Apr 19

Matt Harvey Ready To Go, Mets Starting Lineup

Matt Harvey doesn’t have to be reminded about tonight’s match-up with the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg.

Harvey has always been intense, and he gave manager Terry Collins a preview prior to batting practice.

“He was a little grouchy,’’ Collins said this afternoon. “He’s usually not quite that grouchy. When your manager walks up to you and the first thing you want to do is bite his head off, you’re a little bit on the edge.

“I tried to rein him down a little bit, because he’s sky-high at the moment. But I know he’s ready for it. I know he’s excited about it. He’s got a huge challenge on his hands.’’

Collins has an inkling how Harvey might respond tonight, and like everybody else in Citi Field tonight said he’s anxious because of the marquee match-up. Tonight is Harvey’s 14th major league start, so it is premature to be dusting off any shelves in Cooperstown.

However, there is an aura about him that prompts Collins to call him special.

“This is when the real good players step up,’’ Collins said. “He’s still a young, young player yet. And we have to understand what he’s accomplished thus far is certainly outstanding, but he’s still a young guy.’’

What Harvey has accomplished and what he wants to accomplish are two different things. Harvey doesn’t just want to be good, he wants to be the best.

“He wants to be the best that there is in the game,” Collins said. “The last time I ever heard someone say that was [Barry] Bonds. So it was a pretty big statement, I thought. All he’s done thus far is backed it up.’’

METS MUSINGS: Collins said Triple-A catcher Travis d’Arnaud won’t need surgery on his fractured left foot, but will be in a boot. Collins said d’Arnaud could be out for up to eight weeks.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against Strasburg:

Jordany Valdespin, CF: Making his sixth start as the leadoff hitter. Is batting .409 in that position.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Is tied for the NL lead with seven doubles and is tenth in average at .352.

David Wright, 3B: Is third in the league with 14 RBI, including ten in his last five games.

Ike Davis, 1B: Takes a .146 average and three RBI into the game.

John Buck, C: Hitting .300 with six homers and 19 RBI, but has only two hits in his last 13 at-bats.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has hit in four straight games, going 5-for-17 with six RBI.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Has hit in seven of his last nine games to raise average to .250. Leads the majors with six errors.

Matt Harvey, RHP: Was named NL Player of the Week for April 8-14.

Apr 19

Marquee Billing: Matt Harvey Against Stephen Strasburg

If Matt Harvey is as good as advertised, there will be many more nights like tonight, with him going against another’s ace.

The expectations of Harvey is he will become the anchor of the Mets’ rotation for years to come, picking up along the way a Cy Young Award or two, numerous All-Star appearances, and in the best case scenario, nights of glory in October.

HARVEY: Wants the ball.

HARVEY: Wants the ball.

Late October.

He will become this generation’s Tom Seaver; he will become Dwight Gooden without the fall.

Think Sandy Koufax and Juan Marichal. Don Drysdale and Bob Gibson. Jim Palmer against Denny McLain.

It would be fun if that unfolds, but before we get lost in the future, let’s appreciate the present, which is Harvey against Washington’s Stephen Strasburg.

It shouldn’t be lost tonight is more than a marquee pairing of franchise arms, but for the Mets the need to shake a three-game funk in which their rotation and bullpen were hammered by the Colorado Rockies.

Harvey has known of this for a week, and had a good four hours on a plane last night from Denver to contemplate tonight. Not only of the Nationals’ potent line-up, but the electricity in the stands about the duel and expectations of him being “the real deal,’’ and rescuing this summer.

The scouting report on Harvey is not only about his plus-stuff, but his demeanor and poise. Harvey is very much aware what awaits him tonight, and most importantly, relishes the moment. He has confidence without the cockiness.

“He knows exactly who he is facing,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters in Denver before the Mets lost their third straight game against the Rockies.

“He’s one of these guys who says, `I’ll take the next game.’ He knows what’s going on and who he is facing. … I know he will be ready.’’

Fifteen games into the season and already the Mets are facing a pivotal moment. If they lose tonight, Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee are up next, and who can’t envision three losses spiraling into six? Who can’t imagine the Mets losing control of their season before the kids are out of school for the summer?

Hey, with their bullpen and back end of the rotation, the Mets could lose their summer before the Kentucky Derby.

The Mets are 7-7, which honestly exceeded spring training expectations. However, the expectations are greater than competing for the playoffs, but instead striving for respectability and relevance. Catching the Braves and Nationals will be for another year.

Statistically, Harvey has three of the Mets’ victories with a microscopic 0.82 ERA. He has given up six hits and six walks with 25 strikeouts in 22 innings. And, he’s done it when the belief was he wouldn’t have given the Mets anything less.

Collins said Harvey covets the big stage. He wants the ball. And, when he gets it tonight, he’ll know what to do.

Apr 18

A Rocky Series Comes To End After 11-3 Mauling

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The road trip that began with a stumble in Philadelphia mercifully ended with a fall this afternoon in freezing Denver. The Mets left Citi Field at 4-2 and will arrive home tomorrow at 7-7. After losing two of three to the Phillies, the Mets won two in Minnesota in brutal conditions, then lost three games in Colorado, including today’s 11-3 mauling of Jon Niese, and of course, the bullpen.

ON THE MOUND:

Niese was not effective, and in his worst start of the season gave up three runs on nine hits and a walk in six innings. Technically, that’s a quality start, but Niese would agree that it was not. The Rockies ripped the Mets’ pen for six runs after two outs in the seventh. For the series, the bullpen gave up 18 runs on 22 hits in 11 innings.

AT THE PLATE:

David Wright went 2-for-3 with two RBI. The top three in the order, Jordany Valdespin, Daniel Murphy and Wright each had two hits. The Mets had eight total. … Ike Davis went 1-for-4 to raise his average to .146. No, they did not stop the game to give him the ball after the hit. … Since his grand slam last Friday in Minnesota, John Buck has gone 2-for-16.

METS MUSINGS:

Matt Harvey wasn’t around to watch the carnage as he took an early flight to New York in preparation for Friday’s start against the Washington Nationals.

Frank Francisco pitched a scoreless inning Wednesday night in a rehab assignment. There is no timetable for his return.

Terry Collins said not to expect any prospect be brought up soon.

Shaun Marcum threw 41 pitches today in an extended spring training game today in Port St. Lucie. He was scheduled to throw 65 pitches. Collins said Marcum must throw 90 pitches in five days, and then possibly another game before he’s activated. The Mets aren’t scheduled to need a fifth starter until April 27.

Lucas Duda did not play because of tightness in his back. The Mets wouldn’t say if he would be available Friday.

Lefty reliever Josh Edgin gave up two runs and has been hit for six in his last two appearances.

Triple-A catcher Travis d’Arnaud will be in New York Friday to have his broken left foot examined. GM Sandy Alderson said he doesn’t know if surgery will be required. That should be determined tomorrow.

ON DECK:

The Mets are home Friday to start a three-game series against Washington, beginning with the marquee match-up of Harvey against Stephen Strasburg.

Apr 17

Sanity Prevails: Mets And Rockies Bagged

Either sanity or winter prevailed as tonight’s Mets game at Denver was snowed out. It is the third game this week the Mets had postponed by winter weather.

The Rockies don’t want a doubleheader tomorrow, so their regularly scheduled afternoon game will be played with Jonathan Niese going against Jon Garland.

“It’s been odd,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters in Denver of this week’s postponements. “This is a game of consistency. This is a game of repetition. And when you lose those reps, you can change the outcome a lot and how things go. … This has been a tough trip for us. It really has been. Guys are tired of sitting at the hotel.’’

Collins said not playing the doubleheader is beneficial to the Mets in the short-term, although the team have to squeeze in a trip to Denver later this summer.

The Mets return home Friday against Washington and the marquee match-up of Matt Harvey against Stephen Strasburg.

Tonight’s starter, Jeremy Hefner, will be pushed back to Saturday against Gio Gonzalez, and Dillon Gee will face Jordan Zimmermann Sunday.

The way the Mets’ rotation plays out, they won’t need a fifth starter until April 27, when they host Philadelphia. That will give Shaun Marcum another ten days to get ready.

NOTE:  Reliever Frank Francisco is scheduled to throw an inning tonight for Single-A St. Lucie. Francisco underwent surgery in December to remove a bone spur in his right elbow.

Apr 10

Hefner Clobbered In Mets 7-3 Loss To Phillies

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The Philadelphia Phillies handed the Mets their first series loss of the season tonight as they pounded the Amazins’ by a score of 7-3 in a game that featured six home runs at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

Jeremy Hefner took the hill for the Mets and and for the second night in a row a Mets starting pitcher failed to get past the third inning. Hefner struggled right from the get-go surrendering five earned runs including home runs from Chase Utley and Dominic Brown. All of his offerings were up and in the hot zone and the Phillies made him pay dearly for it.

The bullpen was forced to deliver six innings of relief for the second night in a row and once again it was a mixed bag. Josh Edgin was nearly flawless, delivering two scoreless innings and striking out four in his sixth appearance of the season with a 1.59 ERA. He won’t last long at this pace. Scott Rice and Bobby Parnell also kept the Phillies off the board. LaTroy Hawkins was nailed for a two run homer and his ERA has now ballooned to 8.59 so far this season. He’s not missing any bats and hitters are feasting on him.

Lucas Duda had a coming out party with two home runs and a double and he’s getting his mojo back. He has his average up to .308 now and look is comfortable at the plate again. Good for him…

Jordany Valdespin is an absolute stud and made Terry Collins eat his words tonight with two more spectacular catches in centerfield that were jaw-dropping grabs.

On Opening Day, when Collins was asked why Valdespin didn’t win a starting job after arguably the best performance in spring training, he responded’ “We’re very concerned about Jordany’s outfield defense.” You may want to get your eyes examined, Skip…

Valdespin was a catalyst both on the field and at the plate where he banged out three hits while batting leadoff in his first start of the season. It was the first three-hit game of his career and they were all infield singles that relied on his blazing speed.

Did someone say John Buck? Man oh man, Buck is on one of the hottest hitters in baseball right now. He is unstoppable and at this point pitchers have got to be nuts for trying to get a fastball by him. His eyes expand as big as golf balls and he makes a meal out of them.

Buck hit his fifth homer of the season, matching what all the Mets catchers combined to hit last season.  I have no idea how long this hot-streak will last, but I’m buckled in and I’m enjoying the thrill ride.

Right now, the Mets have just two reliable pitchers in the rotation and it doesn’t look like there’s any urgency to fix the backend of the rotation. That spells doom for the bullpen who may become completely gassed before the end of the month.

When that happens, it will be a struggle to avoid a 90 loss season, and even the eventual debuts of Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud won’t keep that from happening. This team is in trouble and needs some real production from David Wright who has yet to homer, and Ike Davis who looks like a butcher at the plate. It’s not time to hit the panic button yet, but it’s certainly time to start passing around the life jackets just in case.

The Mets are off tomorrow and travel to Minnesota for a three-game weekend series that begins Friday night. Collins has got a lot of thinking to do tomorrow, and he may want to start by reconsidering some of his ill-advised lineup and roster choices.