Yesterday, the New York Jets traded Defensive Lineman Leonard Williams to the New York Giants for a 2020 third round draft pick and a conditional 2021 fifth round draft pick. This is a shocking trade between teams who don’t just share a city but a building.
It was a gamble for the Giants in taking on an enigmatic player who is a pending free agent. For the Jets, this was seen as a coup to get a good return for a player they were not re-signing. However, if the Giants are able to get Williams to play like someone who was once the third overall pick in the draft, the Jets will constantly be reminded of their failure.
At the end of the day, who cares? Both the Giants and Jets did what they thought was best for their franchises. They put the fears aside, and they made a football trade just like they would’ve done with any other team. Somehow, this concept eludes the Mets.
Back in 2017, the New York Yankees were rumored to have interest in Lucas Duda. However, rather than trading Duda to the Yankees, the Mets opted to trade him to the Tampa Bay Rays for Drew Smith. There were rumors the Yankees could’ve bested the offer of what was just one relief prospect, but there was no real confirmation of what that return would be.
The Yankees were also to have been interested in Neil Walker. The Mets eventually wound up trading him to the Milwaukee Brewers for Eric Hanhold, a player the Mets recently designated for assignment so they could keep pitchers like Drew Gagnon, Donnie Hart, and Chris Mazza. In terms of the Yankees, we are not sure what they would offer, and there are some rumors the Yankees backed out of their deal because of Walker’s medicals.
Over the past few years, the Yankees have been rumored interested in a number of Mets players like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler. Those trades never materialized, but then again, no trade ever materialized between the Mets and another team with those players.
Still, the point remains there has long been a hesitation between the Mets and Yankees to make a trade. While it does seem to mostly come from the Mets side, there is assuredly some hesitation from the Yankees as well. That may be in no small part due to their Pedro Feliciano experience, or inexperience as it proved to be, and they may also harbor the same issues which are imputed on the Mets.
Whomever is to blame, they need to get over themselves, and they need to make smart trades between themselves to benefit both teams.
The Yankees have seen former Mets like Carlos Beltran, David Cone, and Darryl Strawberry play well for them. The Mets have seen former Yankees like Curtis Granderson, Orlando Hernandez, and Al Leiter play well for them. This is of little surprise as good players who can handle New York can play well for either team.
Given how that is the case, perhaps it is time both teams benefit from these players switching teams rather than seeing other franchises serve as the beneficiaries of being the ones who get these players in-between stops.
With what happened this year, it was just perfect seeing the bullpen blow-up. It blew up all year, and unfortunately it would today. Sadly, when Adeiny Hechavarria homered off of Paul Sewald, the Mets would blow their 28th save of the season moving them into a tie with the Cubs for the fifth most blown saves in baseball.
It would also cost Sewald of his second straight win after not earning a win over his first 118 Major League appearances. That ended one feel good story. Actually, it was two feel good stories ended as local guy, Joe Panik, had hit an eighth inning homer to put the Mets ahead 4-3.
Lockett allowed back-to-back homers to Hechavarria and Adam Duvall to put the Mets down 6-4. It seemed like that was the sour note upon which this season was going to end.
Of course, that overlooked how this team constantly got up from gut punches. It also overlooked how forgotten and overlooked players took full advantage of their chances. We saw that again in the 11th when Luis Guillorme hit a leadoff single against Jerry Blevins.
Then came a string where all three Mets catchers would bat. That should serve as a subtle reminder this is the last time there will be 40 man rosters in September. Of the trio, Wilson Ramos would get a single off Anthony Swarzak putting the tying run on with two outs.
That brought up Dominic Smith. Smith had not had an at-bat since July 26 when he landed on the IL with a broken foot. He was just activated last week but had not played until today. On the second pitch he saw from Grant Dayton, Smith would end the Mets 2019 season:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 29, 2019
This was a great moment for Dom. Not only did he get back from a broken foot, but it put an exclamation point on a season where he rejuvenated his career. He earned this moment due to all the hard work he put in during the offseason and just to get back from his broken foot.
As Dom celebrated dancing his way to the plate, he and the Mets would walk off into the sunset. There’s a lot of different ways this Mets season could’ve gone better, but in the end, these players were easy to root for, and we should all look forward to seeing them all play next year.
Game Notes: Noah Syndergaard started the final game of the year for the fourth straight year. He took a no decision after allowing three earned and striking out nine over seven. Chris Mazza picked up his first career win.
Michael Conforto would put it off for a day, but now, the Mets are officially eliminated from postseason contention. With the Mets falling short in the fashion they have, there are a number of what ifs which occurred during the course of the season.
One of those what ifs is what if the Mets didn’t blow this game or lose that game. While there were several of those games in the first half, that was all the more the case in the second half when the team was playing well and making a charge. With the Mets being five games out, here are five games in the second half which the Mets certainly wish they had back:
Reds 3 – Mets 2
Saturday, September 21
The Mets absolutely had to have this game. For the Mets to actually grab a Wild Card spot, they were going to have to win out or come very close to it. With a big pitching mismatch between Zack Wheeler and Anthony DeSclafani, this seemed like a game the Mets should win easily.
The Reds would score two first inning runs due to a Todd Frazier error and misplay. It would be hard to put this loss on Frazier as he would collect two of the Mets three hits on the day, and he would score one of their only two runs scored.
Ultimately, the team squandered two huge opportunities. They only scored one run after having runners at second and third with no outs in the third. They’d only score one run with the bases loaded and one out with the top of the lineup coming up in the top of the fifth.
The loss was made all the worse with Justin Wilson getting into trouble, and Seth Lugo allowing one of his inherited runners to score. As bad as that was, it would be Christian Colon who delivered the RBI single, off a Lugo curveball to boot, to put an effective end to the Mets season.
Marlins 8 – Mets 4
Friday, July 12
The Mets were 10 games under .500 heading into the All Star Break. Despite the team being that many games under .500, they had a favorable schedule in the second half, and with their being only seven games back of the second Wild Card, they did have an opportunity. The key for them was getting off to a fast start out of the break.
Instead of putting their best foot forward, they started Jason Vargas. Vargas would blow a third inning 2-0 lead allowing homers to Curtis Granderson and Garrett Cooper in the third. Vargas would last into the sixth where he would implode again. Overall, he’d allow six earned over his five plus innings.
After the bullpen couldn’t keep it closer, the Mets ninth inning rally would fall short in an 8-4 loss. Sadly, this would not be the only time the Mets were beaten by Caleb Smith and the Marlins in the second half.
Giants 3 – Mets 2 (16)
Thursday, July 18
Back when the Mets were pairing Noah Syndergaard with Tomas Nido to get the best out of Syndergaard, they’d get a great performance from Syndergaard with him allowing just one earned over seven innings. Much like the 2016 Wild Card Game, the Giants had Madison Bumgarner match him pitch for pitch, and we’d see Bumgarner last nine innings.
After nine, it was tied at 1-1, and the Mets would get an opportunity they didn’t have in that Wild Card Game. They’d get to face the Giants bullpen.
In the 10th, that appeared serendipitous as they loaded the bases with just one out against Will Smith only to see Conforto and Jeff McNeil strike out. The Mets would also squander opportunities in the 13th and 15th as their bullpen put forth their best effort of the season.
Then finally, the Mets broke through as Pete Alonso would break out of his slump hitting a huge go-ahead homer in the 16h inning giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. That’s when seemingly innocuous decisions made previously would present their ramifications.
In Minnesota, the Mets had used Chris Mazza to pitch the final two innings of a blowout 14-4 victory over the Twins. What was curious about that decision was the Mets had Jacob Rhame available for that game, and they knew he had a suspension looming from an April incident. Before the game against the Giants, Rhame agreed to a suspension making him unavailable for this game.
With Mazza being the last guy in the bullpen, the Mets would look on as a tired pitcher could not record one out as the Giants would score two in the bottom of the inning to win 3-2. This loss was made all the worse because there was a clear hangover with the Mets being unable to score a run over 10 innings leading them to waste yet another Jacob deGrom start.
Braves 2 – Mets 1 (14)
Friday, August 21
The Mets were flying high entering this series having won 16 out of their last 18 games. As a result, they were seven games over .500 for the first time since April 24, 2018. At the time, the Mets were only 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot putting them in the thick of the postseason race. With a strong series against the Braves here, the Mets had an opportunity to put the division in play.
Instead, the Mets would get swept by the Braves leading to the team losing six straight games. Even though the Mets would make another run at it, they ultimately could not overcome this stretch, and it would being with an absolutely brutal loss.
Mike Foltynewicz, a pitcher with a 6.09 ERA entering this game, would allow just two hits over seven innings. Ultimately, the only batter to get to him was deGrom, who would hit a sixth inning homer to tie the score at 1-1. As bad as the Mets bullpen had been all year, you could argue the Braves bullpen was worse. That combined with the Mets having last licks, you could argue the Mets were in position to pull out this game.
The Mets had a huge opportunity in the 10th against former teammate Anthony Swarzak. The team would put together a two out rally and load the bases, but Amed Rosario would strike out to end the inning.
The Mets blew an 11th inning chance as well. After Joe Panik was hit by a pitch by Sean Newcomb, he’d move to third after two wild pitches during Alonso’s at-bat. Alonso and Conforto would strike out, and the Braves intentionally walked J.D. Davis to force Brad Brach out of the game and to face the Mets last pinch hitter on the bench – Aaron Altherr. He’d ground out to end the inning.
What would make that even more maddening was the Mets passed on the opportunity to claim Billy Hamilton, who would have been a real upgrade to this team, off waivers. As luck would have it, Hamilton would face Jeurys Familia, and he would drive home the go-ahead run.
What made that all the more maddening was it was an Adeiny Hechavarria ground rule double which put the go-ahead run into scoring position. In essence, the player the Mets cut rather than pay him a roster bonus, and the player the Mets would not claim so they didn’t have to pay him more than the league minimum Altherr, would prove to be two players who helped cost the Mets the game.
As we know, that was a winnable game the Mets needed to have. While it did not push the Mets out of contention, it would prove to be the first in a series of losses which took the Mets from the thick of the race to the periphery.
Nationals 11 – Mets 10
Tuesday, September 4
After a potentially season ending sweep against the Cubs, the Mets got off the mat taking two of three from the Phillies, and they took the first game in the series against the Nationals to pull within 4.0 games of a Wild Card spot. They were up 10-4 and about to pull within seven games of the Nationals for the top Wild Card spot.
The Mets had a 99.7 percent chance of winning that game, and they were 806-0 in franchise history when they led by six after nine innings.
That’s when we saw an epic bullpen meltdown; one we have never before seen the Mets have in their history. Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, and Edwin Diaz combined to record just one out as the Nationals scored seven ninth inning runs. While many in hindsight would question removing Seth Lugo or question not using Justin Wilson against two batters with great numbers against left-handed pitching, the truth of the matter neither of those things were the problem.
The problem was this Mets bullpen was so unreliable that they cannot even be trusted to hold a six run lead. Therein lied the problem with this game, and it was a big problem throughout the season. It was a contributing factor in this and other losses the Mets suffered both in the first and second half. Huge soul crushing losses. That makes this bullpen just one of the biggest reasons why the Mets are not going to be in the postseason this year.
Make tonight about Noah Syndergaard struggling against the Marlins even with him having Tomas Nido behind the plate. Certainly, that’s an area for discussion with him taking the loss after allowing four earned over five innings.
While everyone was handwringing and sending shots Syndergaard’s way, Sandy Alcantara and the Marlins pitching shut down the Mets offense. This was a night after Caleb Smith and the Marlins staff largely shut down the Mets offense.
It was Walker Lockett pitching yesterday, and it was Chris Mazza tonight. It’s unfair to call that giving up, and yet, you’d have to come up with some sort of alternative explanation as to why they’d be in the game.
Ultimately, this had the same feel as the Marlins inexplicably sweeping the Mets in June. The Mets looked like the 100 loss team, and the Marlins the team scratching and clawing for the postseason. That’s how the 2007 and 2008 seasons ended. With the Mets tragic number at one, it seemed like that’s how the 2019 season would end.
That was until Conforto came up in the bottom of the ninth with a man on, and he literally hit the homer which saved the Mets season.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 25, 2019
If the Mets lost, they were officially eliminated from postseason contention. While that day may come tomorrow, it didn’t happen today because Conforto game up with two huge two run homers to tie the score 4-4.
As improbable as that was, something all the more impossible happened.
Brigham would plunk Rosario, and he’s throw a wild pitch leading to his walking Todd Frazier intentionally to load the bases.
Mattingly brought in five infielders due to Wilson Ramos‘ ground ball tendencies. The move seemed to pay off as Starlin Castro would make a great play on a slow hopper up the line. He’d barehand it and flip it just ahead of Conforto.
For some reason, the Marlins kept the five infielders in against Brandon Nimmo. It didn’t matter with Nimmo doing what he does best – drawing a walk. This walk forced home a run giving the Mets a true walk off win.
The end result of the 5-4 win wasn’t just the Mets staying alive for at least one more day. It meant Paul Sewald would get the win after starting his career 0-14.
Game Notes: Before the game, the Mets announced Jerry Koosman‘s number 36 would be retired next season. In response to the announcement, Mickey Callaway switched his number to Kevin Plawecki‘s old 26.
The New York Mets completely blew it last night. Behind that loss was a a number of players failing. Todd Frazier couldn’t get a hit in two key RBI situations. Steven Matz allowed a grand slam. Brad Brach failed to cover first in time. There’s obviously more.
Behind the players failing was a number of questionable to flat out indefensible decisions from Mickey Callaway.
Callaway should not have let Matz face Jorge Alfaro. With the team having zero margin for error, you cannot use Walker Lockett under any circumstance. There’s no saving the top arms in the bullpen to fight for another day because if you lose, there isn’t going to be another day.
There were other decisions like not starting Brandon Nimmo or allowing Michael Conforto to bat against Brian Moran. You could also question using Rajai Davis as a pinch hitter in the sixth over Nimmo. To be fair, these decisions were mitigated by Juan Lagares going 1-for-3 with a run and a walk, and Amed Rosario hitting a grand slam.
The pinch hitting decisions were mitigated by the actual options available. Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera are not good hitters. Jed Lowrie hasn’t had a hit in his limited pinch hitting appearances, and he has just one right-handed at-bat all year. That’s it for the right-handed bench options against the left-handed pitching the Marlins had out there in the form of Caleb Smith and Moran.
It certainly makes you question why the Mets never made a roster move to add Dilson Herrera to the roster. After all, they lost Eric Hanhold so they can have Chris Mazza and Donnie Hart on the roster, neither of whom have pitched one meaningful inning in September.
Taking that into consideration, you have to look at the bullpen again. Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson are the only reliable arms down there. You can trust Brach against right-handed batters but not left, and vice versa for Luis Avilan. After that, it’s a straight roll of the dice. Sadly, it’s a heavily weighted pair of dice putting the odds stacked against the Mets.
Look at those ERAs again. Lockett wasn’t even the worst ERA available in the bullpen last night. He wasn’t the only one with an ERA over 5.00. In fact, taking away the top two relievers, there were only three relievers with an ERA under that mark, and one of those, Hart, has only pitched 1.0 innings.
Put aside for a moment the Mets entered the season with Tim Peterson in the bullpen putting the team 1-2 relievers short to start the season. At the trade deadline, the Mets went out and got Marcus Stroman, and they didn’t back it up with another move. Sure, they got Brach, but he fell into their laps. It wasn’t a proactive move on the Mets part.
The bench has always been an issue too. We have seen the Mets cycle through Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, Carlos Gomez, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Ruben Tejada while rage cutting Travis d’Arnaud. Again, the Mets did little to address this at the trade deadline with Joe Panik falling into their laps like Brach did.
This team was ill constructed from the get-go, and for some reason when the Mets doubled down at the trade deadline, they did nothing to fix their two biggest problems – the bench and the bullpen.
Now, it’s possible a very good manager like Terry Francona or Bruce Bochy could’ve navigated their way around these problems, but we know Callaway couldn’t. The Mets knowing that and handing him a roster which feeds into his deficiencies as a manager makes what Brodie Van Wagenen did all the worse.
So, yes, Callaway screwed up yesterday, and he has screwed up in other spots. But make no mistake, this was largely the result of the roster he was given. For that, Brodie Van Wagenen should shoulder the blame he was absolutely unwilling to accept earlier in the year.
Somehow, the Mets were able to pull off a minor miracle by not just pulling out a victory but somehow also pulling to withing three games of the Cubs and Brewers for the second Wild Card with 10 games remaining in the season:
1. Mickey Callaway not pinch hitting any one of Luis Guillorme, Joe Panik, J.D. Davis, or Wilson Ramos for Rene Rivera with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth was easily the worst decision of his tenure as the Mets manager. There is zero plausible explanation for it, and if the Mets lost that game, he would have merited the Willie Randolph treatment. It was that bad.
2. As it turned out, Ramos and Davis did get their chance to pinch hit, and they delivered by setting up runners at the corners for Brandon Nimmo to deliver the game tying base-hit. It was easily the biggest hit of Nimmo’s career, and it was another indication just how special a player he is.
3. After Jeff McNeil had a great at-bat to draw a walk, you could see Joe Harvey wanted no part of Pete Alonso walking him on four pitches. With Alonso hitting his 49th homer earlier in the game tying Mark McGwire‘s first base rookie home run record, you could understand why. In any event, it gave the Mets a 5-4 lead in a game the Mets won 7-4.
4. Seth Lugo delivering an RBI single in that ninth inning was the most passive aggressive way to show the Mets he should be in the starting rotation. How could you not help but love the guy?
5. No, Syndergaard was not good yesterday, but to pass judgment on one start in Coors Field is absurd. After all, are we going to say Max Scherzer isn’t any good and the Nationals need to trade him because he has a 5.88 career ERA at Coors.
7. There is far too much evidence in the pitcher heat maps and the framing abilities of the Mets three catchers where we know Rivera and Tomas Nido make a real difference behind the plate. One start in the most difficult place to pitch in all of baseball doesn’t undo that.
9. We finally got a glimpse of how good a pitcher Marcus Stroman is. His seven shutout innings showed not just the reason why the Mets added him at the trade deadline, but it also showed just how much of a big game pitcher he is. His next two starts should be something special.
10. Steven Matz finally had that meltdown inning he had avoided all second half. That six run inning cost the Mets a chance of winning that game. Overall, we should not read too much into it as it is Coors Field, and he has been just that good of late.
11. In July and August, when the Mets saved their season going from 10 games under to the thick of the Wild Card race, Michael Conforto was their best player (1.6 fWAR highest among Mets position players). In September, he has completely fallen apart hitting .150/.239/.283. The team desperately needs him to get back on track.
12. When Todd Frazier was hit on the hand, it appeared his Mets career was effectively over. Fortunately, he has been able to play after a few days off, and he has contributed going 2-for-6 with an RBI and two walks in addition to his good defense over the last two games.
13. To the shock of everyone, Jeurys Familia came into the game yesterday, and with runners on second and third, he struck out Ryan McMahon to keep the game at 4-2 allowing the Mets to make that comeback.
14. If the Mets are going to pull this off, they are going to need relievers like Familia to step up because the team cannot only rely on Lugo and Justin Wilson. On that front, the Mets bullpen did acquit itself well in this series allowing just five runs over 11.1 innings (3.97 ERA).
15. The Mets designated Eric Hanhold, a promising young reliever, for assignment, and he was claimed by the Baltimore Orioles. Instead of keeping him, the Mets replaced him on the 40 man roster with Donnie Hart, who has yet to pitch in September, and they kept Chris Mazza, who has a 6.43 ERA and has pitched just once this month. That’s an example of just how incompetent Brodie Van Wagenen is.
16. Jed Lowrie finally got on base drawing a walk making him 0-3 with a walk this year.
17. Perhaps the Mets player who came up biggest in this series was Amed Rosario. He was 2-for-4 in the first two games, and he hit the key homer on Tuesday giving the Mets life. Overall, this was just the latest example on how he is figuring things out, and he is going to be a big part of the Mets going forward.
18. Say what you will about the Rockies, but that team can play defense. In fact, between their being great defensively, and the Mets not being good defensively, the Rockies almost pulled out this series. That would have been a disaster.
19. The Mets owe a debt of gratitude to the Padres and Reds for pulling out those wins last night. It is still an uphill climb, but three back in 10 games is possible.
20. The Mets still being alive this late in the season is a miracle. They may still have to run the table, and they have the schedule to do it. However, that still may not be enough. That makes this all just a fascinating end to this season. We should all continue to enjoy the ride.
While things have been going well recently, the Mets have had trouble identifying those relievers whom they can use and trust to eat up innings and take care of games where they have large leads. When that is an issue for your team, you wind up using and wasting good relievers in non-critical spots. You are also forced to use good relievers when it should not have been necessary.
On August 6, the Mets had a five run lead heading into the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins, the worst team in the National League. After eight dominant innings from Zack Wheeler, the Mets went to Robert Gsellman in the ninth. The following night, the Mets once again had a five run lead heading into the ninth. The team would use Jeurys Familia and Luis Avilan to close out the game.
On the roster at that time was Chris Mazza and Donnie Hart. The team did not use either reliever in that spot or really any spot. Truth be told if you can’t trust those relievers to close out games against the worst team in the National League, you don’t have any business being on the roster. It should come as no surprise neither pitcher is currently on the Mets roster.
When Mazza and Hart went down, Drew Gagnon was one of the relievers who replaced them on the roster. The Mets would bring Gagnon to pitch the eighth inning in the August 15 game against the Braves. At that time, the Mets had a 10-3 lead, and they just needed someone to pitch the final two innings to give the bullpen a rest. Instead, Gagnon would allow four homers, including a homer to Freddie Freeman in consecutive innings, thereby necessitating Edwin Diaz coming into the game to record the save in a 10-8 game.
This led to Paul Sewald being selected from Syracuse and re-joining the Mets bullpen. While this was largely met with eye rolls and consternation, Sewald is exactly what the Mets needed. In yesterday’s 9-2 victory over the Indians, the Mets would use Sewald out of the bullpen in the ninth. There would be no drama as he would allow a double while striking out three batters. In the grand scheme of things, these are the types of outings which are both necessary and overlooked.
Since his debut in 2017, Sewald has handled these situations well. In his career, in what is characterized as low leverage situations, he has held opposing batters to a .209/.262/.341 batting line. When there is a four run lead in either direction, Sewald has held opposing batters to a .223/.294/.365 batting line. This has permitted him to pitch multiple innings in these situations. In turn, this has allowed the Mets to save their better relievers for higher leverage situations.
This has an immense amount of value to a team, and these are the types of outings which helps a team get to the postseason. This is what Pat Mahomes provided the Mets in 1999 and 2000, Darren Oliver provided in 2006, and Sean Gilmartin provided in 2015. This is what Sewald can be over the remaining 37 games of the season. His doing that frees up Lugo, Diaz, Familia, and Justin Wilson for the higher leverage situations.
All told, Sewald can provide an immense amount of value to the Mets bullpen by eating up those innings and not having Mickey Callaway need to worry about needing to go deeper into the bullpen in these situations. As we have seen this year, this is not a role which is easily filled. Ultimately, Sewald can perform well in situations where others cannot, and as a result, he provides this bullpen and this Mets team with real value.
The Indians came to town, and there were many storylines. The Mets had their flurry of roster moves. Mickey Callaway was facing off against his mentor Terry Francona. Mostly, these were two teams fighting for a spot in their respective postseasons.
On this front, both teams would get terrific pitching performances, and when there is a pitcher’s duel like this, it’s the team who makes a mistake who loses. That mistake would come in the sixth.
Up until that point it was 2-2. Steven Matz was cruising following up his Braves start with an even better one. On the night, Jason Kipnis was the only Indian to get to him with a solo homer in the second and an RBI single in the fourth.
Overall, Matz pitched 6.1 innings allowing two runs (one earned thanks to a Todd Frazier error) on five hits and two walks while striking out seven. He would pick up the win because the Frazier error wasn’t the game changing error.
Like Matz, Shane Bieber was very good. He was very economical with his pitches, and for a while, it appeared he was going to go the distance. Really, his only mistake before the fateful sixth was his allowing a two run homer in the second to J.D. Davis.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 20, 2019
In the sixth, Bieber has allowed those two runs. He began the inning retiring Amed Rosario, and he got Joe Panik to hit what should have been a harmless pop out to left. Instead, on the same day Luis Castillo was arrested in the Dominican Republic, Oscar Mercado dropped the ball.
For a moment, Bieber appeared to be getting out of the jam by striking out Pete Alonso. Then, Michael Conforto, who is maligned for not being clutch or not being considered a great player, hit a huge homer giving the Mets a 4-2 lead:
.@mconforto8 is good at baseball.
That is the tweet. pic.twitter.com/TNnEshRobl
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 21, 2019
Unlike in Atlanta, Callaway let Matz start the seventh. Matz got himself into trouble allowing a one out single to Greg Allen and walking Franmil Reyes. Callaway went to Justin Wilson who came up huge striking out Francisco Lindor and Mercado. After that, the Mets blew the game wide open.
Frazier got the rally started with a single off Adam Cimber. After that, Juan Lagares, who has been taking much better at-bats of late, drew a walk. A failed sac bunt later led to Rosario with another huge hit with an RBI single expanding the Mets lead to 5-2.
Rosario just continues being a legitimately great player in the second half. He’s hitting, running the bases well, and playing good defense. Tonight, he was an impact player going 2-for-4 with a run, walk, and an RBI.
After the RBI single from Rosario, Panik would hit an RBI single, and Alonso hit an RBI double capping off a four run seventh. After not getting a sac bunt down earlier in the game, Davis would cap off his Uber ride with an RBI double in the eighth capping off the scoring and giving the Mets a 9-2 lead.
After seeing Callaway had no faith in Chris Mazza, Drew Gagnon, or Donnie Hart to wrap up blowouts, Callaway would trust Paul Sewald, and Sewald would pitch with higher velocity pitching a scoreless ninth preserving the 9-2 victory.
The Mets are once again five games over .500, and they’re once again poised to make a run. This is an important stretch, and the Mets are playing with a requisite sense of urgency. Things are getting interesting again.
Game Notes: Rajai Davis was selected from Syracuse, and Walker Lockett was sent down to add him to the roster. Brooks Pounders was designated for assignment to make room for Davis on the 40 man roster. Jed Lowrie began a rehab assignment as the DH for St. Lucie, and Brandon Nimmo is continuing his in Syracuse. Robert Gsellman was a partially torn lat.
As big as the Nationals series was, the series against the Braves is bigger. It’s bigger because it’s on the road, a step up in competition, and it’s an opportunity to get into the division race.
Unlike this past weekend, the Mets were not up to the task.
Right off the bat, Zack Wheeler‘s 15 inning scoreless steak was snapped. Actually, it was 15.1 innings as Ozzie Albies flew out between the trio of singles from Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, and Josh Donaldson. That 1-0 deficit grew to 2-0 on a Matt Joyce RBI single in the first.
That first hit was a two out single in the second. He moved to scoring position on a Wheeler HBP, and he’d score on a Jeff McNeil RBI single. It was 2-1, and the Mets would get no closer.
The Braves got that run back in the bottom of the inning on a Freeman RBI single. That lead grew to 3-1 when Acuna homered in the fourth, and then 5-1 when Ender Inciarte hit an RBI double in the fifth.
In total, Wheeler lasted just the five innings allowing a run in four of the five innings he pitched. He was easily out-pitched by Fried, and Acuna was a one man wrecking crew.
For example, in the sixth, the Mets had Fried on the ropes, but they’d shoot themselves in the foot.
Michael Conforto followed a Wilson Ramos leadoff walk with a GIDP. Todd Frazier then just missed a homer hitting it off the center field wall, and he’d need a great slide to get the double. Lagares followed with his third hit of the night, and for some reason, Gary Disarcina thought it wise to challenge Acuna’s arm:
— Atlañta Braves (@Braves) August 14, 2019
With that, the Mets blew a chance to score, and they trailed 5-1 in what was now a battle of the bullpens.
Brad Brach pitched a clean sixth. Luis Avilan got into trouble in the seventh allowing a leadoff single to Donaldson an led plunking Adam Duvall. With Mets killer Charlie Culberson up, Mickey Callaway turned to Jeurys Familia. Familia continued his recent strong stretch by striking out Culberson to end the jam.
It was 5-1, but with the way the Mets have played and with the Braves weak bullpen, there was a chance. That chance came in the eighth.
Shane Greene, who has already lost his closer’s job, did little to instill confidence tonight.
Then, with Jerry Blevins relieving Greene to face Conforto, the Braves could not convert the 3-6-3 double play allowing Alonso to score. Anthony Swarzak came on to face Frazier. After Frazier singled, Lagares hit a ball which ate up Freeman allowing Conforto to score.
Unfortunately, Joe Panik could not get the big pinch hit. This left the Mets squandering what could’ve been a much bigger opportunity and entering the ninth 5-3.
As if things could’ve be bad enough in this frustrating loss, McNeil hurt himself trying to leg out a single against newly installed Braves closer Mark Melancon. With so many games remaining, the Mets could afford to lose a game, but they cannot afford to lose McNeil.
We will all be holding our breath awaiting word.
This past week the New York Mets could not bring themselves to trust Donnie Hart or Chris Mazza to close out a five run ninth inning lead against the worst team in the National League. There were two opportunities to use them, and the Mets passed each time. More than anything, this was a sign the Mets were 1-2 arms short in the bullpen and something needed to be done.
Yes, Brach has walked an inordinate amount of batters this year. Part of that is the fact Willson Contreras has been one of the wort pitch framers in all of baseball with a -8.5 FRAA. This follows a year in which he was a -15.4 FRAA. Yes, Wilson Ramos has been bad behind the dish, but his -7.1 FRAA is still an improvement. With Ramos being better and Tomas Nido being a good framer, Brach will be getting some help on that front.
More than the walks, Brach still has the ability to get batters out. He has struck out 10.6 per nine which is is best mark since his 2016 All Star season. As noted by Baseball Savant, there are issues like barrels and exit velocity, but there are other factors like his fastball velocity and spin rate which provide hope.
On the hope front, it should be noted Brach had a very similar season last year with his struggling with the Orioles. He was moved to the Braves as the trade deadline, and he turned things back on after the trade. In his 27 games for the Braves, he was 1-2 with a 1.52 ERA, 1.310 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, and an 8.4 K/9.
Overall, by career ERA, August has historically Brach’s second best month of the season. If that proves true, and his career worst .375 BABIP stabilize (.291 career BABIP), things are really looking up for Brach, and that is before he gets to make adjustments working with Mickey Callaway, Phil Regan, and Ricky Bones.
At a minimum, Brach is another arm to the equation, and he is likely one who will be used unlike Mazza, who is still on the roster, or Hart, who was optioned to Syracuse. Unlike those other two relievers, Brach has Major League success, and with that comes some hope for upside.
Now, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Panik has not been good this year. In fact, this is the worst season of his career by any measure. He has a career worst batting average, SLG, OPS, OPS+, wRC+, and WAR. With his having a -0.4 WAR and a 69 wRC+, you can understand the Giants trading for Scooter Gennett and releasing Panik.
Even with Panik not being good enough for a Giants team who held onto Madison Bumgarner with the hopes of getting a Wild Card spot in Bruce Bochy‘s last season, it does not mean Panik is not an upgrade over what the Mets currently have.
The Mets current second base options are worse than Panik at the plate. Adeiny Hechavarria (62 wRC+) and Luis Guillorme (2 wRC+) have been worse at the plate. You could argue putting Jeff McNeil at second base is a better move, but Juan Lagares (40 wRC+) and Aaron Altherr (-33 wRC+) are probably even worse options than Hechavarria, Guillorme, or Panik.
Arguably, you get more defense at second with Hechavarria (1 DRS) and Guillorme (1 DRS), but Panik is no slouch. He is a former Gold Glove winner, and he has a 0 DRS. Ultimately, when you take the combination of the defense and the bat, Panik is a steadier presence at second.
It should also be noted like with Brach, Panik is historically very good in August with his career triple slash line being better in August than any other month. While it has been just five games, that has proven true so far this year. Overall, Panik finishes seasons well, and the Mets need someone who can finish this season well at second to help propel them into the postseason.
Ultimately, bringing Brach and Panik back home on the roster makes the Mets a significantly improved team. That’s the case even with Brach and Panik not being very good players this year. In some ways, you can treat this as an indictment of the Mets. However, it’s not about that. Right now, the only thing we should care about is the Mets improving. With Brach and Panik, the Mets are improved. With them being improved, they’re in a better position to make the postseason.