Aug 26

Three Mets’ Storylines: Lovin’ Colon Again

Once again Bartolo Colon gave us another night for us to cherish all he gives us. The 43-year-old Colon backed seven strong innings with his offensive prowess, getting two hits and scoring a couple of runs to help the Mets roll the Phillies Friday night.

COLON: Does it again. (AP)

    COLON: Does it again. (AP)

As he usually does, Colon picked up the Mets when they needed him most. He’s 6-1 starting after a loss. But after Jon Niese left after getting just one out this week in St. Louis, and Steven Matz on the DL and the Mets about to push back or skip Jacob deGrom for his next start Monday, the Mets needed Colon to preserve the bullpen.

“The bullpen needed a blow,”  manager Terry Collins said.

The season started for the Mets with the storyline of those young arms and Colon until Zack Wheeler could come off the disabled list. Then Colon, as he did last year, would enter the bullpen. As it has turned out, Colon is the ace of this staff. With the 9-4 victory, Colon won his team-high 12th game and 230th of his career to lead active pitchers. It was also his 20th win in his four years with the Mets.

Not bad for somebody the Mets signed in the winter of 2013 as a stopgap when Matt Harvey was injured. His next start is Wednesday against Miami.

Colon was the Mets’ top storyline on the night, followed by their mashing and the continued struggles of Jay Bruce.

MORE FLEXING: For the tenth time this season – and the second time in their history to start a game – the Mets went back-to-back. This time Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera connected off Adam Morgan.

The homer was Reyes’ 415th as a Met to tie him for fourth on the franchise list with Mike Piazza.

Wilmer Flores broke the game, 6-1, with a grand slam in the fifth. Cabrera hit his second homer – a two-run drive – that made it 9-1 in the sixth.

With right-handers scheduled to start the next two games for the Phillies, there’s no reason to believe Collins will deviate and start him. Flores has 14 homers and 44 RBI this season.

But, Flores will never learn to get comfortable against right-handed pitching until he faces more of it. The numbers indicate Flores has more at-bats against right-handers, but that stands to reason as there are far more right-handed pitchers.

STILL LIKE BRUCE TRADE: Bruce – dropped to sixth in the order – continued his horrid play, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.

In 22 games since coming over to the Mets from Cincinnati, Bruce is 13-for-81 (.160) with two homers and six RBI.

Even so, I still like the trade for several reasons, the first being the Mets are trying to reach the playoffs, and at the time of the deal Yoenis Cespedes was gimpy and Curtis Granderson in a terrible slump (he still is).

Also part of their reasoning was to be a safety net if Cespedes opts out. Cespedes said this week he wants to stay with the Mets but isn’t sure.

Although he’s not hitting now, he has 34 games remaining to catch fire. Nobody knows what will happen next year, but as long as the Mets are in it, Bruce can eventually help them. He’s too good a hitter (27 homers and 86 RBI) not to.

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Aug 26

Why Can’t Collins And Alderson Get Together On A DeGrom Plan?

Why does it take so long for the Mets to make even the simplest decisions? The latest is whether to rest Jacob deGrom after he was roughed up Wednesday night in St. Louis.

“To me, it looks like he’s getting run down,” manager Terry Collins said after deGrom was hammered for the second straight start. In his last two games deGrom has given up a combined 13 runs on 25 hits in 9.2 innings.

DE GROM: Needs rest. (AP)

DE GROM: Needs rest. (AP)

The Cardinals got him for five runs on 12 hits in 4.2 innings. The start before that the Giants hit him for eight runs on 13 hits in five innings.

Collins suggested deGrom could be tired after the Giants’ game, and several times this season attributed the stamina of his starters to their 2015 workload. That was eight days ago, and according to Collins in today’s press briefing, he still hasn’t spoken with GM Sandy Alderson about resting deGrom, which suggests two things.

The first is Collins doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally decide how to use his pitchers. Does he really need Alderson’s permission to push deGrom back a few days or even skip a turn? Do you think Joe Torre needed to talk with Brian Cashman before resting Andy Pettitte?

The second is there’s a lack of communication between Collins and Alderson, which represents a disconnect between the two I’ve suggested several times already this season.

In the two days since deGrom was ripped, couldn’t Collins have picked up the phone to call Alderson to tell him what he was thinking? Or, after reading Collins’ thoughts the next day, couldn’t Alderson have phoned his manager?

Why must there need to be a face-to-face meeting?

If Collins believes deGrom needs to miss a turn, then just do it and stop making this a daily soap opera. How hard can that be?

If Collins tells Alderson “we need to skip deGrom,” then it’s up to the general manager to provide the manager a starter.

The Mets took nearly a month before deciding to put Yoenis Cespedes on the disabled list? They took several weeks before putting Steven Matz on the disabled list? They’ve also dragged their feet on Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto and a handful of other issues.

There are 35 games remaining in a season that his slipping away. Sure, you hate to lose a deGrom start, but it’s preferable to miss one now than risk getting him hurt and missing several.

It’s not all that hard. Just make a decision.

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Aug 23

Mets’ Three Storylines: Niese Injured; Bullpen Picks Up Team

The Mets gambled and lost with Jon Niese, but somehow managed to win a game that easily could have gone the other way.

GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins knew Niese had a sore left knee, but started him anyway in hope of getting as much as they could.

GSELLMAN: Saves day. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Saves day. (AP)

They got one-third of an inning.

Niese worked to four hitters – with three reaching base and eventually scoring – before leaving the game.

“After [Niese] walked the first hitter, you could tell something was wrong with him,” Collins said.

With Steven Matz going on the disabled list and Collins not wanting to move Jacob deGrom up a day, the Mets pushed the envelope.

Collins said he doesn’t expect Niese to make his next start and will likely end up on the disabled list. That start could end up going to Robert Gsellman, who came up from Triple-A Las Vegas and pitched 3.2 innings in long relief in his major league debut and got the win in the Mets’ 7-4 victory over the Cardinals.

With the victory the Mets moved to within 3.5 games of St. Louis for second wild card. The victory gave the Mets their first three-game winning streak since the first week

The other two storylines were the bullpen and production from unexpected sources.

BULLPEN STELLAR: The Mets got 8.2 innings from the pen, which means deGrom needs to go deep Wednesday night.

“They told me to be ready and I was,” Gsellman told reporters.

In addition to Gsellman’s 3.2 scoreless innings, the Met got two innings from Josh Smoker; one-third of an inning from Jerry Blevins; two-thirds of an inning from Jim Henderson; and an inning each from Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia.

Henderson entered the game with two on and one out in the seventh, he got the final two outs, including striking out Jedd Gyorko to end the inning.

Reed also had two runners on against him in the eighth, but got Matt Carpenter on a fly to center.

THE UNEXPECTED: If the Mets are going to sneak in, they’ll need production from the unexpected, and that’s what they got.

It started with Wilmer Flores’ three-run homer in the first, and then Justin Ruggiano homered in the fourth.

Overall, the Mets collected 12 hits, with eight by their first three hitters, Jose Reyes (three hits, three runs scored); Asdrubal Cabrera (three hits) and Yoenis Cespedes (two hits).

The Mets also got a run-saving play from Cabrera to end the fourth, and a homer-robbing catch from Cespedes off Stephen Piscotty’s long fly in the sixth.

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Aug 17

Has Syndergaard Turned The Corner?

UPDATED: Adding quotes by Syndergaard and Collins.

For awhile last night it appeared Noah Syndergaard turned the corner and all would be right with the Mets again. However, as has been his pattern, he ran into the wall otherwise known as the sixth inning and was haunted by familiar ghosts.

I won’t go into the bone spur issue because when you live in a 98 mph., neighborhood, your arm has to be sound. Stolen bases are a problem – the Diamondbacks had four more Tuesday night and nine in his two starts against them – but one he should eventually solve with his experience.

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

The main issue with Syndergaard has been his pitch-count efficiency and inability to put away a hitter or shut down an inning. It’s why he doesn’t give the Mets the number of innings he should considering the number of pitches he throws.

Of his 23 starts, he has gone at least seven innings only nine times. Only twice did he venture into the eighth inning. Twice.

Last night he cruised through five innings and was good as advertised but unraveled in the sixth. Yes, he was hamstrung by T.J. Rivera‘s defense, but when you’re supposed to be an ace, you must find a way to get out of the inning. The Mets survived the inning, but not Syndergaard.

This is not what you’d expect from somebody deemed an ace, much less a Super Hero.

Roughly one of four pitches he throws is fouled off, meaning he’s not putting away hitters. He averages over a strikeout an inning, but only four times has he reached double-digits in strikeouts, the last being June 15 against Pittsburgh.

Double-digit strikeout games signify going deep into games. Syndergaard went deep with a two-run homer in the fifth but was done an inning later. He expects more of himself.

From how he overpowered the Diamondbacks early in the game, his final line of four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings was a disappointment despite going to 10-7 in the Mets’ 7-5 victory. Also discouraging was he threw 106 pitches.

Syndergaard took a six-run lead into the sixth. He should have coasted the way he did against Pittsburgh and the Cubs on July 3, his last win before last night. He went into the eighth in those games.

Jake Lamb reached on Rivera’s error and moved to second on a wild pitch. Syndergaard struck out Yasmany Tomas, but gave up a single to Wellington Castillo and two-run triple to Mitch Haniger. A second error by Rivera let in another run. After an infield single, Syndergaard left in favor of Jerry Blevins and the last image of him was throwing his glove in anger in the dugout.

Sure, blame the inning on Rivera, but it’s up to the pitcher to overcome disaster and put away the next hitter, something Syndergaard didn’t do. With his mounting pitch count manager Terry Collins didn’t have the confidence to let him finish the inning.

When Syndergaard cruised early in the game, he challenged hitters inside, his command was sharp and his curveball had bite. All encouraging signs.

“In the middle innings I thought he threw the ball great,” Collins said. “When he commanded his fastball in the right spots they weren’t able to do much against him.”

But, he couldn’t sustain. Whenever he loses it quickly, it raises the question about the bone spur. The Mets believe – and Syndergaard concurs – this is a pain tolerance issue. The spur is something that should be dealt with by surgery in the offseason as it will be with Steven Matz.

“My arm felt great,” Syndergaard said. “I was fluid in my delivery. I felt it was a step in the right direction.;;

There are games, like those against the Pirates and Cubs – and for five innings last night – where he dominates and pitches to the ace-like levels of Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver. But, he’s not there yet on a consistent basis.

The elbow spur bothers me, and I’m sure it bothers Syndergaard more than he lets on. Of his last seven starts he reached the sixth three times before being pulled. Is it the spur or did hitters catch up to him?

Before last night, Syndergaard had four losses and two no-decisions in his previous six starts. In looking for an explanation for what’s happening one thing surfaces.

This is Syndergaard’s first full season and there are growing pains. His fastball averages 98 and his changeup averages 89, but there’s more to pitching than throwing hard. Just because he throws lightning and is built like a linebacker doesn’t mean he’s automatically Don Drysdale.

Syndergaard is ahead of most with his experience level, but not where he envisions himself. He needs more polish. He must learn to take something off his pitches; to reach back for the 100 mph., heater when he needs it, not with every pitch.

The bone spur is an issue, but one surgery should resolve. The real problem with Syndergaard is the expectations are exceedingly high from the Mets, his teammates, the media, and the fans. Everybody expects more of him – including the pitcher himself – than he is capable of giving.

Too many expect him to be the second Seaver instead of letting him develop into the first Syndergaard. He is still growing. He’s not the force he expects of himself to be.

Not yet, anyway.

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Aug 14

Three Mets’ Storylines: Is Bone Spur Issue Over For Matz?

The Mets didn’t get their first no-hitter until their 51st season. It was too much to ask for Steven Matz to give them their second four years later.

Matz took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Alexi Ramirez lined his 105th of the game into right field. Mets manager Terry Collins jumped out of the dugout as if launched by a spring to answer the question that had been on everybody’s mind.

MATZ: Is spur issue over? (AP)

MATZ: Is spur issue over? (AP)

“I wasn’t going to visit the Johan Santana scenario again, I can tell you that,” said Collins revisiting the night of June 1, 2012, when he allowed the veteran left-hander to stay in to throw 134 pitches in the franchise’s only no-hitter.

Santana, who was coming off shoulder surgery, pitched a few good games later that season, but was never the same.

To this day, Collins regrets letting Santana stay in, and he would later say: “It was without a doubt, the worst night I’ve ever spent in baseball.”

Santana was a veteran, but Matz was making just his 28th career start. This is his first full season in the majors. Collins compared the two through the prism of his baseball roots.

“I can’t get away from my background in player development,” Collins said. “I can see the big picture. I wasn’t going to jeopardize his career for one game.”

The big picture includes that Matz has pitched with a bone spur that will require surgery this off-season. There was speculation he might be shut down for the season. However, he’s been superb in his last two starts.

Even had Matz pitched a no-hitter, perhaps the most important thing coming out of the day is he might be past that issue. Matz threw 105 pitches in beating San Diego, 5-1, Sunday; he threw a career high 120 pitches earlier in the week in a 5-3 loss to Arizona.

“I think it has been out of my mind for awhile,” Matz said of the bone spur. “It has been since I decided to pitch with it. … My arm has been feeling great. I’ve had no problems.”

Matz thanked Collins for letting him stay in for 120 pitches against Arizona.

“I think it’s good when you get deep into games,” he said. “You have to have better command of your pitches when you’re not throwing as hard.”

Matz was the story of the day. The other storylines was the offense and the upcoming schedule.

TACK ON RUNS: The Mets first got on the board with homers from Wilmer Flores and Neil Walker, but more impressive were three manufactured runs in the eighth inning.

In the epitome of a manufactured run, Jose Reyes singled, stole second and went to third on the catcher’s throw into center, and scored on a wild pitch.

They added two more on T.J. Rivera’s two-run double.

The late runs enabled Collins to by-pass Jeurys Familia because it wasn’t a save situation, thereby keeping him fresh for Monday.

THE SCHEDULE: After being swept by Arizona, the Mets have won two of three since Collins’ post-game rant to finish the homestand 2-4. They two victories marked the first time they won back-to-back games since before the All-Star break.

The Mets begin an 11-game road trip Monday in Arizona, with three games against the Diamondbacks, four with the Giants and three in St. Louis.

With the victory the Mets moved one game over .500 and are two games behind the second wild card spot. The Dodgers, Marlins, Cardinals and Pirates are ahead of them.

There have been several times this season when Collins looked ahead at a portion of the Mets’ schedule and defined it as vital. He made no such proclamation before this time.

He didn’t have to.

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