May 02

Mets Wrap: Colon Superb Again

I understand where Terry Collins was coming from, but personally, unless Bartolo Colon was injured, I would have liked to have seen him go after the shutout. Colon retired 16 of the last 17 hitters he faced and threw just 99 pitches in the Mets’ 4-1 victory over Atlanta.

Colon retired 16 of the last 17 hitters he faced and threw just 99 pitches. With the bullpen not taxed and Colon’s pitch count reasonable, what was Collins thinking?

“We thought about it,” Collins told reporters why he pulled Colon. “He’s got to come back in four days and he’s not the youngest pitcher on our staff. … We decided going in 100 would be his limit.”

I wanted Colon to get the shutout, but going into the season I wrote how I wanted Collins to stay true to his pre-game judgments.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #24 Record: 16-8  Streak: W 1

 SUMMARY: David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda homered in the first to back the strong pitching of Colon, who threw eight scoreless innings to earn his 220th career victory. With the win Colon passed Pedro Martinez to move into second place for victories by a Dominican-born pitcher. Hall of Famer Juan Marichal is first with 243.

KEY MOMENT: The first inning.

THUMBS UP: Colon struck out seven, gave up seven hits and didn’t walk a hitter. … Asdrubal Cabrera continues to play a stellar shortstop and added two hits. … Two hits by Wright, including his first homer this year at Citi Field. … Michael Conforto rebounded from Sunday’s 0-for-5 against the Giants by going 1-for-4.

THUMBS DOWN: Not much.

 EXTRA INNINGS: Travis d’Arnaud’s brother, Chase, appeared in the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and singled to right. … This was the first game this season that the Mets didn’t use as many as three pitchers.

QUOTEBOOK: “This lineup is deep and it can be dangerous,” – Wright on the Mets’ lineup.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5: Times the Mets have hit back-to-back homers this year. Cespedes and Duda have done it twice, and Duda was involved four times.

NEXT FOR METS: Tomorrow: Matt Harvey (2-3, 4.76) starts against Atlanta’s Matt Wisler (0-2, 4.26); Wednesday, Steve Matz (3-1, 3.86) vs. Jhoulys Chacin (1-1, 3.27).

 

May 01

Mets Wrap: Is Running On Syndergaard A Big Deal?

Like a shark senses blood in the water, a team will jump all over a pitcher when it detects a weakness, especially when it’s somebody such as the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard, who doesn’t have many.

The book on Syndergaard is you can run on him. No, make that you can run all over him – that is, if you can get on base.

SYNDERGAAARD: You can run on him. (AP)

SYNDERGAAARD: You can run on him. (AP)

Runners have been successful in all ten of their stolen base attempts against Syndergaard, but what the Mets have to figure out is if it is a big deal or something they can live with.

The Giants’ running game resulted in four runs in San Francisco’s 6-1 victory Sunday over the Mets.

“We have to do a better job of holding runners,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters. “He can’t be that slow to the plate. He can’t be that deliberate. What I don’t want is to get him out of sync.’’

Scoreless going into the fourth, the Giants had runners on the corners with one our following singles by Matt Duffy and Buster Posey. With the count full, Giants manager Bruce Bochy sent Posey to stay out of the double play, which undoubtedly would have been the case on Brandon Belt’s hard-hit ball to second.

So, instead of being out of the inning with no runs, the Giants scratched out a manufactured run, and Hunter Pence followed with a two-run homer.

The Giants eked out another run off Syndergaard in the sixth when Duffy singled and stole second. After a walk to Belt chased Syndergaard in favor of Hansel Robles. Pence followed with a RBI single to pad Madison Bumgarner’s lead.

Syndergaard allowed three steals Sunday – the Giants stole four overall – and five in his previous start against Cincinnati. In his short 15-start career, runners have stolen 27 bases in 29 attempts.

Collins said Syndergaard could incorporate a slide-step to the plate, which is harder for runners to time. The downside is a possible loss in velocity, or worse.

“You don’t want him to lose command,’’ Collins said.

Another downside of a slide step is it could force Syndergaard to tip his pitches, telling the hitter a fastball is coming.

As it is, if a runner gets on against Syndergaard, especially a speed guy leading off an inning, it’s almost a sure double.

Syndergaard is a rising star, but his Achilles Heel is not being able to hold runners. It hurt him Sunday, and will continue to do so in games in which he doesn’t have his best stuff or when the Mets don’t hit.

It’s a flaw that can be corrected, but pitching coach Dan Warthen isn’t likely to make any major mechanical adjustments during the season. This is something the Mets will work on with Syndergaard during spring training.

Or, they could decide Syndergaard is pretty good now the way he is and don’t want to mess with him.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #23 Record: 15-8  Streak: L 1

SUMMARY: Bumgarner outpitched Syndergaard in a dynamic pitching matchup and was backed by Pence’s three RBI.

KEY MOMENT: By sending the runner to stay out of what would have been an inning-ending double play, the Giants scored a scratch run and set up Pence’s homer.

THUMBS UP: Two hits from Juan Lagares, David Wright and Neil Walker. … It was Curtis Granderson Socks Day, so we don’t have to see any more of those commercials.

THUMBS DOWN: Two runs against the bullpen, including Posey’s homer off Logan Verrett. … Syndergaard threw 98 pitches in 5.2 innings. … The Mets left 12 runners.

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets’ winning streak was snapped at eight, but they have won five straight series. … Granderson and Lucas Duda sat against Bumgarner. Duda appeared in the eighth as a pinch-hitter for Eric Campbell and grounded into a force out. Granderson also appeared in the game and struck out. … Michael Conforto’s streak of reaching base ended as 17 straight games, also ending a stretch of hitting a double in six consecutive games.

QUOTEBOOK: “He’ll be all right. There will be days like this.’’ – Collins on Conforto going 0-for-5.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0.62: Bumgarner’s career ERA at Citi Field.

PUT A CLOCK ON IT: A pitching coach or manager has 30 seconds from the time he steps out of the dugout to deliver his message and leave the field. Yet, instant replays drag on. There were two replays Sunday, both over a minute.

TOMORROW’S STARTER: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 3.42) goes against the Braves, who have not named their starter. Colon is 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts against the Braves.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets close the homestand with three games against the Braves, whom they swept last weekend in Atlanta. After Colon, Matt Harvey (2-3, 4.76 ERA) and Steven Matz (3-1, 3.86) will go for the Mets.

Apr 30

Mets Wrap: Conforto Stars Again

Just cut in out SNY. We all know Michael Conforto is on fire, and Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are superstars and have been for several years. So, after another big outing from Conforto – three hits and three RBI – in the 77th game of his career on Saturday, SNY compared him to Trout and Harper at a similar stage of his career.

CONFORTO: Comparisons already being made. (AP)

CONFORTO: Comparisons already being made. (AP)

Why, 77 games isn’t even half of season. Also ridiculous was The Post comparing him to Barry Bonds in a headline.

Can we just let him play?

Manager Terry Collins was asked after the Mets’ 6-5 victory over San Francisco whether Conforto was a surprise to opposing pitchers or was just good?

“If he’d just ben called up, I’d say [they] don’t know him,” Collins told reporters. “But, he’s played in the World Series. They know him. `He’s going to be a really good hitter. Some guys are outstanding players, I don’t care what level you put them at, they adjust. He’s adjusted. He’s going to be a force.”

He’s already there. I’m not saying he’s Trout or Harper, but when the Nationals come to town in a little over two weeks, there will be a lot of Harper-Conforto talk. Maybe SNY was getting a head start.

Conforto ended April on a tear by reaching base for the 17th straight game and hitting a double in his sixth consecutive game. He also hit his fourth homer and finished the month hitting .365 with four homers and a .442 on-base percentage.

“`It’s been a lot of fun,” Conforto said earlier this week. “I just have to keep an even keel to things and not ride the roller coaster.”

That means letting him continue to grow and resist the temptation of making comparisons.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #22 Record: 15-7  Streak: W 8

SUMMARY: Jacob deGrom pitched through a rocky start, and backed by homers from Michael Conforto and Wilmer Flores, he hung in to win his third game. DeGrom had a 4-0 lead entering the third, but Flores’ throwing error led to three unearned runs.

KEY MOMENT: After pulverizing the Giants for 13 runs, including a club-record 12 in the third inning, the Mets immediately jumped on Matt Cain with two runs in the first. They scored two more in the second to give deGrom the cushion needed to hold on.

THUMBS UP: Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera turned a nifty 4-6-3 double play in the ninth. … Flores homered. … Three hits and three RBI by Conforto and two more RBI from Neil Walker. … Jerry Blevins relieved Hansel Robles and retired Gregor Blanco to end the eighth with the tying run in scoring position. … Lucas Duda came off the bag to save Flores from another error in the ninth. … Jeurys Familia saved his eighth game. … Curtis Granderson robbed Brandon Crawford with a run-saving catch in the eighth.

THUMBS DOWN: Cain hit Rene Rivera and Cabrera with pitches in the second. … Flores’ error. … DeGrom walked four. … Mets pitchers walked seven overall. … The bullpen gave up two runs.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright had the game off. Who didn’t think of Wright being beaned by Cain in 2009 when the Giants’ pitcher plunked Rivera?

QUOTEBOOK: “It’s impressive what he’s doing. He played in big games for us last year and he’s picked up this year.’’ – DeGrom on watching Conforto.

BY THE NUMBERS: 33: Homers hit by the Mets in April to tie a club record.

NEXT FOR METS: The finale Sunday pits Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64) starts against Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69).

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Apr 29

Mets Wrap: Historic Third Inning Carries Matz

We can debate the merits of hitting home runs – which manager Terry Collins labels is his team – or if is better to string together hits and walks.

CESPEDES: Connects for slam. (AP)

CESPEDES: Connects for slam. (AP)

The Mets kept the line moving in the third, scoring eight runs before Yoenis Cespedes capped their 12-run third inning, the largest in franchise history, with a grand slam in a 13-1 rout of the San Francisco Giants.

While both attacks have their upside, what has also been essential to the Mets’ April success has been the consistency of their batting order. In previous seasons rarely did the Mets go back-to-back in consecutive games with the same order.

It wouldn’t be unusual for them to have six different lineups in a week. Not this year. So far, in 21 games the Mets started the following:

No. 1: Curtis Granderson, 20 games.

No. 2: David Wright, 17 games.

No. 3: Michael Conforto: 13 games.

No. 4: Lucas Duda: 11 games.

No. 5: Neil Walker: 13 games.

No. 6: Conforto and Walker: 7 games each.

No. 7: Asdrubal Cabrera: 13 games.

No. 8: Travis d’Arnaud: 8 games.

No. 9: Pitcher: 21 games.

“A lot of good things are happening right now,” Collins told reporters. “I like our lineup.”

Cespedes has been the No. 3 hitter eight times, but that changed after Conforto was moved to the third spot. Cespedes has also been the cleanup seven times. As the season progresses, Cespedes will get the lion’s share of starts hitting cleanup, with Duda batting more in the fifth spot and Walker hitting sixth.

“He’s a great player,” Collins said of Cespedes. “He takes the pressure off everybody.”

When an offense juggles its lineup on a regular basis there’s little chance to develop consistency. However, so far this April you can see where Collins has benefitted with a steady batting order.

Such things are conducive to hitting tears and winning streaks, such as the Mets are on now.

METS GAME WRAP

 Game: #21 Record: 14-7 Streak: W 7

 SUMMARY: Steven Matz pitched out of early trouble, which seemed like a big deal at the time, but it was dwarfed by the Mets’ 12-run third inning, the largest in the 55-year history of the franchise.

KEY MOMENT: The Giants had chances in the first and third to do damage against Matz, who pitched out of it and coasted for six scoreless innings.

 THUMBS UP: Cespedes drove in six runs in the third with a two-run single and grand slam. … Two more hits by Conforto. … Also two hits by Cespedes, Walker and Cabrera. … More solid relief pitching. … They were 9-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

THUMBS DOWN: Why was David Wright still in the game with the Mets having a 13-1 lead in the seventh? Why did he play all nine innings on a cold and damp night? He should have been taken out after the third. Collins said he didn’t consider pulling Wright, saying he wanted to get him at-bats against Giants’ lefty relievers Steven Okert and Javier Lopez in preparation to facing Madison Bumgarner Sunday. … Even so, Wilmer Flores needed to play somewhere. … Mets pitchers walked six. … As long as the Mets count pitches, it will be an issue: Matz has to do better than throwing 110 pitches in six innings.

EXTRA INNINGS: Cespedes has at least one extra-base hit in nine straight games. … Matz is 7-1 lifetime in his short career. … Friday’s game was the first of 17 straight without an off day. … The Mets have hit 31 homers in April. The club record is 33 in 2006. … Conforto has reached base in 16 straight games. … The bullpen has given up three runs in the last seven games.

QUOTEBOOK: “We were not missing the mistake pitches and were having fun out there. When we’re having fun, it’s easy.’’ – Conforto on the Mets’ historic third inning.

BY THE NUMBERS: 45: Duration of the Mets’ 12-run third inning in minutes. Fifteen Mets went to the plate.

NEXT FOR METS: The second game of this series is Saturday afternoon, with the Giants’ Matt Cain (0-2, 6.43) going against Jacob deGrom (2-0, 1.54). On Sunday, Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64) starts against Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69).

 

Apr 27

Mets Wrap: Harvey Takes Step Forward In Best Start Of Year

We are in the age of pitch counts and Matt Harvey continues to labor in that area for the Mets. However, this time he did what good pitchers must do, which is to minimize the damage and parlayed that into a 5-2 victory Wednesday night over Cincinnati.

HARVEY: Did what he had to do. (AP)

HARVEY: Did what he had to do. (AP)

Harvey stranded runners in scoring position in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings in making by far his best start of the season.

The Reds had a run in and a runner in scoring position in the first, but Harvey struck out the next two hitters. Harvey was also in a bases-loaded-one, one-out jam in the third, but he struck out Eugenio Suarez and got a sparkling defense play from Neil Walker to save him at least two runs.

Harvey entered the game with hitters batting over .500 against him with runners in scoring position, but the Reds couldn’t break through despite the constant threatening. This is what winning pitchers do.

Harvey’s moment of truth came in the fifth when the Reds pulled within 3-2 and had runners on the corners. Harvey got out of it by getting Devin Mesoraco to ground into a 6-4-3 double-play to end the inning.

Harvey got the double play on his 88th pitch of the game and that raises an issue.

In his first three starts – all losses – Harvey made it through the sixth only once, but threw 83, 95 and 86 pitches. Harvey won his fourth start, but needed 101 pitches to work just five innings.

The Mets had to like Harvey’s ability to escape, but they – and the pitcher – can’t be happy with his high pitch counts and inability to go deep into games. Harvey finished with a flourish, setting the Reds down 1-2-3 in the sixth, ending the inning with his seventh strikeout on his 102nd pitch.

Overall, this was a positive step forward by Harvey. The pitcher Harvey wants to be realizes 102 pitches is too many for six innings. That many should get him through the eighth and into the ninth.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #20   Record: 13-7 Streak: W 6

SUMMARY: Harvey needed a scintillating defensive play by Neil Walker to save him a couple of runs and a homer from the second baseman to drive in what proved to be the game-winning run.

KEY MOMENT: Cincinnati had a run in on Zack Cozart’s homer leading off the game, and later had a runner on second with one out and were poised to do some serious damage, but Harvey regrouped to strike out Eugenio Suarez and Mesoraco to end the threat.

THUMBS UP: How can you not love Alejandro De Aza tagging up and taking second on a fly out in the first? It resulted in the Mets getting two runs. … After making a diving stop of Mesoraco’s liner to end the third and save a couple of runs for Harvey, Walker homered in the bottom of the third. … Michael Conforto’s two-run double in the sixth. … Another strong inning in relief by Jim Henderson with two more strikeouts.

THUMBS DOWN: Harvey’s high pitch count limited him to six innings. … Errors by Lucas Duda and Walker. … Only five hits by Mets’ hitters.

EXTRA INNINGS: Yoenis Cespedes got another night off after telling Collins his right leg was still sore. … With the victory, the Mets are now 5-4 at home. … Harvey is 3-0 in five career starts against the Reds. … In case you were wondering, Philadelphia beat Washington to cut the Nationals’ lead in the NL East to one game.

QUOTEBOOK:  “Sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut.” – Walker explaining his power surge.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9: Homers by Walker in April to tie a club record. He’s tied with Bryce Harper for the NL lead.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets are off Thursday and open a three-game series Friday against the Giants at Citi Field. … The starters are: Friday, Jake Peavey (1-1, 6.86) vs. Steven Matz (2-1, 5.40); Saturday, Matt Cain (0-2, 6.43) vs. Jacob deGrom (2-0, 1.54); and Sunday, Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64) vs. Noah Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69).