Aug 26

Mets Still Have Concerns Despite Winning Streak

As good as the Mets have been, and they’ve been terrific lately, there remain issues surfacing as they head into October. Several were exposed the past week in Baltimore and Denver, and now in Philadelphia. Fortunately, they were able to outslug their mistakes, and we haven’t seen that in a long time with the Mets.

Some of these flaws surfaced again Wednesday, but scoring nine runs is a great buffer. Even so, here’s what they must address:

COLLINS:  Needs to make adjustments. (AP)

COLLINS: Needs to make adjustments. (AP)

TERRY COLLINS:  Being in a pennant race is new to these guys and that includes the manager. When Jacob deGrom is cruising as he was last week in Baltimore, can’t you just leave him in the game after he gives up a two-out single in the eighth when his pitch-count is still reasonable? If you get into the playoffs, you need to see your ace work out of trouble just as the Giants did last year with Madison Bumgarner.

Collins has a tendency to micromanage. And, speaking of which, with most of the pieces in place – and hitting, by the way – how hard is it to finally pick a lineup?

THE BULLPEN:  When they scored 14 runs in back-to-back games in Denver, and went wild Monday in Philly, they needed every one of those runs because of their leaky bullpen. Championships aren’t won with porous bullpens. Look at the Giants last season. If the Mets don’t fix their pen they will be in trouble. The concern isn’t Jeurys Familia, but getting to him. Speaking of which, they will need Tyler Clippard, who was clearly angry after being pulled with two outs in the eighth on Tuesday.

The Mets acquired Clippard for a reason, which was to be the eighth-inning set-up man. Let him do his job. They’ll need him. The bullpen faltered again Wednesday, but Clippard responded and even got to pitch the ninth. This was giving Clippard a needed positive nod.

HANSEL ROBLES:  Ron Darling nailed it when he ripped Hansel Robles for trying to quick-pitch in Philly. When the hitter’s head is down you don’t quick-pitch. It is bush league and could have resulted in getting one of his teammates hurt. Philadelphia pitchers can throw hard also, and Daniel Murphy was buzzed.

Robles has outstanding potential to fill the seventh-inning slot. What they don’t need is a hot head who could cost them a game – or a player. While we’re on the subject of not being a hot dog, we don’t need bat flips or styling – see: Murphy – after home runs. Act like you’ve been there before. Ticking off the opposition only puts a target on your back. It’s up to Collins first, then the veterans to make this message.

THE OFFENSE:  They are mashing, but in the playoffs runs are at a premium. Teams must manufacture runs in the postseason. We need to see them run, hit behind the runner and string hits together as they did Wednesday.

Yeah, I’m being picky, but you only see the best pitching in the playoffs and not like the staffs or the Rockies and Phillies. What they did in the first inning Wednesday was classic situational hitting, which I loved. Like that more than the homers. And, the ninth was also terrific as they tacked on runs without the homer. Responding to the Phillies’ four-spot in the eighth was something we haven’t always seen and it was a great sign.

It’s a different game in October, which must be realized. They are 14 games over .500 and hold a 6.5 lead over the Nationals. But, nothing is won yet and they have three games coming up with Washington.

Aug 24

Optimal Time For Wright To Return

In some respect, it will be Opening Day II for the Mets with the return of David Wright tonight in Philadelphia. Only this time the Mets are 11 games over .500.

“For me it almost feels like Opening Day, where you have some butterflies, kind of nervous excitement,” Wright told reporters this afternoon.

The last time they had a record this good was Sept. 28, 2008 when they lost to the Marlins – and consequently the pennant – on the last day of the season for the second straight year and finished 89-73.

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

No, this wasn’t the Tom Glavine game, but Johan Santana pitched a 2-0 gem the previous day to give the Mets life. They were in first place as late as Sept. 19 and held a 3.5-game lead on Sept. 10.

This was the last time the Mets were truly relevant in the concept of October baseball.

This is the optimum time for Wright to come back because how well they are playing with a five-game lead on Washington, and their rejuvenated offense has to alleviate the pressure he would normally face when coming off the disabled list.

If the Mets go on and in the words of Bob Murphy, “win the damn thing,’’ it will be because they played over .500 during his absence with four players – Daniel Murphy, Eric Campbell, Ruben Tejada and Juan Uribe – trying to take his place.

For the longest time the Mets weren’t hitting or winning on the road. They are doing both now. And, concurrently the Washington Nationals are floundering. However, five-game leads can quickly evaporate as the Mets learned in 2007 and 2008. Those were completely different teams then, deeper offensively but not with this pitching. That pitching provides optimism they won’t fade this time.

As September approaches, Wright will complement the offense and not be required to carry it on his shoulders. With less pressure, and manager Terry Collins knowing he can plug in Juan Uribe any time if he needs to rest him, the situation is such once Wright catches up to the speed of the major league game as opposed to the minors, he can resume raking.

And, the Mets can build on this lead.

May 19

Hey Mets Fans, Who Are You Rooting For Tonight?

I don’t know how many times I’ve been to Shea Stadium and Citi Field and heard the chant, “Yankees Suck.” And this was when the Yankees were 3,000 miles away on the West Coast.

I’ve spoken to a lot of Mets fans who tell me their favorite teams are the Mets and whoever is playing the Yankees. That being said, Mets fans, who are you pulling for tonight, the Yankees or Washington Nationals?

Honesty, there can only be one answer for the true Mets fan.

May 14

Numbers Glaring As To How Bad Mets Were In Chicago

On April 23, after the Mets wrapped up their 11th straight victory to move ten games over .500 and build a comfortable eight-game lead over the Washington Nationals, all seemed right in their world.

They won because their starting pitching overcame injuries to David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud; a lack of consistent power from Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and Michael Cuddyer; a slumping Daniel Murphy; and defensive flaws up the middle, in particular with shortstop Wilmer Flores.

At the time of their 11-game winning streak, the Mets were playing at a pace that would have resulted in 132 victories. None of us expected them to continue at that rate. Realistically, after six straight losing seasons most of us would take .500, although the buzz number was 90 victories. Today, after losing four straight to the Cubs, they are on pace to win 93 games.

The Mets weren’t as good as they appeared when they won 13 of 16 games, and likely not as bad as they are in going 7-12 since.

Quite simply, the flaws in their game at the start of the season caught up with them, in addition with a poor stretch from Jacob deGrom; a continued lack of power; Juan Lagares’ injury; and cracks in the bullpen bridge to Jeurys Familia.

Collectively, the Mets aren’t hitting, and their pitching was off during the Cubs’ series. Fundamentally, they had four miserable days in a great city.

Overall, their hitters were 2-for-22 with runners in scoring position; stranded 21 runners; grounded into five double plays and struck out 40 times. Only one hitter in today’s game, Duda at .296 is batting over .250.

Their pitchers walked 19 batters and hit four batters during the four games.

The statistics in this series were so glaringly bad to as to poorly the Mets performed. Overall, here are two more: 1) they scored three or fewer runs in 18 of their 35 games, and 2) 11 of their 15 losses were by one or two runs.

In the big picture, the Mets might be considered to be lucky to be where they are, which is 20-15 with a slim one-game lead over Washington.


May 01

Mets Game Wrap: Harvey Halts Slide With Gem

Matt Harvey did what aces are expected to do, which was pick up his struggling Mets when they needed him most with a 4-0 gem tonight over the Washington Nationals.

HARVEY: Big time effort. (AP)

HARVEY: Big time effort. (AP)

The Mets went into the game losers of three straight to watch their once sizable lead over the Nationals dwindle down to five games (4.5 over Atlanta and Miami). Yes, tonight was as close to being a “must win” game as you can get on the first day of May.

Harvey relishes these situations and responded by giving up only five hits in seven scoreless innings despite not having his best fastball (indicative of only three strikeouts). Consequently, Harvey had to go to his breaking ball more than he normally would have wanted.

Matt Harvey takes these games to heart. When you have a No. 1, it’s just great to have,” manager Terry Collins said. “You can depend on him.”

His 5-0 record is comprised with three victories following a Mets’ loss. Earlier today I wrote about what makes Harvey special, but there’s another reason – he can locate all of his pitches and do so without his best fastball.”

It was thought Harvey, who was aided by Michael Cuddyer‘s homer in the fourth and a diving catch by Juan Lagares‘ diving catch in the fifth, might come out for the eighth, but Collins said he didn’t think he had anything left.

“I thought he had run out of gas,” Collins said. “He was starting to labor between pitches. The one thing I didn’t want to do was to have to go out there if and they got a  guy on and you have to go out and get him.”

Harvey had no qualms with Collins’ decision.

“I think he made the right decision,” Harvey said. “He did exactly what he needed to do. He made the right call.”

This put the Mets in position of having to rely on Jeurys Familia for a fifth-out save. What could have been a tense situation was considerably relaxed with Daniel Murphy‘s three-run double in the eighth.

Harvey called Familia’s effort “huge,” but the same can be said for his.