Jul 02

Mets Lose, But Montero Gives Encouraging Effort

C’mon, you really didn’t think Rafael Montero would be solid four games in a row, did you? Probably the Mets didn’t think he would, either. However, it wasn’t a total loss for Montero despite the Mets losing, 7-1, today to the Phillies.

MONTERO: Helps save bullpen. (AP)

MONTERO: Helps save bullpen. (AP)

The Phillies got to Montero for four runs in the second, but he hung around and took the Mets into the seventh. In the big picture, Montero’s 6.1 innings – coming on the heels of Zack Wheeler’s cameo appearance yesterday – helped save the bullpen with the Nationals series coming up.

“That was it,’’ manager Terry Collins said of the second. “He had a bad inning. After that, he kept attacking the zone. He kept us right there. … I trust him because he’s throwing strikes.’’

Montero gave the Mets a chance to win, which is all you can expect from a relatively inexperienced pitcher.

Command has always been a problem from Montero, but he only walked two hitters – consecutive batters in the sixth – which enabled him to work into the seventh. Montero gave up four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts.

In previous games, Montero’s problems would escalate, but today he regrouped after the second to give the Mets more than they could have expected.

“It would have been easy for him to throw up his hands and feel sorry for himself,’’ Collins said. “But, he bore down and kept us in the game.’’

However, the Mets managed one hit against rookie Nick Pivetta.

GRANDERSON SITS: The red-hot Curtis Granderson didn’t play because of tightness in his left hip. Granderson was originally in the starting lineup but was scratched after complaining of a tight hip.

“He tried to hit, but couldn’t,’’ Collins said, leading to speculation he might not be available to face Stephan Strasburg Monday in Washington.

CESPEDES COLD: If Granderson hadn’t come up lame, today would have been a good day to rest Yoenis Cespedes, who is on a 3-for-21 slide.

Cespedes has looked overmatched – if not tired – at the plate and has been chasing pitches low-and-away.

“He’s human,’’ Collins said of Cespedes’ struggles. “Everybody who has ever played this game is going to have [bad days]. Yoenis Cespedes will turn it around. He’s too good a player.’’

NATIONALS NEXT: This is probably as good a time as any to face the Nationals. Trea Turner is out indefinitely with a broken wrist and their bullpen has blown 13 save opportunities. The Mets also catch a break in not facing Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez.

Jun 28

Mets’ Pitching Could Determine Role At Trade Deadline

Watching Steven Matz toy with the Marlins tonight I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been or what could be. The Mets were supposed to go deep into the playoffs this season with five starters and two reliable reserves just in case something happened.

Well, something did happen and six of those pitchers have spent some time on the disabled list.

MATZ: He's back. (AP)

MATZ: He’s back. (AP)

Matz is back and going strong, working into the seventh inning in three of his last four starts, including seven scoreless in beating the Marlins, 8-0.

Teamed with Jacob deGrom, manager Terry Collins, said the Mets have the beginnings of a strong core.

“It’s going to take pitching if we’re going to get back into this thing,’’ Collins said.

Matz was superb despite only four strikeouts as he pitched to contact.

“I let them put the ball in play,’’ Matz said. “I got a lot of groundball outs [12] and that helps me go deep into games.’’

Matz’s control was on tonight as he not only painted the corners but brushed Giancarlo Stanton off the plate, something Mets’ pitchers don’t always do.

Robert Gsellman went on the disabled list today which gives Rafael Montero another chance to stay in the rotation. Montero has made three straight strong appearances and is coming off a good start.

While the Mets are optimistic about him, they are also hoping for innings from Seth Lugo, Thursday, in Miami, plus a positive medical report on Zack Wheeler.

Even should all those things materialize, the Mets are in such a hole that catching the Nationals isn’t likely to happen, but .500 is within reach.

Perhaps more importantly – and you can decide for yourself whether it is good or bad – the Mets open the second half with ten straight at home, which could make them competitive enough to where it could decide their direction at the trade deadline.

 

Jun 25

Montero Pitches Big For Mets

Rafael Montero made us wonder before, but could this time be different? Not only was Montero terrific in beating the Giants, but Sunday was his third straight solid outing.

With three starters on the disabled list, and the Mets trying to salvage something from their season, this is about as good a piece of news they can currently expect.

MONTERO:  Solid again.  (AP)

MONTERO: Solid again. (AP)

“This is what we were hoping to see from him,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He didn’t shy away. I hope this is what we’re going to see from here on from him. Hopefully, this is a huge wake-up call that he can pitch in this league.’’

After giving one run in 3.2 innings against the Dodgers, and three scoreless against the Nationals, Montero gave up one run in 5.2 innings today to earn his second career victory, beating the Giants, 8-2.

Command has always been a problem for Montero. He only walked two Giants, but only 61 of his 104 pitches were strikes, which leaves plenty of room for improvement.

If there was a signature moment, it came in the sixth. The Giants had runners on first and second with nobody out and he busted a fastball in off the fists of Buster Posey, popped out into a double play. It was a pitch thrown with confidence because if Montero missed and the pitch tailed over the plate Posey could have crushed it and change the complexion of the game.

Zack Wheeler will be eligible to come off the disabled list in a week, but if he’s not ready Montero could slot in again.

And, this time Collins won’t have to cross his fingers.

 

 

 

Jun 21

Yup, Wheeler Is Fine … Except Goes On DL

What did I tell you about believing the injury denials from the Mets and their pitchers? Right, don’t believe a word they say. Less than 48 hours after saying there was nothing wrong with him, Mets starter Zack Wheeler was placed on the 10-day disabled list with biceps tendinitis.

WHEELER: Goes on DL. (AP)

WHEELER: Goes on DL. (AP)

“I’ve been feeling for a little while now and it has gotten a little worse,’’ Wheeler told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers. “I could miss a start or two.’’

That’s not exactly the same thing as “I feel fine.’’

An MRI showed no structural damage and GM Sandy Alderson expects Wheeler to miss one start, but that’s being optimistic. Alderson speculates Wheeler might have hit a wall after missing the last two years following Tommy John surgery.

Wheeler’s next start will go to tonight’s starter, Tyler Pill, or Rafael Montero.

Wheeler, 27, is 3-5 with a 5.29 ERA after two straight horrendous starts in which he’s given up 15 runs while working 3.2 innings. He’s worked 66.1 innings, a little more than half of what his projected innings ceiling would be.

The Mets went to a six-man rotation, in part, to protect Wheeler. An innings limit shouldn’t be an issue any longer, but the six-man rotation could be gone without Wheeler and Matt Harvey.

“Neither the starting pitching nor the relief pitching is doing very well, and that’s been true over the last week or so with the exception of Jacob deGrom,’’ Alderson said. “We’re working hard to correct it. We haven’t seen any results at this point.’’

Just the last week or so?

Jun 20

Today’s Question: What’s Wrong With Zack Wheeler?

The ancient Greeks may have had their idea of tragedy, but they never had to stay up until 2 to watch the Mets. How does a team hit four home runs and score six runs against the sport’s best pitcher, but lose the game?

WHEELER: In trouble. (AP)

WHEELER: In trouble. (AP)

Actually, it’s very simple when your starting pitcher gives up seven runs and lasts only two innings. That’s Zack Wheeler, who lasted 1.2 innings and gave up eight runs in his previous start. That’s 15 runs in 3.2 innings.

Concerned is an understatement.

“When you’ve got that kind of stuff and you’re getting hit like [Wheeler] is getting hit, there is something wrong and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He’s too good. He’s got too good of stuff.’’

But “stuff’’ is too broad a term. Stuff is more than throwing hard. It includes movement, location and command of his secondary pitches.

“Honestly, I haven’t had off-speed pitches all year, and now it’s starting to catch up to me,’’ Wheeler said. “Those guys get scouting reports and now it’s starting to catch up to me. It’s easy [for hitters] when you can’t throw off-speed for strikes and you’re just throwing fastballs.’’

And, fastballs with little movement that hang out over the plate get crushed. But, it might not be just one issue.  Wheeler’s problems can be attributed to a myriad of circumstances:

HEALTH: Wheeler said he’s fine, but Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey each said they were all right and both are on the disabled list.

Mets’ pitchers are notorious for withholding physical ailments and trying to pitch through discomfort, so it wouldn’t surprise me if something crops up with Wheeler.

HITTING A WALL: Wheeler missed the last two seasons following Tommy John surgery and a complicated healing process. It’s quite possible he’s hit a wall.

The solution for that could be to shut him down for his next start and give him time to rest.

TIPPING PITCHES: Collins said they’ll look at video in an attempt to spot any mechanical issues. While they are at it, examine the tape carefully to spot any giveaways to what’s coming.

The Dodgers’ first five hitters swung the bat like they knew the pitch.

Something isn’t right with Wheeler and the Mets’ would be wise for him to skip a start as they search for answers.