Fernando Salas

Mets Need to Clinch As Soon As Possible

With the Mets beating the Marlins, and the Reds beating the Cardinals, the Mets magic number to claim one of the two Wild Card spots is two. This means the Mets can claim a Wild Card spot as early as Friday or as late as Saturday. It would behoove the Mets to clinch as soon as possible for many reasons. 

For starters, there is the issue of their starting pitcher. As it stands right now, Noah Syndergaard is slated to pitch on the regular season finale. In the event the Mets have not wrapped up the Wild Card by then, Terry Collins will have little choice but to throw Syndergaard. You do not want the Mets to miss out on the postseason because you held your ace back for a game that was not yet guaranteed. If the Mets are forced to pitch Syndergaard on Sunday, the Mets choices for the Wild Card Game will be either Bartolo Colon, who has an injured tendon in his right foot, on short rest or the unproven rookies Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. In reality, there is only one pitcher the Mets can trust right now in a winner-take-all game and that is Syndergaard.

Another important reason the Mets need to clinch early is some of their better players need some rest. Asdrubal Cabrera has been the best hitter in all of major league baseball in September.  He is also dealing with two knee problems.  He has really been dealing with a left knee issue all season and just the other day, he fouled a ball off his right knee.  As a result of these injuries, Cabrera has taken up the habit of sliding whenever possible to stop his momentum to keep pressure off his knees.  With that in mind, he can certainly use an extra couple of days off.  The Mets should want to get them for him too considering how well he has hit since coming off the disabled list.

There is also the issue of Yoenis Cespedes and his injured quad.  While he has been much healthier and hitting better than he was while he was hobbled, he has not been the same hot hitting Cespedes Mets fans have grown to love.  Since coming off the disabled list he is “only hitting” .269/.346/.522 with nine homers and 26 RBI.  These are for sure terrific numbers, but they are not the numbers the Mets have come to expect from Cespedes.  An extra couple of days should help him recuperate a little more and get some more of his power back.

The Mets bullpen can also use some time off as well.  Right now, Addison Reed has made the third most appearances in the major leagues.  The 77 appearances is already a career high for him as are the 74.2 innings pitched.  Jeurys Familia has pitched in more games and thrown more innings than any other closer in baseball.  Throw in Fernando Salas heavy September workload, and you have a tired 7-8-9 trio heading into the postseason.  A couple of days off will certainly do each of these pitchers a lot of good.

Additionally, clinching early will allow the Mets to give an older player like Curtis Granderson a few days of rest before the postseason.  It will also allow the Mets to see if Lucas Duda is ready to fully takeover for James Loney at first base.  Furthermore, it allows the Mets to play Michael Conforto to get him going to permit him to be as effective a pinch hitter off the bench as possible this postseason.

One or two days may not seem like much to accomplish all of these goals, but it really is. Those days permit the Mets to set up Syndergaard to be ready to pitch, and it gives Cabrera and Cespedes, the Mets two most important hitters right now, time off their feet to be as fresh as possible. As long as the Mets have that, they will not only have a good shot at winning the Wild Card Game, but it will also improve their chances of making a deep run in the postseason. 

Fernando Salas Is This Year’s Addison Reed

Last season, on the eve of September, Sandy Alderson went out and obtained Addison Reed from the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Up until that point in the season, Reed was  having a poor year that included a demotion to AAA.  In his 38 appearances with the Diamondbacks, he was 2-2 with a 4.20 ERA and a 1.500 WHIP while only striking out 7.5 batters per nine innings.  When Reed joined the Mets, he became a much different pitcher.  In his 17 September appearances, he was 1-1 with a 1.17 ERA, a 1.043 WHIP, and a 10.0 K/9.  With that, Reed locked down the seventh inning a Mets team and bullpen that would go all the way to the World Series.

Fernando Salas could be this year’s version of Addison Reed.

Like Reed, Alderson went out and got Salas right before the waiver trade deadline.  Similar to Reed, Alderson pounced on a reliever with a good track record, had some closing experience, and was having a down year.  In Salas’ 58 appearances with the Angels, he was 3-6 with a 4.47 ERA and a 1.260 WHIP.  Now, he had been pitching better in August, but he still had a 3.48 ERA for the month.  That’s a nice reliever to have, but that’s not the lockdown seventh inning reliever a team with World Series aspirations needs.

Well, like Reed the year before, Salas has become a better pitcher with the Mets.  In his 14 appearances with the Mets, Salas has a sterling 1.88 ERA and a 0.628 WHIP.  He has gone from striking out 7.2 batters per nine innings to striking out 9.4 batters per nine innings with the Mets.  Salas is maintaining this high level with the Mets despite his throwing the fifth most innings in all of baseball in the month of September.

What is interesting bout Salas’ turnaround is that his stuff hasn’t changed all that much from the Angels to the Mets. He is getting slightly more movement, but it’s not so appreciable that he would become a completely different pitcher.  He still rarely uses his slider, and he uses his changeup as an out pitch.  Looking at these numbers, you would expect a regression.  However, there is something different Salas is doing that is not indicated here that gives you hope this tremendous stretch is for real.  He’s throwing strikes.

Salas went from walking 3.0 batters per nine innings this year with the Angels to not walking anyone with the Mets.  The reason is Salas is throwing more strikes.  He’s getting into the games, establishing his fastball quickly, and he is pounding the zone.

A large part of this is Salas making a concerted effort to throw more strikes.  Another part of the reason is the difference between the Mets catchers and the Angels catchers.  Again, Travis d’Arnaud has shown himself to be one of the better pitch framers in all of baseball.  Rene Rivera is also having a better season in that respect than he has had in year’s past.  As for the Angels catchers Carlos Perez and Jeff Bandy, they have not been good pitch framers at all this season.  The difference between the two sets of catchers is a big one.  It is the difference between falling behind early in the count allowing you to set up a batter for a strikeout to trying to get a pitch over so you don’t issue a free pass.  It is the difference between a called strike three and a batter getting a free pass.

Overall, Salas has been the beneficiary of the Mets catchers exceptional pitch framing.  The Mets have been the beneficiaries of Salas’ pitching.  With him, the Mets have a pitcher that has allowed them to ease off the overworked Reed and Jeurys Familia down the stretch.  With him, the Mets have a terrific 7-8-9 trio to close out important games.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online.

Terry Colllins Move of the Day – Double Switching Addison Reed Into the Game

Watching last night’s game, Terry Collins made a flurry of moves.  He was like that Little League coach that was about to mercy rule the other team and quickly panics when he realizes he hasn’t put all of his players in the game.  Except, the Mets didn’t have a huge lead on the Braves.  It was just a one run lead, and considering how feisty the Braves have been, you didn’t feel completely confident in the Mets keeping the lead.  Here is a log of all the bench moves Collins made in last night’s game:

Top of the Seventh:

Bottom of the Seventh:

Top of the Eighth:

Bottom of the Eighth:

Top of the Ninth:

  • Campbell remains in the game playing first base
  • Ty Kelly enters the game playing third base

Bottom of the Ninth

Looking over all of these moves again, the biggest error in judgment had to be double switching Addison Reed inot the game.  It was the move that precipitated all that followed.

At the time, the Mets had a 3-2 lead, and Dansby Swanson hit a two out single off Colon.  At that point, the Braves announced their pinch hitter, the left-handed hitting catcher Blake Lalli.  The 33 year old Lalli is a career .140/.122/.122 hitter.  At best, he’s a AAAA player.  Here, with the pitcher’s spot due up in the bottom of the inning, the Mets could have reasonably let Colon get Lalli.  Colon had cruised most of the night and was only at 91 pitches.  Still, if you were inclined to bring in Colon, why did the Mets go to Reed?

Bringing in Reed there meant you were going to have him pitch the next inning precipitated Conforto being effectively used as a pinch hitter and later the Mets double switching Familia in the game by switching Reynolds with Reyes.  That was the spot for Fernando Salas especially considering the fact that this was one of the situations why he was brought to the Mets.  The other option was clearly Josh Smoker.

After the Loney error in the eighth, Collins would go to Smoker to get Freeman out.  If you have that much faith in Smoker that you are willing to bring him in to get Freddie “Chipper Jones” Freeman out, you should have enough faith to use Smoker to get Lalli out to end the inning.

Going to Salas or Smoker there would have kept the Mets bench in tact with it’s best hitters.  That means when the Mets have bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth and two outs, you are not sending Kevin Plawecki to take what was the biggest at bat of the season.  It also means you are not making the baffling move of pinch running Lagares for Conforto thereby burning his bat, which was needed in the bottom of the ninth.

Every mistake that happened in the eighth and ninth innings emanated from Collins prematurely going to Reed in that spot.  That lead to all the double switching and defensive replacements.  It led to Collins goading the Braves to bring in Ian Kroll so he could use Campbell.  It led to the Plawecki at bat as well.

In what has been a poor season (career?) in terms of in-game management, Collins had his signature regular season moment last night, and it all started with him panicking and going to Reed too soon.

One thing I would like to note is I had no issue with Collins going with Smoker to pitch to Freeman.  For his career, Freeman was 2-5 with a double, a walk, and an RBI.  The short sample size translated to Freeman hitting .400/.500/.600 off of Reed.  More than it just being Reed, Freeman is hitting .307/.406/.598 off righties and .295/.380/.497 against lefties.  No, you’re not going to neutralize Freeman with a lefty, but you do improve your chances against him with the lefty.

It should be noted that Smoker has reverse splits for a lefty, but he does have the type of stuff that gives Freeman fits.  Like most batters, Freeman doesn’t fare well against pitchers that throw over 95 MPH, and pitchers that throw splitters.  Smoker does both.

Blame Everyone But Asdrubal Cabrera

Other than Asdrubal Cabrera, who was 3-3 with two walks and an RBI double, everyone involved with the Mets had a hand in this putrid loss. That’s the way it is for a team that is 1-7 with RISP for the first seven innings. 

Robert Gsellman cruised through five innings before struggling in the sixth. He loaded the bases with one out. To his credit, he did get Matt Kemp to hit a medium depth fly ball to right center that should’ve been caught. 
It wasn’t. It fell between Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. The conversation probably went like this:

  • Granderson: “Jay, that’s yours. I have no arm.”
  • Bruce: “Sure, I got it.”
  • [Ball Drops]
  • Granderson: “I told you it was yours!”
  • Bruce: “I know, but in case you haven’t noticed, I suck as a Met.”

By the way, yes, Terry Collins played Bruce over Michael Conforto despite: (1) Bruce being terrible; (2) Conforto playing well the past two nights; and (3) Playing Bruce over Conforto violates the “You hit you play” mantra. And, yes, Collins should’ve pulled Gsellman before it got to this point. 

Josh Smoker relieved Gsellman, and he got squeezed on a 2-2 pitch:

He then walked Nick Markakis on the 3-2 pitch giving the Braves a 2-1 lead. 

That lead grew to 5-1 when Collins unnecessarily stayed with  Jerry BlevinsDansby Swanson led off the seventh with a single off Fernando Salas. After Julio Teheran failed to bunt him over, Collins went to Blevins to face Ender Inciarte

Inciarte singled, and then the RIGHT hand hitting Adonis Garcia hit a three run homer. Of course, Collins could’ve stuck with Salas, but no, he went to his second lefty there. 

The Braves continued to tee off Blevins. It got so bad Rafael Montero of all people had to bail him out of out the two on two out jam. 

Collins’ inactivity proved costly especially after a Mets eighth inning rally that was helped by the Braves pulling Teheran. 

Cabrera got it started with a one out walk. Seriously, who else would get things started?  After Yoenis Cespedes was hit by a pitch, Granderson hit an RBI double. T.J. Rivera hit a sac fly to make it 5-3. The Braves would bring in the lefty Ian Krol to face Bruce. 

It wouldn’t happen because Collins would hit Eric Campbell for Bruce. Campbell actually cane through with a pinch hit RBI single. As Terry was rolling the dice, he then hit Kevin Plawecki for James Loney. After Plawecki reached on an error, Collins rolled a snake eyes with his sending Travis d’Arnaud to the plate. d’Arnaud grounded out to kill the rally. 

The Mets had their chance in the ninth off Braves closer Jim Johnson. Cabrera hit a seeing eye two out single to bring up Cespedes. It was the exact situation you want. Johnson then made Cespedes look silly on a 2-2 pitch to end the game. 

It Wasn’t Easy, But It Was a Grandy Win

It doesn’t matter that the Twins are one if the worst teams in baseball. When you’re fighting for a postseason spot, the games are going to be tough. Tonight, the Twins showed a lot of fight. It certainly helped them that they were sending their ace, Ervin Santana, to the mound. 

And you know with him being a former Brave, he’s pitches well against the Mets. That’s exactly what happened tonight. 

The Mets did absolutely nothing against Santana for the first four innings. T.J. Rivera got things started with a single, and he moved to second on a balk. Because Paul Molitor apparently had no idea James Loney isn’t good, he ordered an intentional walk. It wouldn’t burn the Twins. First, Rene Rivera struck out. Then, Terry Collins gambled a bit pinch hitting Kelly Johnson for the starter Seth Lugo. Johnson popped out to end the inning. 

It also closed the door on Lugo. It was the typical bend but don’t break Lugo outing where he found an extra gear on his fastball and three more curves when he was in trouble. The only run the Twins were able to score off of him was an Eddie Rosaro solo homer in the fourth. 

Lugo’s final line would be five innings, four hits, one run, one earned, four walks, and two strikeouts. 

The Mets had a chance to get Lugo off the hook in the seventh. T.J. got the rally sterted with a cue shot double down the first baseline followed by another inexplicable intentional walk to Loney. Alejandro De Aza pinch hit for Rene and walked to load the bases. Terry Collins then made two strange decisions. 

The second, but most puzzling, was his waiting for a pitch to be thrown before having Ty Kelly pinch run for Loney. The other curious decision was going to Michael Conforto to pinch hit. It was strange because Conforto has been idle for too long and because he’s been uncomfortable pinch hitting. Furthermore, the Mets activated Lucas Duda just for spots like this. Collins went with Conforto, who had a bad at bat striking out on four pitches. 

The bad news was the Mets missed out on another huge scoring opportunity. The good news was Santana was done for the night. 

Jose Reyes gave a rude welcome to Twins reliever Ryan Pressly by hitting the first pitch by Pressly for a single. Reyes would quickly find himself on second after a wild pitch and an Asdrubal Cabrera groundout. With the game on the line, Yoenis Cespedes was at the plate with a 3-2 count, and he would lunge at a ball off the plate:

Of course, he came through in that spot tying the game at one. Molitor went to his left in the pen Taylor Rogers. Rogers would make quick work of the two lefties Collins was so nice to stack in the middle of the lineup, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. By the way, Bruce, the man Collins has the utmost confidence, was 0-5 with a strikeout. 

The game would go into extras as:

Lost with the Mets practically emptying their bench was terrific work out of the bullpen. Josh SmokerFernando SalasJerry BlevinsAddison ReedJeurys Familia, and Hansel Robles combined to pitch five shutout innings allowing only three hits and one walk with striking out eight. 

However, they wouldn’t get a sixth shutout inning.  Byron Buxton would hit a long home run off Robles to give the Twins a 2-1 lead in the 11th. It wasn’t a bad pitch, and it shows why people think Buxton is going to be a great player. None if that matters. 

What matters is Granderson led off the bottom of the 11th with an opposite field home run to tie the game at two. 

After Granderson’s homer, and the obligatory Bruce out, the Mets, sorry, Las Vegas 51s, continued the rally.  T.J. and Brandon Nimmo hit back-to-back singles.  Kevin Plawecki almost ended the game. However, instead of his liner going into center, it hit the pitcher leading to the fielder’s choice. It put the game in Matt Reynolds hands. After fouling a ball off his foot, Reynolds was hit by a pitch to load the bases. 

Reyes worked out a nine pitch at bat, but he would strike out looking ending the inning and sending the game into the 12th. 

Granderson once again hit the huge extra inning home run.

This one was a game winner – off a lefty to boot. It was the first time in Mets history a Mets player hit a game tying and game winning home run in extra innings. 

With that, the Mets won a tough game and will make up ground on someone tonight. 

Game Notes: Granderson’s homers wrre the Mets’ 200th & 201st of the season, which is the new Mets single season record. 

Mets Fifth Starter Will Be?

After last night’s game, Terry Collins stated the obvious when he said Rafael Montero wouldn’t get another start. The natural follow-up Collins couldn’t quite answer yet was, “Who will replace Montero in the rotation?”  Unfortunately, the Mets have few options. 

Injured Starters

One of the reasons Montero is in the rotation to begin with is because Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz are injured. While there have been optimistic reports about them getting back on the mound, there are no indications either will be availsble to pitch on Saturday. 

Right now, it seems deGrom is the closer of the two, but the Mets only intend to use him in the bullpen for now. 

Skip the Fifth Starter’s Spot

With the Mets having an off day on Thursday, they can pitch everyone on normal rest for one turn through the rotation. If the Mets pursue this option, the team wouldn’t need a fifth starter until Wednesday, September 21st against the Braves. 

This route accomplished two tasks. First, it allows the Mets to pitch their best (remaining) pitchers thereby giving them the best chance to win. Second, it gives deGrom and Matz a little more time to rejoin the rotation. 

Gabriel Ynoa

If you’re judging Gabriel Ynoa by the 5.1 innings he has thrown in the majors, you wouldn’t want him or his 15.19 ERA anywhere near the mound.  Worse yet, in Ynoa’s outings, he has been hit hard, and he has had trouble putting batters away. 

However, it should be noted those are only 5.1 innings. It should also be noted Ynoa was pitching out of the bullpen in each of these spots, which is a very unfamiliar situation for him. 

Ynoa also was on a hot streak before getting called up in September. In his final four starts of the season, he was 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. These are better numbers than what Montero had in AA when he was tabbed the fifth starter. 

Logan Verrett

Mets fans have seen enough of Logan Verrett in the rotation this year. In his 12 starts, he was 1-6 with a 6.45 ERA and a 1.617 WHIP. These are terrible numbers, BUT they are better than what Montero is giving the Mets right now. 

Sean Gilmartin

Unfortunately, the 2016 version of Sean Gilmartin had been nowhere near as good as the 2015 version. Whether it was due to the shoulder injury which put him on the seven day DL or not, the results aren’t there for him. 

In 18 starts and one relief appearance in AAA, Gilmartin was 9-7 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP. His worst month was August where he was 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA and a 1.93 WHIP in three starts. 

In his 11 appearances for the Mets this year, he has a 5.40 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. However, he has been pitching better of late. In his last six appearances, he has allowed only two runs with a 1.17 WHIP. 

Bullpenning

With the publication of Brian Kenny’s new book, “Ahead of the Curve” there has been more and more discussion about the plausibility of the concept of bullpenning. 

Bullpenning is when a team eschews a starting pitcher, and instead opts to go with their bullpen for all nine innings. With September call-ups, the Mets have a deeper bullpen certainly making this concept a plausible option. 

With Fernando SalasAddison Reed, and Jeurys Familia set for the last three to four innings, the Mets would only need to account for the first five to six innings of the game. 

Now, given the fact that Ynoa, Verrett, and Gilmartin have not been stretched out in a while all three could give two innings each to begin the game.  Hansel Robles has also shown the a ability to go multiple innings to either change the look batters see it to step in if one of the aforementioned pitchers falter. 

Bullpenning could also be an avenue to start deGrom and Matz while still limiting their innings and pitch count. 

As it stands at the moment, there is no obvious solution. With that in mind, the Mets are probably going to need a hybrid approach to replace Montero in the rotation. 

Terry Collins’ Decision of the Game – Rafael Montero

This one was obvious to everyone except Terry Collins. 

In Rafael Montero‘s last start, he only lasted 4.1 innings against the Reds allowing three runs while walking four. In the start before that it was a minor miracle he allowed no runs against the Marlins despite walking six over five innings. By any measure, Montero had no business starting against the Washington Nationals yesterday. 

This would be the Collins’ decision of the game except there is the possibility the choice to start Montero tonight was either a collaborative decision or a decision made by the front office. 

Giving Collins the benefit of the doubt here, the decision of the game was not pinch hitting for Montero in the top of the second inning. 

At that time, the Mets were only down 2-1. However, they were down 2-1 because Montero issued not one, but two . . . TWO! . . . bases loaded walks. Realistically, the Mets could’ve been trailing by a lot more than one run with the way Montero pitched in a 37 pitch first inning. 

Another factor was there was a runner in scoring position with two outs. You know Montero isn’t bringing that run home.  Sure, you normally wouldn’t want to go to your bench that early in the game, but there are expanded rosters. You’re not going to run out of pinch hitters with the following available:

  1. Michael Conforto
  2. Brandon Nimmo
  3. Alejandro De Aza
  4. T.J. Rivera
  5. Matt Reynolds
  6. Gavin Cecchini
  7. Ty Kelly
  8. Eric Campbell

That gives the Mets one pinch hitter for every inning for the rest of the game. Keep in mind, this list doesn’t include the backup catchers Rene Rivera and Kevin Plawecki

Collins might’ve said differently in the post game, but the bullpen shouldn’t have been a consideration. Gabriel Ynoa and Sean Gilmartin were fairly rested and capable of pitching multiple innings. Same goes for Hansel Robles. Also, it’s important to note the Mets only needed to find five innings because if it was close, the Mets were going Fernando SalasAddison ReedJeurys Familia to close out the game anyway. 

With September call-ups, the Mets had the depth to handle Collins lifting Montero. More importantly, with the Mets amidst the Wild Card race, they can ill-afford to give Montero a second inning because it could cost you the game. 

Collins didn’t lift Montero, and he imploded in the second. It was not a result that was all that surprising. It was a result that helped cost the Mets the game. It was another poor managerial decision by Collins. 

Matt Reynolds Awakens the Dreary Mets

Terry Collins and the Mets made the best out of an awful situation with the Mets playing a late Sunday night game followed by an early Monday afternoon game. 

Bartolo Colon flew ahead of the team to make sure he was well rested.  Jose ReyesAsdrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis Cespedes, i.e. veterans with some nagging injuries, were given a day off. Curtis Granderson was also given a day meaning the Mets were without the top four hitters in they’d lineup. With that in mind, an extremely tired Mets team went to their bench to ask them to win one. They did. 

Matt Reynolds, who took the red eye from Las Vegas, and Kelly Johnson each hit solo homers to give the Mets a 2-0 lead. 

That was enough for Colon who navigated his way out of trouble for most of the day. He was aided by two double plays in the first few innings. Twice he stranded a runner on third with no outs. His best feat was in the sixth when he stranded Hernan Iribarren at third after a lead off triple. This was in part due to his unwillingness to test Jay Bruce‘s arm. Coincidentally, Bruce’s throw would go to the backstop. 

His final line was six innings, five hits, no runs, none earned, one walk, and two strikeouts. 

Fortunately, he gave the Mets some much needed depth with both Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia unavailable. 

On the bullpen front, Hansel Robles had another good outing, but Jerry Blevins struggled. Blevins would get bailed out by Fernando Salas in the eighth. Salas would finish out the game. 

Still, even with the win, it’s not like the Mets were crisp. Reds starter Robert Stephenson struck out nine in 5.1 innings. The only Mets player with a multiple hits off the Reds stater was Wilmer Flores, who no one was quite sure what he was doing on the bases:

In the first, he was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. In the fourth, he was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. Finally, in the sixth, he had the good sense to stop at first bases much to the delight of Phoebe:

The Mets put the game on ice in the seventh. Reynolds hit an RBI single scoring Travis d’Arnaud, who walked to start the rally. Cabrera pinch hit for Colon, and hit an RBI single scoring James LoneyAlejandro De Aza capped off the rally with a sacrifice fly scoring Reynolds making the score 5-0. 

While it was Flores that was perfect at the plate, it was Reynolds who was the offensive star of the game. Reynolds would go 2-3 with two runs, two RBI, and a home run. With the insane scheduling and the veterans’ nagging injuries, the Mets needed someone to step up. It was an exhausted Reynolds who stepped up and powered the Mets offensively. 

With that Reynolds and the entire Mets team earned a well needed rest. 

Game Notes: This was Bruce’s first game back in Cincinnati since the trade, and the team had a pre-game ceremony honoring him. Bruce would go 0-3 with two strikeouts leaving two men on base. 

Nationals Are a Better Team

Tonight, there were only two Mets who played well in a huge series against the Washington Nationals – Asdrubal Cabrera and Noah Syndergaard. It wasn’t enough. 

Cabrera homered off Nationals starter A.J. Cole in the fourth to narrow the gap to 2-1. Overall, Cabrera was 2-3 with the homer and a walk. Jay Bruce was the only other Met to get a hit off of Cole. 

In reality, the Mets did nothing against a young pitcher who has struggled in his limited major league appearances. In his five major league appearances, he was 0-1 with a 5.32 ERA and a 1.318 WHIP. At 24 years old, he’s still just a prospect who could conceivably break out at any time. However, he’s really seen as a mid to back of the rotation guy. This was just another case of the disappearing Mets offense. 

It is a shame too because it spoiled a very good Syndergaard start. Syndergaard’s final line was seven innings, three hits, two runs, two earned, one walk, and four strikeouts. Seeing that line, it begs the question – how did the Nationals score two runs with only four baserunners and no extra base hits. 

Simple, Syndergaard cannot hold base runners. 

In the first, Trea Turner led off the game with a single. He then proceeded to steal second AND third. No, Travis d’Arnaud wasn’t catching; it was Rene Rivera showing yet again the stolen base issue lies with the starting pitchers. Turner would then score on a Bryce Harper sacrifice fly. Daniel Murphy would also steal a base in the inning, but he would not score. 

In the fourth, Harper hit a one out double, and he stole third. That set up yet another sacrifice fly. This time it was Wilson Ramos

Just like that, the Nationals “manufactured” both of their runs. They got the guys on, got them over, and got them in. It’s something the Mets offense has struggled with all year. 

The Mets would have one chance to tie the game in the seventh. 

Marc Rzepczynski (your guess is as good as mine as to whether that is spelled correctly) relieved Cole, and he made quick work of Curtis Granderson and Kelly Johnson. Rzepczynski would then issue a free pass to Rivera, and he would plunk d’Arnaud. 

At that point, Terry Collins and Dusty Baker would go to their benches. Collins would tab Ty Kelly to pinch run for Rivera. Baker would bring in Koda Glover (definitely no relation to Danny or Donald) to pitch to Jose Reyes making sure Reyes was hitting from his much weaker side. Glover would blow a 98 MPH fastball past Reyes to end the inning. 

But, hey, Reyes did this to a ball earlier in the game:

The game was then out if reach in the ninth before the Mets would bat. Jerry Blevins started the inning to face the left-handed Murphy and Harper. A single and a double later, and Collins turned to Hansel Robles. Robles immediately gave up a two RBI single to Anthony Rendon making it a 4-1 game. 

What we all observed was the difference between the 2015 and 2016 Nationals. The Nationals have a manger that has a reputation in bringing out the best in his guys. They also gave a much better bullpen. During the stretch run last year, they had Jonathan Papelbon. This year it’s Mark Melancon

It’s a huge difference. It’s the difference between losing the division by seven games and having a 10.5 game division lead. Well, that and having Murphy. 

Game Notes: Even with the righty on the mound, James Loney would sit, and Wilmer Flores played first. Michael Conforto did not start, but he made a PH appearance in the ninth. Fernando Salas pitched another scoreless inning. 

Pennant Race: The Pirates lost 1-0 to the Brewers. The Marlins are lost 6-2 to the Indians. The Cardinals lost 3-2 to the Reds. 

Yelich Finally Beat The Mets

On a team that traditionally kills the Mets, Christian Yelich is the ultimate Mets killer. 

It started in the second inning when he robbed Jacob deGrom:

At the time, the Mets had Jose Urena on the ropes with two outs and the bases loaded. Between last night and tonight, the Mets have loaded the bases four times, and Kelly Johnson is the only one who has gotten a base hit. 

In the following half inning, Yelich struck again hitting an RBI single off deGrom scoring Ichiro Suzuki giving the Marlins a 1-0 lead. 

In this series, the Mets responded each time the Marlins took a lead, but not tonight. It would be the Marlins who struck next, and once again Yelich would be in the mix. 

In the top of the fifth, Yelich got the rally started with a two out single. He would come around to score on a Jeff Francouer double. Francouer would score off a Xavier Scruggs double. 

That would be it for deGrom. His final line was five innings, six hits, three runs, three earned, four walks, and six strikeouts. Considering he has struggled recently and the Mets skipping a start, it was hard to tell if he was rusty or if he’s just lost right now.  Whatever it is, the Mets need him, and he hasn’t been able to help. 

In the sixth, the Mets would narrow the gap with a Jay Bruce solo home to to make it 3-1. 

Yelich would once again be a factor. So would Terry Collins. 

Despite a well rested bullpen and newly acquired Fernando Salas available, Collins would push Josh Smoker to pitch a second inning. Smoker didn’t record an out in the seventh, and he gave up an opposite field home run to Yelich giving the Marlins a 6-1 lead. It was Yelich’s third opposite field home runs in as many days. 

Credit should be given to Keith Hernandez here. During the Yelich at bat, he noted how well Yelich goes the other way, and he noted Smoker should pitch Yelich inside. Smoker didn’t. 

Salas would then make his Mets debut pitching a scoreless inning. 

The Mets would build a rally in the eighth. Curtis Granderson and Johnson would lead off the inning with opposite field singles off Nick Wittgren. Bruce followed suit hitting an opposite field RBI single. 

Don Mattingly would bring in Kyle BarracloughWilmer Flores battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk loading the bases bringing up Michael Conforto. Barraclough threw him nothing but breaking pitches, and Conforto hit into the 1-2-3 double play. Despite going 2-4 with a double reaching on an error and making a nice play in the field, knowing Collins, Conforto won’t play in another game this year. 

Yoenis Cespedes, who didn’t start the game due to the slick field conditions, would pinch hit for James Loney. He struck out to end the inning and the rally. Again, the Mets couldn’t score a run with the bases loaded. 

To the Mets credit, they didn’t go down without a fight. Travis d’Arnaud led off the inning an infield single thanks in part to a lacksadasical Dee Gordon. Asdrubal Cabrera, who also sat due to field conditions, hit his first career pinch hit home run making it 6-4.  The Mets would get no closer. 

Fittingly, the last three batters would all fly out to left with Yelich getting all three put outs. On the night, Yelich was 3-4 with two runs, four RBI, one walk, a homer, and a sparkling defensive play in center. He was the lone Marlin who came to beat the Mets this series, and he finally accomplished his goal tonight. 

With the loss, the Mets missed an opportunity to gain some ground on the idle Cardinals, and yes, for the delusional fan, the idle Nationals. 

Game Notes: For some reason or other, Rene Rivera played first tonight even with Ty Kelly getting recalled with the expanded rosters.