Aug 29

Mets Today: Montero Starts Against Fish

How many crucial series can a team have in one season? I’ve lost track, but tonight starts another for the Mets, who’ll begin a four-game series with the Marlins.

The Mets go into the series two games above .500, and one game behind the Marlins in the wild-card race; two behind Pittsburgh; 2.5 games behind St. Louis and five behind San Francisco.

MONTERO: Tonight's starter for Mets. (AP)

MONTERO: Tonight’s starter for Mets. (AP)

Pitching was supposed to be the Mets’ strength this season, but you don’t hear too many people lately saying they should sign any of those arms to a long-term contract. The only arm considered to be a significant part of the Mets’ future that is starting in the series is Steven Matz, who’ll come off the disabled list Thursday.

Tonight the Mets will go with Rafael Montero (0-0, 11.57 ERA), up from Double-A; Seth Lugo (1-2, 2.91), who’ll be making his third start of the season; Bartolo Colon (12-7, 3.44) on Wednesday on short rest; and Matz (9-8, 3.40).

Matz, who will be coming off the DL with a mild shoulder strain, threw without discomfort Sunday.

Jose Fernandez (13-7, 2.91), Tom Koehler (9-9, 3.85), David Phelps (7-6, 2.52) and Jose Urena (2-5, 5.83) will start for the Marlins.

Fernandez is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts against the Mets.

Just as the Mets needed to win in St. Louis, they must win three of four against Miami. Splitting won’t do them much good, and if they lose three of four, or get swept, the ground might be too much for them to make up.

INJURY UPDATES: Three significant Mets are injured and might not play tonight. Asdrubal Cabrera (left knee), Yoenis Cespedes (right quad) and Neil Walker (lower back).

Meanwhile, the Marlins are without Giancarlo Stanton (25 homers) and Justin Bour (15 homers). However, the Marlins got Dee Gordon back from the suspended list, July 28, and he’s hitting .287 with nine steals.

The Marlins also got closer A.J. Ramos (fracture of right middle finger) back from the DL, Aug. 21.

ON DECK: Jose Reyes answers third base questions.

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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 18

Three Mets’ Storylines: Niese Rocked

Jon Niese’s return to the rotation turned out to be a tease for the Mets. Starting in place of Logan Verrett Wednesday night, Niese threw three scoreless innings before Arizona unloaded on him with three runs in the third and knocked him from the game the following inning.

Niese, making his first start in over a month (when he was with Pittsburgh), gave up homers to Yasmany Tomas and Rickie Weeks, in the third before he was chased in favor of Erik Goeddel in the fourth.

Niese gave up four runs on four hits in 4.2 innings, but struck out six in the 13-5 loss. Last week in New York, the Diamondbacks got to him for six runs in one inning.

With no imminent help coming up from Las Vegas or from the waiver wire, Niese will likely remain in the rotation.

OFFENSE DISAPPEARS … AGAIN: The Mets scored seven runs Tuesday, but after scratching out a run in the first did precious little.

The Mets produced only four hits.

Manager Terry Collins, in trying to “take something off his plate,’’ dropped Curtis Granderson to sixth, but was 1-for-4 with a meaningless homer in the ninth and two strikeouts.

The Mets expect Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera to be activated this weekend in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Michael Conforto, who the Mets seemingly have no intention of bringing up from Triple-A, is 12-for-18 in his last four games.

DOESN’T GET EASIER: After finishing their season series 1-5 against the Diamondbacks, the Mets are off to San Francisco for a four-game series then three in St. Louis.

The match-ups will be: Thursday, Jacob deGrom vs. Madison Bumgarner; Friday, Steven Matz vs. Johnny Cueto; Saturday, Bartolo Colon vs. Matt Moore; Sunday, Noah Syndergaard vs. Jeff Samardzija.

Sunday’s game was moved to the night.

Niese, deGrom and Matz are scheduled to start in St. Louis.

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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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Aug 12

What’s Your Confidence Level In Mets After Collins’ Rant

The key to a successful managerial rant and closed door meeting is to have a quality starter going next, but the Mets have Logan Verrett tonight against San Diego. Then again, Noah Syndergaard was supposed to turn things around Thursday.

COLLINS: Did he convince you things would change? (Getty)

COLLINS: Did he convince you things would change? (Getty)

Manager Terry Collins was correct in much of his assessment of his team but whiffed on a very important point: the topic of grinding out at-bats. Such nonsense. Collins said “this team has been about grinding out at-bats the past few years.”

Evidently, he hasn’t watched the same team I have been. With the exception of a few hitters, this team doesn’t grind out at-bats. Grinding out at-bats would entail drawing a few walks, but they are ninth in the National League with 342 walks. Conversely, they are fifth highest with 947 strikeouts.

And please, if I hear one more time things will get better once Yoenis Cespedes gets back I will scream. He can hit baseballs a long way, but he also strikes out too damn much. He might be the Mets’ least disciplined hitter.

To turn things around, the Mets must show signs of life, yet they haven’t won successive games since before the All-Star break. Collins went on about playing baseball “the right way,” but don’t you remember all those times in April and May when he said, almost with pride, “that this team doesn’t play small ball?”

Small ball is playing the game the right way. Small ball is recognizing the value of 27 outs and not giving away eight of them a game with strikeouts. A productive out should not be celebrated, but common place for a winning team. Advancing runners into scoring position is essential, but then again, the Mets are last in the majors hitting with a man in scoring position, so, does it really matter?

This is a team without an offensive clue, and that’s an organizational philosophy. Playing small ball is boring and not in line with the new-age sabremetrics favored by the architect of this team, GM Sandy Alderson, who cares about home runs and doesn’t give strikeouts anything more than a passing glance.

Defensively, there’s little range and players are out of position.

On the mound, the Mets’ rotation – once touted as the best in baseball – is a house of cards. Jacob deGrom and Bartolo Colon are the only reliable starters. Syndergaard and Steven Matz have struggled with bone spurs and if the Mets fall behind any further, consideration should be made to shut them down.

There’s been a long list of injuries, but every team has injuries. The Dodgers don’t have Clayton Kershaw and the Cardinals went without Matt Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Stephen Strasburg went on Washington’s DL, but catching the Nationals won’t happen. Didn’t the Marlins lose Giancarlo Stanton for awhile?

Championship caliber teams overcome and the Mets don’t. James Loney has helped and so has Kelly Johnson, but Jose Reyes was never the answer, Reyes was a grasp at the past in the hope of forgetting the present. They waited too long before going after Jay Bruce.

Collins promised us that starting today, with Verrett, the Mets were “going after it.”

Collins has promised a lot of things. He promised Michael Conforto would bat third, hit against lefties and play every day. Then he promised he would play in center. Collins promised regular at-bats for Wilmer Flores. He promised he would care for the rotation, but aren’t you waiting for Syndergaard and Matz to pack it in for the year like Matt Harvey?

The Mets were supposed to have an easy second-half schedule, but August will see them in San Francisco and St. Louis, before the get another crack at Miami and Washington.

Collins ranted a good game Thursday, but in the end did nothing to raise my confidence in this team. How about you?

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