Apr 26

Is It Time For Mets To Panic?

As devastating as the five-run first inning against Robert Gsellman was to the Mets tonight, let’s not forget their fourth inning against Julio Teheran.

The Mets had the bases loaded with no outs and the best they could muster was a sacrifice fly. That’s it; the game was over right there, and the Mets were on the way of losing, 8-2, to Atlanta.

i-1They have lost five straight and nine of ten, and have three games this weekend in Washington.

Is time to panic?

In a rare display of candor, exasperated Mets manager Terry Collins said: “It could be pretty soon.’’

The first inning was emblematic of what currently ails the Mets. How many times can you say if the Mets don’t homer they won’t score? When the Mets’ pitching goes south as it did for Gsellman tonight, and their defense is horrible – three errors – that’s too big a hole when the offense gets only five hits.

Collins has long said the Mets are built on hitting home runs, but twice this homestand lamented their inability to produce (1-for-5 with RISP and seven runners left on base).

“You know we’re not going to get a lot off Teheran, so that took the air out of the balloon pretty quick,” Collins said of the early hole. “You don’t see any panic in them. We have to stop worrying about home runs and worry about getting some good swings.”

Gsellman said he was told last night he would start, which is contrary to what Collins said. No matter, he had nothing. He explained the problem as mechanical, saying he was flying open with his shoulder that consequently left the ball out over the plate.

Sounds so simple, but why is it so hard to fix? That applies to a lot of things.

Apr 07

Game Wrap: Wheeler Rocked

GAME:  #4

SCORE: Marlins 7, @Mets 2

RECORD: 2-2    RISP: 2-for-5,  8 LOB

HOMERS: 1: Yoenis Cespedes (1).

ANALYSIS

In one of the most anticipated starts by a Mets’ pitcher in years, Zack Wheeler, pitching for the first time since September of 2014 after being shelved from Tommy John surgery, was hit early and hard, giving up five runs on six hits in four innings, logging 80 pitches.

“He needed this,” manager Terry Collins said. “He needed to get back in the flow. For the first game, it was OK.”

WHEELER: Rough start in return. (AP)

WHEELER: Rough start in return. (AP)

Is velocity a big deal? He touched 97 in the first inning, then was in the low 90s two innings later. Was it the weather? Was it coming off surgery? Whatever the reason, the circumstances were such that we can’t make any real assessments until we see how he feels tomorrow and after his next start, Wednesday in Philadelphia.

That’s how Collins saw it. He chose to look at some of the positives, such as his early velocity and building his pitch count up to 80.

“It was not what I wanted tonight, but it was good to get out there,” Wheeler told reporters. “I didn’t have my best stuff tonight. I didn’t have good control and they were able to sit on the fastball. … It’s a long season and I will get better.”

ON THE MOUND: Good relief efforts from Rafael Montero and Josh Edgin, both of whom worked two innings. … Josh Smoker gave up two runs.

AT THE PLATE:  Two hits each by Curtis Granderson and Rene Rivera. … Michael Conforto had a pinch-hit single. … Jose Reyes was hitless in five at-bats and is hitting .056 on the season with only one hit. Maybe a day off would help. … Marlins pitchers struck out eight Mets.

IN THE FIELD: The Mets are getting ripped and the wind chill had to be in the low 30s. Seemed like it would have been a good opportunity to get the bench some work.

ON DECK: The Mets continue their homestand Saturday against Miami with Robert Gsellman getting the start.

 

Apr 06

Game Wrap: Harvey, D’Arnaud Carry Mets Past Braves

GAME:  #3

SCORE: @Mets 6, Braves 2

RECORD: 2-1    RISP: 2-for-7, four LOB

HOMERS: 1 Wilmer Flores (1).

HARVEY: Big step. (AP)

HARVEY: Big step. (AP)

ANALYSIS

Perhaps the two Mets carrying the weight of the heaviest expectations for this season – Matt Harvey and Travis d’Arnaud – came up big in Thursday night’s victory over the Braves.

Harvey, whose velocity was an issue during spring training, gave up a pair of homers to Matt Kemp, but was generally superb, giving up three hits overall in 6.2 innings. Harvey’s fastball clocked between 94-97 mph., but also important was his ability to command his secondary pitches.

“Obviously, it has been a long time since I’ve gone into the seventh inning,” Harvey told reporters. “For me, the big thing for me was to pound the zone and go as deep into the game as I could.”

As for d’Arnaud, his inability to stay healthy, hit and throw out potential base-stealers has caused many to speculate as to his future with the Mets. It’s just one game, but d’Arnaud’s two-run double in the fifth put the Mets ahead to stay.

ON THE MOUND: Fernando Salas – who was working for the third straight game – struck out Dansby Swanson with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning. … It wasn’t a save situation, but Addison Reed worked a 1-2-3 ninth.

AT THE PLATE: Flores, batting cleanup, hit a two-run homer. … Jose Reyes had his first hit of the season. … Jay Bruce scored a run and walked. He’s drawn four walks in the first three games and leads the Mets in hitting with a .333 average.

IN THE FIELD: Flores played first base. … I would still like to see Michael Conforto get a start in the outfield.

EXTRA INNINGS: In a testament to screwy scheduling, the Braves are back at Citi Field again at the end of the month.

ON DECK: The Mets continue their homestand Friday against Miami with Zack Wheeler getting his first start in nearly two years.

 

Apr 03

Game Wrap: Mets Blank Braves In Opener; Syndergaard Leaves With Blister

GAME #1

SCORE: @Mets 6, Braves 0

RECORD: 1-0

RISP: A season-long problem last season, the Mets went 2-for-6 Monday and stranded nine runners.

HOMERS: None.

SYNDERGAARD: Superb in Opener. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Superb in Opener. (AP)

ANALYSIS

Although Noah Syndergaard didn’t get the victory, he was the headliner in the Mets’ 6-0 Opening Day blanking of the Atlanta Braves today at Citi Field.

Syndergaard was superb and dominant, giving up five hits, no walks with seven strikeouts before leaving after six innings because of a blister on his right middle finger.

Syndergaard had moments of decision in the fourth and sixth innings. In the fourth, Freddie Freeman tripled with one out, but Syndergaard regrouped to strike out Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis. In the sixth, with one out and runners on the corners, he struck out Kemp and got Markakis on a liner to left.

“That to me was the difference in the game,” manager Terry Collins said. “When the great ones have runners in scoring position against them, they up their game.”

That defined Syndergaard, who was pushed back a day to have his next start flipped with Robert Gsellman.

“It’s a little blister,” Syndergaard said. “I’m not worried about it.”

Even so, Collins said it doesn’t hurt to start taking care of his pitchers from the beginning: “We preach protecting these guys, now we have to do something about it.’’

ON THE MOUND: Hansel Robles pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to earn the victory. … Projected set-up reliever Fernando Salas worked the eighth. … Gsellman pitched the ninth. Speculation is because he’ll be moved up a day to replace Syndergaard

AT THE PLATE: Asdrubal Cabrera had three hits, including driving in the game-winner in the seventh. … The Mets broke the game open with six runs in the inning highlighted by five of their eight walks and Lucas Duda’s three-run double. … Jay Bruce walked three times including once with the bases loaded. … Syndergaard got a hit. … Wilmer Flores and Cabrera each stole bases.

IN THE FIELD: Superb pick and throw by Jose Reyes to nail Brandon Phillips leading off the seventh. … Bruce played Freeman’s triple in the fourth like he was a first baseman.

EXTRA INNINGS: With the victory, the Mets improved their Opening Day record to a major league best 36-20 (.643) R.A. Dickey, David Wright, Bartolo Colon and Jacob deGrom received the loudest cheers, with Colon probably getting the longest.

ON DECK: Colon vs. deGrom, Wednesday night at Citi Field in the second game of the season.

 

Oct 04

Mets-Giants: Five Key Battles

There are games within the game – the key match-ups – that could determine the winner of Wednesday’s Mets-Giants, wild-card game. The winner goes on to play the Cubs in the NL Division Series. There were alternating times this season that both teams thought that might not be possible.

Because of its Game 7 winner-take-all format, there’s a fragile balance to the individual match-ups, with the slightest play or decision determining whether a team’s season ends or winter begins.

SYNDERGAARD: Mets' biggest key. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Mets’ biggest key. (FOX)

Here are my five most intriguing match-ups:

BATTLE OF THE MANAGERS: While there have been reports the Mets’ Terry Collins could have been fired in August, the Giants’ Bruce Bochy could be a Hall of Famer. Based on winning three World Series titles, I would vote for him. Collins deserves kudos for keeping his team together during a string of adversities and controversies. Doing that should merit serious Manager of the Year consideration. It should be noted some of those controversies were self-induced.

In the end: When faced with a decision Bochy won’t waffle as Collins did in Game 5 of the World Series when he stuck with Matt Harvey.

BATTLE OF THE ACES: Madison Bumgarner vs. Noah Syndergaard is as intriguing as it gets. It is a dream for those loving a pitcher’s duel. While Syndergaard is in his first full season – really hard to believe – Bumgarner is an established postseason presence with the lowest road ERA 0.60 ERA (minimum of 25 innings) in playoff history. Bumgarner’s performance two years ago against Kansas City, when he won Games 1 and 5, then came back on two days to throw five innings in relief for the save in Game 7, is arguably one of the most impressive performances in postseason history.

The Mets like to boast of their young arms – and rightfully so – but Harvey, Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz had a long way to match Bumgarner.

In the end: Syndergaard has the stuff for greatness and he’s pitched hurt. It wouldn’t be surprising if he spins a shutout, as he’s that dominant. But, if you get on you can steal on him, rattle him and drive him from the game. In a big game, there are a handful of names you want: Sandy Koufax (4-3, 0-95 ERA), Cliff Lee (7-0, 1.27 ERA), Andy Pettitte (19-10, 3.83 ERA), Orel Hershiser (8-3, 2.59 ERA), John Smoltz (15-4, 2.67 ERA), Curt Schilling (11-2, 2.23 ERA) and Bumgarner (7-3, 2.14 ERA).

BATTLE OF OFFENSIVE PHILOSOPHIES: All season, Collins sang the refrain the Mets were a team built on the home run. The Giants, meanwhile, are a better at stringing together innings and putting pressure on the pitcher. Statistics is baseball’s yardstick. We can get caught up in the new-age numbers, but there are only a few that give a clearer picture.

It’s all about runs.

Mets: 671 runs scored; 218 homers; 649 RBI. Giants: 715 runs scored; 130 homers; 675 RBI.

Batting averages count, too.

Mets: Hit .225 with RISP and .187 with two outs and RISP. Giants: Hit .250 with RISP and .220 with two outs and RISP.

Other important numbers.

Mets: On-base percentage of .316, with 517 walks and 1,302 strikeouts. Giants: On-base percentage of .329 with 572 walks and 1,107 strikeouts.

Summary: The Mets’ inability to hit with RISP has been a storyline all season, and they can’t afford to squander whatever opportunities they’ll get against Bumgarner. While the Mets do live on the homer and clearly have more power with three hitters – Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Curtis Granderson hitting over 30 – the Giants outscored them by 44 runs. The Mets don’t prolong innings with walks let too many chances get away by striking out.

BATTLE OF THE STARS

When it comes to the stars, it’s Cespedes against Buster Posey and their contrasting styles of power vs. patience.

Cespedes hit .280 with 31 homers, but only 86 RBI. For all his homers there should be more run production, especially since he hit .278 with RISP. However, his production is offset by 108 strikeouts compared to only 51 walks. In the clutch, pitchers are able to get Cespedes to chase.

Cespedes is an imposing figure at the plate, but his MVP candidacy faded with mediocre numbers after the All-Star break of .246, ten homers and 34 RBI. One red flag entering the postseason was Cespedes’ numbers since Sept. 15, when every one of the Mets’ 15 games was crucial. In his span, Cespedes hit .220 (13-for-59) with one homer and seven RBI, with ten strikeouts and seven RBI.

Another was his non-presence in the Mets’ clubhouse celebration. I appreciate his disappointment in how he ended the season, but this was a team moment and reminiscent of a NFL wide receiver. Yoenis, meet Odell Beckham Jr.

When it comes to needing a homer, you want Cespedes, but what about Posey?

Posey’s.288 average only a handful of points higher than Cespedes, but with only 14 homers. However, he drove in 80 runs creating speculation how many RBI he could have had if matched Cespedes’ power?

He’s a gap hitter with 33 doubles (Cespedes had 25) and better in the clutch with a .311 average with runners on base and .287 with RISP. Posey hit only .221 after the seventh inning, but that’s when he hit five of his homers with 21 RBI.

After the All-Star break, Posey hit .282 with three homers and 38 to pump the brakes on the Giants’ second-half skid. Since Sept. 15, Posey hit .306 (19-for-62) with two homers and 16 RBI (averaged one a game for 16 games) with nine strikeouts and seven walks.

Summary: It depends on what you want. If it’s a homer, go with Cespedes, but Posey is more apt to drive in a run in other ways and keep an inning alive with 68 strikeouts and 64 walks. It comes to this: Who do you want at the plate in the ninth inning, with the game tied with a runner on third with less than two outs?

BATTLE OF THE BULLPENS

Of all the stats, perhaps the most important could leave the others useless, and that’s the Giants’ 29 blown saves, including nine in September. Santiago Casilla (31 saves) lost his closer role to Sergio Romo (four saves), but the Mets’ eighth-inning duo of Addison Reed (40 holds) and Jeurys Familia (51 saves) is the most reliable in the majors.

Summary: Both teams need to get through seven, but with different reasons.

The Giants need to string together enough runs and work Syndergaard’s pitch count to get into the middle of the Mets’ bullpen. If they do that, and Bumgarner gets through the seventh and into the eighth, they can win.

The Mets need to get to Bumgarner enough to a lead entering the eighth. If they do that, and Syndergaard takes the Mets to the Reed-Familia finish line – something he’s done 12 times in 30 starts and only twice in his last five, we could see Bartolo Colon Friday in Chicago.

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