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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Aug 09

Mets’ Lineup, Aug. 9, Against Arizona

Before the Mets can go on any winning streak they must first win two games in a row and going against Arizona’s Zack Greinke it won’t be easy. The Mets will try to get another start from Steven Matz‘s sore elbow.

Here’s who’ll go against Greinke:

Curtis Granderson – CF: It’s stunning, really. Granderson has 18 homers, but only 31 RBI. Almost incomprehensible. Batting .194 (12-64) over last 17 games.

Neil Walker – 2B: The hottest Met, hitting .476 (10-21) on the road trip. For the season is batting .260 (19-73) with 26 RBI with RISP.

Jay Bruce – RF: Seven of last nine hits have been homers, two since joining the Mets. His 84 RBI are second in the NL.

James Loney – 1B: With Lucas Duda‘s health an issue, bringing back Loney should be a priority. Has hit safely in 19 of last 22 games.

Wilmer Flores – 3B: The Mets don’t have a real place for him, and frankly, aren’t trying hard to find one. Is hitting .271 (13-48) with RISP, yet this is a team that doesn’t produce in the clutch.

Michael Conforto – LF: At one time, Mets told us he would end up their No. 3 hitter. They were also going to play him in center.

Travis d’Arnaud – C: Mets pitchers have a 3.87 ERA when he starts. Their ERA is 2.68 when Rene Rivera plays.

Matt Reynolds – SS: Looks as if he’s The Flavor of the Month at shortstop with Asdrubal Cabrera on the DL.

Steven Matz – LHP: Is 8-8 after a 7-1 start. Yes, a lot of that is because of the bone spur. Making first career start against Arizona.

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Aug 05

Three Mets’ Storylines: What’s Wrong With Syndergaard?

Noah Syndergaard only gave up four runs tonight, and it is an oversimplification to say the problem is the Mets didn’t score for him. But, something just isn’t right.

The issue isn’t him not being able to throw hard. He still throws very hard, but velocity isn’t the most variable for a pitcher. A successful pitcher needs movement, location and velocity, with speed being the third most important. You can even drop that to fourth if you want to include having a variety of secondary pitches.

SYNDERGAARD: Off his game. (AP)

               SYNDERGAARD: Off his game. (AP)

While throwing in the high 90s and even touching triple digits in the Mets’ 4-3 loss at Detroit, Syndergaard, as he has been for much of the season – or at least since the issue of his bone spur surfaced – is far from pitch efficient.

Syndergaard threw 112 pitches, but only worked six innings. It was the fourth straight game in which he threw over 100 pitches yet didn’t go past the sixth. He hasn’t gone seven innings since July 3; of his 21 starts, he’s gone seven or more innings just eight times.

I don’t care Syndergaard is throwing a lot of pitches; I care he’s not efficient or effective with them. I care he seems to be running in place.

“It has been a battle,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “He’s had to work very hard. You have to learn how to pitch at this level and through tough times.”

While much is made of Syndergaard’s overpowering stuff, he’s only had four double-digit strikeout games with his last being June 15 against Pittsburgh nine starts ago.

We’ve been hearing a lot of the high number of foul balls off him (26 tonight), which comes from not being able to put away hitters. His curveball didn’t surface until the fifth inning. Until then, it was mostly straight fastballs – mostly to the outside against right-handed pitchers.

“I’m thinking right now I’m trying to be too fine with my pitches,” Syndergaard said. “It’s like I’m throwing darts out there. It’s frustrating because the past month I feel that I have the stuff to dominate, but it hasn’t been clicking.”

Do you remember when Syndergaard went high and tight during the World Series? Then he challenged the Royals saying they could find him 60 feet, six inches from the plate.

Collins insists Syndergaard still has swagger, but you rarely see him work the inner half of the plate. You don’t see that biting slider. You don’t see him effectively holding runners (Ian Kinsler singled, stole his way to third and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s single in the first). You don’t see a lot of the things that earned him a comic book hero nickname.

The problem isn’t 100 percent the bone spur because of the velocity, but it makes you wonder if the pain prevents him from being what he needs to be, and what he has been.

Syndergaard is still a young stud, but he’s not as polished as Justin Verlander was last night and has been for years. Hope Syndergaard was taking notes.

Syndergaard was the night’s biggest storyline. The others were the non-existent offense and Collins’ lineup.

THE SILENT BATS: A positive is the Mets only left three runners on base. The flip side is they barely sniffed Verlander.

Mets hitters only had five hits and one walk and struck out 12 times. Kelly Johnson hit a two-run homer in the fourth and the Mets scratched out a cosmetic run in the ninth.

THE LINEUP: I haven’t agreed with Collins on a lot of things lately, including last night’s lineup. Your best power hitter – Yoenis Cespedes – is out for at least two weeks, so one would think Curtis Granderson would be dropped down to the middle of the order.

Alejandro De Aza played center, which I liked, but where was Michael Conforto? Collins made a big deal of saying he would play center. And, if Conforto isn’t playing, why is he here?

Arguably the hottest Mets’ hitter in July was Wilmer Flores, but he sat again.

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Aug 02

Mets Lineup, August 2, Against Yankees

Good evening. Not surprisingly, Yoenis Cespedes in not in today’s lineup against the Yankees. Hard-luck losers Monday night, today the Mets behind Jacob deGrom unveil Jay Bruce at Citi Field.
As expected, the Mets placed shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (strained patella tendon of left knee) and outfielder Justin Ruggiano (strained left hamstring) on the 15-day disabled list, optioned reliever Seth Lugo and outfielder Brandon Nimmo to Triple-A Las Vegas, and recalled infielder Ty Kelly and lefty reliever Josh Edgin. The Mets also added Bruce and LHP Jon Niese to the 25-man roster.
Here’s the Mets’ lineup for tonight against the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka.
Alejandro De Aza – CF: Went 0-3 with a strikeout last night. … Is 6-14 (.429) on the homestand and .310 lifetime (45-125) vs. Yankees.
Neil Walker – 2B: Went 0-5 with a strikeout last night. … Is .444 (12-27) on the homestand and .125 (2-16) vs. Yankees.
Bruce – RF:  Acquired at the trade deadline. … Is batting .265 with 25 homers and leads the NL with 80 RBI. … Is .089 (4-45) lifetime vs. Yankees.
James Loney – 1B: Went 2-5 last night. … Is .276 (8-29) on the homestand and .340 (80-235) lifetime against Yankees.
Wilmer Flores – 3B: Went 2-4 with a homer last night. … Is batting .286 (8-28) on the homestand and .318 (7-22) lifetime against Yankees.
Michael Conforto – LF: Went 1-2 last night. …. Is batting .067 (1-15) on the homestand and .143 (1-7) lifetime against Yankees.
Travis d’Arnaud – C: Went 2-5 last night. … Is batting .238 (5-21) on the homestand and .150 (3-20) lifetime against Yankees.
Matt Reynolds – SS: Went 2-4 with a homer last night. … Is batting .500 (2-4) on the homestand and lifetime against Yankees.
deGrom – RHP: In two career starts vs. Yankees is 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA. … Is 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA this year at Citi Field.
COMMENTS:  After last night and his lifetime numbers (0-6 with two strikeouts) not surprised Curtis Granderson is sitting. … Third is the appropriate spot in the order for Bruce. … No word on whether Yoenis Cespedes is available to pinch-hit. … I would have slotted Flores between Bruce and Loney. … With addition of Bruce I wonder if Mets are giving up the idea of batting Conforto third. …. I thought Mets liked Rene Rivera catching deGrom. … Bruce is hitting .360 with RISP.
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Jul 28

Collins Lets Down Mets

Welcome back to “Panic City.” While some of us are residents, the mayor isn’t you or me, but Mets manager Terry Collins. No doubt the population could be growing after the Mets lost in agonizing and aggravating fashion for the second straight game, this time, 2-1, Thursday to the Colorado Rockies on Jeurys Familia‘s second blown save in less than 24 hours.

Of course, while it is easy to blame Familia and their chronic failure to hit with runners in scoring position, the primary culprit was Collins, whose game management wasted a brilliant effort by Jacob deGrom, who threw seven scoreless innings.

DE GROM: Mets waste his effort. (AP)

DE GROM: Mets waste his effort. (AP)

The Mets had a 1-0 lead and were poised to break the game open in the seventh when they had runners on second and third with no outs. They had ten hits, one walk, and had a runner reach on an error, so getting on base wasn’t the problem.

One would have thought they would have scored at least one run even by accident with deGrom due up. However, Collins sent up pinch-hitter Yoenis Cespedes – a temporary hitter from the previous night – despite knowing the Rockies would intentionally walk him.

“Let’s load the bases and make them get out of it,” the baseball lifer Collins told reporters. However, he must have conveniently forgotten defensive teams traditionally walk the bases full to set up a force at the plate or a double play. That strategy applies to the seventh as well as the ninth.

The force at the plate came soon enough when pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson – battling for Juan Lagares – hit a grounder to shortstop and Trevor Story‘s throw nailed Rivera. Curtis Granderson struck out on a wild swing, and Wilmer Flores popped out.

So, by batting Cespedes for deGrom, Collins lost his starter, Cespedes for a pinch-runner and Lagares. Had deGrom stayed in it would have enabled Addison Reed to close, which was the original plan.

After Familia’s blown save the previous night – in which he threw close to 30 pitches – Collins matter-of-factly said he would rest today. He didn’t because Familia told him before the game he was available. Add this to the growing list of statements Collins makes yet retreats on.

After Story singled, stole second and David Dahl walked, you knew this wasn’t going to end well. Daniel Descalso beat out a bunt in front of the plate when Rene Rivera gambled to let the ball roll foul, which it didn’t.

There’s bad luck, dumb luck and Mets’ luck, which is the worst kind. As it turned out, that would be the Rockies’ only hit of the inning. Colorado tied it on a fielder’s choice grounder and Familia’s wild pitch.

So, Collins went against his better judgment and used Familia just because the closer said he could pitch. We all know how that turned out in Game 5 of the World Series. But this time the season didn’t end.

Not yet, anyway.