May 04

Mets Lineup At Braves, May 4

May 03

Mets Wrap: Breakout Game For Hitters

See, it can be done. The Mets rapped out 20 hits in a 16-5 rout of the Atlanta Braves tonight without the benefit of a home run.

REYES: Big night. (AP)

                   REYES: Big night. (AP)

Even before they broke open the game with a seven-run eighth, the Mets had this one well in hand, as they went 12 for 20 with runners in scoring position. It might not take until the Braves open up another new stadium before we could see that again.

“We feel like we have a good offensive team,” manager Terry Collins said. “We’re seeing better at-bats and we’re getting better swings.”

The Mets got three hits each from Michael Conforto, Rene Rivera and T.J. Rivera, but one bat that particularly shined was Jose Reyes, who tied a career high with five RBI.

“It is good to see,” Reyes said of the Mets’ resurgent offense. “For the last week we’ve been on fire.”

While a lot of good things happened with the bats tonight, perhaps the most encouraging breakout sign was Curtis Granderson, who hit two doubles and scored three times. Granderson entered the game on a 1-for-33 slide.

The Mets got three hits from Michael Conforto, Rene Rivera and T.J. Rivera, and two hits each from Granderson, Conforto, Reyes, Neil Walker and Jacob deGrom.

The Mets got two doubles each from Conforto, Granderson and T.J. Rivera, and one each from Reyes, Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera.

SECOND OPINION FOR SYNDERGAARD: In the midst of several published reports that have Noah Syndergaard missing up to three months with a partially torn right lat muscle, the 24-year-old Mets pitcher will be in Los Angeles tomorrow to get a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

After Syndergaard complained of discomfort and soreness in his right shoulder and biceps, he had starts pushed back last week first Wednesday and then Thursday.

Syndergaard subsequently refused an MRI, gave up five runs in the first inning of Sunday’s start at Washington, and was injured in the second inning.

JUGGLING THE PEN: Sometimes managers, and I include Collins in this, are married to the accepted norms.

However, with Braves’ right-handed hitting outfielder Matt Kemp leading off the seventh, Collins went with setup reliever Addison Reed to start the inning.

Reed also struck out lefty slugger Nick Markakis and retired Tyler Flowers, but was animated in the dugout after the inning, as if surprised by the move.

“I told him, `I know you’re the eighth-inning guy. But this is the eighth inning for me tonight,’ ” Collins told Reed.

“He understood.”

EXTRA INNINGS: Wilmer Flores was activated from the disabled list and appeared as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. Flores is expected to start Thursday. … Travis d’Arnaud‘s bruised hand kept him out. … Collins said Granderson and Walker might rest tomorrow.

UP NEXT: The series wraps up Thursday evening with Zack Wheeler (1-2, 4.78) returning to his home area against lefty Jaime Garcia (1-1, 3.99). … Rafael Montero is still on to start in place of Syndergaard Friday.

May 02

Mets Wrap: Bruce Crushes Two; Granderson Sits

Jay Bruce, the Mets’ Most Valuable Player for April, continued his hot hitting driving in a career-high six runs on two homers – including a cosmetic ninth-inning grand slam – in tonight’s 9-7 loss at Atlanta.

Bruce, whom the Mets tried to trade over the winter, hit seven homers with 16 RBI in April.

“It doesn’t feel like a bandbox at all,” Bruce said on the Braves’ new stadium, SunTrust Park. “But, it seems like a good place to hit so far.”

You think?

When asked about the Mets’ offense, which has scored three or fewer runs in ten games so far, Bruce said: “We have to step up. I wouldn’t say that we need to try harder or try and do more. We just need to work and prepare and get ready to play.”

GRANDERSON SITS: Curtis Granderson, who is in a 1-for-32 funk, did not start, but appeared as a pinch-hitter. He took extra work and expects to play Wednesday night.

“There’s nothing really major going on wrong,” Granderson said in one head-scratching comment. “I’m not chasing pitches out of the zone. I’m getting to a decent amount of full counts. I’ve swung at strikes. I’ve done a lot of things that could put me into position to be successful. I just haven’t been successful.”

Oh, that explains it.

PEDRO QUESTIONS METS INJURIES: Former Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez, questioned all the pitching injuries of his former team.

“I never thought that the nucleus of young Mets pitchers were going to get hurt so early,” Martinez wrote on Twitter. “I’m not sure what’s up with the Mets and injuries.”

Somebody responded to the tweet, writing, “but [Jeff] Wilpon, the Mets’ COO, wanted to sell tickets for a matchup against the star Marlins left-hander Dontrelle Willis.’’

To which Martinez wrote back, saying Wilpon told him, “ `While I’m the boss here, you’re going to have to do what I say.’ ”

EXTRA INNINGS: Travis d’Arnaud left the game in the sixth inning with a sore right wrist. … Wilmer Flores (infection in knee) began his rehab assignment at Triple-A Las Vegas. … Brandon Nimmo also played in a rehab game at Vegas. … Lucas Duda, whose rehab had a setback over the weekend, started hitting off a tee.

UP NEXT: Jacob deGrom (1-1, 2.84) starts against old friend Bartolo Colon (1-2, 5.59) tomorrow. The series finale is Thursday evening with Zack Wheeler (1-2, 4.78) returning to his home area against lefty Jaime Garcia (1-1, 3.99).

Apr 20

How Long Will Mets Play Reyes Charade?

Mets manager Terry Collins said Jose Reyes deserves the chance to turn things around, but that’s too simplistic an approach. In reality, Collins doesn’t have any choice for now but let Reyes try to flail his way out of this wretched slump to start the season.

Reyes refutes the notion he’s trying to do too much, which is often one of the first assumptions to explain a slump.

REYES: Not the same player. (AP)

REYES: Not the same player. (AP)

“When you try to do too much, it’s tough. You have to slow down a little bit and try to let it go. I don’t feel like I am trying to do too much. I am just trying to play my game,” Reyes said.

“My game.”

What exactly does that mean? Is it the style Reyes should be playing, which is to utilize his speed by being patient at the plate and hit the ball on the ground? Or is it the style he insists on playing, which is to hit the ball in the air and not worry about drawing walks or cutting his strikeouts?

For all his speed, Reyes has never been the prototypical leadoff hitter. He has always struck out too much, doesn’t walk and insists on hitting the ball in the air. Through 15 games he has 15 strikeouts and six walks with zero stolen bases. He’s hitting .094 with a .186 on-base percentage and has been dropped to seventh in the order.

The bottom line is for all his supposed physical skills, if Reyes isn’t leading off then he might as well not be in the lineup.

Wilmer Flores can play third base as well as Reyes, if not better. But, he’s off to a slow start, also, at .171. However, Flores’ main problem is he doesn’t play enough because Collins is married to the right-lefty dynamic and won’t give him the regular opportunity to hit right-handed pitching. Again, Flores will never hit right-handed pitching unless he’s given the opportunity.

Reyes’ problems are more complex and I offer several contributory explanations.

First, his mechanics are way off. He’s lunging at pitches he should take and is trying to hit everything in the air. He’s always had that style, but at 33 it is catching up to him. However, ten years ago he could get away with it because the Mets gave him free reign to do what he wanted at the plate. They did so because he gave them enough so they would settle.

Reyes will never be the work-the-count, slap-hitter, get on base and steal his way to third type of player. Reyes always wanted to play like Rickey Henderson, but he was never as good.

Now, it’s too late to transform, and I don’t think he has the discipline to try.

Secondly, I believe this slow start is weighing on him and he is trying to do too much. Reyes will get his money – the Colorado Rockies are paying it – but he could be thinking if it doesn’t work with the Mets this could be his last chance and what else does he know besides baseball?

Could Reyes’ slow start be partially explained by him being away from camp for the World Baseball Classic? This was an important year for Reyes and he could have used the work a full spring training provides.

Finally, and this hasn’t been mentioned in the mainstream media as a cause, but his double life – a mistress with a child and ensuing court case – has to be an emotional burden. Couple that with his domestic abuse suspension and he has a lot of toxic baggage.

Most teams would run away from Reyes, but the Mets aren’t because it isn’t costing them any significant money and they are desperate because they are afraid to go with Flores as David Wright’s replacement.

The only question is how long are they willing to play this charade?

Apr 15

DeGrom Start Wasted; Let Second Guessing Begin

Sooner or later you had to wonder when the Mets’ overworked bullpen would betray them.

It happened tonight.

Fernando Salas, working for the eighth time in 12 games, surrendered eighth-inning, back-to-back homers to Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, to power the Marlins over the Mets, 5-4, and trash another superb start from Jacob deGrom.

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

Not only has Salas been overused, it must be remembered he arrived in spring training late because of a visa issue.

Salas retired his first two batters and then walked Miguel Rojas. When a reliever walks a hitter on four straight pitches, he needs to be pulled.

Yelich is already a slugging star, and the Mets had lefties Jerry Blevins and Sean Gilmartin manager Terry Collins could have gone to in that situation. Considering how much Salas has worked lately, why did Collins keep him in the game?

“I didn’t want to go with Blevins because he has pitched in five of the last six games,” Collins testily barked to reporters.

However, Gilmartin, who was brought up after the 16-inning game Thursday for the sole purpose of pitching late in a game, was fresh.

Salas fell behind 3-and-1 before grooving a pitch Yelich couldn’t help but crush. Over-managing and stubborn to the end, Collins let Salas face Stanton.

You knew that wasn’t going to end well.

Collins said he wanted Salas to face Stanton, but what does that say about his confidence in Addison Reed and Hansel Robles?

The second-guessing of Collins began before Salas entered the game. DeGrom got off to a rocky start, giving up back-to-back homers in the second to Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna, then regrouped to retire the next 11 hitters. The Mets really needed deGrom’s effort considering how their bullpen has been taxed recently, including throwing 11.1 scoreless innings Thursday.

DeGrom gave up two runs on four hits and one walk and tied his career-high with 13 strikeouts in seven innings. He was on cruise control and had only thrown 97 pitches. He struck out his last four hitters.

“He was pitching great,” Collins said. “It’s easy to second-guess. We made a commitment to protect these guys. … If I let him stay in and he got hit you’d be asking me, `Why did I let him pitch?’ ”

That’s fair, but it comes with the territory with managing in the major leagues. DeGrom could have, but did not, throw his manager under the bus.

“Honestly, I didn’t know how many pitches I had,” deGrom said. “I thought I was out after that inning anyway.”

As far as stretching out his start, deGrom said: “The goal is to stay healthy. Salas had been doing a good job. I felt comfortable handing the ball over to the next guy.”

One of the beautiful aspects of baseball is it being ripe to second guess and discuss and debate strategy. Few basketball fans will second guess Gregg Popovich, but what baseball fan doesn’t feel comfortable scratching his head about the manager he follows?

CONFORTO DELIVERS: One of the hardest things in baseball to do is to pinch-hit, and it is even harder when all eyes are on you and you’re expected to produce in order to stay. Well, that’s exactly the case with the Mets’ Michael Conforto, who drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.

Sure, Conforto wants to start, what young player doesn’t? But, when things haven’t gone his way, he’s stayed quiet and gone about his business. Overall, he’s hitting .400 with two homers and six RBI, including 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI as a pinch-hitter.

Neil Walker lead off the seventh with a bunt single to third against Marlins starter Adam Conley, and scored on a triple by Curtis Granderson, who scored on Conforto’s deep fly to center.

Asdrubal Cabrera homered with one out in the eighth against reliever Junichi Tazawa. It marked the 11th straight game in which they homered and gave them a major league-high 22.

LOVE THOSE BUNTS: The other night it was Jay Bruce laying one down towards third against the shift. Tonight it was Walker leading off the seventh with a bunt single. Last year Collins made a big deal out of calling his team a “home run hitting team,” and that they aren’t built to manufacture runs. This year, they lead the majors with 22 homers but have shown the ability to scratch out runs.

Walker also doubled in the Mets’ first run in the first.

EXTRA INNINGS: Lefty-hitters Bruce, Lucas Duda and Conforto did not start against Conley. … All players wore No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. Granderson wore special spikes for the occasion that he will auction and donate to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. … Wilmer Flores made a run-saving grab of a hard hit ball down the first base line by Stanton.

HARVEY STARTS SUNDAY: Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.92) goes Sunday for the Mets against RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 7.56). Harvey is 12-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 17 career starts in April, easily his best numbers in any month.