Oct 28

Mets Routed; In Huge Hole

When you don’t hit, don’t pitch and don’t catch the ball, you’re not going to win. See, this game isn’t that complicated after all. Kansas City’s Johnny Cueto had no problem figuring out the Mets hitters, and Royals’ hitters solved Jacob deGrom pretty quickly.

The Mets gave deGrom a run, but as we’ve been told all along, the Royals would eventually peck away. That came in the fifth inning as the Royals strung together hit after hit against deGrom as Jon Niese warmed in the bullpen.

CUETO: Superb tonight. (Getty)

CUETO: Superb tonight. (Getty)

The cameras focused on Mets manager Terry Collins, who stared blankly into space as if hit in the head with a bat. It probably was a Mets’ bat because they certainly weren’t doing anything against Cueto, who went the distance in the 7-1 rout.

Collins never went to the pen until it was too late, but it was easy to understand his hesitancy. Niese gave Collins two solid innings the night before and you could understand doubting he’d get an encore. Collins was riding his horse, deGrom, and hoping for the best.

It never came, and by the time the inning was over, the Mets were down, 4-1, and with the way they were facing Cueto, they had no chance.

DeGrom labored in his previous two playoff starts. Collins said he was fatigued; deGrom said he wasn’t. Either way, both agreed deGrom’s command was off. It wasn’t that way for the first four innings, but come the fifth, the game was over, and likely, the Mets’ chances in this World Series.

Teams winning the first two games go on to win the World Series 80 percent of the time. An exception was the 1986 Mets, but that was a different team in a different era.

We can list all the things the Mets didn’t do Wednesday night, but Game 2 was all about the things the Royals did right. The Royals don’t strike out. They put the ball in play. They attack strikes when they get one. They catch the ball. They do the right things and they do them consistently.

They play the game the way it is supposed to be played, and that style – while not sexy – is about to win them a championship.


Oct 28

Vulnerable Side Of Mets Exposed

OK, the Mets lost last night and Game 2 is now the most important start of Jacob deGrom’s blossoming career. How he persevered over the Dodgers on the road in Game 5 of the NLDS showed us he has the grit and guile needed to win.

LAGARES: In lineup tonight. (AP)

LAGARES: In lineup tonight. (AP)

That much we know. What we don’t know is how much gas is left in his tank. Manager Terry Collins and deGrom differ as to the pitcher’s fatigue level, but whatever the cause, his command isn’t right.

There are other things not right, either. I know, as Mets fans, you want to hear nothing but positive, but that can’t always be the case. On the plus side, middle relievers Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard – considered a question going in – pitched well.

The flip side is if Matt Harvey is the stud the Mets – and he proclaims to be – he has to give them more than 80 pitches over six innings. Aces who demand the ball need to give more than what Harvey showed.

Secondly, and perhaps this is as a slap in the face to the Mets, is Jeurys Familia being taken deep to tie the game in the ninth. His perception of invincibility is gone.

Defense hasn’t always been a Mets’ mainstay this season, and Yoenis Cespedes’ misplay in left center last night in left center lead to him starting in left tonight with Juan Lagares playing center. That puts Michael Conforto as the DH, which is the way it should have been from the start.

I don’t know what it is, but Cespedes has been in a funk lately. He’s not the same player who captivated us in August.

There was also David Wright’s wild throw to start the 14th inning. It happens, but when runs are at a premium, they can’t afford to give away outs.

The offense was terrible last night, and starting pitching isn’t the Royals’ forte.

The Mets can lose tonight and still win the World Series, but the odds are long. A lot of things had to break right for the Mets to win, and now even more.

It begins with deGrom.

ON DECK: Tonight’s lineup.

Oct 28

Mets’ DeGrom In Must-Win Game Tonight

Nobody can say for certain what big games Jacob deGrom might have later in his career that could carve legacy, but there’s no doubt the Mets’ run during these playoffs is contingent on him showing up large in Game 2 tonight against Johnny Cueto.

No deGrom; no World Series title.

DEGROM: Poised and ready. (Getty)

DEGROM: Poised and ready. (Getty)

The Mets’ best pitcher this season must fight through fatigue for his team to take this Series back to Citi Field tied at a game apiece. The must regain the command he lost in his last two starts against the Dodgers and Cubs.

Those teams couldn’t come up with the big hit to put deGrom and the Mets away. The Mets aren’t even here without his second start against the Dodgers in which he stranded five runners in scoring position.

Such grit rarely works against the Royals, who came from behind twice last night to beat the Mets.

“One of the things we know about them is they’re never down and out. We’ve got to put them away,” manager Terry Collins said after Kansas City survived 14 innings last night, and to do so needed to overcome Jeurys Familia in the ninth inning.

That begins with scoring early and often against Cueto, and deGrom becoming overpowering again.

“They’re going to battle you,’’ deGrom said. “They’re not going to strike out a lot and they’re going to put the ball in play. I think my job is to keep the ball down.

“I always say I try to go out there and get early contact, and strikeouts just seem to happen. That’s going to be my same game plan going into this.’’

Against the fastball-hitting Cubs, deGrom said he had to temper his approach with more off-speed pitches and relied on his change-up. Much has been made of Kansas City’s ability to put fastballs in play, so that might be his formula tonight.

“There’s going to be adjustments to be made like there is in every game,’’ deGrom said. “I think it’s just seeing what’s going on out there.’’

And, recognizing it quickly because if he doesn’t the game can get away very fast.

Oct 26

Five Keys For Mets To Win

It is the day before the start of the World Series and who would have guessed I’d be previewing the Mets? I certainly wouldn’t have, but damn, isn’t this great?



This is the Mets’ fifth trip to the World Series, and they’ve only been favored once, in 1986 against Boston. This time they are a pick `em against the Royals.

If the following are answered in the positive, there could be another parade down the Canyon of Heroes:

Pair of Aces: Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom go in the first two games and should be well rested. Sure, the Mets can lose both and come back to win, but those odds would be long. One of them has to win if the Mets are to win.

A Murphy-type stretch is needed: If not Daniel Murphy, then somebody needs to get hot. Nobody knows how the layoff will affect Murphy. Maybe it will be Lucas Duda, or David Wright, or Wilmer Flores. Whoever it is, somebody must turn it on.

Overcoming the aches and pains: Harvey has a bruise in the back of his throwing arm; Curtis Granderson has a jammed thumb; Yoenis Cespedes has a strained shoulder.

Building the bullpen bridge: The Mets have had to use Bartolo Colon to get to Jeurys Familia. The bullpen bridge from the starters to the closer hasn’t been strong. The Mets’ bullpen is not as strong as Kansas City’s and that will undoubtedly come into play. If the Royals are winning by the sixth inning that will be difficult for the Mets to overcome.

Shutting down the Royals early: Much has been made of Kansas City’s speed, ability to put the ball into play, and, of course, hit the long ball. The Royals’ offense is more balanced than Chicago’s, and their hitters aren’t intimidated by the Mets’ hard throwers.

There other variables, such as adjusting on the fly to an injury; coming from behind, which they never had to do against the Cubs; dealing with poor weather and bad calls; how nerves will come into play; and what happens when a key player goes cold.

The Mets have been a team of resiliency all season. They need to be that way just four more times.

Oct 22

The Differences Between The Giants And Mets

I hope Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins took notes in Game 1, because the Giants have the blueprint the Mets should be following. So, in comparing the wild-card Giants to the Mets, there’s more than just a 3,000-mile difference:

Solid starting pitching: Madison Bumgarner was lights out, pitching quickly, and with command and composure. This is what the Mets expect from Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. The rap on Mets pitchers is an inability to put away a hitter and keep damage to a minimum. This especially applies to Jon Niese.

BUMGARNER: It always begins with pitching. (Getty)

BUMGARNER: It always begins with pitching. (Getty)

The game’s turning point came in the third inning when the Royals put runners on second and third with no out, but Bumgarner kept it together and got out of the inning with no damage. Bumgarner also helped himself by starting a double play to get out of the second.

I’m not saying Mets pitchers haven’t done the same, but not consistently.

Bumgarner threw 21 first-pitch strikes to the 26 hitters he faced for an incredible 81 percent efficiency. For all the new wave stats, first pitch strikes percentages are missing. In particular, this is something Wheeler – originally in the Giants’ organization – must refine his game.

Who is to say the Giants didn’t know this when they traded him to the Mets for Carlos Beltran?

Relief pitching: The bullpen has long been part of the Giants’ success, with the pitchers and how manager Bruce Bochy manages them. There’s nobody better.

Alderson has tried to build a pen since he came here, and this season is the closest he’s come. Now, it is up to Collins to slot in Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia in the right roles.

Aggressive base running/productive at-bats: The Royals’ speed drew considerable pre-Series attention, but the tone for the game was set in the first inning when the Giants executed what I consider one of the most exciting plays in baseball.

Gregor Blanco singled and tagged up and advanced on Joe Panik’s fly ball, making it a productive out. The dimensions at Citi Field are such that this is something the Mets should be more aware of doing.

So, instead of fooling around with the dimensions and moving in the fences, the Mets would be better off tailoring their offense with speed, aggressive base running and timely hitting to complement their young pitching.

In Game 1, the Giants were 5-for-12 with RISP, a situation in which the Mets are weak. Timely hitting begins with being patient and working the count. Last night, of the 43 hitters the Giants sent to the plate, 20 took a first-pitch ball or put the ball in play.

Management expertise: Bochy is the best manager in baseball. This is the fourth time he’s taken a team to the World Series, and win-or-lose, he’s worthy of the Hall of Fame.

He gives his players defined roles and they buy in. I can’t imagine Bochy fooling around by juggling Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada at shortstop, or with the myriad of left fielders.

It is Alderson’s responsibility to bring in the right players. The Giants bettered themselves with Jake Peavy and Hunter Pence; in recent years the Mets brought in Curtis Granderson and Frank Francisco.

Big difference.

Bochy once left Barry Zito off a playoff roster and put Tim Lincecum in the bullpen. There were no waves. Conversely, Matt Harvey, although it was determined he wouldn’t pitch this season, complained about where he would rehab and that he wanted to pitch this summer.

Neither Alderson nor Collins forcefully laid down the law with Harvey, and prior to that Jordany Valdespin. The Mets have had through the years a line of headaches such as Francisco Rodriguez and Ike Davis (complaining about going to the minor leagues and refusing to adjust his hitting approach).

I can’t imagine the Giants putting up with a non-productive player for as long as the Mets did with Davis.

The Mets also didn’t give Angel Pagan a legitimate chance in center field. He’s hurt now, but on a four-year contract with the Giants.

Sabean has been the Giants’ general manager since 1997. Conversely, Alderson is the fourth general manager have had in that span.

Of course, Sabean has been given ownership’s blessing to build the team as he sees fit. Alderson doesn’t have that leeway.

The Mets won 79 games this season, while San Francisco won 88. Nine more wins over six months doesn’t seem like much.

Let’s see if the Mets can close that gap.