Aug 11

Three Mets’ Storylines: Loss Sets Up Vital Syndergaard Start

At 23, the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard has pitched in the World Series. However, it might not be a stretch to say Thursday’s start might be one of the most important of his young career.

Seriously.

SYNDERGAARD: Faces big start. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Faces big start. (Getty)

After losing two straight games to the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team with the 26th worst record in the major leagues, the Mets are a team struggling to keep from going into a freefall.

Oscar Hernandez’s homer off reliever Jerry Blevins in the 12th inning was the difference in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Diamondbacks to drop the Mets to one game over .500.

This time last year the Mets were vibrant and a team on the rise. There were so many moments when they lifted themselves off the ropes on their drive to the World Series.

“We’ve been through these tough times before,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “But, we’re not coming through like we did a year ago.”

Collins was then asked if he thought the Mets expect to regroup simply because they did so last season.

“I hope not,” Collins said. “You’re not given anything up here. … This is the major leagues. Tonight is over. We have to come back tomorrow. We have to get ready for tomorrow because today is done.”

The seriousness of the Mets’ situation was the most significant storyline of the night. The other two were Kelly Johnson’s big swing in the ninth and another strong outing from Bartolo Colon.

JOHNSON DELIVERS: There might not be a more distinctive sound in sports than the crack of the bat. The Mets had to wait until the ninth before hearing it Wednesday, when Johnson – hitting for Ty Kelly – launched a Jake Barrett deep into the upper deck for a game-tying home run.

Until Johnson unloaded, the Mets’ offense had been silenced, limited to just three singles. With one out, Alejandro De Aza walked to set up Johnson.

Johnson hit homers last week in back-to-back games at the Yankees and Detroit. In fact, he had hits in five straight games, Aug. 3-7, and then was sent to the bench, again.

Sure, I get wanting a bat coming off the bench, but with the way this offense is going, don’t you want that potential three or four times a game?

COLON SUPERB AGAIN: Colon made his second straight strong start, giving up one run in seven innings. He struck out a season-high eight while throwing 110 pitches. Of course, most of them were fastballs, perfectly placed.

A key moment in the game could have been in the first inning when the Diamondbacks put runners on the corners with no outs on a double by Jean Segura and Michael Bourn’s bunt single. However, Segura was caught in a rundown between third and home, and Colon struck out Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb to get out of the inning.

Colon then stranded Diamondbacks in scoring position in the second, fourth and fifth innings.

NOTES: The Mets seemingly traded for Carlos Gomez last year for Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler, but the deal fell through on a medical issue. Earlier in the day, Gomez was designated for assignment by the Astros. The Mets, needing a right-handed hitter and speed, said they would keep an open mind on going after Gomez again. … T.J. Rivera started at third and got his first career hit, a single to center leading off the tenth. … The Diamondbacks stole four more bases and have nine in the two games. … Jeurys Familia pitched two innings for the first time this season. He threw 38 pitches and will likely not be available Thursday. … Neil Walker had two more hits and has 28 in his last 14 games.

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Aug 10

Have Mets Cooled On D’Arnaud?

The numbers aren’t good for Travis d’Arnaud, that much can’t be disputed. Even so, Mets manager Terry Collins made a red-flag kind of move with his decision to pinch-hit for him Tuesday night.

Down by two with two outs and a runner on first in the ninth, d’Arnaud represented the tying run when his spot came up in the order. Only d’Arnaud, the Mets’ No. 1 catcher, was pinch-hit for by Ty Kelly, who would be making just his 32nd career at-bat.

D'ARNAUD: What's Mets' future? (Getty)

D’ARNAUD: What’s Mets’ future? (Getty)

Although d’Arnaud has been cold, I was surprised because he has the power to tie the game. Clearly Collins didn’t have confidence in him last night, but I wonder if he has lost all confidence.

Can you really blame him? Can you blame GM Sandy Alderson if he goes in another direction next year, and I don’t mean towards Rene Rivera and Kevin Plawecki?

The Mets have waited for d’Arnaud to not only become the player they traded for, but just stay on the field. He spent nearly two months on the disabled list this season with a strained rotator cuff, two months in 2015 and two weeks in 2014.

D’Arnaud, a lifetime .243 hitter, averages only seven homers and 25 RBI a season. Nothing at all to get excited about. More importantly, he averages just 62 games played a year. That’s something that should worry the Mets.

Defensively, the ERA of Mets’ pitchers is over a run a game higher with d’Arnaud than Rivera. Potential base stealers run at will against d’Arnaud, who doesn’t get any help with Mets pitchers’ inability to hold runners. The Diamondbacks stole five bases last night.

The Mets are in a pennant race, but at the same time keeping an eye on the future. And, right now that eye is turning away from d’Arnaud.

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Aug 09

Three Mets’ Storylines: Robles Loses It For Matz

The Mets still haven’t won back-to-back games since before the All-Star break. This time, the fault goes to Hansel Robles for kicking away another winnable effort by Steven Matz.

MATZ: Effort wasted. (AP)

       MATZ: Effort wasted. (AP)

Robles threw 32 pitches – few of them good – as he gave up three runs in two-thirds of an inning in the seventh of Tuesday night’s 5-3 loss to Arizona at Citi Field.

The Mets had taken a 3-2 lead in the sixth on Neil Walker’s two-run homer to give Matz a chance at the win.

However, manager Terry Collins allowed Robles to stay in the game to walk two hitters and give up three hits. The Diamondbacks also executed a double-steal It’s a close game, so it’s hard to understand Collins’ logic for leaving an ineffective reliever in the game that long.

“You saw him fall behind in some counts,” Collins said. “He had been so good. You think you have the perfect set-up. He just didn’t get it done.”

That was the main storyline of the night, with the others being Matz and injury updates.

MATZ’S EFFORT WASTED: Based on runs given up, Matz pitched well enough to win most games. Two runs in six innings should have beaten Zack Greinke.

However, those were six rough innings. He threw 28 pitches in the first inning and was nearing 50 after two innings.

“The first inning killed him,” Collins said. “After that, he settled down and pitched well.”

Here’s another question: Why would Collins allow Matz to throw 120 pitches?

Collins said he had no trepidation in letting Matz throw that many pitches. Matz didn’t have any problems, either.

“No, I felt really good,” Matz said. “I didn’t feel tired at the end. I felt strong.”

INJURY UPDATES: Yoenis Cespedes took batting practice. GM Sandy Alderson, as both he and Collins frequently do, said he expects Cespedes to be activated after the 15 days. You have heard that before, right? … The news isn’t so encouraging for shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. He hit off a tee. … Jose Reyes’ right side remains sore. He was supposed to start a rehab assignment Tuesday. … Reliever Jim Henderson, whom the Mets pushed hard too soon following his surgery, will have his rehab assignment moved from Port St. Lucie to Triple-A Las Vegas. … Zack Wheeler will stay in Port St. Lucie to make a second rehab start.

NOTES: Alderson said he will talk with Walker’s agents about an extension. … The Diamondbacks stole five bases off Mets’ pitchers. “That’s something we have to clean up,” Collins said. … Logan Verrett will stay in the rotation and start Friday. … After the game, the Mets optioned Brandon Nimmo to Las Vegas. They did not announce a corresponding move, but speculation is it could be a reliever. … Matt Harvey watched the game from the dugout. … Bartolo Colon will start Wednesday. … The Mets fell to 2.5 games behind the second wild-card.

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Aug 09

Three Mets’ Keys For Tonight

The Mets have been playing win one, lose one for a month now. If October is going to happen, then this has to happen:

Get to Greinke Early:  It’s the same with Zack Greinke as most good starters and that’s to get at him early to run up his pitch count.

Pitch economy for Matz: Steven Matz is 8-8 after a 7-1 start, and the bone spur is the primary reason. Matz can’t throw his slider effectively, which hurts his other pitches. Throwing 100 pitches in six innings doesn’t make it.

Hit the ball: Whether against Greinke or the Arizona bullpen, the Mets have to capitalize on their opportunities. Their numbers with RISP are historically bad.

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Aug 09

No Need To Rush Wright

When it comes to recovering from injuries, David Wright has often been his worst enemy. Too often he tried to play through pain to stay on the field for the Mets.

He missed over four months last year dealing with spinal stenosis. He will miss the rest this year following surgery, June 16, to repair a herniated disk in his neck. I know this drives him crazy, but knowing he won’t come back is a good thing because he can’t force the issue.

WRIGHT: Take it slow. (AP)

WRIGHT: Take it slow. (AP)

Wright, speaking to children at the Coleman Country Day Camp Monday, said he’s been making steady improvement. Although, his reply of “I hope not,” when asked if his playing career could be over, spoke volumes about the seriousness of the injury and its possible ramifications.

“I’m feeling very good,” Wright said. “Now it’s just a matter of time taking its course and allowing the bone to heal. It’s been explained to me like a broken bone, it just takes time to heal. I feel good. I still don’t have the range of motion that I did before the surgery, but that’s why it takes three, four months for a full recovery.

“Now it’s just a matter of being patient and allowing the screws and the plate to [get in] place and fuse together so that hopefully there’s no more problems in the future.

“Hopefully” is a big word. So is “patient.”

The agreement Alex Rodriguez reached with the Mets Sunday reminds us of the fragility of careers and how quickly they could end.

Wright is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. I’m sure a lot is going through his mind, especially at two in the morning when he’s up feeding daughter, Olivia Shea, or changing diapers. Wright is a genuine guy who does real things, and I’m betting he lets wife, Molly, sleep.

Of all the athletes I have covered, Wright is one of my favorite. I miss seeing him play and believe he’ll come back. I really do.

But, there’s no rush to see him, so it doesn’t matter if he’s ready for Opening Day 2017, or needs another month or two.

Wright is a family man now. He doesn’t need the money. As much as he wants to play, he also knows he’ll be playing with house money the rest of his career.

Hopefully, he’ll finish healthy and walk away on his own terms, something Rodriguez will not do.

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