— Bleacher Report MLB (@BR_MLB) August 29, 2018
Thus began another magical night of watching deGrom pitch.
The Cubs were doing all they could do to get to deGrom. In fact, they found a way to get their leadoff hitter on in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. deGrom responded nearly each time with a combination of guile and defense.
What’s interesting about that was deGrom slipped attempting to fielding a Baez infield single. He was initially limping, but he shook it off much like he shook off base runners all night long.
The real threat against deGrom came in the seventh, and the Cubs finally broke through with deGrom and the Mets getting some tough luck.
After a Kyle Schwarber leadoff single, Albert Almora, Jr. laid down a bunt. deGrom pounced on it and got Schwarber at second. Ben Zobrist, who entered the game 1-for-10 against deGrom, hit a ball that went under Jay Bruce‘s glove to set up runners at the corners.
David Bote hit a sacrifice fly to center to bring home the Cubs first run of the game.
Still, when you play players out of position and when you give deGrom little to no margin of error, these types of plays get magnified.
After the Bote sacrifice fly, the inning was not over. After Bote was Mets killer Daniel Murphy came to the plate. In a tough seven pitch at-bat, deGrom finally won the battle and struck out Murphy to escape the jam.
After the string of leadoff hitters reaching and with that high stress inning, you’d understand Mickey Callaway pinch hitting for deGrom with two outs in the top of the eighth. He didn’t.
For what it’s worth, deGrom was the only Met to get an RBI as the team continued to shoot itself in the foot trying to score runs for deGrom.
In the third, the Mets tried to make something happen with Rosario and Jeff McNeil trying to execute a double steal. While it was initially ruled Rosario evaded Bote’s tag, he was ruled out on review. The inning sputtered from there.
Both rallies were killed with a Michael Conforto strikeout. For his part, Conforto had a very tough night at the plate going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. In total, he’d leave eight runners on base.
In the fifth, deGrom singles to short and Rosario bunted his way on. McNeil then couldn’t deliver the two out hit.
Finally, the Mets broke through in the sixth. As alluded to earlier, deGrom delivered the big hit with a two out RBI infield hit.
In the seventh, the Mets had a golden opportunity to push across an insurance run.
McNeil hit a ball which looked out. Unfortunately, it got caught in the wind and stayed in the park. Counting on nothing, McNeil busted it out of the box with a leadoff triple.
Jackson then lined out to Baez, and Conforto lined out to Rizzo. Todd Frazier was intentionally walked and stole second, but it was for naught as Bruce struck out to end the rally.
In the eighth, the Cubs once again tried to crack deGrom.
Rizzo singled, and Heyward walked to start the inning. Then like he had all night, deGrom struck out Baez. He then grabbed a comebacker from Victor Carantini to start the inning ending 1-6-3 double play.
All told, deGrom’s final line was 8.0 innings, eight hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and 10 strikeouts. All that was good for was a no decision.
Despite him reaching Seaver and Gooden heights, deGrom walked away with a no decision.
With the rain delay which came in the top of the tenth, the game was a microcosm of deGrom’s season.
Game Notes: Before the game, Jose Bautista was traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.
Despite the Phillies claiming Jose Bautista off waivers, the Mets risked getting a deal getting nixed due to injury by putting him in the lineup. The reason for the decision was Bautista’s numbers against Jon Lester.
Essentially, the Mets risked a possible piece for the future to win a meaningless August game.
To his credit, Syndergaard got out of that jam partially because he picked Javier Baez off first, and the rundown was executed well enough to prevent Murphy from scoring from third. That was a moot point after the Rizzo double.
The Mets reclaimed the lead in the second with Conforto hitting an absolute monster home run:
Just your typical *squints, double-checks notes* 472-FOOT CRUSH JOB from @mconforto8.
That's not a typo. 😳💪 pic.twitter.com/w94CsZ1zpj
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 28, 2018
The second inning rally began anew with Kevin Plawecki drawing a two out four pitch walk. Surprisingly, Lester then walked Syndergaard leading to Rosario hitting an RBI single to give the Mets a 3-1 lead.
It was a very uneven game for Plawecki. Behind the plate, he struggled, but at the plate, he excelled.
In the third, Syndergaard seemed close to working his way around a Javier Baez leadoff double. With runners at the corners and two outs, Syndergaard threw a pitch in the dirt.
Rather than getting down to block the call, Plawecki tried to backhand it leading to a wild pitch and a run scoring. Subsequently that at-bat, Syndergaard threw one in the dirt, and Plawecki didn’t get down quick enough. Fortunately, Jason Heyward didn’t move up because he lost track of the ball.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t matter.
After a Willson Contreras infield single, Mickey Callaway ordered an intentional walk to load the bases. With two outs and Lester up, a career .092 hitter at the plate, it should have been inning over.
Instead, Syndergaard threw a fat pitch, and Lester hit a two RBI single giving the Cubs a 4-3 lead.
In total, Syndergaard pitched six uninspiring innings allowing four earned on nine hits with three walks and six strikeouts. Maybe it’s all the missed time, but Thor is not Thor right now.
When he departed, he was in line for the loss. That was until Plawecki got the run back he allowed with a game tying homer in the seventh:
Outta here. Tied up. 💪 pic.twitter.com/ltVD463vJt
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 28, 2018
With the much improved Mets bullpen, it seemed like the Mets were going to actually have a chance to pull this one out. Unfortunately, Jerry Blevins would have his first poor outing on over a month.
Rizzo led off the top of the seventh with a ground rule double which bounced off the tape:
.@Cubs challenge call that Anthony Rizzo hit a foul ball in the 7th; call overturned, fair ball.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) August 28, 2018
Smith was able to navigate his way out of that jam by yielding just an RBI groundout to Contreras.
Daniel Zamora pitched the eighth, and he blew through the first two hitters he faced. Then his seemingly unhittable slider was hit by Rizzo for a home run giving the Cubs a 7-4 lead heading into the ninth.
Despite going 0-for-3 after being put in the lineup for his great numbers against Lester, Bautista would draw a leadoff walk off Pedro Strop.
Predictably, Jose Reyes didn’t come through instead hitting into a fielder’s choice.
That didn’t stop the Mets from loading the bases with one out. With the bases loaded, the Cubs went to Jesse Chavez for the save.
He dominated Rosario getting him to strike out. Chavez would then strike out Jackson on a couple of dubious strike calls, especially strike three, to end the game.
At the end of the day, Syndergaard looked less god than human, and Bautista went hitless in a game he played due to his bat.
Game Notes: Rosario was picked off by Lester for venturing way off first. Jeff McNeil‘s 11 game hitting streak ended with him popping out in a pinch hitting appearance.
The Mets are so far under .500 that they can’t even get in the mix for what is a wide open National League Wild Card. They’re not even following the Nationals lead who traded off Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams at the same time the Mets are playing Jose Bautista and Austin Jackson everyday. Given the record and the poor direction of this organization, it becomes increasingly difficult to find reasons to watch.
With that in mind, here are reasons to watch the Mets other than you love the Mets or you hate yourself:
- Will Jacob deGrom finish the season strong enough to the point where he overcomes everything to become the Cy Young winner with the fewest wins from a starting pitcher?
- How will the Mets handle first base with Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores, and Dominic Smith? Will the team actually call up Peter Alonso?
- Is Zack Wheeler for real, or is the guy we have known him to be during his Mets career ever going to show up again?
- Can Kevin Plawecki be an everyday catcher? With the Devin Mesoraco neck injury we should finally find out.
- Which one of the young relievers are for real? So far, the answer appears to be Drew Smith and Daniel Zamora, but maybe just maybe Tyler Bashlor can enter the mix as well.
- How much progress can Amed Rosario make on both sides of the ball?
- Will Michael Conforto continue this second half surge, or will he regress as his shoulder presumably tires?
- Is Jeff McNeil really the next Daniel Murphy?
More than any of this, we wait for baited breath to see if David Wright will actually take the field for the Mets again. If he does, that will be the greatest reason of all to watch the Mets again this year.
Seeing how the Nationals have performed recently, including how they performed yesterday against Jason Vargas, it’s difficult to get excited about any pitcher dominating them.
That said, Zack Wheeler has been great recently and today was another one of his terrific outings.
Wheeler pitched seven scoreless allowing six hits and three walks while striking out four.
This was the eighth time over his last 12 starts where he has gone at least seven innings. It is also the sixth straight start he’s allowed two runs or fewer.
For a while, it looked like Wheeler would walk away with the no decision as Tanner Roark was matching zeros with him over the first five innings.
Up until that point, the Mets just had three hits and no one reached third.
Finally, with one out in the sixth, Amed Rosario would hit a solo homer to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.
El Niño looking more like El Hombre right now. 💪 pic.twitter.com/BXeRgB2wlt
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 25, 2018
The Mets would tack on runs in the ensuing two innings.
In the seventh, Todd Frazier would continue his hot hitting with a homer of his own.
In the eighth, Rosario beat out a potential double play ball extending the inning. He would then score as both Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto would hit singles off Nationals left-handed reliever Matt Grace.
That 3-0 lead was more than enough for Wheeler and what has been a terrific Mets bullpen this month.
Just like that, it appears the Mets are trending in an upward trajectory while the Nationals are struggling to find themselves. Hopefully, that will last longer than just the final two months of this season.
Game Notes: This is the first time the Mets recorded consecutive shutouts since 2015. Conforto started the game in center for the first time since June 26th.
Well, today was a day the Mets pretended they were 15 games over instead of 15 games under .500.
With Jay Bruce having a bobble head day on Saturday and his finally eligible to come off the disabled list, this meant the Mets needed to either demote or DFA two players.
The other player was Dominic Smith, who had gone 2-for-6 with a double, homer, and two RBI in the bizarrely limited playing time he had been given during this all too brief call-up.
Remember Jackson and Bautista are Mets because no one else wanted them. The Mets called these 30+ year old impending free agents from their homes because other teams were paying them not to play for them.
Naturally, the Mets decided to play all three of them over Michael Conforto.
This is the squad the Mets opted to go with to face off against the Washington Nationals.
Basically, this set the stage for a game between two teams playing out the string, and it showed.
In the first, Amed Rosario hit a leadoff single off Gio Gonzalez, and he would steal second. Jeff McNeil pushed him over to third on a groundout to the right side, and Rosario would score on a Wilmer Flores RBI single.
Sadly, that was all the run support Vargas would need as the Nationals really didn’t show up.
Vargas pitched six shutout innings while allowing three hits, walking none, and striking out eight.
In the entire game, the Nationals would have just four hits with no one reaching third.
Those other two runs came courtesy of a Bruce two run homer. It was his first homer of the year at Citi Field.
Given how the Mets are dedicated to this 30+ year old veteran movement, we should see Bruce gets more chances to add to that home run total.
Overall, it was just astonishing to see how a Mets-Nationals game has zero juice. Both teams are very disappointing, and when they play games like this, it’s completely pointless.
Game Recap: Before the game, Mickey Callaway said Bruce could be the first baseman for the Mets next year. That would require Bruce getting time there next year, which all but eliminates the chances we see Peter Alonso this year or Smith again (at least in terms of his getting extended playing time).
Perhaps, the Mets did not give McNeil his chance because they were not sure his incredible season in the minors would translate to MLB success. So far, it has.
In tonight’s game, McNeil was at the center of both Mets rallies with him going a perfect 4-for-4 with two runs, a double, and an RBI.
Jackson would move to second on Hunter Pence‘s their home, but the Mets could not bring him home.
Still, with the two runs scored, the Mets tied the score and got Steven Matz off the hook.
Initially, things did not look good for Matz. Three batters into the game, he and the Mets were down 2-0 with Evan Longoria hitting a bomb off of him:
103 mph 🚀
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) August 21, 2018
Fortunately, Matz would settle in, and he would not allow another hit in his five innings pitched. With this being his second start since coming off the disabled list, Matz was done after five innings and 87 pitches.
Corey Oswalt, who was recently demoted to the bullpen, relieved Matz, and he would pitch three terrific scoreless innings allowing just one hit. Not only would he pitch well, but he would also pick up his third win of the season.
Oswalt got the win because the Mets offense jumped all over Tony Watson starting with a Reyes triple off a ball Pence just could not field.
McNeil jumped on the first pitch, and much like Flores did in the previous inning, he hit an opposite field double. The double easily scored Reyes giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.
With the open base, and his historical numbers against left-handed batters, Watson intentionally walked Flores to face Conforto. That was a mistake:
Oppo. 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/UIUR89EpfX
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 22, 2018
The opposite field three run homer gave the Mets a 6-2 lead.
In the end, this was a game won because McNeil is a professional hitter who delivered in two big spots. It makes you wonder how different things would have been had the Mets given him a chance when they first needed him.
Game Recap: 2015 NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy was traded by the Nationals to the Cubs as the Nationals have begun selling what they can.
Last night, Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario collided in the outfield leading to a ball dropping and the go-ahead run scoring. When a gaffe like this happens, many are sent looking to pin blame. As has often happens since he was first called up to the majors, Smith was an easy target.
Before looking to levy the blame on him, it is important to review just how Smith became a left fielder.
Back in 2011, the now defunct Sandy Alderson regime made Brandon Nimmo their first ever draft pick. Since that time, the Mets have drafted and signed just 27 outfield prospects.
The breakdown goes: 2011 (six), 2012 (none), 2013 (three), 2014 (five), 2015 (three), 2016 (three), 2017 (four), 2018 (three).
Putting aside Nimmo and Michael Conforto, the outfielders the Mets have drafted since 2011 have played a combined 35 games at the Major League level.
Currently, the Las Vegas roster only has one outfielder drafted from the aforementioned draft classes on their roster – Kaczmarski. Kaczmarski is currently battling for playing time with players like Zach Borenstein, Bryce Brentz, Matt den Dekker, and Patrick Kivlehan.
Binghamton had Tim Tebow playing everyday because there really wasn’t a Mets draftee pushing him out of the lineup.
Champ Stuart, the Mets 2013 sixth round pick, is repeating the level, and he is hitting .136/.280/.264. Patrick Biondi, the Mets 2013 ninth round pick, is also repeating the level, and he is hitting .222/.333/.247.
Overall, that’s just three part time outfield draft picks playing in the upper levels of their minor league system. Combine them with Nimmo and Conforto, and that makes just five outfield draft picks playing in Double-A or high from the past eight drafts.
Given how much the Mets drafts have not provided much in terms of outfield depth, the Mets were faced with calling up a Major League has been or never was or to give the shot to Smith. Given how Peter Alonso was nipping at Smith’s heels from Double-A, learning another position did make some sense.
Believe it or not, Smith in the outfield was not as absurd a proposition as it may sound. He entered the year leaner and faster. As noted by Baseball Savant, his sprint speed is better Jose Bautista and Jay Bruce, two players the Mets have felt eminently comfortable in the outfield. When he was drafted, Baseball America noted Smith had a strong arm and was a “fringy defender with below-average speed” in the outfield.
Still, the Mets were forced into that position because of how they handled Smith.
After he struggled last year, they were wise to bring in competition for him in Spring Training in the form of Adrian Gonzalez. Partially due to Smith’s injury in Spring Training, Gonzalez did win the job. However, he played poorly.
In 21 April games, Gonzalez hit .227/.312/.394. After going 3-for-4 with two solo homers in a game at Cincinnati, Gonzalez returned to form hitting just .267/.323/.350 over his next 20 games leading to his eventual release.
With the way Gonzalez was playing, there was a real chance to call-up Smith and give him a shot. The Mets passed, and they instead decided to stick with a guy who was not producing.
When the Mets finally released Gonzalez, they gave Smith three games to prove he could produce at the Major League level. In those three games, he went 4-for-12 with a double, homer, and an RBI. After that three game stretch, Wilmer Flores came off the disabled list, and he was given the first base job.
With Flores being bestowed the first base job, Smith’s great experiment in the outfield truly began. With Smith not playing well in the outfield, he found himself on the bench, and eventually, he would head back to Triple-A. When he was sent back to Triple-A, he was entrenched as the left fielder because Alonso had been called up and given the first base job.
In the end, you have a former first round draft pick and former Top 100 prospect playing out of position because the Mets have failed to give Smith a chance, the team has failed to develop outfield prospects at the upper levels of their minor league system, and the team is more willing to give failing veterans a chance over a younger player who could improve with Major League coaching and playing time.
Overall, that is how you get a promising prospect in the outfield, and that is how you have two young players colliding in the outfield and costing the Mets a game.
Dom Smith. Amed Rosario. The Mets. Truly unbelievable stuff.
**CUE THE MUSIC** pic.twitter.com/yclRui1w4k
— Kris Venezia (@KVenezia1) August 21, 2018
Now, looking at that play ad nauseum, that’s Smith’s ball.
Yes, a more experienced left fielder is more aware on the play, and he would make a stronger call for the call.
For his part, Rosario should know who is in left, and he should have made a stronger call for the ball instead of acting like a timid second grader unsure of whether he really knew the answer to the teacher’s question.
That’s important when you consider Smith actually called for the ball first:
“It’s part of the game. I heard he called it real quick even before I was under the ball.”
When'd you heard him: “When I was ready to call it. It was too late.”
Who's ball: “He has the ball in front of him so I’m running backward. He has more choice/better view."
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) August 21, 2018
While it’s easy to pin the blame on this, it’s important to note this wouldn’t have been an issue if the veterans who the Mets insist on playing actually delivered.
On the night, Jackson was 1-6, and he left five men on base.
Jose Reyes had the same situation in the 11th, and he softly lined out to Crawford.
On the night, Reyes was 0-5, and he loved left four runners on base.
Good thing he started over Jeff McNeil who singled in his only at-bat.
Really, the Mets offense did absolutely nothing after the Wilmer Flores RBI double. In fact, Flores was the only Met who was hitting with him going 3-6.
Jose Bautista, the other outfielder who has been playing over Smith, was 0-5 with three left on base.
Ultimately, the Mets played four 30+ year old impending free agents over younger players, and the four went 1-for-21 while stranding 13 runners on base.
In addition to Bautista and Jackson starting in the outfield, the Mets started Jack Reinheimer in left field, a player with only eight innings of outfield experience in the majors and 49.0 innings in the minors.
This became an issue in the seventh inning.
Heading into the seventh, Zack Wheeler had been absolutely brilliant pitching six scoreless innings. Those six scoreless innings included his Houdini act in the fifth inning.
After an Evan Longoria double, the Giants had runners on second and third with no outs. Wheeler responded by striking out Steven Duggar, Alen Hanson, and Derek Holland to get out of the jam. Wheeler was so close to repeating the trick in the seventh.
Wheeler issued a leadoff walk to Crawford, which would be the only walk Wheeler would allow on the day. Trouble was brewing immediately as Brandon Belt singled to set up runners at first and second with no outs. It would be runners at the corners with one out after Crawford moved to third when Longoria lined out to Bautista.
After Duggar struck out again, Wheeler got Hanson to pop up to left. With Rosario shifted over, and the inexperienced Reineheimer playing deeper than an experienced left fielder, the ball fell past the outstretched hands of Rosario. Reinheimer was nowhere to be seen.
After the game, Wheeler channeled his inner Jon Niese and griped about players playing out of position, which led to the ball falling. Wheeler was speaking about the shift, but considering how the Mets both the game and this season, he might as well have been talking about how the Mets play all of their players out of position.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Mets had a chance to get back the lead. McNeil and Michael Conforto, two left-handed batters sat against the immortal Derek Holland, came up in successive pinch hitting attempts against the Giants bullpen, specifically Tony Watson. They hit consecutive one out singles to set up runners at the corners with one out.
Rosario hit a 3-2 pitch for an inning ending double play.
To their credit, the booth did discuss how Crawford charged in a couple of steps to get the Rosario grounder, which led him to beat Rosario by less than a full step in turning the double play.
Overall, the Mets lost this game because of their refusal to play young players over the veterans. Maybe if Smith was playing in the majors instead of Jackson, when this play happens, he and Rosario have the communication issues hammered. Perhaps, if the Mets didn’t decided a done Adrian Gonzalez was a better option than him, Smith would have been a first base, and this never would have been an issue.
In the end, we will never know because the Mets would rather play 30+ year old players who no other team wanted at the trade deadline to try to win some meaningless games which could only hurt their draft position.
Game Notes: Wheeler’s seventh inning walk to Crawford was the first walk yielded by Mets pitching in 25 innings.
Believe it or not, two years ago, Todd Frazier was part of a Toms River team who won the Little League World Series. Of course, you believe it because we are reminded of it all the time. But it wasn’t just Frazier with Little League World Series exploits. Michael Conforto is the only player to homer in both the World Series and the Little League World Series.
Considering the Mets connection with to the Little League World Series, it made them the natural choice to participate in the Little League Classic.
What made the choice even better was how much the team embraced it. Frazier was out there signing autographs. Jacob deGrom was interviewing Little Leaguers. Noah Syndergaard was sharing pitching grips with members of the Spanish team. Really, to a man, the Mets were taking pictures with the young players. Syndergaard and deGrom would join Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler in watching the game from the stands with the Staten Island Little League team.
The Mets also embraced the challenge on the field, which included Jason Vargas having his best start in a Mets uniform.
Surprisingly, the Phillies could not get to Vargas until the sixth when Carlos Santana hit a two run home run off of him. After a Wilson Ramos double, Mickey Callaway brought in Seth Lugo, the Quarterrican, to get out of the jam. At that point, it was too little too late for the Phillies.
The Mets first rally was started by Frazier (who else?). His leadoff single against Nick Pivetta was the first of four straight singles. The Jose Bautista and Kevin Plawecki singles would plate two runs. After a Vargas sacrifice bunt, Amed Rosario would hit a two RBI single to give the Mets an early 4-0 lead.
The Mets lead would grow to 7-0 before the Phillies would even score a run off of Vargas. Jeff McNeil plated two runs with an RBI single in the fourth, and Rosario plated a run with another RBI single in the sixth.
Things were going so well for the Mets that Dominic Smith, who was called-up as the 26th man for the game, would hit an RBI pinch hit double in the eight. With Brandon Nimmo hurting, the Mets are now considering keeping Smith up to play left field, which would obviously be the right thing to do.
Game Notes: Asdrubal Cabrera went 1-for-17 against his former team in this series.
Yesterday, Aaron Nola threw a gem against the Mets which showed everyone the National League Cy Young race is far from over.
All season long deGrom has been great, but today may have been him at his best. Through eight, he was at 99 pitches, and still Mickey Callaway sent him out for that ninth to let deGrom go out and get his complete game.
When Nick Williams grounded out, deGrom had his complete game. His final line was 9.0 innings, seven hits, one unearned run, no walks, and nine strikeouts.
Really, deGrom was just that close to a shutout.
.@Mets challenge call that Odúbel Herrera is safe at 1B in the 7th; call overturned, runner is out.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) August 18, 2018
Wilmer Flores made a nice play to get the lead out at second, but instead of eating the ball, Rosario made a low throw which went past deGrom.
The throw allowed Williams to score from second, but the Mets still got out of the inning as both deGrom and Jeff McNeil made a heads up play.
With Odubel Herrera making the ever so brief turn to first, he was fair game. McNeil got to first and got the tag down on the deGrom throw.
This was just one of several ways McNeil helped deGrom come away with his eight win of the season.
In the fifth, he flat out robbed Herrera of a hit:
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 18, 2018
McNeil also started a fourth inning rally with a leadoff single against Jake Arrieta. When Arrieta threw one away trying to pick him off, he went to third, and he’d score on a Flores RBI single.
With deGrom pitching like deGrom, the Mets would win 3-1.
In the victory, deGrom lowered his already MLB best ERA to 1.71. He would also clear the 200 strikeout plateau. Basically, he continues to prove he’s the best pitcher in all of baseball with each and every start.
Game Notes: Brandon Nimmo missed another game after injuring his hand.