Jul 18

Three Mets’ Storylines: Matz Struggles

What, you expected the Mets to run the table against the Cubs?

After winning four straight in the NLCS and four in a series at Citi Field prior to the break, the Cubs were due and Steven Matz wasn’t good enough to prevent Monday’s 5-1 loss at Wrigley Field.

MATZ: Didn't have it. (Getty)

MATZ: Didn’t have it. (Getty)

Matz threw 102 pitches in five innings, of which 26 were foul balls. That says he wasn’t able to put away hitters. Part of it is bone-spur related, and that will continue to be the case until he has surgery.

Matz said he didn’t feel any pain and wouldn’t use that as an excuse.

“I don’t think I had my best command,” Matz said, especially of his breaking pitches. With that, you have to wonder how much of it is the elbow.  Matz was done in on a three-run homer to Anthony Rizzo when he hung a change-up over the middle of the plate.

“I don’t think it was a bad pitch [selection],” Matz said of the pitch to Rizzo. “It was poor execution.”

When Matz was missing, it wasn’t outside where he wanted, but over the plate.

“You have to make them chase a little bit,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “I didn’t think he had his Grade A stuff. Hopefully, he’ll good after this.”

Collins wouldn’t say if Matz was hurting, but acknowledged he didn’t have it Monday.

“There are going to be times when he pitches through discomfort,” Collins said. “Other times he’s going to feel good.”

Matz’s performance reflected the uncertainty of what the Mets can expect from him in the second half. In his previous two starts, Matz worked seven innings in each and gave up a combined five runs.

Matz has hammered in his first start this year, reeled off seven straight victories, and has now lost five straight.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to what the Mets might do at the trade deadline. Bullpen? Yeah, that’s needed. Another bat, preferably one who can hit with runners in scoring position? Definitely.

However, with Matt Harvey gone for the year – he had surgery Monday – and the heads-or-tails prognosis of Matz and Tuesday’s starter Noah Syndergaard, adding another arm to the rotation could be their biggest need.

With the loss, coupled with Miami’s victory in Philadelphia, the Mets fell 6.5 games behind Washington in the NL East and trail Los Angeles and the Marlins for the wild-card.

Monday’s other two story lines are:

THE OUTFIELD DILEMMA: As expected, Yoenis Cespedes played left field, which means he came out of Sunday’s game with no problems. That’s the good news.

Cespedes was hitless in three at-bats against Jon Lester, but nobody could time him. Cespedes threw out a runner out at the plate and almost nailed another at second base.

Prior to the game Collins anticipated playing Cespedes in center Tuesday with Michael Conforto in left. However, after the game Collins said he didn’t think Cespedes moved well.

Conforto appeared as a pinch-hitter in the ninth and delivered an opposite-field single.

That was a terrific sign because prior to the game he admitted being pull-happy in May and June when his average nose-dived.

Collins said he wants to use Cespedes in left to save his legs. He also said Conforto could get time in center, where he’s never played.

I wrote in spring training how I wanted to see Conforto get some time in center, but that never happened. Instead, they might do it during a pennant race, even though Curtis Granderson has played over 1,000 games in center.

Then again, at 35, Granderson’s legs aren’t what they used to be.

FLORES PLAYS: Against the left-hander Lester, Wilmer Flores was in the lineup against James Loney, which I speculated earlier today. Flores singled and homered.

It was Flores’ ninth homer of the year and sixth in July to lead the National League. Yet, manager Terry Collins still doesn’t have a sense of urgency to get his bat in his offensively starved lineup.

I’ll say this again; Flores needs to play even if he’s not the sexy choice of GM Sandy Alderson. In for Loney one game; in for Neil Walker the next; then Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Reyes.

That way, they all play and all get a game off a week.

Why is that so hard to understand?

Oct 22

2015 NLCS Recap: Mets Never Gave The Cubs A Chance

MLB: NLCS-New York Mets at Chicago Cubs

There were a several times this season when it didn’t look as if this would be a Mets’ summer. Through injuries, slumps and innings-limit controversies, this was going to be another long season.

However, Wilmer Flores’ tears told us why he wanted to remain a Met and why he loved this team like we do. A few days later GM Sandy Alderson brought in Yoenis Cespedes and the clubhouse was infused with an energy the Mets hadn’t known since 2006, the last time they played meaningful games in October.

“Are you kidding me?’’ said David Wright, who long after the final out in Wednesday night’s 8-3 victory to complete their NLCS sweep of the Cubs, went back to the field to slap hands with Mets’ fans who made the trip to Wrigley Field.

“I can’t describe the emotions going through me. We got tested this year. We were the underdogs against the Dodgers. We were underdogs against the Cubs. But, we made it. I can’t wait for the World Series to begin.’’

Here’s how the Mets reached their fifth World Series in franchise history to become Amazin’ Again.

GAME ONE: Harvey Shines In Opener

There’s something about Matt Harvey that makes you shake your head, then smile and say “I’m so glad he’s a Met.’’ Harvey wasn’t pleased with his Game 3 performance in the NLDS against Los Angeles, but worked into the eighth inning to stifle the Cubs, 4-2, and after the game, said: “I wanted this game bad.’’ Harvey got support from Daniel Murphy, who continued his torrid postseason with another home run.

GAME TWO: Murphy’s Homer Tees Off On Arrieta

Murphy homered in his fourth straight playoff game – who would have thought it? – to back the strong pitching of Noah Syndergaard in a 4-1 victory in a felt-like-snowy night at Citi Field. Murphy’s homer continued his pulverization of the game’s best pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester and now Jake Arrieta. “We’re having a whole bunch of fun right now,’’ said Murphy, whose fun would continue in Chicago.

GAME THREE: DeGrom Brilliant Again; Ditto For Murphy

If the Cubs were to get back into the NLCS, it would have to be in the first game at Wrigley Field, but as he did against the Dodgers, Jacob deGrom labored but would not crack in the Mets’ 5-2 victory. The odds of the Cubs coming back 0-3 seemed as long as Murphy hitting another home run, but he did again for the fifth straight game.

GAME FOUR: Mets Dominate In All Phases

It could be said manager Terry Collins gambled this game when he started rookie Steven Matz on the mound and stuck with the slumping Lucas Duda at first base. Collins was rewarded as Matz gave up one run and Duda drove in five runs on three hits in an 8-3 rout. There’s hot, sizzling and Murphy hot, and the much maligned second baseman had four more hits, including a homer for a record sixth straight game and was named the NLCS MVP. Murphy hit 14 homers during the regular season and seven so far in the playoffs. Tyler Clippard called Murphy’s performance other worldly. Unbelievable.

mets win nlcs

Thoughts from Metsmerized Online’s Joe D. 

What began in Spring Training with all the unabashed talk that the team considered themselves pennant contenders that were to be taken seriously, much of it falling on deaf and unbelieving ears, ended on  Wednesday night at Wrigley Field with the team accomplishing what they said they’d do. And now the next stop is the World Series as they await their venue, Kansas City or Toronto.

It’s a wonderful feeling to have beheld it all and witness how they navigated, ever so gracefully, through a maze of adversity, controversy and battling the ghosts of past collapses. To the unbelieving masses, they were never taken seriously, always shrouded in doubt and never getting the accolades early on that they so richly deserved.

While it may appear that the NLCS was won by one man in Daniel Murphy, he would be the first to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. This incredible series win was an all hands on deck effort and there were many who rose to the occasion.

Matt Harvey set the tone in Game 1 when he laid down the gauntlet that would become the recurring theme throughout the series and in many ways it’s defining subplot – and that is the superb pitching performances by all four young flame-throwers that comprised the Mets starting rotation.

Sure the Mets scored 21 runs in the series, but our pitching held the Cubs to just 8 runs in four games. Furthermore, at no point did they ever allow Chicago to play with a lead. Talk about putting the pressure on… The Mets became the first team in NLCS history to sweep a series without ever trailing in a single game. Tremendous.

Another notable hero was closer Jeurys Familia who pitched in all four games and saved a franchise record three of them. In fact, the bullpen as a whole was stupendous. Along with Familia, Bartolo Colon, Addison Reed and Jon Niese combined for 8.0 scoreless innings out of the 36.0 total innings tossed in the series.

And even though the Mets left Eric Young Jr. off the roster, the Mets stole seven bases in this series, more than any other team in the postseason. There was a lot of guts and guile from Curtis Granderson and Yoenis Cespedes on the basepaths throughout the series, and some sparkling defense to go with it as well. Superb defensive play from David Wright and Lucas Duda was expected, but standout plays by Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto did not go unnoticed.

In a word, the Mets were relentless. They never let up once and just kept piling on. Joe Maddon and the Cubs never had a chance, This was a total team effort and one for all of us to be proud of. I tip my cap to all 25 players  as well as the manager and his coaches, for an amazing achievement and memorable series that none of us will ever forget. I can hardly wait to see where their journey takes us next. Let’s Go Mets!

2015 world series logo banner

Oct 19

Mets’ Series Lead Could Enable Harvey To Rest

In addition to the historical percentages of advancing to the World Series, winning the first two games of the NLCS against Chicago, gives the Mets the advantage of bypassing the injured Matt Harvey in Game 5 if necessary.

Harvey took a line drive off the bat of Dexter Fowler to the back of his pitching arm in the sixth inning of Game 1, and already, manager Terry Collins is alluding to possibly of starting Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon.

HARVEY:  Questionable for Thursday. (Getty)

HARVEY: Questionable for Thursday. (Getty)

“He’s pretty sore and pretty swelled up,’’ Collins said Monday at Wrigley Field. “He, as we sit here today, is a go. But that could certainly change in the next couple of days.

“I was pretty surprised at how swelled up it was yesterday. So we certainly are going to keep a really close eye on it the next couple of days.’’

Of course, the Mets want to wrap this up as soon as possible, but if they win one of the next two games, they’ll be sitting pretty with a 3-1 series edge heading into Game 5.

Harvey, who won his first two postseason starts, played catch today. Harvey’s innings became a focal point at the end of the season, but if he’s held back Thursday, it will have nothing to do with his workload.

Harvey stayed in the game after he was struck, and pitching coach Dan Warthen said that was beneficial because it enabled him to keep his arm stretched out.

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Oct 18

Refined Syndergaard Aims To Give Mets Commanding NLCS Lead

Several month ago, when it didn’t feel like snow and the Mets had not morphed into the team three games from the World Series, Noah Syndergaard debuted against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. They lost, but the game was circled as one that would come back to bite them in the rear.

imagesIt did not and Syndergaard developed into what we expected: A stud pitcher with star potential.

Since then, the Mets got back Travis d’Arnaud and David Wright, brought up Michael Conforto, and added Yoenis Cespedes to their stagnant lineup. In those few months, Syndergaard also added refined mechanics to his 100 mph. fastball.

“My mechanics are completely different,” said Syndergaard, who is now able to throw his secondary pitches for strikes behind in the count. “`I think my mentality out there is a lot different. I’ve been able to go out there with a lot more confidence in myself and getting myself out of certain situations by using necessarily uncomfortable pitches that I might have used at a different time.”

When Syndergaard came up in early May to replace the injured Dillon Gee, it was thought he might eventually end up in the bullpen. He eventually did in Game 5 of the NLDS, and it seemingly put manager Terry Collins in the corner as to his Game 2 NLCS starter when he warmed up four times.

“The first couple times he only threw 16, 18 pitches before the inning was over,” Collins said. “But he said, `I feel great. I’m not stiff. I’m not sore.’ And I said, `Well, then you’ve got [Sunday].’ ”

With the Mets to start Jacob deGrom in Game 3 at Wrigley Field, this is as close to a must-win game for the Cubs as can be.

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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.