Cubs.

The Mets had to win, because at the same time Matz was ducking a John Lackey fastball to his head, Cespedes was reaching the third deck at Citi Field, and Brandon Nimmo was thrilling us with a timely hit and baserunning, the Nationals were bludgeoning the Reds.

After losing three straight to the Nationals – and five of seven overall – the Mets entered this series realistically needing to win at least three of four games to stay within binocular distance in the NL East. Make that telescopic distance if the Cubs swept the Mets and Nationals did the same to Cincinnati.

Come Friday morning, Panic City is still a couple of exits away.

“I don’t know yet,” manager Terry Collins told reporters as to the magnitude of the victory. “It sure came at the right time. It was a real impressive win.”

It was impressive because outside of Cespedes Home Run Derby type of blast, the Mets did the basic, dirty things they did last year and what they must do in the second half.

It began with Matz, who fell behind 2-0 in the first on a Kris Bryant homer, but gutted his way into the sixth.

“I felt good,” Matz said about his much-talked-about elbow. “I was able to pitch without any issues. I was able to keep us close. I’m happy with how things turned out. I’d say it’s a little relief.”

Down 3-0, the Mets started their comeback – something they did with frequency in 2015 – with Cespedes’ 466-foot drive into the upper deck in the sixth.

“It was a 2-0 pitch,” Cespedes said. “The plan was to swing, and swing hard.”

It woke up Citi Field like a hard slap to the face.

The Mets finally got to Lackey with Travis d’Arnaud‘s one-out single in the seventh that brought in Joel Peralta. Alejandro De Aza, vilified in Washington, pinch-hit for reliever Erik Goeddel and walked. Nimmo, whose exuberance has been a lift, singled home a run after an intense nine-pitch at-bat.

“I was trying to keep things simple,” Nimmo said. “I wanted to be short and get the ball on the barrel.”

The Mets have often been criticized for not being aggressive on the bases, but Nimmo drew a wild throw from Cubs second baseman Javier Baez off Neil Walker‘s chopper and scored when the ball got by the third baseman Bryant.

Of course, there couldn’t be a 1-2-3 ninth. That would be too easy.

The Cubs put runners at second and third with no outs against Jeurys Familia. An intentional walk loaded the bases, but Bryant and Willson Contreras couldn’t resist Familia’s sinker and struck out. With a little discipline, the Cubs would’ve had two bases-loaded walks. Baez then popped out to end the game and for one night at least, we got a reminder of the resiliency this team can still muster.

Jun 21

What Do You Think, Should The Mets Go After Reyes?

Losing has a way of changing one’s perception. For the Mets in means dramatically softening their “you gotta be kidding me,” stance on bringing back Jose Reyes to `let’s think about it.” Losing third baseman David Wright and a team-wide offensive drought gave GM Sandy Alderson second thoughts.

He’s kicking the tires on the idea of a reunion.

Reyes has been on the radar of Mets’ fans almost from the moment he bolted for the Miami Marlins. It wasn’t long before he was traded to Toronto, and Colorado, before he was designated for assignment. The Rockies have until Saturday to trade him, or put him on release waivers where he’d become a free agent and they would have to eat his salary.

REYES: Reunion would be a good idea now. (AP)

REYES: Reunion would be a good idea now. (AP)

Compared to the $106 million Reyes got when he signed with Miami, the Mets would be on the hook for a prorated portion of the major-league minimum. That’s chump change for a temporary fix to their offensive problems.

We’re still four to five weeks from the trade deadline, but teams like the White Sox, who have Todd Frazier, and the Rays, who have Evan Longoria, will decide whether or not they want to trade. When you look at the standings, there are about ten teams you would be pretty confident saying won’t make the playoffs. Minnesota, the Angels and Oakland in the American League; the Phillies, Braves, Brewers, Rockies, Arizona, San Diego and Reds in the National League.

However, with the wild card, playoff scenarios can be fluid. That means Reyes could be a Band-Aid until the Mets can trade for a tourniquet.

Manager Terry Collins didn’t seem to object to the idea when he spoke to reporters: “When we lost Jose, I thought, ‘Boy, this is a major piece gone.’  His energy to play the game, his love to play the game, his love to play the game in New York City, it’s hard to find. It’s hard to find those guys. We missed him. I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road. Certainly, I always root for him.”

Even so, bringing back Reyes doesn’t come without baggage and issues:

* Most recently, there was a domestic-violence incident last Oct. 31 in Hawaii. He was arrested, but charges were dropped when his wife would not cooperate with authorities. The State of Hawaii couldn’t come up with a case and he served his suspension from Major League Baseball. In the eyes of the law, Reyes paid his debt and merits a second chance.

Today on talk-radio, a point was raised that Mets’ fans, if unhappy about Reyes based on the domestic issue, can influence the team’s decision. Don’t bet on that, because the thinking is if Reyes can help he’ll be signed. By now, I hope you realize the Mets will ignore the media – I’m used to that – and fans when it comes to building their team.

Word is Reyes wants to return, but it will be as a third baseman. If |the Mets want him to make public appearances against domestic violence, that’s part of the plan. Reyes would not push Asdrubal Cabrera off shortstop.

* It must also be noted the 2016 version of Reyes is greatly different than the player who beat out a bunt and walked off the field to preserve his batting title. I never liked that about Reyes and neither did the Mets. Apparently, their dire offensive situation gave them pause to move on.

I was against keeping Reyes at first, then bringing him back, because he’s a speed player who didn’t run his last year with the team and had two stints on the disabled list with hamstring pulls. If you’re thinking Reyes will come here and steal 30 bases for the Mets, well, can I interest you in some ocean front property in Arizona?

If Reyes returns he’ll still have the same issues of a mediocre on-base percentage and a lot of strikeouts. But, he would hit leadoff which would enable the Mets to drop Curtis Granderson to the middle of the order where he and Yoenis Cespedes would be back-to-back.

The way the Mets are presently constructed, having a healthy Reyes back, even though his skills might be diminished, would be an improvement.

Go for it.

Apr 27

Mets Wrap: Harvey Takes Step Forward In Best Start Of Year

We are in the age of pitch counts and Matt Harvey continues to labor in that area for the Mets. However, this time he did what good pitchers must do, which is to minimize the damage and parlayed that into a 5-2 victory Wednesday night over Cincinnati.

HARVEY: Did what he had to do. (AP)

HARVEY: Did what he had to do. (AP)

Harvey stranded runners in scoring position in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings in making by far his best start of the season.

The Reds had a run in and a runner in scoring position in the first, but Harvey struck out the next two hitters. Harvey was also in a bases-loaded-one, one-out jam in the third, but he struck out Eugenio Suarez and got a sparkling defense play from Neil Walker to save him at least two runs.

Harvey entered the game with hitters batting over .500 against him with runners in scoring position, but the Reds couldn’t break through despite the constant threatening. This is what winning pitchers do.

Harvey’s moment of truth came in the fifth when the Reds pulled within 3-2 and had runners on the corners. Harvey got out of it by getting Devin Mesoraco to ground into a 6-4-3 double-play to end the inning.

Harvey got the double play on his 88th pitch of the game and that raises an issue.

In his first three starts – all losses – Harvey made it through the sixth only once, but threw 83, 95 and 86 pitches. Harvey won his fourth start, but needed 101 pitches to work just five innings.

The Mets had to like Harvey’s ability to escape, but they – and the pitcher – can’t be happy with his high pitch counts and inability to go deep into games. Harvey finished with a flourish, setting the Reds down 1-2-3 in the sixth, ending the inning with his seventh strikeout on his 102nd pitch.

Overall, this was a positive step forward by Harvey. The pitcher Harvey wants to be realizes 102 pitches is too many for six innings. That many should get him through the eighth and into the ninth.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #20   Record: 13-7 Streak: W 6

SUMMARY: Harvey needed a scintillating defensive play by Neil Walker to save him a couple of runs and a homer from the second baseman to drive in what proved to be the game-winning run.

KEY MOMENT: Cincinnati had a run in on Zack Cozart’s homer leading off the game, and later had a runner on second with one out and were poised to do some serious damage, but Harvey regrouped to strike out Eugenio Suarez and Mesoraco to end the threat.

THUMBS UP: How can you not love Alejandro De Aza tagging up and taking second on a fly out in the first? It resulted in the Mets getting two runs. … After making a diving stop of Mesoraco’s liner to end the third and save a couple of runs for Harvey, Walker homered in the bottom of the third. … Michael Conforto’s two-run double in the sixth. … Another strong inning in relief by Jim Henderson with two more strikeouts.

THUMBS DOWN: Harvey’s high pitch count limited him to six innings. … Errors by Lucas Duda and Walker. … Only five hits by Mets’ hitters.

EXTRA INNINGS: Yoenis Cespedes got another night off after telling Collins his right leg was still sore. … With the victory, the Mets are now 5-4 at home. … Harvey is 3-0 in five career starts against the Reds. … In case you were wondering, Philadelphia beat Washington to cut the Nationals’ lead in the NL East to one game.

QUOTEBOOK:  “Sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut.” – Walker explaining his power surge.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9: Homers by Walker in April to tie a club record. He’s tied with Bryce Harper for the NL lead.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets are off Thursday and open a three-game series Friday against the Giants at Citi Field. … The starters are: Friday, Jake Peavey (1-1, 6.86) vs. Steven Matz (2-1, 5.40); Saturday, Matt Cain (0-2, 6.43) vs. Jacob deGrom (2-0, 1.54); and Sunday, Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64) vs. Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69).

 

 

Apr 26

Mets Wrap: Cespedes Revisits 2015

The power is reminiscent of last year, but it finally felt, and sounded, like 2015 for the Mets in Tuesday night’s dramatic 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Cincinnati.

The Mets had done nothing against Reds’ left-hander Brandon Finnegan and trailed 3-0 heading into the seventh.

CESPEDES: Gives us 2015 feel. (AP)

CESPEDES: Gives us 2015 feel. (AP)

With one out, Juan Lagares – playing instead of Yoenis Cespedes who was missing his fourth straight game – walked, and Kevin Plawecki, starting for Travis d’Arnaud, who went on the DL earlier in the day, singled.

As Lucas Duda mulled around the on-deck circle, Reds manager Bryan Price conferred with Finnegan. Collins wasn’t trying to trick Price, but it turned out that way.

During this time, Cespedes was hitting in the batting cages behind the Mets’ dugout. Price could have gone out and pulled Finnegan, but left him in and Cespedes hit a rope on the first pitch to tie the game.

“You have to be special,’’ Collins told reporters about the type of player able to sieve the moment as Cespedes did. “You have to believe in yourself 100 percent.’’

Citi Field sounded this loud last August when Cespedes literally carried the Mets for a month. Curtis Granderson followed with a triple, and David Wright, who had struggled all night, singled to right for the go-ahead run.

“It helps for these guys to know they can come back and win,’’ Collins said. “That’s what helped us in the second half [last year].’’

Jeurys Familia’s third straight save sealed the Mets their first come-from-behind victory of the season. That’s something the Mets did regularly last year.

All the things that made the Mets magical last season: their ability to rally; their power and Cespedes’ ability to live in the moment; Bartolo Colon early in the game and Familia at the end, all were on display.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #19 Record: 12-7 Streak: W5

 SUMMARY: Cespedes carried the Mets to the playoffs last season after the deadline deal. He did so again Tuesday night with a dramatic three-run, pinch-hit homer

KEY MOMENT: The Mets trailed by 3-0 and had two runners on with one out when Cespedes pinch-hit for reliever Logan Verrett and drilled the first on a line for a game-tying home run.

THUMBS UP: Verrett picked up the victory for the second straight night. … Not only did Michael Conforto start against a left-hander, but was in the clean-up position where he had two hits. … Granderson had two hits. … No runs given up by the bullpen. … Familia seems to have re-gained his groove.

THUMBS DOWN: Two more strikeouts by Wright gives him 28 in 67 at-bats. … Wilmer Flores looks helpless at the plate with a .087 average.

 EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets didn’t score first, but they did win for the tenth time in 12 games. … Colon surpassed 3,000 career innings pitched. … Since April 15, the Mets lead the majors with 27 homers. … Familia has 56 career saves tying with Randy Myers for 11th place on the Mets’ career list.

QUOTEBOOK:   “He’s hurting and for him to come through like that gives everybody a lift,’’ – Collins on Wright’s game-winning hit in the seventh.

BY THE NUMBERS: 10: Consecutive victories by the Mets over the Reds.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey goes after his second victory Wednesday night. Harvey is 2-0 with a 2.36 ERA in four career starts against the Reds.

 

Apr 25

Mets Wrap: Conforto Should Stay At No. 3 Against Finnegan

When Terry Collins moved Michael Conforto to the third slot in the batting order, he left open the possibility of moving him against a left-hander.

Conforto ripped three more hits Monday night’s 5-3 victory over Cincinnati – including a homer in the first – but with left-hander Brandon Finnegan going Tuesday for the Reds, what will Collins do?

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

CONFORTO: Sizzling. (AP)

Here’s hoping he lost his righty-lefty book and keeps Conforto batting third. Most importantly, you don’t want Collins messing with a hot hitter and giving even the slightest hint of not having complete confidence in Conforto against left-handers.

Maybe, against Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner – the Giants are in this weekend – Conforto might move, but against Finnegan?

That would make no sense.

In going 3-for-3 with a walk, Conforto is hitting .378 (14-for-37) with eight runs scored, five doubles, three homers and eight RBI since moving to the No. 3 spot. He’s hitting .333 overall without even a whisper of a reason why he should be moved.

Even if Yoenis Cespedes can play Tuesday, Conforto should stay third. He said he’s always hit third and relishes the role. Those aren’t reasons why he should stay there. He should stay because he’s the best player for that role, even over Cespedes.

Tell me, the Mets have a runner on third with one out, who would you rather have at the plate, Cespedes of Conforto?

“It’s where you want to be,’’ Conforto told reporters about hitting third. ““You have to be a guy who uses the whole field,’’ Conforto said. “You have to have a good [hitting] zone and be able to shrink that and you want to be a guy who tends to hit well in big situations, a guy who drives runs in, you have to make sure those situations don’t get too big.’’

Third is the spot where a team traditionally bats its best hitter. Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays usually hit third in another era, as did Keith Hernandez for the 1986 champion Mets. Barry Bonds and a healthier David Wright most recently flourished hitting third.

I’m not saying Conforto will turn into an elite player like them – in his wildest dreams he probably hasn’t considered it – but he is the Mets’ best overall hitter.

“He drove in big runs, that’s why he’s hitting third,’’ Collins said.

Conforto spent a lot of time this winter working on situations a No. 3 would face, such as pulling inside fastballs; cutting down his hitting zone on specific counts; and hitting the ball on the ground or in the air depending on the game situation.

Collins said Conforto would likely be the Mets’ long-term No. 3 hitter. Don’t change things now.

METS GAME WRAP

 Game: #18 Record: 11-7 Streak: W4

SUMMARY: Noah Syndergaard labored most of the night, but home runs from Conforto, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker gave the Mets their fourth straight victory.

KEY MOMENT: Walker’s two-run homer in the seventh. When the Mets were on defense in the eighth fans chanted Walker’s name. Sweet.

THUMBS UP: Two hits, including a two-run homer in the third from Lucas Duda. … Logan Verrett struck out Ivan De Jesus with the go-ahead runner on third to end the seventh. … A 1-2-3- eighth in relief from Addison Reed. … Twelve strikeouts from Mets’ pitchers, including nine from Syndergaard. … A 1-2-3 stress-free ninth from Jeurys Familia.

THUMBS DOWN: The Reds stole five bases against the Syndergaard-Travis d’Arnaud battery. … Antonio Bastardo had a blown save. … Mets’ hitters struck out 10 times. … An 0-for-4 night from Wright with two strikeouts. … They were 1-for-9 with RISP. … d’Arnaud left the game with a sore right shoulder. Collins said it is too early to project it being a DL situation.

EXTRA INNINGS: The homer was Walker’s eighth of the month, the most he’s ever hit in a month. … The Mets have won nine of their last 11 games. … They have scored in the first inning in eight of their last ten games. … They’ve won nine straight against the Reds.

QUOTEBOOK: “That was pretty awesome,’’ Walker on he crowd chanting his name after his homer.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28: Mets’ homers in 18 games.

NEXT FOR METS: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 2.89) starts for the Mets against Reds’ Finnegan (1-1, 3.74). Colon gave up three runs in six innings with a no-decision in his last start, April 20, at Philadelphia. Colon in 4-1 with a 3.77 ERA in five career starts against the Reds.