May 18

Mets Lucky Tonight, But Can’t Afford To Keep Wasting Harvey Starts

The Mets’ Matt Harvey missed in his third straight start to get his sixth victory tonight against St. Louis. With their offense – and some starting pitching – erratic since April 24, the night Jacob deGrom was torched at Yankee Stadium, the Mets can’t afford to waste a Harvey start.

Harvey threw at least seven scoreless innings for his second straight. It was seven last week against the Cubs and eight tonight against St. Louis. He struck out nine in each start.

HARVEY: Can't waste his starts. (AP)

HARVEY: Can’t waste his starts. (AP)

Harvey has given the Mets a winnable effort in every start. He’ll lose from time to time as he did against the Phillies, but when he comes up with an effort such as the one he had tonight and last week in Wrigley Field last week, well, you can’t throw those away.

The Mets were fortunate to come away with a 2-1 victory in 14 innings.

Part of this goes back to the unpopular debate of limiting Harvey’s innings. By how they’ve handled things so far, the Mets don’t have a definitive plan. Harvey is an incredible talent, but is also coming off Tommy John surgery. They need to be careful as to save his innings for later this year.

Against the Cubs, they pulled him early. They played it the right way tonight and let Harvey pitch the eighth. This was made possible because the defense – keyed by Wilmer Flores – pulled off inning-ending double plays in the fourth and seventh innings.

Take away those plays and Harvey would have had over 100 pitches after the seventh.

This is the year the Mets vowed they would compete, and GM Sandy Alderson has even eyed 90 victories. Given that, innings saved in April and May can later be used in September, and if they are lucky enough, possibly October.

That’s why Harvey starting – and working into the seventh – the game he had strep throat, and letting him pitch into the ninth at Yankee Stadium in a blowout win, were foolish choices because it was more important to pitch longer tonight and last week.

The Mets played it the right way with Harvey tonight. They gave him the extra inning. They handled everything correctly with their pitching. Eventually, Jeurys Familia would blow a save opportunity. They just didn’t give him enough runs.

That’s three straight Harvey starts without a victory. The Mets were fortunate tonight it didn’t bite them.

May 12

Composure Most Important Thing For Syndergaard

Just as they were with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, don’t look for the Mets to bring up Noah Syndergaard for a spot start. Once he’s here, unless he really spits the bit, he’s not going anywhere. Like everybody else, I’m excited to see him pitch, just as I was when Harvey and Wheeler first came up.

What it means is Dillon Gee will move to the bullpen or be traded, with the Mets having to take less than they want to move him – and save money. That much is inevitable when Gee comes off the disabled list. The Mets were so hot to trade him because they knew this day was coming. The only snap for the Mets was Gee getting hurt, otherwise they could have kept Syndergaard down for Super Two status.

noah-syndergaardWe can talk all we want about Syndergaard’s stuff and his fall-off-the-table curveball. We know from spring training, Triple-A Las Vegas and his Tweeting he has no shortage of confidence. However, his stuff and confidence will only carry him so far tonight in Wrigley Field.

The most important thing Syndergaard must take to the mound is poise. Actually, I’d like to see him get in trouble to see how he responds to adversity and pressure. That quality is what defines a great pitcher. We’ve seen it in Harvey and until recently, in Jacob deGrom. Now, I want to see it in Syndergaard.

The standard cliche for a rookie pitcher is it’s still the same game he’s been playing in the minor leagues. Not true. In the minor leagues he’s facing minor leaguers. This is the major leagues and mistakes get hit a long way.

Syndergaard must keep the ball down and get ahead in the count. That much is obvious, But, he also needs to minimize damage when he gets in trouble. He needs to find something when that curveball is missing its spot.

The distance between the rubber and the plate is the same, but everything else will be different, including the opposition, the pressure and all those eyes watching him.

Syndergaard did a lot to get here. He must do a lot more to stay.

 

May 11

Mets’ Immediate Schedule Favorable In Determining Set Lineup

Beginning tonight, the 20-11 Mets have seven straight games against the Cubs and Brewers, teams you would think they should handle before playing St. Louis a week from today. After winning their last two games in Philadelphia, asking them to win seven more in a row would be a tall order, but 4-3 or 5-2 isn’t out of the question considering how well their starting pitching has performed.

Jacob deGrom, the unknown in Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Jon Niese will pitch against the Cubs in Wrigley Field, then we should get Bartolo Colon, deGrom and Syndergaard next weekend against Milwaukee. If these guys pitch to their capabilities, the Mets have to feel good about themselves over the next week.

LAGARES: How long will he stay In leadoff spot? (AP)

LAGARES: How long will he stay In leadoff spot? (AP)

When the NFL schedule comes out, you look at who your team is playing and check off games they should win or lose. Now, if you’re a fan of the New England Patriots, after you looked at their schedule, who didn’t realistically see them losing three of their first four games (Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Dallas)?

A baseball schedule is different, but this time it’s not hard to think this could be a good stretch for the Mets to right their struggling offense and pick up more ground in the NL East.

The Mets’ offense has sputtered since Travis d’Arnaud and David Wright were sidelined with injuries. The Mets lost seven of ten before seemingly rebound against Baltimore and Philadelphia (won four of five). The Mets have several offensive issues they must address.

They apparently solved one by moving Daniel Murphy to the third spot. Juan Lagares is leading off tonight with Curtis Granderson getting the night off. If Lagares does well, manager Terry Collins might keep him at the top of the order and moving Granderson to the middle of the order.

I’ve always wanted Lagares to hit leadoff if he could improve his on-base percentage, which he did during spring training. I admit I was wrong about Granderson, as his on-base percentage has been very good. However, the Mets’ haven’t hit for much power, and as Granderson’s batting average slowly rises, he might be in position to drive in more runs.

With Murphy, Lucas Duda, Michael Cuddyer and Granderson, the Mets potentially could be set in the 3-4-5-6 slots, and could strengthen themselves even further when Wright returns.

What the Mets’ 11-game winning streak did was buy time for them to endure a down stretch. They’ve had that “blip,” as Collins likes to say, now we have to see if they can build off it.

 

May 11

May 11, Mets’ Lineup At Cubs

Here’s tonight’s lineup for the Mets at Wrigley Field against the Cubs:

Juan Lagares – CF

John Mayberry, Jr. – RF

Daniel Murphy – 3B

Michael Cuddyer – LF

Lucas Duda – 1B

Wilmer Flores – SS

Kevin Plawecki – C

Dilson Herrera – 2B

Jacob deGrom – RHP

LINEUP COMMENTS:  Finally, we get to see Lagares in the leadoff spot, but that’s only because Mayberry is in right in place of Curtis Granderson.  … Cuddyer is batting clean-up, which puts a right-handed bat between Murphy and Duda. … Herrera is back at second and Ruben Tejada returns to the bench.

Jan 24

Missing Ernie Banks

This one hurts. Ernie Banks, “Mr. Cub,’’ passed away last night at 83.

Unquestionably, one of the highlights about covering baseball was meeting the game’s greats from when I first started following the sport. Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Pete Rose, Al Kaline, Tom Seaver and, of course, Banks.

Mets’ fans, of course, should remember Banks from the 1969 season when he was one of the few likable members of the Cubs. Some might actually have felt sympathy for Banks as he missed the playoffs for yet, another year.

Banks was the longtime face and persona of the Cubs. He was a Wrigley Field fixture who was a pleasant and kind visitor to opposing dugouts. Players loved to shake his hand and listen to his stories.

And, Banks loved to hold court, whether for a group or an individual. If you had a question, or just wanted to say hello, he would greet you and make one feel welcomed.

We’re in an age where too many of today’s athletes prefer to distance themselves from the public that adores them. That was never Banks. People liked him because he genuinely liked people.

The baseball world is a little poorer today without him.