Aug 30

Three Mets’ Storylines: Lugo Gives Big Effort

On a day the Mets received sobering injury news on left-hander Steven Matz, they also got a positive outing from Seth Lugo in his third career start.

Lugo gave up two runs on five hits in six innings Tuesday night in a 7-4 victory over Miami to help the Mets leapfrog the Marlins in the wild-card race.

LUGO: Gives big start. (AP)

LUGO: Gives big start. (AP)

Lugo has averaged just under six innings in his three starts, which means he’ll stay in the rotation.

The Marlins got to Lugo with Christian Yelich’s two-run homer in the first, but the Mets responded for three in their half of the inning on Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run homer and Wilmer Flores’ RBI single.

“It was really big,” manager Terry Collins said of the quick response. “Just getting on the board was important.”

Lugo said the three runs allowed him to look at the rest of the game from a different perspective.

“That was big time,” Lugo said. “It helped me with my confidence. I looked at it as a 0-0 ball game.”

Lugo worked out of jams in the third and fourth innings and retired the last seven hitters he faced.

With Matz injured and Jacob deGrom needing to be skipped for rest, Lugo has been terrific with three straight strong starts. Lugo left his previous start with a cramp in his right calf, but showed no ill-effects. He is on schedule to pitch Sunday against the Nationals.

I chose Lugo as the main storyline because of the Mets’ current pitching situations. The two others were the resurgence of Curtis Granderson and Hansel Robles’ positive appearance.

GRANDERSON SHOWS A PULSE: Granderson hit for Lugo in the sixth and homered, and also homered in the seventh. He became the third Met to hit two homers in a game he did not start. The others were Scott Hairston in 2011 and Hawk Taylor in 1964.

Granderson hasn’t had a good season according to his expectations but still has 22 homers with 38 RBI, not a good ratio.

If Granderson is getting on track, it will give Collins leverage as he sorts out his outfield alignment down the stretch. Yoenis Cespedes’ strained right quad limits him to playing only left field and Jay Bruce – despite a double Tuesday – continues to struggle.

Cespedes will need a rest eventually.

Things will get tighter when Michael Conforto is brought up from Triple-A Las Vegas.

ROBLES MUCH BETTER: Robles was superb in June and July, but gave up 15 runs in 13 innings this month before giving the Mets two strong innings Tuesday.

Robles gave up one hit in two scoreless innings for a positive sign the Mets desperately needed. Robles in perhaps their most versatile reliever, and by going two innings, it enabled Collins to avoid using the overworked Addison Reed.

EXTRA INNINGS: With the victory, Collins had to use Jeurys Familia when the Marlins got to Jim Henderson for two runs in the ninth. … Jose Reyes continued to rake with his second four-hit game of the month. Reyes, along with Cabrera (who had two hits) are forming a formidable 1-2 combination at the top of the order. … With the victory, the Mets moved to four games over .500, their best record since they were 56-52 after beating the Yankees, Aug. 4. … Bartolo Colon starts against David Phelps Wednesday night.

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Aug 29

Mets Have One Less Question With Reyes At Third

Jose Reyes has lived up to all expectations since he was signed. He’s provided an offensive spark, he’s been far more than adequate replacing David Wright at third base, and Reyes being Reyes, he’s also been hurt with a strained muscle.

REYES: Has answered questions. (AP)

REYES: Has answered questions. (AP)

The Mets signed Reyes to a minor league contract in late June after he served a 52-game suspension stemming from a domestic abuse incident. Reyes expressed remorse in his initial statement with the Mets and has been a good soldier since.

He’s been great in the clubhouse and also in dealing with the media and public. In that regard, the Mets couldn’t have asked for more. There were some negative articles written at the time he was signed, but nothing since.

Offensively, Reyes has provided spark and energy at the top of the order. He’s hitting .285 with a .333 on-base percentage, with 14 extra-base hits, including four homers. It took awhile, but he’s starting to run more and has six steals.

I think the biggest surprise is how he’s taken to the position defensively. It’s one thing for Reyes to pick Wright’s brain, but there’s been nothing glaring about how he’s played.

The ball comes to him a lot quicker at third, but he’s been adept and hasn’t been handcuffed. He’s also shown he can handle the bare-handed pick-up and throw.

Is Reyes polished at third? No, that’s premature to say, but he’s by far not a liability. Is he the second coming of Wright in his prime? Nope, but in case Wright doesn’t come back full strength next season, the Mets will be in good hands with Reyes.

Since it is clear the Mets won’t give Wilmer Flores a shot at the job full time, they have one less question facing them this winter.

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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 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 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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