Jun 04

Mets Wrap: No-Names Spark Victory

If the Mets return to the World Series, they’ll get there with their young starting pitching and the power that has become their offensive trademark. However, they’ll also need what they received in Saturday’s 6-4 victory at Miami; a representative start from Bartolo Colon and important contributions by their non-descript players; those off the bench, at the bottom of the order and newcomers.

CONFORTO: Breakout signs. (AP)

CONFORTO: Breakout signs. (AP)

All came into play to support of Colon, who gave up two runs in five innings.

“We’ve said all along that we need guys to step up and pick each other up,’’ manager Terry Collins said.

With David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list, and on a day when Yoenis Cespedes was a late scratch with a sore right hip and they didn’t homer, the Mets got:

* Three more hits from Wilmer Flores, Wright’s replacement at third. He has five hits over the last two games.

* Matt Reynolds, who collected his first career RBI with a pinch-hit single in the eighth for what proved to be the game-winning hit.

* James Loney, acquired to replace Duda, had three hits, including a double in the eighth, and scored the tying run on Michael Conforto’s single hit.

* Juan Lagares made a diving backhand catch to rob Ichiro Suzuki of two RBI to end the sixth.

* Alejandro De Aza hit a two-run double iced the game in the ninth.

* Another strong relief appearance from Addison Reed.

Although the Mets didn’t homer and stranded 14 runners, they did string together 15 hits and went 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

There will be more days like Friday when they ripped three homers – something they’ve done 11 times this year – there will be more when they don’t and will need what they received today.

METS GAME WRAP

June 4, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #54          Score:  Mets 6, Marlins 4

Record: 31-23     Streak: W 2

Standings: Second, NL East, 1 game behind Washington.  Playoffs: First WC, 1.5 games ahead of Pittsburgh.

Runs: 54    Average:  3.8   Times 3 or less: 26

SUMMARY:  Reynolds, Loney and De Aza – the non-stars – backed Colon, who gave the Mets five innings despite not having his best start.

KEY MOMENT:  Lagares’ diving catch – in which he bruised his left thumb – robbed Suzuki of two RBI and possibly stave off a potential big inning.

THUMBS UP:  The struggling Conforto drove in two runs with a single and sacrifice fly. … Another strong inning from Reed, who has 12 holds. … Jim Henderson relieved Jerry Blevins to get out of the seventh. … Reynolds, Loney, Flores and De Aza combined for eight hits and four RBI. … Lagares’ defense.

THUMBS DOWN:  Kevin Plawecki failed to touch the plate on a force play. … Jeurys Familia remains an adventure in the ninth. … Hansel Robles, quick pitch or not, gave up a run on a hit and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Cespedes was scratched 30 minutes before the game with a sore right hip and is day-to-day. … Lagares bruised his left thumb on the catch and was unable to grip a bat. The DL is a possibility. … Jacob deGrom pinch-hit for Reed and popped out to end the ninth. The Mets had a three-run lead at the time. It begs the question of why risk an injury to a starting pitcher. Just let Reed hit.

QUOTEBOOK: “I bruised my finger a little. We’ll see how it feels [Sunday],’’ Lagares on his thumb injury.

BY THE NUMBERS:  13.1: Consecutive scoreless innings by Reed.

NEXT FOR METS: Matt Harvey (4-7) goes for the sweep Sunday against Marlins ace Jose Fernandez.

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Jun 04

Hoping Flores’ Opportunity Is Legit

I am on record as being an advocate of Wilmer Flores long before the tears. He’ll be getting his second straight start Saturday in Miami as David Wright‘s replacement at third base. Here’s hoping this opportunity is legitimate.

FLORES: Be patient. (Getty)

FLORES: Be patient. (Getty)

By that, I mean if he goes hitless for two or three games that he goes out there for a fourth game. He played a lot last year when Wright was injured and Terry Collins needs to keep him in the lineup now. It has to be Flores’ job to lose.

Pulling him after a week for Eric Cambell or Ty Kelly isn’t a good idea. If they can pull off a solid trade now, go for it, but it really is too soon for a major trade.

I floated several trade options Friday, among them getting Kelly Johnson back from the Braves, Milwaukee’s Aaron Hill, San Diego’s Yangervis Solarte or the Angels’ Yunel Escobar. All are making more than Flores, but honestly, are any of them that far superior they should get the job instead?

Probably not.

It is also premature to move Neil Walker off second base and bring up Dilson Herrera. The latter has done nothing to prove he’s more deserving of a full time shot than Flores.

The Mets will never learn of Flores’ true abilities – and value – if he’s not given a long-term opportunity. If he’s not adding something offensively by the All-Star break, then explore other options before the trade deadline.

If the Mets appear too eager now in the trade market, they could overpay, so it’s in their best interests to stay with Flores right now.

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Jun 04

June 4, Mets’ Lineup At Miami

Bartolo Colon goes for the Mets today as they try to make it a two-game winning streak. Is two games really a winning streak? BTW: Miami is where Colon entertained us with his behind-the-back flip to first base.

Here’s today’s order:

Curtis Granderson – RF: (.203/9/16) Should have a lot more RBI for the number of homers. Hitting paltry .103 (3-29) with RISP. Hitting .217 lifetime against Marlins.

Asdrubal Cabrera – SS: (.275/5/19). Hitting .297 (11-37) with RISP. Lifetime .301 hitter against Marlins. Ranks third in All-Star voting.

Yoenis Cespedes – LF: (.278/15/37). Hitting .250 (10-40 with 21 RBI) with RISP. Ranks third in All-Star voting.

Neil Walker – 2B: (.284/13/25). Hitting .314 (11-35 with 10 RBI) with RISP. Hit 16 homers last year. Ranks third in All-Star voting.

Juan Lagares – CF: (.277/2/6). Hitting .273 lifetime against Marlins. Is batting .310 (13-42) on the road. Back to playing superb defense.

Wilmer Flores – 3B: (.190/1/3). Getting the first opportunity at third with David Wright on the DL. Had two hits and scored twice Friday night.

James Loney – 1B: (.231/1/2). Hit 100th career homer Friday night. Career .247 hitter against Miami. Was batting .342 in minors before trade from San Diego.

Kevin Plawecki – C: (.198/1/7). Playing time reduced because of Rene Rivera. Has gone 51 at-bats since his last homer (at Dodgers vs. Scott Kasmir).

Colon – RHP: Is 7-4 with 2.92 ERA lifetime vs. Miami. Is 3-1 on the road this year.

COMMENTS: Four of today’s starters weren’t in Opening Day lineup. … I know Michael Conforto is in a terrible hitting slump, but he’ll never learn to hit lefties if he doesn’t face them. … Mets are 12-5 in day games.  … The Mets have eight come-from-behind victories this season.

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May 30

Mets Wrap: Harvey Takes Step Towards Prominence

Let’s savor this one by Matt Harvey and remember he might not turn it around in a single start. He could, but both he and the Mets said all along getting back to prominence is an on-going process.

Harvey said it again after his blast-from-the-past performance in Monday’s 1-0 holiday blanking of the Chicago White Sox.

HARVEY: Leaving the mound after the 7th. (AP)

HARVEY: Leaving the mound after the 7th. (AP)

It could have been a rediscovery of his lost mechanics and fastball that was consistently in the middle 90s early in the game. It could have been facing a team in a tailspin. Maybe it was working with catcher Rene Rivera. Perhaps he was just due.

Whatever the reasons, Harvey demonstrated what he has shown in the past and what he’s capable of when everything is working for him, which was the case Monday afternoon.

“There have been a lot of emotions,” Harvey told reporters about his feelings. “It has been awhile. The idea is to do everything you can to help your team and I hadn’t been doing that in awhile.”

Manager Terry Collins said Harvey might have regained some of his confidence.

“Mental,” Collins matter-of-factly told reporters when asked if the biggest change was mechanical or mental. “When you’re mentally strong you can fight through things.’’

That was the case in the seventh when the White Sox put runners on second and third with one out, but he regrouped to get Todd Frazier on a pop-up and J.B. Shuck on a grounder to shortstop.

That’s right, the seventh. It was the first time this season Harvey (4-7, 5.37) threw a pitch in the seventh inning.

“Emotion, intensity,” Collins said about what he liked about Harvey.  “When he got out of the seventh he was genuinely fired up. It was good to see.”

Harvey had been working with pitching coach Dan Warthen about his mechanics, ranging from his arm slot to his landing foot.It was nice to go out there and do some of the things I have been working on,’’ Harvey said. “To hold the runners on base is a good feeling.’’

“It was nice to go out there and do some of the things I have been working on,” Harvey said. “To hold the runners on base is a good feeling.”

It was easily the best game of the season, and for the next five days at least should silence the whispers.

His fastball? Harvey hit 98 on the gun a couple of times.

His breaking ball and off-speed pitches? His slider had a familiar bite to it and when you’re throwing 98,the change-up has a wider gap.

His control? One walk and only two other times did he reach three balls in the count.

“It’s a first step,” Harvey said. “This doesn’t mean anything if I don’t continue doing the things I’ve been working on.”

METS GAME WRAP

May 30, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #50          Score:  Mets 1, White Sox 0

Record: 28-21     Streak: W 1

Standings: Second, NL East, half-game behind the Nationals.  

Runs: 190    Average:  3.8   Times 3 or less: 24

SUMMARY:  Harvey was scintillating, and backed by Neil Walker’s 12th homer of the season, put the brakes on a season-long funk.

KEY MOMENT:  Wilmer Flores’ diving snag of Brett Lawrie’s line drive was converted into an inning-ending double play in the fifth. Knowing how things have turned on Harvey this year, Collins called the play of the game.

THUMBS UP:  A 1-2-3 ninth by Jeurys Familia to covert his 17th straight save opportunity this season after two horrendous outings in non-save opportunities over the weekend. … Two hits from Asdrubal Cabrera. … Two strikeouts from reliever Addison Reed.

THUMBS DOWN:  Nothing.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wight did not play again because of herniated disk in his neck. He’s on anti-inflammatories and the disabled list remains a possibility. He will be re-examined Tuesday. … James Loney is expected to be activated Tuesday. … Michael Conforto did not play. … Ty Kelly got his first major league hit. … This was the Mets’ 28th 1-0 victory in their history. …

QUOTEBOOK:  “Harvey … Harvey … Harvey,’’ fans chanting Harvey’s name in the seventh, something we haven’t heard this year.

BY THE NUMBERS:  3: Total hits Harvey has given up in 16 combined innings over two career starts against the White Sox.

NEXT FOR METS:  Steven Matz (7-1, 2.38) will make his first career start against Chicago.

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May 22

Mets’ First Base Options Without Duda

UPDATED TO INCLUDE CONFORTO CORRECTION

Didn’t the Mets learn anything dealing with David Wright‘s back issue? Apparently not, as there still hasn’t been a decision how to deal with Lucas Duda‘s back problems that might be a disk. Despite sweeping the Brewers, the Mets’ offense continues to sputter and I’m guessing they’ll make a DL move before the Washington series.

It is a huge mistake if they don’t.

DUDA: What will they do if they don't have him? (AP)

DUDA: What will they do if they don’t have him? (AP)

Duda did not play the last two games and has been abysmal in May, going 7-for-41 with only one RBI and 11 strikeouts in his last 13 games. With three games against the Nationals, they’ll need every bit of offense they can get.

“It’s pretty concerning,” manager Terry Collins told reporters Sunday. “He tried to go out the last two games and play and it was still bothering him.”

Back problems which Wright can attest to linger and Duda won’t get much better, if at all, before Monday’s game. That’s why I’m thinking they’ll DL him. Assuming that’s the case and this drags on, what are the Mets’ possible first-base options?

STATUS QUO: In the short term they can continue to use Eric Campbell until Wilmer Flores comes off the DL at the end of the week. Campbell has played well in spots replacing Duda and before that, Wright. However, as was the case last year when Wright went down, Campbell’s flaws get exposed over time. The same could apply to Flores, whose playing time is greatly reduced this year and how he’ll take to first base is unknown.

Considering their history this is the path of least resistance and the course I imagine the Mets first taking.

Another bench option could be Alejandro De Aza, but there’s the issue of his experience at the position.

CONFORTO: It is totally outside the box thinking to tinker with Michael Conforto. It’s a risk to take a player unproven at a position and move him during the season. First base is not as easy as people think as Conforto will have to learn to hold runners, field bunts and become proficient with cutoffs and relays. Plus grounders will come at him a lot faster than they do in the outfield.

Mickey Mantle and Carl Yastrzemski moved at the end of their careers, but with the advantage of knowing they’d switch and had a spring training to learn the position. A plus is it could improve the outfield defense by moving Yoenis Cespedes to left – where he won a Gold Glove – and playing Juan Lagares in center, where he also won a Gold Glove.

WRIGHT: Just because he plays one corner infield position doesn’t mean he can play the other. It should be easier for Wright because it is an infield position and he’s used to fielding hard grounders. Even so, he’d still have to learn the same nuances as Conforto.

However, if this turns into a long-term thing with Duda it would be worth exploring because Wright’s back has hindered his defense, in particular when it comes to throwing. There might come a time, and it could occur sooner than later, this move might merit serious consideration.

If Duda’s injury sidelines him the way Wright’s benched him for four months, it would be prudent for the Mets to test Wright at first as to get a handle on their options. And, as is usually the case, economics will factor into the equation.

Duda will make $6.7 million this year and is arbitration eligible after next season and be a free-agent after 2018. The Mets don’t have the financial commitment to Duda that they do with Wright to whom they owe $67 million – not including this year – through 2020.

Wright’s health will always be a question and since his retirement isn’t an imminent issue the more they know about his ability to play – or not play – first base is important.

SMITH: The Mets are counting on Dominic Smith as their long-term answer with the assumption Wright doesn’t emerge as an option. Smith, the Mets’ 2013 first-round pick, is currently at Double-A, where he’s hitting less than .280.

Yes, I know they pushed the envelope with Conforto, who brought up from Double-A, but two months later in the season. Could Smith make the jump? It’s possible, but it’s no slam dunk.

I wouldn’t be adverse to bringing up Smith for a look-see. I’m not worried about his confidence being impacted if he struggles, because if he’s as good as the Mets hope he’ll become, then he should be strong enough mentally to overcome a rough stretch.

THE TRADE MARKET: There are numerous options in the free-agent market this winter who might be available in a trade at the deadline should their teams want to make a deal for a prospect.

An intriguing possibility is to coax Adam LaRoche out of retirement – it would be a package deal with his son – but could necessitate sending something to the White Sox. That’s way outside the box, but it wouldn’t hurt to explore.

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