Aug 19

Montero Solid Again; Flores Has Superb Effort

Rafael Montero is finally showing signs of getting it. Tonight’s outing against the Marlins encored a strong six-inning effort – only two runs – against the Yankees.

MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

         MONTERO: Another strong start. (AP)

That’s two of at least six innings, and seven over all that he’s worked into the sixth.

Montero’s recent success stems from working inside with his fastball to set up his change-up away. Montero also worked quickly and ahead in the count, two things he failed to do in previous years when he struggled.

“He pitched in and had good movement on his fastball,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “That’s why he got so many ground balls. We’ve been preaching to him to pound the strike zone.’’

Montero has made significant improvement, enough to where he could fit into their future plans.

Working with Kevin Plawecki, who caught him at Las Vegas, Montero gave up one run on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts in six innings to win his second game and first at Citi Field, 8-1.

Montero said his sinker was working which resulted in him getting four double plays.

If all five of the Mets vaunted starters are healthy next year, Montero could be used as a long reliever.

FLORES AT THIRD: Wilmer Flores made a diving stop of a hard-hit ball by Marcell Ozuna in the first inning to possibly save a run. He also started three double-plays.

Although he’s not Graig Nettles, Flores has always played third base reasonably well. If the Mets are looking for answers for 2018, I’d like to see them finish the season with Flores at third.

Flores also hit his 15th homer, a two-run blast in the Mets’ seven-run sixth inning. Nine of those homers have come against right-handed pitching.

I’ve long been a Flores supporter, something GM Sandy Alderson is not. I want to play Flores full time, and I can see a contender wanting him.

In addition to Flores, Plawecki also hit a two-run homer, and Dominic Smith hit his first Citi Field homer. Perhaps more important than the homer was Smith drew his first career walk.

LEADOFF HITTER: Another thing to look at is their leadoff hitter. Tonight it was Brandon Nimmo, who went 1-for-4. His .380 on-base percentage definitely works in his favor.

If not Nimmo, I’d like to see Amed Rosario get a shot. With his speed, if he walks more he could be a 50-stolen base candidate. Rosario hitting first, with Nimmo second to protect him, the Mets could have something special.

However, for Rosario to be an effective leadoff hitter he must improve his on-base percentage (it’s only .256).

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets tied a franchise record by turning five double plays. … Jeurys Familia threw 25 pitches in a scoreless inning in his second rehab appearance. … Curtis Granderson went 0-for-4, but reached on an error and scored the first run in the Dodgers’ victory over Detroit. … Smith has hit safely in five of his first nine major league games. … The win was the Mets’ 54th of the season. Conversely, the Dodgers are 53 games over .500.

 

Aug 18

Conforto Sits Tonight; Lineup Against Marlins

Every star has them, even blooming ones and Michael Conforto is no exception. After hitting three homers last weekend in Philadelphia, Conforto went 2-for-15 with five strikeouts in the four games against the Yankees.

“I definitely was excited for it. I don’t know if that played a part in [my struggles],’’ Conforto told reporters after Thursday night’s 7-5 loss to the Yankees.

“I took some tough at-bats. They pitched me well, they did some things to keep me off balance. But I wouldn’t chalk it up to anything more than that. It was a tough series for me at the plate, but I don’t think I was pressing or anything like that.’’

Such a slump merits a night off, and Conforto is out of the lineup for tonight’s game against Miami. Here’s the lineup:

Juan Lagares – CF

Asdrubal Cabrera – 2B

Yoenis Cespedes – LF

Wilmer Flores – 1B

Travis d’Arnaud – C

Amed Rosario – SS

Matt Reynolds – 3B

Brandon Nimmo – RF

Chris Flexen – RHP

Aug 17

It’s Time For Mets To Send Matz To Minors

Can Steven Matz and the Mets finally admit something isn’t right? Can they finally admit that a side trip to Las Vegas might be just the thing to straighten him out and find something to build on for next year.

It’s now been eight starts in which Matz has alternated between so-so, bad and simply terrible. Is there a fourth category to describe tonight’s 7-5 meltdown against the Yankees?

MATZ: It's time for Vegas. (AP)

                                   MATZ: It’s time for Vegas. (AP)

In between those starts, he’s been working on drills with pitching coach Dan Warthen that will help him keep the ball down. He’s been studying video to spot any mechanical flaws.

“I’ve been trying some different stuff but it hasn’t translated,’’ Matz said. “When guys are on base I’m leaving the ball up in the zone and that’s where I’ve gotten hurt. I have to figure out what is causing that.’’

Nothing, at least not yet, has worked.

“We’ve wrung the rag dry trying to find answers that could help him,’’ said manager Terry Collins. “But, when he’s out there on the mound he has to make quality pitches. … We’ve got to find something that will work.’’

Seven runs on seven hits in 3.1 innings was the damage charged to Matz. It is the fifth time in 13 starts Matz has given up at least five runs. Since I’m listing horrible statistics, he’s also given up 12 homers in 70 innings. That includes a three-run homer to Gary Sanchez in the first. Other ugly numbers: It is the 16th time this season the Mets have given up at least three runs in the first and they have been outscored 104-84 in the opening inning.

Matz, whose first-inning ERA in 9.00, hung a 0-2 changeup over the plate to Sanchez. He is 0-6 over his last eight starts and overall fell to 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA. His problems began with a two-base throwing error to first on a ball hit back to the mound by Brett Gardner leading off the game.

“But, you have to move on,’’ said Collins. Translation: Winning pitchers must overcome.

I guess the only positives for Matz tonight are he kept Aaron Judge out of the third deck and won’t have to pitch to Giancarlo Stanton this weekend.

Matz, who spent the first two months on the disabled list recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow, also missed the 2010-11 seasons following Tommy John surgery.

Perhaps Matz is hurting again, or hit a wall in his recovery and has a dead arm and is gutting it out. Maybe he’s hiding an injury. Maybe he’s tipping his pitches, but you’d think they would have discovered it if he has been. Maybe his mechanics are all screwed up.

“I asked him if he was physically OK, but he said he is fine,’’ Collins said, shaking his head.

Matz answered every question calmly and professionally. He didn’t duck anything.

“It’s not a good feeling. I don’t want to say I’m lost,’’ Matz said. “I want to think I’m one step away from having things click.’’

The season is lost for the Mets, but it might not be totally lost for Matz. It is still possible he could work things out with a couple of starts in Las Vegas. Perhaps that’s a gamble the Mets should make.

At this point, what would it hurt?

 

Aug 17

What’s Wrong With Matz?

Steven Matz insists he’s fine, but a lot of Mets pitchers have said the same thing. Maybe he’s not feeling that biting pain in his elbow or ache in his shoulder, but something isn’t right.

Recovering from surgery, and he’s had several, there could be a dead arm period. If so, he’s either denying it, hiding it or foolishly attempting to pitch through it. Each of those decisions is bad.

Seven poor starts in a row for five straight losses in the decisions column say either something is wrong with his arm or he’s not the pitcher the Mets envision him to be.

If the Yankees light him up tonight, which is a highly likely scenario considering opponents are hitting .386 against him at Citi Field, which translates into a 9.33 ERA, then maybe the Mets would be wise to give him an MRI and rest him for a start or two.

What would it hurt?

Aug 16

Mets Better Served With Lagares In Center

As much as I enjoy watching Michael Conforto, and have no doubt about his ability to play center field, the Mets would be better served – assuming they don’t shock everybody and bring back Jay Bruce – if Juan Lagares plays center field.

LAGARES: Gold Glover. (AP)

LAGARES: Gold Glover. (AP)

After all, Lagares won a Gold Glove in center and is blessed with outstanding speed, and if GM Sandy Alderson expects to build the 2018 Mets with pitching, defense should be at a premium.

Lagares has flashed his defensive brilliance in this series, and had two hits in tonight’s 5-3 loss to the Yankees. He doubled leading off the game, and what I loved to see, beat out a bunt leading off the eighth.

JUDGE GOES DEEP: Seriously, he went deep for the second time against the Mets, this time driving a Robert Gsellman pitch into the third deck – in left center.

Judge’s 37th homer was measured at 457 feet.

NEW FACE AT THIRD: Both Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores were scratched from the starting lineup, each with sore rib cage muscles. Travis d’Arnaud started his first professional game at third base.

Rib cage injuries can take a long time to heal so don’t be surprised if one, or both, end up on the disabled list.

The Yankees eschewed a chance to test d’Arnaud in the first inning when they had a runner on third, but Didi Gregorius elected not to lay down a suicide squeeze bunt.

Depending on the situation, d’Arnaud rotated between third and second, but amazingly the ball didn’t find him until Aaron Hicks popped out in the ninth.

WRIGHT UPDATE: David Wright, on the 60-day disabled list with a shoulder impingement and spinal stenosis, thinks it is possible he could play this season, but GM Sandy Alderson doesn’t think he’ll have enough time.

“I don’t know how many answers he will have, or we will have through the end of this season,’’ Alderson said, adding the Mets could attempt to add a third baseman in the offseason.

EXTRA INNINGS: Matt Harvey threw three scoreless innings in his second rehab assignment for Class-A Brooklyn. Harvey struck out the side on ten pitches in the third inning. … Rene Rivera homered, the Mets’ 179th of the season. … Mets’ hitters struck out eight times. … Gsellman, who started for Seth Lugo, gave up three runs on four hits in 5.1 innings. … Paul Sewald gave up a two-run double to Gregorius in the seventh to take the loss.