Sep 03

Three Mets’ Storylines: Gsellman, Young Pitchers Provide Spark

Should the Mets prevail over the pack and clinch a wild-card berth, considerable credit should go to their nondescript spot starters who have combined to keep them afloat while injuries sideline their heralded young arms.

Robert Gsellman is the latest, giving up one run in six innings in the Mets’ 3-1 victory over Washington. It was Gsellman’s second victory. Seth Lugo, Sunday’s starter, has won twice; Gabriel Ynoa has a win; Rafael Montero, Tuesday’s starter in place of Jacob deGrom, threw five scoreless innings to take a no-decision against Miami; and Josh Smoker has a victory in relief.

GSELLMAN: Big start for Mets. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Big start for Mets. (AP)

“The young energy has picked us up a lot,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said.

To say “pick up” might be an oversimplification. That’s six wins in games they would have been favored to lose, so instead of possibly being below .500, they are now a game behind St. Louis for the second wild card.

It wasn’t as if Gsellman was overpowering. Instead, the Nationals had him reeling a couple of times, but he composed himself to minimize the damage.

Washington had the bases loaded with one out in the first inning, but Gsellman held the Nationals to a sacrifice fly.

“The game could change in the first inning,” Gsellman said. “[I just want to] take a deep breath and don’t try to get too ahead of yourself.’’

Another key moment came in the fourth when the Nationals put the first two runners on, but Gsellman regrouped to get the next three hitters, including fielding Tanner Roark’s bunt to force a runner at third.

“I think it’s a tribute to his make-up,” Collins said. “That [first inning] was a big inning for him by limiting the damage. … I’ve been hearing what kind of stuff he has and we’re seeing it.”

The Mets also received a key defensive play from Michael Conforto when he made a diving catch of Daniel Murphy‘s sinking liner.

Gsellman was the headliner, with the other two storylines being Curtis Granderson and several injury updates.

GRANDERSON COMES THROUGH: If there has been a recurring theme this season it has been the Mets’ inability to hit with RISP, particularly Granderson, who broke a 1-for-31 slide in that situation with a two-run single in the third.

Even so, one of the Mets’ most head-scratching statistics this season is Granderson’s 22 homers with only 40 RBI.

It’s staggering when you think about it.

INJURY UPDATES: Steven Matz is expected to resume throwing Monday in Port St. Lucie. He’s on the disabled list with an impingement in his shoulder. … Lucas Duda (back) is swinging at soft-toss pitches and could take batting practice by the end of the week. The Mets say he could return this season. … Zack Wheeler has been shut down for the rest of the year with a strained right flexor muscle. … Neil Walker’s microdiscectomy surgery is expected this week.

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Aug 27

Still Like Bruce Trade

Jay Bruce sat out of Saturday’s game by Mets manager Terry Collins for a “mental health” day, which wasn’t a bad idea considering he struck out four times the night before.

“I think it’s human nature (to try to impress your new team),” Collins told reporters. “I don’t know one player who didn’t instantly want to make an impact.”

BRUCE: Still like the deal. (AP)

BRUCE: Still like the deal. (AP)

Never mind the Mets dumped the Phillies for a second straight game, 12-1, and Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera homered, they will need Bruce before this season is done.

In 22 games since coming over to the Mets from Cincinnati, Bruce is 13-for-81 (.160) with two homers and six RBI, but I still like the trade. And, I’ll like it even better when Bruce starts hitting again, and with 27 homers and 86 RBI, he’s too good a hitter not to. While Collins’ motivation is mental, Bruce said his problem is more mechanical.

“It looks like I’ve been moving away from the plate,” said Bruce, whose extra work also entails looking at video. “So many small things like that happen. That’s baseball. I don’t think I forgot how to hit. I do a lot of my damage middle-away, and I’ve gotten away from that.”

Just because Cespedes is hitting home runs again, you have to remember the context in which the deal was made in the first place. Cespedes was gimpy and Curtis Granderson was – and still is – mired in a terrible slump.

Even with their offense non-existent for much of July, the Mets were in the race for a wild card. Also at the time, Bruce was leading the National League with 80 RBI and hitting well over .300 with RISP. Also part of the Mets’ reasoning was for Bruce to be a safety net if Cespedes opts out. Cespedes indicated he’d like to stay with the Mets but hasn’t made a commitment to doing so.

Conversely, the Mets have a club option on Bruce, so if Cespedes returns they could let the latter leave. The Mets also have to decide where Michael Conforto fits into their plans, and if they want to go one final season with Granderson or buy him out.

But, that’s next year. For now, Bruce has 33 games remaining in this dwindling season to work out of his slump.

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Aug 19

Not Buying Cespedes Can Do It Alone

Yoenis Cespedes returns to the Mets tonight, but I’m not buying for a second his presence will make everything all right for the Mets. If he hits the way he’s supposed to, and starts doing it immediately and continues for the remainder of the season, he should make the Mets better.

But, he’s not enough to carry them to the finish line. The news Steven Matz is scratched from Saturday’s start because of a sore shoulder is just the latest. Neil Walker has tightness in his lower back. Plus, we don’t know just how stable Cespedes’ strained right quad and Asdrubal Cabrera‘s knee will be coming off the DL.

CESPEDES: Need more than him.  (Getty)

CESPEDES: Need more than him. (Getty)

The Mets don’t hit with RISP and Curtis Granderson doesn’t hit period. Jay Bruce hasn’t hit since coming over from Cincinnati. The Mets said Michael Conforto won’t be brought up until Sept. 1 when the rosters are expanded, which makes no sense.

Noah Syndergaard hasn’t pitched well in the past six weeks. The bullpen has been erratic. Nobody can say how long Matz will be down.

The Mets are out of the NL East race and four games behind in the wild-card. They lost a crushing game Thursday night and this 10-game stretch against Arizona (they lost two of three); San Francisco (they blew a four-run lead and lost Thursday in the first of four against the Giants); and go to St. Louis to play three with the Cardinals.

Unquestionably, this is the Mets’ most important stretch of the season, and frankly, the return of Cespedes – even if he gets hot – isn’t enough.

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Aug 17

Time To Sit Granderson

There are cold stretches, slumps and what Mets’ outfielder Curtis Granderson is currently in, which has gone on long enough.

Manager Terry Collins said if you don’t hit, you’ll sit, and Granderson hasn’t hit all season. He’s one of the nicest guys I’ve met around baseball, but his smile doesn’t drive in runs. Come to think about it, neither do his home runs. His 32 RBI off 18 homers is one of the most staggering statistics I’ve ever seen.

GRANDERSON: The Grandy Man can't. (AP)

GRANDERSON: The Grandy Man can’t. (AP)

So, why is he still in the lineup when Michael Conforto is in the minor leagues? Ditto for Brandon Nimmo.

Let’s look at more frightening numbers: Granderson is hitting .224 this season; is batting .127 (10-79) with RISP; and .165 (15-91) over his last 23 games.

Somehow, none on this has sunk in on Collins.

“You still look up and this guy is going to end up with over 20 homers,” Collins told reporters. “He’s not necessarily a RBI guy, so no matter where you think you should hit anybody in the order, they are going to end up coming up with guys on base at times.”

It might be one of the dumbest things I’ve heard from a manager in nearly 25 years around this game.

First of all, he has 18 homers now, so what’s two more? Secondly, and even more importantly, if you end up with runners on base your job is to drive them in. Memo to Collins: Everybody is a RBI guy.

Perhaps Granderson is spending too much time around Collins because his explanation made no sense. None.

“Initially, I was in the position where I was going to lead off and set the tone and things like that,” Granderson told reporters.

“And, I’ve mixed when to be aggressive versus when to set the tone for everybody else, so there’s been pitches I could have gone after and attacked and maybe did something with that I let go by.”

Huh?

Granderson’s responsibility as a hitter is two-fold: 1) if there’s nobody on base he’s supposed to get on base, but a .317 on-base percentage says he’s not doing it, and 2) if there are runners on base his job is to advance them or drive them in.

It’s not all that hard to understand, but obviously with Granderson this season, much harder to do.

Granderson’s job is to always be aggressive, and he hasn’t been. It’s time to get somebody in the lineup that can be.

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Aug 15

Ten Things To Happen For Mets To Turn It Around

It’s a logical question: Have the Mets survived the undertow that was dragging their season out to sea After consecutive well-pitched games – and they were sterling efforts – from Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, the temptation is to say yes.

However, you know what they say about temptation.

CESPEDES: Must hit when he returns. (AP)

CESPEDES: Must hit when he returns. (AP)

It’s an oversimplification to say after winning won two straight over the weekend against San Diego – a team they should beat at home – all is right with the Mets.

Frankly, that’s not enough to be writing a check for playoff tickets. The Mets will have turned things around when the following happens:

Yoenis Cespedes returns healthy and in center field: Cespedes begins a rehab assignment today as a DH in Port St. Lucie. He’s expected back when the Mets are in San Francisco. When Cespedes comes back I don’t want to hear anything about him not playing centerfield. The Mets signed him to play center. From left to right, the outfield should be Curtis Granderson, Cespedes and Jay Bruce.

Granderson and Bruce need to hit: The Mets haven’t gotten much from Granderson all season (see 18-31 HR to RBI ratio) and Bruce hasn’t hit since coming over from the Reds. Both hitting will take pressure off Cespedes and return Alejandro De Aza to the bench.

Paging Syndergaard: Noah Syndergaard has lost four of his last five decisions, increasing speculation the bone spur is taking a toll. His pitch count limits him to around six innings, and they haven’t been effective.

Leave Flores alone: Just let Wilmer Flores play and be done with it. Give him a chance against right handed pitching because the platoon isn’t working.

RISP must improve:  Yes, we know the Mets can hit home runs, and the expectations of more will rise with Cespedes. However, they are dead last in the majors hitting with runners in scoring position. It might be too much to expect that will turn around with six weeks remaining to the season, but that’s a priority.

Cabrera’s return important: His contributions can’t be understated, and they include more than taking off the helmet of the home run hitter. Yes, there was that long stretch when he didn’t hit with RISP. However, he gave the Mets a lot of clutch hits and played solid defense in the first half.

Need Niese: Jon Niese is now the No. 5 starter. The Mets aren’t in the position where they can afford to lose every fifth game.

Run Reyes Run: The Mets signed Jose Reyes for what he can do with his speed. Yesterday it paid off when he singled, went to second on a short wild pitch and continued to third on a throw into center. He then scored on a wild pitch. Reyes isn’t going to steal 60 bases anymore, but his speed is a threat and we haven’t seen it much since he came back.

Bullpen stability: Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia have been lockdown in the eighth and ninth. Hansel Robles was going well for awhile, but lost his composure in Yankees game and really hasn’t been the same. They should get more help when the rosters expand, but for now they need Jerry Blevins and Erik Goeddel to pitch well as a bridge to Reed.

Somebody has to step up: Somebody other than Neil Walker has to step up. James Loney has done it; so has Kelly Johnson. But, there will be games down the stretch when Walker and Cespedes and Bruce don’t hit. In those games, they’ll need Flores, or T.J. Rivera, or how about one of the catchers? They’ve gotten little from Travis d’Arnaud all year.

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