Jul 24

Jeremy Hefner Trying To Rebound From Last Start

It is amazing how a team starts getting greedy when it starts playing better. For example, had Bobby Parnell not blown Monday’s save opportunity they would be trying tonight to clinch this series with Atlanta.

After being 15 games under .500, the Mets are again eight below. Several times they’ve been here, but unable to reach seven and get on a roll that would legitimatize their prospects of a successful season.

HEFNER: Trying to rebound after mauling by Phillies. (AP)

HEFNER: Trying to rebound after mauling by Phillies. (AP)

Jeremy Hefner, who sizzled going into the break, was hammered by Philadelphia last Friday. Hefner has 13 quality starts to highlight a staff with a 3.20 ERA since May 26. Collectively, the staff has given up four earned runs in the last 36 innings, or since Hefner’s game coming out of the break.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

Eric Young, LF: Is 2-for-18 on the homestand. Has .280 average since joining Mets.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Hitting just .244 at Citi Field.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting .350 since the break. Ranks fifth in the NL with a .395 on-base percentage.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Leads the Mets with 17 homers.

Ike Davis, 1B: Hitting .385 on the homestand, but only .191 at home for the season.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, CF: Batting just .192 with RISP.

Anthony Recker, C: Has five homers, four of which have either tied the game or given the Mets the lead.

Omar Quintanilla, SS: Only 1-for-15 on the homestand, and batting .122 over his last 12 games.

Jeremy Hefner, RHP: Is 0-1 with a 5.85 ERA in three career games against Atlanta.

GAME NOTES: Mets are 6-4 in their last ten games. … The Mets have come from behind 22 times to win. … Since Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler combined in a doubleheader sweep of the Braves, June 18, the Mets are 19-12, for the best record in the NL East. Philly and Miami are each 15-14, the Braves are 14-16 and Washington is 14-17. … The Mets’ bullpen has a 2.45 ERA in eight July games. The pen has 13 blown save opportunities. … Scott Rice hasn’t given up a run in 13 of his last 14 appearances. … Eight inherited runners have scored off Scott Atchison, the most on the team. … Tonight will be the Mets’ 74th different batting order in 97 games. … Wright’s next homer will be his 220th, to tie Mike Piazza for second in club history. Darryl Strawberry is first with 252. … The Mets are 7-8 in walk-off games.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 22

Contrasting Zack Wheeler And Matt Harvey

The New York Mets won the games pitched by Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey over the weekend, but their performances illustrated the gap between the two, and still the need for improvement of each.

Let’s look first at Wheeler, who is here to stay. He’s taken his lumps and will take some more. Wheeler’s problem remains command of all his pitches, beginning with the fastball that is the lead domino. Again, Wheeler had a high pitch count that didn’t translate getting deep into the game. He didn’t get out of the fifth Saturday.

When that happens, coupled with Jeremy Hefner’s mugging the previous night, it means a strain on the bullpen and the need for Harvey to work deep into his game Sunday.

Harvey is head-and-shoulders above Wheeler now, and the Mets did it right with Harvey in that they stopped him at seven innings. If they went six that leaves the bullpen working three, which will accomplish what the Mets want on cutting Harvey’s innings, but it increases that of the bullpen.

Harvey struck out ten, and here’s a case where being overpowering works against him. Strikeouts hike up the pitch count, and he could extend his mound time if he pitched more to contact. But, I could be too picky here, in that contact also increases the possibility of hits, and runs, and maybe losing.

Perhaps I am and others are expecting too much from Harvey based on the early returns. Damn, the guy is really good and I admit I am violating my own rule of just letting him pitch and enjoy what I am seeing.

However, what he’s already provided just fuels expectations, like no other Mets’ pitcher since Dwight Gooden.

Harvey’s early demeanor shows he can take it, but Wheeler remains not a concern, but a question. The feeling is the light will go on with him, too, but when?

Confidence can be fragile and you don’t want to see Wheeler labor as he has been. One hundred plus pitches should get Wheeler through seven innings, not just past the fourth.

However, the Mets chose to push the envelope with him, and times won’t always be easy. Barring something totally unforeseen, Wheeler isn’t going to see the minors again this year, or next.

It’s sink-or-swim, and so far he’s treading water.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 20

Zack Wheeler Tries To Get Mets On-Track

Well, so much for that fast start out of the second-half gate for the New York Mets.

That great ERA Jeremy Hefner was sporting going into the game? Not so much anymore. The Phillies nailed him for eight runs on ten hits. The carnage was accumulated over 63 pitches, 38 of them in the first inning.

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

HEFNER: Hammered by Phils, again. (AP)

The first inning and the Phillies have not been a good mix to Hefner over the years, and before you knew it, the Mets were down 11-0.

Terry Collins tried to put a positive spin on the rout.

“I’ll tell you what, down 11-0, make it a game, pretty impressive by our guys,’’ Collins told reporters after the game, most of who had their storied written by the fifth inning.

Uh huh. Forty years in the game should know by now there are no morale victories in baseball. Few of them, anyway, and last night wasn’t one of them.

Unfortunately for the Mets, them chopping away at the lead provided the illusion there was a chance, and consequently Collins had to go to his bullpen for seven innings.

Otherwise, Collins might have left Hefner in to take his lumps for the team to save the bullpen.

Either way, it was a hot, muggy miserable night, one better spent watching The Great Escape on the Military Channel.

Nonetheless, it is only one game and the Mets have their two of their best, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, going the next two games of this series. After that, it’s four more home games at home against Atlanta before hitting the road to Washington and Miami before the trade deadline.

So, there’s plenty of time for the Mets to make a run at .500 and make the second half of this season worthy of watching. The last four years after the break effectively ended the competitive part of their season.

Was there anything good out of last night’s game?

Juan Lagares had a good at-bat and Ike Davis had a couple of hits. Kirk Nieuwenhuis looked like Mr. Magoo in center field. Other than that, not too much.

I wasn’t crazy about Collins’ managing last night. David Wright did homer in the ninth, but after a busy All-Star break, he should have been pulled and given a rest. The same goes for John Buck, who cramped up.

Here’s today’s lineup against Cole Hamels:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Josh Satin, 1B

Juan Lagares, CF

Anthony Recker, C

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Zack Wheeler, RHP

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 19

Opening Day II For Mets Lays 2014 Foundation

Welcome to Opening Day II of the New York Mets.

This is the time last year when the great collapse began.  In early June in 2012 the Mets were eight games over .500, and seven games over heading into the last game of the first half, but were routed, 7-0, by the Cubs at home. They went on to lose 10 of 11 coming out of the break. The chance to upgrade was lost and the season spun out of control.

HARVEY: What's in store for second half? (AP)

HARVEY: What’s in store for second half? (AP)

That would be a valuable reminder for Terry Collins to tell his players. Nobody is thinking playoffs, but .500 is a reasonable and realistic goal. GM Sandy Alderson seems inclined to keep a pat hand to see if the Mets can sustain their recent play. Adding a bat would be helpful, if for no other reason, to demonstrate his confidence.

The Mets have had four straight losing seasons in which they finished in fourth place. The Mets open the second half 4.5 games behind third place Philadelphia and five behind second place Washington. Both are within reach.

If Matt Harvey can sustain and Zack Wheeler gains command of his fastball, improvement is possible. Yesterday, I asked several questions the Mets must answer in the positive if they are to lay the foundation for 2014.

“I don’t think there is any question about it,’’ manager Terry Collins said after the team won in Pittsburgh to close the first half. “We’ve been preaching, ‘Hey, it’s coming.’ We have to fix our minor leagues, we have to find some players, and they’ve done that.’’

The Mets have been surprised by Dillon Gee, Jeremy Hefner, Eric Young, Josh Satin and Omar Quintanilla. If these players have strong second halves, it could shorten GM Sandy Alderson’s shopping list.

We probably won’t see Rafael Montero in the second half, but maybe Jenrry Mejia can show he’s healthy and become a viable member of the bullpen. That would help that need.

Daniel Murphy has played well enough to warrant eliminating the need for a second baseman. Once and for all, they will not make a run at Robinson Cano. Not happening.

We’re not going to see Noah Syndergaard, but perhaps he can show he’s worthy of Triple-A next year.

The forecast wasn’t positive after the R.A. Dickey trade and coming out of spring training, but the Mets broke the gate at 7-4, then went on a long slide that had them bottom out at 15 games under .500. They are nine games under now, but it’s not totally gloomy.

“You have a star at third,’’ Collins said of David Wright “You have a star on the mound in Harvey and you have another one coming in Zack Wheeler. I plan on seeing a lot more games like the one [Wheeler] pitched the other night in San Francisco. The more confidence he gets, the better he is going to be.

“We’re not by any means happy where we are,’’ Collins said. “We know we have to get better.’’

Ironically, they have gotten better despite three major disappointments in what was to be their core. Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda have not come close to producing as expected. Davis is now in a platoon with Satin, Tejada is in Triple-A, and Duda is on the disabled list and they shouldn’t even be thinking about cutting into Young’s playing time.

Answers to those three players, and the center field platoon of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, are something Alderson wants to get. Plus, there’s the question of Jon Niese’s shoulder, whether the bullpen will continue to improve and if Marlon Byrd is worthy of an extension.

Not all of things will be answered in the positive. It rarely happens that way. But, if enough are getting out of fourth and a winning season are possibly, and that’s something few of us could have predicted.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 14

Mets To End First Half Standing Pat

The first half of the season for the New York Mets, despite losing their last two games in Pittsburgh, ends today on the plus side with comments from GM Sandy Alderson his intent to keep Bobby Parnell and Marlon Byrd.

Alderson said not to expect a second-half makeover. It would easy to trade either, but doing so would create further holes. Doing so would be taking a step in reverse.

BYRD: Looks like he's staying.

BYRD: Looks like he’s staying.

Regarding Byrd, Alderson told Newsday: “We’re not looking to move Marlon. Obviously, we have our eye on the future, but we want to be as good as we can be this year as well. Now, if what we can get for the future exceeds the value of the present, we’d have to look at that. But we’re not anxious to do it.’’

The Mets entered spring training needing an outfielder, and Byrd has produced 15 homers while playing strong defense. Nobody would be saying anything if he were ten years younger, but production is production, and they are getting it from Byrd. They are also getting a sense of professionalism.

Maybe Byrd will ask for two years in the offseason as Scott Hairston did and the Mets will let him walk. But for now, they aren’t going to do much better.

As far as Parnell, if the Mets are to compete next season as they anticipate, they will need a closer who is an economic bargain. That would be Parnell, who after several stumbles, is finally grasping the brass ring.

“We’ve been looking for a closer for two years. Looks like we’ve found one,’’ Alderson said. “Why would we want to give him away immediately? This is not a guy we’re looking to move, either.’’

If the Mets are blown away with offers for either, they should look at them. But, they shouldn’t trade just because somebody called their phone.

The statement the Mets are making is to see how good they can be this season, so they’ll have a clearer picture of their off-season decisions. Trading what commodities they already have will be taking a step back. And, the Mets have made enough of those in recent seasons.

After Saturday’s loss, the Mets optioned Jordany Valdespin, who was on a 2-for-36 slide, to the minor leagues. With Kirk Nieuwenhuis playing well, and before him, Juan Lagares, plus Byrd and the acquisition of Eric Young, there was less playing time for Valdespin after his failed audition at second base.

The Mets were never enamored with Valdespin to begin with, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we never saw him again. I would suggest trading him, but Valdespin’s value is clearly diminished.

The Mets end the first half excited about Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, and before long could have two other young pitchers in their short-term plans as prospects Rafael Montero (World Team) and Noah Syndergaard (Team USA) will start in today’s Futures Game at Citi Field. We could see Montero before the season is over.

In addition, 2011 first-round pick infielder Brandon Nimmo is on the Team USA roster.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos