South Korea is where we soon hope to be as a country. They have widespread testing, and as a result, they’ve been able to return to normalcy much quicker. They’re even at the point where baseball is soon to return.
Yesterday, the KBO, the Korean Baseball Organization, returned to play with practice games. With these intrasquad games, we can finally see some real baseball being played. Fortunately, some of these games are being streamed on YouTube:
If that pitcher for the Doosan Bears looks familiar, it should. That’s former Mets pitcher Chris Flexen. He would have a scoreless appearance.
Seeing actual baseball and seeing a familiar face pitch is a needed reminder there’s still hope we can all get back to normal. We may not know when, but it can happen, and hopefully, that day will come soon.
Until then, we get to see Flexen. For parts of three seasons, that’s something which would’ve made many Mets fans cringe. Now, seeing Flexen on the mound is hope, and it is something to be enjoyed at least until we get to see Jacob deGrom back on the mound to begin the 2020 season.
In 2013, the Louisville Cardinals beat the Michigan Wolverines to win the NCAA Championship. It was on CBS, and the game is still on YouTube. It was televised, and if you did not see it, you can still take time to watch the game if you still want.
What’s weird about that is supposedly that game never happened.
Due to a recruitment scandal, Louisville needed to vacate their wins, and Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino was fired by the university thereby ending a storied career in disgrace. There is article after article about it, and there are many references to the scandal and the game.
And yet, the game supposedly never happened. It never happened despite it being well documented. That extensive documentation proves the old axiom you cannot rewrite history to be true. You can’t post hoc say Louisville didn’t win a game when you can still watch it and read about it.
Therein lies the problem with stripping championships. They happened, and no matter what you do, those games still happened. The Louisville Cardinals won the 2013 NCAA Championship much like the 2017 Houston Astros won the World Series.
As we know, the Astros cheated to do it. They cheated in a similar fashion to how the New York Giants did in 1951 when they won the pennant when Bobby Thompson hit the “Shot Heard Round the World.” That game, much like the seven game 2017 World Series, happened.
To date, that game and the 1951 pennant has not been vacated. No, not even with the reports of the New York Giants extensive sign stealing scheme. Like with the Astros, there were rumors it was happening, but there would be no Mike Fiers whistle blowing until 51 years later when first base coach Herman Franks came forward.
Unlike the Astros players initial response, the other Giants players, Thompson included, admitted to it. However, akin to Jose Altuve and the buzzer rumors surrounding his own famous pennant clinching homer, Thompson denied getting the sign in the famed homer off of Ralph Branca.
The fact is the Shot Heard Round the World remains a part of history. The same can be said about the Astros 2017 World Series. Really, it is more than just that series, it was an entire season.
Where do you stop. Does Altuve gets stripped of his MVP award? How about Justin Verlander‘s ALCS MVP and George Springer‘s World Series MVP awards? With Cody Bellinger‘s statements and Aaron Judge deleting his congratulatory tweet, that seems like it might be palatable. What next?
Do you take away the Astros offensive stats? Is that really going to unring the bell? Look at it from a Mets perspective. Matt Harvey is still a free agent struggling to return from TOS, Seth Lugo is still in the bullpen, and Chris Flexen is still pitching in Korea.
Again, no matter how much you want to pretend the Astros 2017 World Series title never happened, it did, and there are long standing ramifications. That includes players like Clayton Kershaw never winning a World Series ring. Much like the Michigan Wolverines, the Dodgers aren’t going to be named the World Series champions post hoc.
No matter how much we want it to not have happened, the Astros won that World Series, and really you can’t change history. Even if you strip it away, it still exists. If you attach an asterisk to it, it still exists. There is nothing you can do to make it not happen because it did.
So no, don’t strip it away.
However, there are reasonable things Major League Baseball could do. They could tell the Astros they need to remove the pennants and similar denotations of their World Series. After all, while you can’t make it unhappen, you can put barriers in place to stop the Astros from celebrating that World Series.
It’s not great, but it’s something, but that is what you are left with because you can’t say nothing happened because it did.
While Major League Baseball underwent an investigation, it was a Houston Astros fan who really did the research into the extent of the Astros sign stealing.
Tony Adams set up a website named Sign Stealing Scandal. On his website and on Twitter, he released the results of his investigation into the extent of the Astros sign stealing. It also detailed how often there was the now infamous banging sound during an Astros’ batter’s plate appearance:
Astros players trashcan bangs.
— Tony Adams (@adams_at) January 29, 2020
However, in 2017, they were Houston Astros, and they squared off against pitchers who are currently on the Mets pitching staff.
On September 2, 2017, Davis played in both ends of a doubleheader going 2-for-8 with a double, homer, and two RBI. Both of those hits came against Tommy Milone and Jamie Callahan, neither of whom are with the Mets.
On that day, the only pitcher he faced who is still with the Mets is Seth Lugo. While he went 0-for-2, he was in a lineup which handed Lugo the loss.
Lugo, who wants to be a starter, has only started five games after that losing effort.
Marisnick was not in the lineup for either game. It should also be noted Sign Stealing Scandal denotes there was no video from those games. As such, we are not 100% sure the Astros used the banging those days, but it’s reasonable to assume it happened.
It should be noted this wasn’t the only time Davis and Marisnick squared off against current Mets pitchers.
On June 3, 2018, Davis was 0-for-3 against Rick Porcello in a game Porcello picked up the win.
Essentially, Davis’ full extent of facing current Mets pitchers as a member of the Astros was those five at-bats against Lugo and Porcello.
Given his going hitless in those at-bats and how popular he appears among those players from last year’s Mets roster, it appears he may not have to do much, if anything, to smooth things over with his teammates.
Marisnick might be a different story.
If we expand the time period to include 2018 and 2019, Marisnick has faced six of the pitchers currently on the Mets pitching staff. In addition to doubling off Stroman, he has also doubled against Porcello and Brad Brach. He didn’t record a hit against Diaz, Wilson, or Dellin Betances.
With respect to Stroman, he’s been very outspoken about what the Astros did, and like many, he isn’t happy about it.
Shit makes sense now. I remember wondering how these guys were laying off some of my nasty pitches. Relaying all my signs in live speed to the batter. Ruining the integrity of the game. These dudes were all about the camera and social media. Now, they’re all quiet! Lol 😂 https://t.co/DuknUCQaRb
— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) January 20, 2020
In that tweet, he specifically addresses the game Marisnick doubled off of him. Clearly, Stroman was baffled by this game, and he’s justifiably upset about the whole sign stealing scandal.
The Mets were actually one of the more vocal teams about this last year. Kevin Kernan of the New York Post wrote about how much the Dodgers were on top of Diaz’s pitches. While cautioning they didn’t believe it to be illegal, Mickey Callaway and the Mets spoke about how they believed the Dodgers were stealing signs.
Right now, we know Davis and Marisnick cheated, and we’re starting to learn the extent to which they cheated. We also know their cheating has affected Mets new and old. Finally, we know at least some of the Mets pitchers are upset about the Astros sign stealing.
What we don’t know is what, if any, impact Davis’ and Marisnick’s part in the sign stealing will have on the 2020 Mets.
One of the reasons Carlos Beltran was fired was the difficulty in carrying on his managerial duties after discovering his involvement in the scandal. That may or may not have included his ability to handle pitchers like Stroman who he cheated against.
Now, the conversation shifts to those same pitchers reactions to their teammates, how Davis and Marisnick respond, and ultimately how Luis Rojas can manage the situation.
Of course, that presupposes there is going to be an issue. Maybe there won’t be one at all.
In the end, all we know is Davis and Marisnick cheated against former and current Mets pitchers, and at least some of the Mets pitchers are upset about what happened in Houston. Where the Mets go from here could very well be a factor in how the Mets clubhouse holds together and the team performs in 2020.
This past weekend, the Mets made a very shrewd move re-signing Brad Brach to help rebuild the Mets bullpen. The Mets got lucky Brach was released last year, and Brach made the best of the situation by pitching more like he did with the Baltimore Orioles. When you consider he only signed for $850,000 with an extremely reasonable $1.35 million option for 2021, this could be one of the best moves made by Brodie Van Wagenen.
Of course, Van Wagenen would follow it up with a flat out bad decision by designating Chris Flexen for assignment to make room for Brach on the roster.
With respect to Flexen, there have been many arguments which completely miss the point. First and foremost, there’s the argument others will be eventually designated for assignment, so the order doesn’t matter all that much. Of course, that is not true because more talented players like Flexen may have had some value to teams prior to his accepting a deal with the KBO. Also, it’s just plain bizarre supporting a team keeping worse players at the expense of better players.
The other argument was Flexen wasn’t good anyway, so why does it matter? This reasoning is one of the most problematic thought processes of them all.
It is without question Flexen struggled. While pitching with the Mets in parts of three seasons, he was 3-11 with a 8.07 ERA, 2.132 WHIP, 7.1 BB/9, and a 6.5 K/9. When you focus on the control issues, that is in no way a recipe for success at the Major League level or any level for that matter. However, there needs to be some context to those stats.
In 2017, Flexen was rushed to the Majors from Binghamton despite having thrown just 48.2 innings above the Single-A level. In the ensuing years, Flexen would deal with knee issues, and he would also be shipped back-and-forth between the minors and majors. There would be long periods of non-use, and there would be his being overused. Really, when you break it down, the Mets did not in any way set him up for any sort of success, and the numbers proved that out.
Going to Baseball Savant, we see Flexen has above-average fastball velocity and elite curve spin on his breaking pitches. In terms of just pure stuff, this makes him a poor man’s version of Seth Lugo. Put another way, Flexen absolutely has the arsenal to succeed as a reliever at the Major League level, but unlike Lugo, he has not found a way to quite harness his stuff and translate it to results.
Of course, this is the exact reason why the Mets hired Jeremy Hefner as their pitching coach. During his time with the Twins, Hefner become conversant in analytics, and he showed a real ability to translate them to players. We saw Twins pitchers attack the zone differently and improve their pitch sequencing in addition to buttoning up some of their mechanical issues. When you hire a pitching coach like Hefner, or really any pitching coach, you are looking for someone who is able to finally reach talented pitchers like Flexen and get them to pitch to the best of their ability.
With the Mets designating Flexen for assignment over far less talented pitchers like Chris Mazza, the team is not going to see a return on their investment on both Flexen and Hefner. To that end, this is more of the same from the Mets organization.
At different points in years past with the Mets, we have seen the team part with talented players who needed coaching like Flexen with the common refrain being they never did anything at the Major League level, so who cares? This was the refrain when the Mets parted ways with players like Heath Bell, Justin Turner, Hansel Robles, and many others.
In some instances, this did come back to haunt the Mets, and admittedly, in others, it did not. However, that is all besides the point. The real point here is the Mets had a very talented player, and they hired a pitching coach to help improve and develop pitchers like Flexen. Rather than proceed with that plan, the team decided they wanted to keep far less talented pitchers and not even bother getting the most out of someone with stuff which could have worked extremely well in the bullpen. When looking at it from that prism, designating Flexen for assignment made little to no sense.
With today being Thanksgiving, it is time to go around the Mets roster and say things we are thankful for:
Pete Alonso – he’s been better than even the highest and most absurd expectations anyone could have of him both in terms of his on the field play as well as the type of teammate and person he is
Carlos Beltran – for coming home
Robinson Cano – showed some late positive exit velocities showing there is some hope for a 2020 rebound
Yoenis Cespedes – for everyone questioning the drive of a man severely injured and needing career saving surgery, he is out there in the cold taking batting practice
Michael Conforto – re-established himself as one of the best young corner outfielders in the game, and with his talent, he’s on the verge of an MVP caliber season
J.D. Davis – quickly became a fan favorite and like few others seemed to really enjoy being a New York Met.
Jacob deGrom – best pitcher in baseball and starting to etch his likeness on the Mets Mt. Rushmore
Edwin Diaz – he survived the season, made no excuses, and he is doing what he needs to do to be the pitcher he was in 2018.
Jeurys Familia – he stopped using “Danza Kudro” meaning we no longer go to very bad places when that music begins blaring
Luis Guillorme – proved if given a chance he is a Major League caliber player giving the Mets some real needed middle infield depth
Chris Flexen – his move to the bullpen gives the Mets an interesting upside option in the bullpen
Robert Gsellman – he is one of those throwback type reliever who is always willing to take the ball no matter what
Sam Haggerty – it’s not often a player comes out of nowhere to provide real value to an organization the way Haggerty did with this speed
Jed Lowrie – to his credit, he did everything he could just to get those pinch hitting appearances late in the season
Seth Lugo – the best reliever in baseball who now gives Beltran a reliever who can break knees with his curve
Steven Matz – took that step forward and put to bed the unfair and wrong mentally weak narrative
Jeff McNeil – the man just does it all. He hits, plays everywhere, and he saves puppies.
Tomas Nido – became the defensive minded back-up catcher many believed him to be, and he played a part getting Mets pitchers head in the right place during different parts of the year.
Corey Oswalt – he put behind some injuries and gross mishandling by the organization to show he is a viable depth starting option for the organization
Wilson Ramos – drove in a number of big runs last year, and he has promised to be better behind the plate in 2020.
Amed Rosario – just a tireless worker who seems to be on the cusp of fulfilling the immense potential we all saw he had in the minors
Paul Sewald – he keeps proving himself to be better than the narrative, and he finally got his first Major League win to put an exclamation point on what is one of the better stories of the Mets farm system
Dominic Smith – that walk-off homer was a beautiful exclamation point on a season where he proved everyone who ever doubted him to be very wrong
Marcus Stroman – few have fully embraced being a Met like he has and fewer have been ready to thrive on the New York stage
Noah Syndergaard – not just a great pitcher, but also a guy who wants to be a New York Met.
Justin Wilson – was terrific in 2019, and with the LOOGY rules, he becomes an even more valuable bullpen piece in 2020
In terms of the talent still here, there is a lot to be thankful for. Hopefully, we will see the return of Zack Wheeler giving us all the more to be thankful for in 2020 and beyond.
With the Mets protecting Andres Gimenez, Jordan Humphreys, Ali Sanchez, and Thomas Szapucki from the Rule 5 Draft, the 40 man roster is completely full. With the Mets needing to address a number of areas of this team, this means ever trade, waiver claim, and free agent signing is going to require a player coming off the 40 man roster.
Obviously, Drew Gagnon was the first casualty, but he is not going to be the last. Here is a look at some of the other players sitting on the bubble:
2019 MLB Stats: 0-3, 6.95 ERA, 24 G, 22.0 IP, 1.727 WHIP, 7.0 BB/9, 8.2 K/9
The success Bashlor has had in the minors has not translated at all to the majors. In fact, his control issues have only been magnified, and he has not been able to blow his fastball by anyone. This left him hittable, and he has been hit hard.
2019 Stats: 11 G, 4 PA, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K
Haggerty was a September call-up with the Mets looking to add some late game speed as they were making a push for the Wild Card. With the current roster crunch, the Mets are too heavy on infielders. With Luis Guillorme firmly establishing himself as a Major League caliber utility player, Haggerty’s spot is all the more tenuous, and he’s very likely the first position player designated for assignment in the event a non-catcher is signed.
2019 Stats: 0-3, 6.59 ERA, 9 G, GS, 13.2 IP, 2.049 WHIP, 8.6 BB/9, 6.6 K/9
After struggling as a two pitch starter in his brief Major League appearances, Flexen was finally moved to the bullpen where he had fleeting success. You could argue with his stuff he could succeed next year in a bullpen role, but it’s very possible the Mets don’t see that happening as he was not called up last September. His being out of options may only accelerate a DFA decision.
2018 MiLB Stats: 4-9, 4.18 ERA, 26 GS, 140.0 IP, 1.343 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, 8.0 K/9
Kilome is a promising prospect who has control issues and is coming off Tommy John surgery. So far, the Mets have indicated things are going well in his rehab, and he should be ready to pitch early in the 2019 season. That said, if he has a setback, he could be moved off the roster in short order.
2019 MLB Stats: 1-1, 5.51 ERA, 9 G, 16.1 IP, 1.592 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 6.1 K/9
Mazza was a 29 year old rookie who finally made his debut with the Mets last year. While he was on the September roster, he did not pitch in a meaningful game although he did pick up his first Major League win on the final game of the season.
2019 Stats: .191/.231/.316, 5 2B, 4 HR, 14 RBI
Nido got his chance to be a defensive minded back-up, and he worked well with pitchers like Noah Syndergaard. Still, he effectively hit like a pitcher at the plate, and his framing numbers, albeit good, were not at the point where you could justify keeping him in the Majors with the way he hit. With him being out of options, and the Mets looking to upgrade, he has the most tenuous spot on the 4o man roster.
2019 Stats: 0-1, 10.80 ERA, 7 G, 6.2 IP, 2.100 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
Nogosek seemed to turn a corner getting his control under wraps in Syracuse, but those issues would resurface in his brief Major League appearances. There is promise in his arm, but his control issues may eventually make him expendable.
2019 Stats: 0-1, 12.15 ERA, 2 G, 6.2 IP, 2.250 WHIP, 8.1 BB/9, 6.8 K/9
Oswalt was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft after he was the 2017 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. Since that time, he has struggled, and it was partially the result of how the team left him sitting dormant for stretches and asking him to pitch on very short rest. He also dealt with some nagging injuries last year. In July and August, when he was healthy and finally giving a stretch of starts, he pitched well posting a 1.98 ERA in 10 starts which will probably save his spot on the 40 man roster. Still, with his not getting a September call-up, it’s not a guarantee.
2019 Stats: 1-1, 4.58 ERA, 17 G, SV, 19.2 IP, 1.068 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, 10.1 K/9
Last year, Sewald was designated for assignment, and yet again, despite the odds, he pitched his way back to the Majors. In fact, at the end of the year, he was arguably the most reliable right-handed reliever in the Mets bullpen not named Seth Lugo. He has a low walk rate, good strikeout rate, and had a better FIP than ERA. One thing which may save him is his still having a Major League option remaining.
2019 Stats: 0-1, 5.19 ERA, 17 G, 8.2 IP, 1.731 WHIP, 5.2 BB/9, 8.3 K/9
Zamora is an interesting case. In his career, he has posted reverse splits, but he has a very good K/BB ratio against LHB flashing a wipeout slider. With MLB enacting rules effectively eliminating the LOOGY role, a pitcher like Zamora could actually have increased value, but for that to happen, he needs to harness himself better. Fortunately, he has options remaining.
Now that the Mets postseason hopes are officially over, there will come a time to write post mortems to assess all that went wrong and how the Mets could improve in the future.
Before doing that, we should first acknowledge these Mets players fought tooth and nail giving all they could give to help make an improbable run. What we would discover is this is a tough and very likeable group who deserves our gratitude.
Pete Alonso – for having perhaps the greatest rookie season in MLB history while being just a good person.
Aaron Altherr – his RBI double and scoring later in the game proved to be the winning run in a game against the Pirates as the team looked to turn their season around.
Luis Avilan – limited LHB to a .104/.189/.188 batting line making him an exceptional LOOGY, perhaps the last true LOOGY with the incoming MLB rule changes.
Brad Brach – came to the Mets like he always wanted, and he helped stabilize a bullpen which desperately needed his help.
Keon Broxton – had a go-ahead RBI against the Nationals in April helping the Mets get off to another great start.
Robinson Cano – returned from what should’ve been a season ending injury to do all he could to help get this team into the postseason.
Michael Conforto – reminded us how great he is when he is healthy. Yes, great.
Travis d’Arnaud – came back too soon, never complained, and he left the Mets with pride and dignity after a good Mets career.
J.D. Davis – had a season better than anyone could’ve imagined with a number of big hits. More than that, he became a fan favorite as he was a player who clearly loved being a part of this team.
Rajai Davis – the lifelong Mets fan came home, and he would deliver two absolutely huge pinch hits to keep the Mets afloat at times they needed them.
Jacob deGrom – we are experiencing greatness everytime he takes the mound, and at some point we will need to begin having Hall of Fame conversations about him.
Edwin Diaz – there was a real dignity with him when he faced the media everytime he struggled. He made no excuses, and he put the work in to try to get back to where he was in Seattle. From what we’ve seen, he will get back there next year.
Jeurys Familia – you have to say something about someone who loved being a Mets player, and he came back to be a part of another winning team. Hopefully, that will be next year.
Chris Flexen – reinvented himself as a reliever who showed potential with the ability to strike out batters.
Wilmer Font – showed the Mets real value as a reliever before he was inexplicably designated for assignment.
Todd Frazier – provided this team with real leadership and defense, and he had a number of hot stretches which helped the Mets get back into it.
Drew Gagnon – for a month stretch from late April to late May he was an extremely reliable reliever.
Carlos Gomez – came back to the Mets and started the fun “Ye! Ye! Ye!” rallying cry.
Robert Gsellman – before he began to breakdown due to overuse, he was putting together a really good season out of the bullpen.
Luis Guillorme – when he finally got his chance, he proved himself showing this team he needs to be a part of the future. His pinch hit homer was one of the biggest hits of the season.
Sam Haggerty – like Eric Young in 2015, he was a weapon as a pinch runner.
Donnie Hart – albeit in just one appearance, he’s one of the few pitchers in Mets history who has never allowed a run.
Adeiny Hechavarria – showed surprising power and helped keep the Mets going in May.
Juan Lagares – at the end, he reminded us of how great a fielder he can be, and he had one last hurrah with his first two home rungame.
Walker Lockett – his start in San Francisco was the lone win in what was otherwise a lost series.
Jed Lowrie – despite suffering significant injuries, he pushed onward to make himself a viable pinch hitting option.
Seth Lugo – he has been absolutely great, and he has kept an otherwise struggling bullpen afloat.
Steven Matz – for the second straight year, Matz made 30 starts, and he made huge strides forward with a big second half and being dominant at home.
Chris Mazza – a 29 year old rookie is a feel good story, and he had quite the debut against a very good Braves lineup.
Jeff McNeil – proved last year was no fluke, and his versatility allowed the team to get the most out of the roster.
Tomas Nido – was a terrific defensive catcher and framer who helped get the most out of the starters and help them get their minds straight.
Brandon Nimmo – came back from a bulging disc in his neck to pick up where he left off last year. His enthusiasm and love of baseball is always a breath of fresh air.
Stephen Nogosek – put together a great year in the minors to get to the majors.
Corey Oswalt – strong year in Triple-A giving the Mets real rotation depth going forward.
Joe Panik – came back home to New York to help keep the team afloat at the time the Mets were in desperate need for a second baseman, and he performed quite well.
Tim Peterson – earned his way onto the Opening Day roster,and he’d pitch fairly well in his limited opportunities.
Brooks Pounders – six of his seven outings were really good.
Wilson Ramos – turned what was going to be an awful year around with a great August, and his ability to frame the high pitch proved to be a real help to deGrom.
Jacob Rhame – before landing on the IL to end the year, he was showing glimpses of being the type of arm who could be a useful part of the bullpen going forward.
Rene Rivera – brought back warm memories from the 2016 season with him combining with Syndergaard to dominate the Nationals.
Amed Rosario – he made a fools out of people who didn’t believe in his work ethic and talent by showing he is going to be an impact player on both sides of the ball in the future.
Hector Santiago – picked up a big win in extra innings against the Tigers.
Paul Sewald – despite being an afterthought, he once again proved he was a Major League caliber reliever, and he would finally get that first win which proved to be so elusive for him.
Dominic Smith – despite his being maligned and dropped down the depth chart, he would get healthy, and he would show everyone just how good a player he is, and he showed himself to be a great teammate more interested in how he could help the team than his role.
Marcus Stroman – the man was born to pitch on the biggest stage, and he would show it to us. A full year of him is going to be a thrill.
Jason Vargas – he really helped the Mets Wild Card hopes by bombing with the Phillies.
Zack Wheeler – he desperately wanted to be a part of a Mets postseason push, and he not only got that chance, but he would be great down the stretch.
Justin Wilson – he put the elbow problems aside, and he had just a terrific year out of the bullpen.
Daniel Zamora – 13 of his 16 appearances were scoreless, and with his splits, he showed the Mets he could be a modern LOOGY with the changing bullpen rules.
Overall, while you may hate what Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager, and you can hate the Wilpons for not being invested in this team, you simply have to love each and every one of these players for all they gave this team. We should appreciate them for fighting to the finish and giving us hope for next year.
Because this is the way his starts have gone the past two years, Mike Foltynewicz and his 6.09 ERA entering the game would duel Jacob deGrom to a draw. Because this is the Braves, the Mets could do nothing against a bad starter and a bad Braves bullpen.
Really, the Mets position players couldn’t push a run across the plate in 14 innings. The only run the Mets would score would be when deGrom took matters into his own hand and hit an opposite field homer in the sixth.
Power on the mound, power at the plate. 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/mbafejrG9Y
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 24, 2019
The real shame was this was his only run support in seven brilliant innings. Against a great Braves offense, deGrom struck out 13 including a stretch where he would strike out eight in a row. His striking out 13 and hitting a homer in a game a second time this year would set a new MLB record.
Jacob deGrom has recorded at least 13 strikeouts and hit a home run in the same game twice this season (April 3 and tonight). Since 1893 (when the current mound distance was established), no other pitcher has had two games with 13+ K’s and a HR as a batter over an entire career.
— Elias Sports Bureau (@EliasSports) August 24, 2019
His genius amounted to just a no decision as Freddie Freeman did the Freddie Freeman thing and drove home Ronald Acuna, Jr., who put himself in scoring position by stealing a base, in the top of the sixth.
Up until the 14th, the Mets pitching was phenomenal recording 23 strikeouts. Even though some of them got themselves in trouble, they’d work out of their jams. In total, Seth Lugo, Edwin Diaz, Luis Avilan, Brad Brach, Paul Sewald, and Justin Wilson combined to pitch six shutout innings allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out 10.
Notably, Diaz pitched great in the 10th working around a HBP and Billy Hamilton standing on third with one out after a sacrifice and stolen base. Diaz responded by striking out Acuna and Ozzie Albies.
This and other great performances should’ve been a springboard for a victory, but it wasn’t because the Mets couldn’t get out of their own way.
In the 11th, the Mets completely botched their shot after Joe Panik was plunked by a pitch. Panik would go to third off two wild pitches by Sean Newcomb. What was curious about the second one was Pete Alonso struck out on it, waved Panik to third, and he didn’t break for first. Who knows how different things would’ve been.
Michael Conforto struck out, and after J.D. Davis was intentionally walked, the Game was in Aaron Altherr‘s hands. He’d ground out weakly to end the inning in what was the Mets last chance to score. Keep this in mind.
He was immediately in trouble walking Tyler Flowers to leadoff the inning and then allowing a double to Adeiny Hechavarria. Initially, it was an RBI triple, but upon replay, it was shown to be stuck in the wall and overruled to be a ground rule double. That was the last break Familia got.
After striking out Rafael Ortega, Hamilton hit a ball which Panik couldn’t field for the game winning RBI.
If you’re keeping tabs, the Mets decided they’d rather keep Altherr instead of claiming Hamilton. Altherr didn’t deliver in a spot the Mets desperately needed him to deliver, and he’s now hitting .082/.136/.164 on the season. Hamilton, the guy who the Mets didn’t bother claiming apparently believing Altherr to be the better option, stole a base, and he had the key hit.
You could point to any number of things you want to in the game. However, at the end of the day, the Mets lost because they decided they’d rather Altherr than Hamilton.
Game Notes: Tomas Nido was hit on the head by Josh Donaldson‘s backswing. Despite his going to the ground in pain, he’d stay in the game to finish the inning only to be lifted for Wilson Ramos in the seventh. Ramos extended his hitting streak to 17 games, and he’d steal a base for the first time in his career. .
With Noah Syndergaard painting the corners and uncharacteristically dominating up in the zone, the starting pitcher had the stuff.
Say Hey, J.D.! 😱😱😱 pic.twitter.com/YzfsaumJTz
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 23, 2019
Indians starter Adam Civale was doing his part as well pitching well keeping the game moving at a brisk pace.
For a moment, the only real concern seemed to be the weather. Then, with one out in the sixth, Tyler Naquin hit a really tough pitch by Syndergaard up the middle which dropped just in front of Lagares who busted in as hard as he could.
With this being the 50th anniversary of the 1969 World Series, there’s the obvious Tom Seaver/Jimmy Qualls comparisons, this had more of a David Cone/Benny Distefano feel to it even if Syndergaard was perfect through 5.1 innings (Cone was “just” a no-hitter).
As we have seen when many no-hitters/perfect games are lost, we are then left with a ballgame; a ballgame where things are the doubt shifts from the ability of a pitcher to compete the no-hitter to the pitcher being able to maintain the lead.
After Naquin singled, Civale struck out to flip over the lineup. Francisco Lindor made things all the more perilous with a single. The speedy Greg Allen hit a ball hard to the right side which appeared to be a surefire RBI single.
Pete Alonso made an incredible diving play which alone would have prevented the run from scoring. But in direct contrast to the play with Brad Hand last night, Syndergaard busted it to first, and he’d beat Allen to the bag ending the inning.
PUMPED UP PETE.
Watch Alonso chest bump Syndergaard 😂pic.twitter.com/7VyEBIKajC
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) August 23, 2019
While Naquin would rain on everybody’s parade, the actual rains came in the bottom of the sixth.
— Logan Barer (@LBarer32) August 23, 2019
With the way it was coming down and for how long, the Syndergaard gem was over. His final line was 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. The line was both amazing and disappointing because we are all left wondering what could’ve been.
After a lengthy rain delay, the Mets brought in exactly the person you wanted to see pitch – Jeurys Familia. Unlike July 30, 2015, there would be no blowup for him. Instead, it was a scoreless inning.
As strange as that might’ve seen for some fans, the bottom of the seventh was all the more bizarre. Frazier initially reached and took second on a Tyler Clippard throwing error. The only reason Frazier didn’t go for third was he respected Yasiel Puig‘s arm. Of course, Puig threw the bell away when he was flashing the arm.
With Frazier at third, Lagares hit a ball to medium left field. Between the wet track and Naquin’s arm, there was zero shot Frazier would be safe, so of course, Gary Disarcina sent him. The ball beat him by a healthy margin as Kevin Plawecki tagged him out.
Thirty-four minutes after the first rain delay, there would be another delay. At this moment in time, Paul Sewald has just a perfect eighth, and due to the delay, the chances of using him for the ninth were gone.
The Mets had runners at the corners due to a Luis Guillorme leadoff pinch hit walk and an Amed Rosario opposite field single. At least that’s where things were when they finally decided to call the game. That means Guillorme and Rosario never reached base, but it does mean Sewald gets the save.
In the end, it’s a series sweep for the Mets who are now SEVEN games over .500. They’re now a half-game behind the Cardinals (one in the loss column) for the second Wild Card. Not too shabby for a fringe postseason team.
The Mets went to Kansas City looking to sweep, and they wound up having to settle for less than that. Ultimately, they got the job done even if they did not perform well at all:
1. Alex Gordon may be the only Royals player remaining, but it was still good to see the Mets win a series in Kaufman Stadium, and it felt even better seeing Jeurys Familia get the win in a deciding game.
2. It’s also great to see Michael Conforto homer in a game against the Royals and not watch the Mets not blow the game. Seeing where Conforto hit that homer, we should have called that a Blue Moon Shot.
3. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Cody Bellinger‘s National League rookie home run record. He now joins Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge as the only rookies to hit 40 homers in a season. This has been a great ride, and he’s now in line to join Darryl Strawberry as the only other Mets position player to win Rookie of the Year.
4. It is criminal that when Alonso broke the record the call was made by Wayne Randazzo on the radio side and Gary Apple on the TV side. The Mets have all-time great broadcasters, and somehow that’s what we were left with for this great moment. Mets needs to do better when there are vacations.
5. There were two different times Alonso looked like he was going to break that record. The first ball was called foul, and to his credit, Alonso shook it off and delivered with a huge go-ahead two RBI single. The next time the ball actually hit the foul line towards the top of the right field wall. Many times we see people struggle or slump as they near a milestone; Alonso powered onward.
6. Jacob deGrom had his 12th start of the season pitching 7.0+ innings allowed two earned or fewer. That mark ties him with Hyun-Jin Ryu for the most in the Majors. This should only highlight how great deGrom has been this year and how deserving he is of another Cy Young.
7. Yes, Ryu is having a great year, but deGrom’s year is arguably better. For starters, deGrom has more innings pitched and strikeouts. Moreover, he has a higher K/9, K%, K-BB%, FIP, xFIP, fWAR, and bWAR while leading in other other categories as well.
8. One of the reasons the Mets took this series was Joe Panik playing great. Since joining the Mets, Panik is hitting .333/.379/.444 with a double, triple, and two RBI with two walks. On a side note, he was the second baseman when the Giants beat the Royals in the 2014 World Series.
10. With the way Panik and Lagares are playing, it appears Todd Frazier is the guy who has to go to the bench. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting .192/.239/.377. If he’s hitting this way, he cannot be in the lineup.
11. Going forward, Frazier has hit .283/.359/.543 off left-handed pitching. To that end, he should work out a de facto platoon with Panik, and given his glove, he should be the third baseman when Marcus Stroman is on the mound. Short of that, he should be a power bat off the bench and late inning defensive replacement.
12. These two were needed all the more with J.D. Davis twice going down with a calf injury in this series. With how hot he’s been hitting, the Mets need his bat in the lineup, and they were without it in a series against the Royals. One side point here, good for Mickey Callaway for being cautious in taking him out rather than leaving him to run 90 feet.
13. Davis coming out of Sunday’s game forced Amed Rosario to play left field. It didn’t take long for the ball to find him, and the played the ball like he’s been out there all year. He also doubled in his only at-bat as an outfielder. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise because Rosario has been legitimately great lately.
14. Since the All Star Break, Rosario has hit .368/.403/.544. He’s a 3 DRS at shortstop. When McNeil went down, he took over the leadoff spot, and he’s been hitting .333/.383/.535 in the leadoff spot. He is literally doing all that is being asked of him, and he is emerging as a legitimately great player. This has been a real joy to watch.
15. Rosario having to play left field only highlights the stupidity of the Mets going with Ruben Tejada over Dilson Herrera. What makes the move all the more hilariously stupid was the Mets justification for going with Tejada over Herrera was versatility. Between the two, Herrera is the only one with outfield experience. Since Tejada rejoined the Mets, he is 0-for-8 at the plate with two strikeouts and someone already a -0.3 WAR. Herrera is hitting .294/.368/.706 while playing second base and left field. Again, this decision made zero sense.
16. On the topic of baffling decisions, when Robert Gsellman landed on the Injured List, the Mets called up Walker Lockett over Chris Flexen. Between the two, Flexen has the better stuff, and he has experience pitching out of the bullpen.
17. One area where Callaway was criticized for making a baffling decision was using Edwin Diaz to get out of a bases loaded no out situation. While it was a near disaster with a grand slam overturned on replay, Diaz got out of the inning allowing just two runs. In his next appearance, he pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. Maybe, just maybe in the long run, this was a great decision by Callaway.
18. Zack Wheeler‘s start against the Royals was disappointing. That’s two straight disappointing five inning starts from him. This time, it was probably more bad luck than anything. However, this is his first real postseason race, so it will be interesting to see how he handles things in his next start.
19. The Mets would have been better off with a sweep, but they still won the series. They’re also just two games back of the second Wild Card. Overall, when looking at this stretch of six games, many are discounting just how hot and grueling that stretch of road games are in Atlanta and Kansas City along with their losing one of their hottest hitters.
20. Good for the White Sox for having Bill Walton and Michael Schur do color commentary with Steve Stone out. As noted on Saturday, that is what the Mets should have been doing by using the multitude of great local broadcasters and fans in Gary Cohen’s and Howie Rose’s absence. On a final note there, John Sadak did a great job on the radio. Here’s hoping there’s a spot for him in 2020.