Hansel Robles

Mismanagement, Vargas Has Mets Seeing Red in Blowout Loss

Well, if you were feeling good about the Mets after their win last night, those feelings were quickly dispatched.  Todd Frazier, arguably their second best position player all year, landed on the disabled list meaning Jose Reyes was in the starting lineup.  Worse than that, Jason Vargas was the starter.

Right away, Vargas loaded the bases, and he then allowed a Eugenio Suarez two RBI single to give the Reds an early 2-0 lead.  It was a minor miracle the Reds did not score more from that point.

However, they would score two more in the second with Suarez once again being the catalyst.  His RBI double scored Joey Votto from first, and he would come home on a Tucker Barnhart, the catcher the Reds kept, RBI single.

Overall, Vargas’ final line was 4.0 innings, six hits, four runs, four earned, two walks, and one strikeout.  As poor as that start was, it should be noted this was his best start this year.  With his pitching, you almost have to question why he’s guaranteed a starting spot while the team is keeping some pitchers in the minors and sending another one to Cincinnati.

That four run margin would prove to be enough for a number of reasons.

The first was Reds starter, Luis Castillo, no not that one, but then again it doesn’t really matter because nothing good happens to the Mets when there is a Luis Castillo on the field.  He would limit the Mets to just a single over the first five innings.

Finally, in the sixth, the Mets would break through on a Wilmer Flores one out homer.  Now, Flores did not start the game.  Rather, he was double switched in for Amed Rosario despite Rosario being the one Met with a hit, and Reyes being a terrible defensive shortstop.

The Mets would continue from there with a two out rally.  With consecutive walks to Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, and Adrian Gonzalez, the Reds forced home a run.  That’s when Mickey Callaway opted to pinch hit Brandon Nimmo instead of Juan Lagares or even the newly acquired Devin Mesoraco to face the left-hander Amir Garrett.

Nimmo struck out to end the rally, and things would only go downhill from there.

AJ Ramos was fighting it, but he kept the Reds off the board in the sixth, but he would allow a double to Scott Schebler, and with Votto coming up, Jerry Blevins would come into the game.  He got his man, but he would be pulled for Hansel Robles.

After a Suarez single, Scooter Gennett would have Robles pointing to the sky again with his three run homer giving the Reds a 7-2 lead.

Making this game worse was the fact the Mets had called up Corey Oswalt in place of P.J. Conlon to give them some length in the bullpen.  Of course, they called up Oswalt on three days rest instead of Chris Flexen on full rest.  The end result was Callaway ripping through his bullpen trying to save Oswalt’s arm . . . the very same Oswalt who was called up to supposedly help protect against that.

That’s embarrassing.  Almost as embarrassing as getting blown out by the now nine win Reds team.

Game Notes: On the eve of the game, Matt Harvey was traded to the Reds for Mesoraco.

Mets Swept by Rockies, For Homestand

This is the point where the Mets were in 2015, 2016, and 2017.  A Mets team with much promise has either regressed or been exposed, and you are left wondering how exactly things were going to get better for this team.

One of the more troubling things we saw both yesterday and throughout this season was how Noah Syndergaard hasn’t been Thor.  It’s not too dissimilar to how Matt Harvey had stopped being The Dark Knight, except with Syndergaard there really isn’t any reason to suspect any injury.

That’s not to say Thor was or has been bad.  Far from it.  His only allowing two runs over six innings is a testament to that.  However, it was the way he pitched that was the problem.

A pitcher with remarkable control walked four batters.  That included him issuing back-to-back walks in the third inning to Nolan Arenado and Gerardo Parra to force in a run.  Between that and the solo home run he allowed to Ian Desmond in the second, he gave away the Mets 2-0 lead.  Yes, it was a thin margin of error, but we have seen Thor thrive with even narrower margins.

The Mets two runs were scored in the first off of Kyle Freeland.  The first run was the result of three straight singles from Juan Lagares, Yoenis Cespedes, and Asdrubal Cabrera to start the game.  After that, Todd Frazier hit a sacrifice fly to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.  In that first inning, Cespedes once again injured his right quad:

He would be removed from the game for Brandon Nimmo, who we would find out can still draw a walk off a left-handed pitcher, but with two strikeouts, he sure does struggle hitting off of them.

Really, the Mets struggled to hit Freeland for the rest of the game.  After that three hit onslaught to begin the game, the Mets would get just one more hit off of him until he departed after seven strong innings.

With the Mets not hitting, Syndergaard settling back down, and Jerry Blevins and AJ Ramos combining to pitch a scoreless seventh, Mickey Callaway went to Hansel Robles in the eighth.  No one can be quite sure if Robles pointed to the sky again, but we do know he surrendered another homer.  This time to Desmond, his second of the game.

With the Mets inability to hit right now, it might as well have been a walk-off home run for all intents and purposes.

The 3-2 loss ended a dreadful home stand which saw the Mets go 0-6.  They pitched poorly and hit even worse.  They dropped from first to third place in the NL East.  They don’t look like a team in a freefall inasmuch as they look like a bad baseball team without any answers.  Hopefully, the trip to Cincinnati and Philadelphia will awaken their bats.  Although, we should shutter to thing what will happen to the pitching.

Game Notes: Wilmer Flores was 0-2 with a walk against Freeland.  He is now hitting .161/.235/.226 off of left-handed pitching this season.

Callaway May Be Overworking The Mets Bullpen

After an epic eighth inning bullpen meltdown against the Washington Nationals, the fans and media began the process of second guessing Mets manager Mickey Callaway. With that the central question was why Callaway went to Seth Lugo instead of allowing Jacob deGrom to face Howie Kendrick, who deGrom has completely dominated both that night and over the course of his career.

As we know, Lugo did the inexcuable and walked Kendrick on four pitches. This led to Jerry Blevins, AJ Ramos, and Jeurys Familia not getting the job done. With the exception of Blevins, there were ensuing questions about how each reliever was used in that inning.

These questions are interesting for debate, but they are missing the larger issue here. In his brief managerial career, Callaway has ridden the bullpen too hard for this team to have sustained success over the course of a 162 game schedule.

There are a number of caveats many people will cite. There have been a number of off days. The Mets pitchers aren’t going deep enough into games thereby forcing Callaway’s hand. The bullpen can’t possibly be overworked because they have pitched just the 17th more innings in the majors.

Here are some other key stats to consider. There are 15 pitchers in baseball who have made double digit appearances this season. The Mets have three of those pitchers with Familia, Ramos, and Blevins. By the way, they were also the three pitchers who failed to get the job done that fateful eighth inning.

By the way, the Mets are the only team to have three relievers make double digit appearances, and that number will grow to four when Robert Gsellman, who has scuffled a bit of late, makes his next appearance.

We tend to over-focus just on the number of appearances, innings, and pitches relievers throw. Them getting up to warm up also counts. It is part of the fatigue which can set in for a reliever.

At this point, we can not be definitively sure any of the Mets relievers are gassed even with the recent drop-off. Really, that can be explained by regression to the mean or just a fluke small sample size.

Here’s what we do know. For most of this season, Callaway has had a bullpen with an extra arm in it. Despite that, the Mets have had to make roster moves on two separate occasions to get a fresh arm into the bullpen. First, it was Corey Oswalt for a day. Now, it’s Gerson Bautista for who knows how long?

The answer to that one may just be up until he gets gassed and the Mets need to go back to the minors to pull up Hansel Robles or Jacob Rhame again. Maybe this time, it’s Tyler Bashlor who comes up to the majors straight from Double-A.

Point is, the way Callaway is using this bullpen is having an effect, and it is causing the Mets to need to dip into their minor league depth to get fresh arms into this bullpen. Maybe this was the plan all along, and that plan is buttressed by Sandy Alderson’s moves at the trade deadline last year. Probably not.

Whatever the case, the Mets are going to have to figure something out because this cannot continue for 162 games.

Wilmer Homer Was a Family Affair

Due to a family event, I was unable to use the Mets tickets I had originally purchased for the game.  Considering it was me who scheduled the family event, it was REALLY poor planning on my part, except for one thing . . . .

With the exception of one of my uncles, an uncle who harbors no ill-will towards the National League team, we are all Mets fans.

We are all split on football and hockey.  Generally speaking, we all prefer NCAA basketball to the NBA, with us each having our own colleges we support.

Despite the many differences we have as a family, it is our being Mets fans that bind us.  Perhaps more than the blood itself.

So, when you have a group of us together, if there is a television around, any and all family occasions will eventually turn into us sitting there watching and rooting for the Mets.  Yesterday was no exception.

We talked about what a great and underrated pickup Todd Frazier was when he delivered an RBI single in the first.

While we all agreed we loved Mickey Callaway, we loudly wondered what the (blank) he was thinking pinch hitting for Tomas Nido with an open base and Thor on deck.

This led to a discussion as to what exactly the Mets should be doing about the cdatching situation.  Some wanted J.T. Realmuto.  Others, myself included, wanted the Mets to go with the catcher who would get the most out of this pitching staff.  Regardless, we all debated what the Marlins would want for Realmuto presuming the discussions would start with Justin Dunn and Peter Alonso.

We marveled at just how dominant Noah Syndergaard was with him finally returning to form early this season with his striking out 11.  We also groaned in that sixth inning when the Brewers plated two unearned runs on an Amed Rosario throwing error.

My family had smiles bigger than the one on Brandon Nimmo‘s face when he hit a game tying homer in the bottom of that inning.  All right, almost as big a smile.

We got nervous and held on for dear life as AJ Ramos had one of those heart in your throat innings, and he was not helped by Jose Lobaton. To a man, we agreed wild pitch or not, your catcher has to get that.  Regardless, Ramos got out of the inning with some help from Jerry Blevins.

Surprisingly, no one seemed that nervous about Hansel Robles anymore.  Sure, he may not have been everyone’s first choice, but there was a calm believing he could get the job done. For Robles, that must’ve been a different feeling from past years.

And in my family, we are smart baseball fans, so there was no waiting for Jeurys Familia to lose the game in the ninth.  We’re better than that, and with his stretch, I hope all Mets fans are getting to that point as well.

Finally, like Citi Field and wherever you were, we cheered and celebrated when Wilmer Flores hit the walk off homer.

Did I get to go to the Mets game yesterday?  No, I didn’t.  However, one of the reasons we go to games is to sit in the stands and have a shared experience.  Considering I watched yesterday with my family, and it was bitterly cold yesterday, I think watching it from an Italian restaurant a state away was probably a much better experience.

The next experience will hopefully be the group of us at Citi Field as we look to recreate one of our old traditions.  Hope to see you all there.

Game Notes: Wilmer’s second career walk-off happened against the very same Brewers team he was supposed to be traded to back in 2015.

Cabrera Homers Part of Mets Refusal to Lose

You know you have a good team when they bring it every day no matter what the circumstances.  You know you have a great team when they always respond to adversity.  They respond to a tough inning in the field with a good at-bat.  When the opponent takes they lead, they come right back and tie the score.

Tonight was just the latest in seeing how this Mets team can be great.

In the first, Wilmer Flores doubled off Caleb Smith to score Michael Conforto, who led the game off with a double.  In the fourth, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a monster home run:

In the fifth, Amed Rosario hit a double, and Conforto singled him home to give the Mets a 3-0 lead.  With Jacob deGrom cruising, it seemed like this was going to be an easy game for the Mets.

Unfortunately, the fifth would prove to be an ugly inning for the Mets.  It started with a Yadiel Rivera grounder to third, which probably should’ve been called foul and Mickey Callaway should’ve challenged but didn’t.  We’d later see Todd Frazier deflect a ball he should’ve let go to Rosario, which led to the Marlins first run of the game.

The second run was scored on a Starlin Castro sacrifice fly.  On the play, Conforto completely missed the cutoff man allowing Rojas to go to second.  Justin Bour, who had a big night against the Mets, then homered to give the Marlins a 4-3 lead.

Where some teams would be shell-shocked, the Mets immediately responded with a Frazier double.  He’d then get aggressive on the bases tagging up on a Cabrera fly ball to left field and beating Derek Dietrich‘s throw.  After a Kevin Plawecki walk, this put him in position to score on the ensuing Juan Lagares sacrifice fly to tie the game at 4-4.

Surprisingly, given how Callaway has handled the pitching staff, deGrom came out to pitch a scoreless sixth.  He’d get a no decision, and his final line was 6.0 innings, seven hits, four runs, four earned, one walk, and six strikeouts.  Not a great start, but he did put his team in position to win the game.  With better umpiring and some better defense, that line would have looked much better.

In the seventh, Jacob Rhame came into the game, and he just didn’t have it.  The one none sacrifice out he got was a deep fly ball to center that probably would have gone for extra bases had it been someone other than Lagares out there.  Rhame did have a chance to get out of the inning, but he made a mistake on the first pitch to Bour.  Bour launched his second homer of the night giving the Marlins the lead against at 6-4.

Paul Sewald in just his second appearance of the year got the final out of the inning allowing the Mets a chance to comeback and tie the score.

Given how this Mets team has played so far this year, it should come as no surprise they did actually tie the score in the top of the eighth.  Flores and Cabrera would both homer off Kyle Barraclough.

In the bottom of the inning, Hansel Robles and the Mets dodged a bullet as Bryan Holaday just missed a homer.  Everyone but Robles, who probably wasn’t pointing up, thought that was out.  Where many expected Robles to melt down, he bore down.  He got out of the inning highlighted by punch out of Rojas to end the inning.

As a bad Marlins team will learn many times this year, you don’t give a good team like the Mets this many chances.

Brian Anderson threw a ball away allowing Rosario to reach safely instead of the Marlins recording the second out of the inning.  Brad Ziegler followed the error by walking Conforto to put the game in Yoenis Cespedes‘ hands.  Even with Cespedes being on a 1-20 cold streak, he still had the magic to deliver a two RBI double to give the Mets an 8-6 lead.

The two run lead was more than enough for the resurgent Jeurys Familia to close it out.

Ultimately, the Mets won this game because they are resilient.  They won because Cabrera hit two huge homers.  They won because they are embodying the spirit of Frazier who responds to every negative play with a positive one.  They won because they’re a great team.

In fact, at the moment, you can argue they’re the greatest team in Mets history because they now have the best start to a season in Mets history with them standing with the best record in baseball at 9-1.

Game Notes: Before the game, Brandon Nimmo was sent down to Vegas to make room on the roster for Corey Oswalt.  Oswalt was called up due to how taxed the bullpen has been early in the season.

Mets Beat Nationals Bullpen Again, Familia Great Again

In the Mets first game against the Nationals, the Mets let the Nationals and all of baseball know that at their best, this Mets team is as good as any in all of baseball.  Now, that’s easy when you have Jacob deGrom on the mound, Michael Conforto returning to the lineup, and Yoenis Cespedes hitting homers.  The next question and perhaps the real question is what happens when these factors weren’t present.

Well, with Steven Matz starting and Mickey Callaway giving Juan Lagares the start, the Mets were going to find out.  As it so happened, those questions started to get answered in the second inning.

Brian Goodwin would draw a two out walk, and he’d quickly steal second base on the duo of Matz and Travis d’Arnaud.  On a 3-2 with a chance to get out of the inning, Pedro Severino singled up the middle, and the speedy Goodwin dared challenge Lagares’ arm:

That’s the Gold Glove Lagares who re-emerged last year.  Whether or not his new swing and approach are for rule almost seems inconsequential when he plays center this way.

Another note here is in this game, you got to see all that d’Arnaud is as a catcher.  When his pitchers aren’t even bothering to hold on base runners, much like Matz didn’t in this game, he’s not going to have a real shot to throw out anyone trying to steal a base.  The Nationals know that better than anyone, and they stole five bases in five attempts off of him.

However, he offsets that deficiency in other ways.  As we see in the Lagares play, he’s exceptional in fielding a throw, blocking the plate, and getting the tag down.  Really, he’s the best catcher in baseball on the front.  He’s also a very good pitch framer.  That came into play on a day when Mets pitchers would record 10 strikeouts while walking just three.

That pitch framing led not to not just a third inning strikeout of Anthony Rendon, it also led to his ejection on what was a horrible overreaction by Home Plate Umpire Marty Foster:

That ejection was the Mets gain because Rendon is a great player who kills the Mets.

Even with Matz pitching well, the Mets still could not get ahead of Gio Gonzalez.  That’s not unusual because he came into this game 14-5 with a 2.93 ERA against the Mets in his career.  That left the Mets with little margin for error. That margin of error went away on two plays centered around Todd Frazier.

The first play was in the fourth inning.  Jay Bruce hit a two out double to right.  The much maligned Glenn Sherlock could have sent Frazier to have him challenge Bryce Harper‘s arm.  It would make sense with two outs and Matz due up next.  Instead, Sherlock stopped Frazier, and Matz struck out.

This decision was magnified in the fifth when Frazier threw a ball away on a Michael Taylor grounder.  After a Goodwin sacrifice bunt, Severino plated him with an RBI single giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

What made the game interesting and the start of this season interesting was how the Mets immediately responded.  In the sixth, Frazier atoned for his error by hitting an opposite field one out double that nearly went out.  He’d then score on a d’Arnaud RBI single (the other aspect of his being a complete catcher) tying the game at 1-1.  The Mets would have a chance to get the lead, but Jose Reyes could not deliver in a pinch hitting situation.

On came Hansel Robles.

To start the 2018 season, he has been a bit of a revelation.  He went from send down to Triple-A to start the year to getting a big sixth inning opportunity against Harper.  Mets fans expected him to melt down and point to the sky.  Well, in his defense, it was a a really good pitch:

All this proved was Harper is a great player.  What Robles proved from there was he could settle in, limit the damage, and give the Mets a chance.  The Mets took that chance with some exceptional base running in the seventh.

Amed Rosario led off the inning with a single up the middle, and he’d fly around the bases on the ensuing Asdrubal Cabrera RBI double getting just ahead of the Severino tag.  Not to be outdone, Cabrera would go from second to third on a Cespedes grounder to short.  Knowing Ryan Zimmerman can’t throw, the Cabrera, who can’t really run, read the situation perfectly and took the extra base.

After the pinch hitting Conforto was intentionally walked,  Cabrera scored on a Frazier RBI groundout.  The Mets finally had the lead at 3-2, and it was time to see if this so far improved Mes bullpen could hold the lead.

First up was AJ Ramos, who pithced a 1-2-3 seventh.  Surprisingly, the next test went to Jacob Rhame.

Rhame proved up to the task by getting former Met Matt Reynolds to groundout.  What was surprising was where Rhame succeeded, Jerry Blevins didn’t as he issued a one out walk to Harper.  This set the stage for Jeurys Familia.

In what was his biggest moment since he faced Conor Gillaspie in the 2016 Wild Card Game, Familia was in a position to get a big save.  With him needing to get five outs, he was going to be tested.  That should say tested in theory.  The Nationals were no match for him, and as a result, the Mets came away with a 3-2 victory.

It’s April and the season is barely a week old.  However, this is a different Mets team.  They’re getting the most out of every ounce of their ability.  They’re playing smart baseball.  They’re fighting.  They’re special.  They’re showing that to the Nationals, and they may soon show it to the rest of baseball.

Game Notes: Mets pitching has recorded 10 or more strikeouts in six of the seven games they have played.  The one time they did not record 10 strikeouts was in their sole loss of the season.

2015 Feel With deGrom, Cespedes, Bruce Beating Nationals

This might have been the Nationals home opener, but this game certainly had the feel of an Opening Day to the season.  You had a great pitching matchup with Jacob deGrom and Stephen Strasburg.  More than that, as a fan, there was a great sense of anticipation for the matchup.  Not just because of the pitching matchup.  Not just because of the eagerness to see how the Mets matchup against the Nationals.

No, the biggest headline of this day was Michael Conforto making his 2018 debut.

Given the poor run of luck with significant injuries and the ensuing recoveries, you would expect Mets fans to have trepidation.  David Wright and Matt Harvey are Exhibit A and Exhibit B for that.  And yet, for some reason, the Mets fans seemed to have nothing but excitement to see their future superstar return to the Mets ahead of schedule.

Mickey Callaway put him in the lineup as the leadoff hitter and as the center fielder.

It wasn’t the greatest of starts for Conforto, who said he wanted to start today because he wanted Strasburg.  He struck out in his first at-bat against Strasburg on three pitches.  In the bottom of the first, Adam Eaton hit the first pitch over his head for a lead off double.  With Anthony Rendon following with a single on a ball Jay Bruce would bobble, it was quickly 1-o Nationals.

Things would get better for Conforto and deGrom.

Bruce would atone for his error by nearly hitting one out against Strasburg.  Two quick outs later followed by a Kevin Plawecki walk, the Mets had runners at the corners with surprise starter Jose Reyes at the plate.  The Mets didn’t need Reyes to deliver here because Strasburg would balk trying to pick off Plawecki leading to Bruce scoring.

Eaton and Rendon would strike back in the third to give the Nationals the lead again.  Eaton walked, and he would score on a Rendon double.  From that point forward, it was all Mets.

Yoenis Cespedes lead off the fourth with a game tying home run.  As if it wasn’t exciting enough to see Cespedes tying up the game, the Mets would rally in the fifth.

Plawecki led things off with a leadoff single, and he moved to second on a Reyes ground out.  After a deGrom strikeout, that meant it was up to Conforto to try to break the tie.  Up until this point in the game, he struck out on three pitches, and he hit into a double play.  Things did not look great in this at-bat as Strasburg quickly went up 1-2 on him.  Then, Conforto showed us just how healthy he is:

His opposite field home run showed us not just the return of his all field power, but also his great approach at the plate.  In our “Yes, Virginia” moment, we now knew Conforto was alright.

Now, with a 4-2 lead, this put the game in deGrom’s hands.  With his entering the game with an all-time best 1.98 ERA in day games and his being 2-1 with a 2.95 ERA and 0.983 WHIP in Nationals Park, it looked like it would be smooth sailing for the Mets.

However, this is the Mets and nothing is ever easy.  The Nationals quickly loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth.  This wasn’t helped by deGrom uncharacteristically issuing back-to-back walks to Rendon and Bryce Harper.  With deGrom being the ace that he is, he bore down.

First, he got Ryan Zimmerman to hit a shallow fly to right.  Howie Kendrick hit a laser right at Reyes.  Finally, deGrom struck out Trea Turner on three straight pitches, the last one looking.

It’s still early in the season, and there are 155 games left to be played, but this may prove to be a seminal moment of the 2018 season because after that we didn’t see the Nationals who tortured the Mets in 2014 and 2016.  No, this started to feel like the 2015 season with the Nationals falling apart when pushed by the Mets.

The ungluing happened in the seventh inning.

Turner was ejected for arguing with the home plate umpire, and Brandon Kintzler just didn’t have it.

After the Reyes pop out, Brandon Nimmo pinch hit for deGrom, and he nearly hit one out.  Conforto walked.  After a borderline strike was called to strike out Asdrubal Cabrera, Cespedes and Bruce would get the benefit of the doubt on close pitches.  Both batters would have 3-2 counts.  Cespedes walked, and Bruce hit a grand slam giving the Mets an 8-2 lead.

Jerry Blevins and Robert Gsellman would combine to pitch a perfect seventh.  Hansel Robles navigated through a one out Rendon double while striking out the side.  One his strikeout victims was Harper who is now 1-4 with three strikeouts off Robles.  Seth Lugo would bring it home to preserve the 8-2 win.

Overall, the Mets got a big home run from Cespedes.  They had an injured player come back and provide a huge home run.  One of the Mets aces outpitched one of the Nationals aces.  The Nationals had a key player suffer an injury and another one lose their cool.  The Nationals bullpen melted down while the Mets bullpen was much better than expected.

If I didn’t know any better, I would swear this was August 2015.

Game Notes:  deGrom became the first Met this season to have a quality start.  His final line was 6.0 inning, four hits, two runs, one earned, three walks, and five strikeouts.  After the sixth inning, Eaton left the game with an injury.  He was off to a hot start after tearing his ACL.

 

A Gsell Of A Win

These are the types of games that have traditionally tripped up the Mets.  Day games.  Get away games.  Games with a rain delay.  All of those things combined have always seemed to get in the Mets way.  Harkening back to 2015, these were all present in the fateful loss against the San Diego Padres which nearly derailed the Mets season.  Those conditions were present today.

With rain waiting, the game had a delayed start until 2:45.  Initially, all seemed well for the Mets.

Yoenis Cespedes hit a monster two run homer off Aaron Nola to give the Mets an early 2-0 lead.  Noah Syndergaard would start the game striking out five Phillies over the first two innings.  Then, all of a sudden, everything would come off the rails in a 36 pitch third inning for Syndergaard.

The odd thing for Syndergaard was even though he was in trouble he was so close to getting out of it.  There were runners on first and second with one out after a Carlos Santana double.  After a Nick Williams RBI groundout, Syndergaard was well in position to get out of a tough inning with the Mets still having a 2-1 lead.

Surprisingly, Syndergaard, who typically has excellent control, immediately went 3-0 against Rhys Hoskins.  He battled back into the count in what was an eight pitch at-bat where he then couldn’t put Hoskins away.  On the eighth pitch, he walked Hoskins.  That walk proved important.

With Aaron Altherr down 1-2 in the count, Hoskins broke too early for second, and it looked like he was picked off.  The ball went to second with Asdrubal Cabrera covering, and he walked back Hoskins while keeping an eye on Santana.  After Cabrera flipped it to Adrian Gonzalez, Hoskins ran out of the baseline (not called), and Santana beat Gonzalez’s throw home.

The game was tied at 2-2.  At that point, Syndergaard wasn’t going to be able to make it through five innings, and the Mets offense had just one hit after the Cespedes homer.  This made this the type of game you’d expect the Mets of very recent vintage to blow.

However, Robert Gsellman came out of the bullpen and gave the Mets a lift.  He was nearly as impressive as Seth Lugo was yesterday throwing two hitless innings while striking out three.  Like Lugo, Gsellman gave the Mets a shot in the arm and a real chance to win.

That chance came in the sixth when Nola, who was infamously lifted by Gabe Kapler on Opening Day after 5.2 innings, walked Cabrera to start the sixth.  After a Gonzalez lineout, Andrew Knapp error, and a Kevin Plawecki ground out, Wilmer Flores pinch hit for Gsellman and drew a walk.  That’s where Amed Rosario, who has hit ninth in every game he has started on the young season, was in prime position to deliver the big hit.

Rosario did a nice job going the other way with the pitch, and he was able to line the ball over Williams, who was playing aggressively in in right field.  The end result was a two run triple giving the Mets a 4-2 lead.

The Mets bullpen, who has had an incredibly strong start to the season, stepped up and shut the door.

Believe it or not, that started with Hansel Robles striking out the side in the seventh.  AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia would each pitch a scoreless inning a piece to preserve the Mets 4-2 win.

And yes, it is April, which is way too early to focus on these things, but the Mets are now traveling to Washington a half game up in the division and with Jacob deGrom on the mound.

Game Notes: This game was broadcast only on Facebook with former Phillie John Kruk and former Met Cliff Floyd doing the color commentary.  With Michael Conforto being activated from the disabled list, Phillip Evans was optioned down to Triple-A.  He was 0-3 with a strikeout and a GIDP.

Mets Handling of Swarzak’s Injury May Indicate a Real Culture Change

During Spring Training, the Mets seemed to be going down the same path they always do with their handling of Yoenis Cespedes‘ wrist.  He had soreness in the wrist, and the tried to play through it.  Finally, he would get a cortisone shot and miss some games.  Considering how he has started the season, a crisis was clearly averted.  However, it did seem like the injury and how it was handled was a little too reminiscent of how things were handled under the old regime.

Over the last few seasons, the Mets had a culture where they either pressured players to play through potentially serious injuries, or they allowed players to push through without a proper examination.  We saw it time and time again.

Cespedes has sat around for days and weeks before being placed on the disabled list.  Last year, even with the Mets admitting Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler were not at complete strength, they began the year in the rotation, and eventually, they went down with stress reactions.  The Mets were quite vocal in their criticisms about how Steven Matz needed to pitch through this injuries, and in the last two seasons, we have seen him undergo season ending surgeries.

Perhaps the biggest indication there needed to be a change was the Mets handling of Noah Syndergaard last year.  After being scratched from a start with what was believed to be biceps tendinitis, Syndergaard refused to get an MRI.  In his next start, he lasted just 1.1 innings before having to leave the game with a torn lat.  The injury cost him almost four months, and really, it helped cost the Mets the 2017 season.

Something had to change, and the Mets did so at least on paper bringing in new personnel with different ideas on how to both prevent and treat injuries.

Considering the Mets past history coupled with the somewhat questionable handling of Cespedes’ wrist injury in Spring Training, it really made how the Mets were going to handle Anthony Swarzak‘s injury an important test case.

As initially noted by Tim Britton of The Athletic, the Mets did not initially schedule any tests for Swarzak.  Theoretically, those test would not even be needed as Swarzak reportedly feeling better the next day.  And yet, in a complete change from how things were handled previously, the Mets scheduled a precautionary MRI on Swarzak.

While the reports were Swarzak “only” had a sore left oblique, the team put him on the disabled list and called up Hansel Robles.

Precautionary exams.  Putting players on the disabled list immediately.  Having a full 25 man roster available for each game.  This is a stark contrast to how injuries used to be handled with the Mets, and it is hope we will not see a repeat of the injuries which befell the Mets over the last three seasons.

As the Mets broke camp and began the season, it seemed like this year was going to be different.  Seeing how Swarzak’s injury was handled, things really might be different.

Who’s Better: 2015 or 2018 Mets?

Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets.  Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry.  However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes.  When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.

With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right?  Let’s take a look:

CATCHER

2015: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki
2018: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation.  In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.

The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer.  Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well.  Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.

Things changed at the tail end of 2017.  Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become.  d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September.  As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.

VERDICT: 2018if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close

FIRST BASE

2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez

In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI.  He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.

Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.

VERDICT: 2015 Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw

SECOND BASE

2015: Daniel Murphy
2018: Asdrubal Cabrera

We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.

For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.

VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one

THIRD BASE

2015: David Wright
2018: Todd Frazier

This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.

Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.

VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy

SHORTSTOP

2015: Ruben Tejada
2018: Amed Rosario

Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015.  After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores.  Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half.  Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.

Rosario is the future of the Mets.  Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate.  However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better.  He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time.  For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.

VERDICT: 2018 Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high

OUTFIELD

2015: Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson
2018: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce

Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets.  Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting.  Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup.  He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist.  Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.

With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets.  To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player.  This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.

VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.

BENCH

2015: Michael Cuddyer, Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Juan Lagares
2018: Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes

From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers.  They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits.  In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well.  Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.

The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player.  Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder.  Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015.  Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.

VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important

ROTATION

2015: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Bartolo Colon
2018: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Jason Vargas

When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then.  Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.

VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then

BULLPEN

2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald

Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen.  This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year.  Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness.  One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.

When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins.  Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.

VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside

MANAGER

2015: Terry Collins
2018: Mickey Callaway

For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015.  When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived.  Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.

Right now, Callaway looks like a genius.  He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth.  He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late.  His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire.  However, the season isn’t even a week old.  Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.

Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series

VERDICT

If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation.  The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager.  Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw.  However, in reality, it’s not.  That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.

That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager.  If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level.  If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.