Hector Santiago

Chris Flexen and Eric Hanhold Among Five Relievers Mets Should Consider Calling Up

For most the season, the Mets have been cycling through relievers trying to find the right fit for the last spot in the bullpen. Their inability to find the right fit has cost them a few games in what has been a very critical stretch of the season.

Chris Mazza couldn’t hold down a lead in San Francisco. Tyler Bashlor put a winnable game out of reach in Pittsburgh. That’s just two recent games, and there are countless others. As a result of different relievers failing, the Mets continue to cycle through them trying to find the right fit. Part of this process is the Mets having traded away Wilmer Font and releasing Hector Santiago. The team has also designated five different relievers for assignment. Still, there are some interesting options available.

Chris Flexen has made the transition to the bullpen this year after having struggled as a starter. In his brief five game stint as a pure reliever in the Mets bullpen, Flexen allowed two runs on four hits in 6.1 innings pitched. After one poor outing against the Braves, he was sent back down to Triple-A.

Since being sent down to Syracuse, Flexen has had a 6.94 ERA in 11 appearances, but six of those appearances were scoreless. Perhaps more important that the results is Flexen’s control. The pitcher who has always had issues with control threw 68 percent of his pitches for strikes resulting in his striking out struck out 12 (9.2 K/9) with just one walk in 11.2 inning pitched. If Flexen is able to sustain this level of control, he could be a real improvement in the bullpen.

Looking deeper at the 40 man roster, Eric Hanhold has had a 1.47 ERA since June 20. Over that stretch, he is 2-0 with two saves, and he is holding opposing batters to a .203/.282/.313 batting line. This recent run led to his being promoted again to Triple-A Syracuse. His second stint in Syracuse is going better than his first with him allowing just one earned over 4.0 innings.

In terms of his stuff, Matt Eddy of Baseball America said Hanhold “has a potent power fastball-slider mix that could play in a high-leverage role.” For Hanhold, he doesn’t need to be that yet. Rather, the Mets just need another reliable arm, and he certainly has the stuff to fulfill that role.

Like Flexen and Hanhold, Brooks Pounders has had success for the Mets at the Major League level. In his seven appearances for the Mets in June, he was 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and a 6.1 K/9. Looking deeper into those appearances, Pounders had six scoreless appearances.

His lone blow-up was his June 24 appearance against the Phillies. Notably, four of the five runs he allowed was in his second inning of work. Part of the focus on that appearance should include his rebounding three days later against the same Phillies team with a scoreless appearance. Looking at that, you could make the argument he should be recalled now. The argument against that is his struggles in Syracuse once he was sent down. In 10 appearances since his demotion, he has a 7.82 ERA allowing batters to hit .310/.410/.528 off of him.

Looking beyond the 40 man roster, there are some choices, but each of those options has their own limitations. The Mets are also further hampered by the fact Ryley Gilliam is on the injured list since July 12.

Perhaps the top option from players not on the 40 man roster is Paul Sewald. Sewald was on the 40 man roster earlier this year, and he pitched well in his four appearances in the Majors this year. In his 38 appearances for Syracuse, Sewald is 3-3 with a 3.61 ERA, 1.437 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and an 8.7 K/9. Overall, in terms of Sewald, he is not the most exciting of choices. However, it should be noted he has shown a knack at the Major League level to be a good long man who can both eat up innings and keep the Mets in games. Given the other Mets relievers failures on that front, Sewald’s ability should not be discounted.

The other reliever not on the 40 man roster who stands out is Steve Villines. This year, Villines has dominated Double-A with a 1.11 ERA in 22 appearances. However, he has struggled in Triple-A Syracuse with a 6.75 ERA, 1.938 WHIP, and a 1.50 K/BB in 13 appearances.

Two things to keep in mind with Villines. First, the sidewinder has fared well against right-handed batters limiting them to a .245/.286/.309 batting line. However, he has struggled against left-handed batters with them hitting .253/.371/.437 batting line. With those splits, you could see the Mets benefiting from pairing him with Luis Avilan much like the 2006 Mets did with Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano.

The one caution the Mets should have with Villines is his walk rate has increased and strikeout rate has decreased as he has progressed to each level of the minors. With the aforementioned 1.50 K/BB in Syracuse, it should give the Mets pause before promoting him to the Majors in the middle of a chase for the Wild Card.

Overall, it would appear the Mets best options at the moment are Flexen or Hanhold. That is at least the case while Jacob Rhame is on the Injured List. In the end, it may just be the case the Mets need to actually pick a reliever and let them work closely with Mickey Callaway, Phil Regan, and Ricky Bones to figure things out at the Major League level to permit them an opportunity improve and contribute at the Major League level.

Mets Scapegoated Wrong Coach For Brodie Van Wagenen’s Failures

A night after the Mets blew a game partially because Gary Disarcina had an unfathomly bad send of J.D. Davis, the Mets decided to fire pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez. Seeing Brodie Van Wagenen’s press conference where he refused to accept any personal responsibility, you could see this was nothing but a scapegoat decision to deflect from his failures as a General Manager. In typical Van Wagenen fashion, he scapegoated the wrong person because that’s what a terrible General Manager with no accountability does.

On the surface, you may want to pinpoint how the pitching has not lived up to its billing. After all, the Mets team 4.74 ERA is the 11th worst in baseball, and their 5.37 bullpen ERA is the third worst in baseball. Of course, there are some other considerations behind those numbers.

On the starter ERA front, the Mets top four starters have a 4.27 ERA. While not where you may not want it, it’s still a half a run lower than the staff ERA. That is because the rest of the staff including Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, and Wilmer Font have combined for a 7.19 ERA.

The bullpen ERA also needs to be put in perspective as well. That ERA comes from pitchers like Drew Gagnon (7.65 ERA), Tyler Bashlor (5.40 ERA), Luis Avilan (9.28 ERA), Hector Santiago (6.57 ERA), and Jacob Rhame (8.10 ERA). Say what you want about Eiland, but much of the team’s pitching struggles are related to the team not having Major League quality arms and having a complete lack of pitching depth.

Another factor is the Mets horrible defense. Their -55 DRS is the second worst in the Majors. That’s a year off of them being the second worst team in the National League with a -121 DRS. Their inability to field is part of the reason why the Mets pitching staff has a 4.27 FIP, which is 11th best in the majors. That includes a 3.99 FIP for their starters.

On that front, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler each have an FIP better than that mark with each of them in the top 30 among Major League starters meaning they are actually pitching like top of the rotation starters. Put another way, Eiland had the good pitchers on this staff actually pitching well, at least most of them.

Going back, what hasn’t been happening is the Mets playing well defensively. As noted by Mark Simon of The Athletic, the Mets are the worst shifting team in baseball. In fact, they are one of just a few teams whose shifting has cost the team runs. As noted by ESPN‘s Paul Hembekides, the Mets infield defense has an MLB worst 70 percent out rate on ground balls, .270 batting average on ground balls allowed, and 218 ground ball hits allowed.

That wasn’t the case back when Tim Teufel was the infield coach. No, he had the team where they needed to be, and in fact, back in 2015, when the Mets had Daniel Murphy at second, Wilmer Flores playing shortstop, and Eric Campbell playing more infield than anyone, the Mets had a positive 15 DRS.

No, things went real south when they hired Disarcina.

On the topic of Disarcina, we have not only seen Amed Rosario not fulfill his Gold Glove promise, but he has really struggled defensively. Part of that is the shifting, and part of that is Disarcina not doing the job he was hired to do. That is not too dissimilar from when he sent Davis home (another player he has not been able to help with his infield defense) among his other bad sends this year. It’s also not too dissimilar from when he failed to properly run quality control last year as the team’s bench coach last year leading to Jay Bruce batting out of order.

If you’re looking to scapegoat a coach, the Mets should have scapegoated the coach who has not performed well in his job. On that topic, Glenn Sherlock hasn’t performed well either. We have seen both Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki pick it up to the levels they were with Bob Geren, but that required them leaving the organization and getting competent coaching elsewhere. There’s also Chili Davis, who is the hitting coach for a team hitting ground balls 46.0 percent of the time and a hard hit rate of 35.3 percent (both bottom six in the majors) at a time when the juiced ball is flying out of ballparks.

If the Mets were looking to scapegoat a coach for the poor job Van Wagenen did to build this roster, he should have picked Disarcia, Sherlock, or Davis. Instead, he picked Eiland, a pitching coach with two World Series rings, a man who was actually doing his job well because he needed a scapegoat to hide from his complete failure to build necessary pitching depth.

At some point in time, Brodie Van Wagenen is going to have to finally take some personal responsibility, something he refused to do yesterday, and admit he has done a very poor job. Maybe at that point, he can stop with the half measures and scapegoating and instead focus on making the changes needed to turn the Mets into they type of club he hyped them to be heading into the season.

Phil Regan’s And Ricky Bones Job Now Tenuous

Before the game last night, the Mets fired pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez because somehow they were not able to make a bullpen full of names like Drew Gagnon, Tim Peterson, Jacob Rhame, Hector Santiago, and whatever else Triple to Four-A relievers Brodie Van Wagenen supplied to create a viable bullpen.

This meant Phil Regan was once again a Major League pitching coach, and we saw the return of Ricky Bones as the bullpen coach. Their first duty was to make Walker Lockett a viable starter in a game against the Chicago Cubs. It worked for exactly two innings.

Entering the bottom of the third, the Mets had a 3-0 lead. The first run came when Carlos Gomez killed a rally by grounding into a double play with the bases loaded and no outs. The other two came against another epic Pete Alonso homer. It would prove to not be nearly enough.

In the bottom of the third, the only out Lockett would get was on a sacrifice bunt by the opposing pitcher Tyler Chatwood. It was an ugly six run inning which included five hits, two walks, and just further ugly play behind the plate by Wilson Ramos with a passed ball and wild pitch. At that point, it was 6-3 Cubs with the Mets having no real shot at a comeback.

The final score was 7-4 because Javier Baez homered off Robert Gsellman in the seventh, and Todd Frazier homered in the ninth off Adbert Alzolay. Speaking of Alzolay for a second, he was absolutely electric when he piggybacked this start allowing just that homer to Frazier while walking two and striking out five.

When you looked at these teams, you saw the Cubs as the team with a stable organization who was willing to spend and had a stable plan. When the Cubs needed to win a World Series, they hired Theo Epstein and not a former agent who was way in over his head. This is how you get the Cubs winning 90+ games every year, and you have the Mets falling apart since 2015.

Game Notes: New pitching coach Phil Regan is 82 years old. To put in perspective how old he is, he pitched against Ted Williams, and he was teammates with Hall of Famers like Sandy Koufax and Al Kaline. Another interesting note is he was part of the 1969 Cubs team who lost the division to the Miracle Mets.

No Relief In Sight

The Mets picked up last night’s suspended game today. The Mets didn’t score in the ninth, so the game went into extra innings.

Mickey Callaway stuck with Edwin Diaz. Diaz had blown the game in the ninth, but that happened last night. Despite fans consternation, it was the right move because Diaz was the best pitcher available.

Of course, with this being the Mets, it didn’t work out.

Diaz allowed a leadoff single to Yairo Munoz, and he presented no impediment to Munoz stealing second. After a groundout, he was on third outing him in position to score on a Paul DeJong RBI single.

The Cardinals won 5-4, and it would not be the last time DeJong and the Mets bullpen would be heard from tonight.

After a tough three run fifth, Steven Matz appeared to be headed for his fifth loss of the year. His fifth inning homer pulled the Mets to within two. The seventh inning rally got Matz off the hook and gave the Mets the lead.

After loading the bases with no outs, the first run scored when Kolten Wong robbed Pete Alonso of a hit, but he then threw it too low for DeJong. Everyone was safe, and the Mets pulled within one.

After Dominic Smith struck out and Todd Frazier hit a fielder’s choice with Matt Carpenter getting the runner at home, Wilson Ramos delivered a huge two out two RBI hit to give the Mets a 5-4 lead.

It didn’t matter.

Jeurys Familia immediately gave up the game tying homer to DeJong. With another blown save for him and the Mets in the books, the Mets have a Major League worst 16 blown saves.

It got worse for Familia as the Cardinals continued to hit him hard, and eventually, they’d take the lead on a three run Dexter Fowler homer. It was the second time in his career Familia allowed two homers in a game. Both times happened this year.

Not to be outdone, Hector Santiago took over in the ninth, and he allowed s homer to Wong. The final score would be 9-5.

Instead of being at .500 or a game over, the Mets are back to three under. This is a team who can’t get out of their own way, and a large part of it is because Brodie Van Wagenen did a bad job and continues to do a bad job.

Game Notes: As pointed out by Zach Braziller of the N.Y. Post, Mets pitchers have five homers, and Mets center fielders have six.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Escape Bronx With Split

The Mets and Yankees had their first doubleheader since 2008, which was also their first doubleheader in one ballpark since the inception of the Subway Series. The Mets walked out of Yankee Stadium with a split, and they are still one game under .500. How that happened was quite eventful:

1. The Subway Series needs to stop. The Mets get four games against the Yankees while the teams they are fighting against for the division or Wild Card don’t have the same four tough games locked into their schedule all year. I don’t care how much fun it is, it is putting the Mets at a competitive disadvantage.

2. We can and should talk about payroll disparity and ownership commitment when it comes to why the Mets are the Mets and the Yankees are the Yankees. However, it’s more than that. The Yankees got Luke Voit and IFA money for essentially nothing while the Mets traded three prospects for J.D. Davis.

3. Speaking of Davis, it’s inexcusable hes’ one of three players who started both ends of the doubleheader in the field. Really, the team needs to stop trying to make this ill-advise trade work and instead focus on making decisions to help this team win games.

4. The Mets defense was terrible in the first game. Amed Rosario missed first. Todd Frazier threw one away. J.D. Davis couldn’t get to anything because he was sitting in the front row of the bleachers to make up for his lack of range. Overall, this is a terrible defensive club with a National League worst -51 DRS.

5. With respect to the poor defense, Juan Lagares is a -2 DRS in center, which seems unfathomable. However, if you look at the new stat called jump, Lagares is not getting the same read on the ball as he did over the previous two years. Who knows why that is, but until he figures it out, he’s borderline unplayable at this point.

6. Zack Wheeler needs to be better than this. Yes, the defense behind him was atrocious, but he wasn’t much better. It was not the defense who served up the homers to Gio Urshela or Luke Voit. Overall, his peripherals show he’s better than this, and he has shown himself to be a second half pitcher. You just wish he would get to being the second half Wheeler sooner rather than later.

7. Yankee Stadium is a real joke where pop flies to the infield in other parks go out. That said, Pete Alonso‘s homer in the second game of the doubleheader would have left Yosemite.

8. Alonso is becoming way too much of an all or nothing guy. Since May 1, he’s hitting .224/.300/.560 with 13 of his 30 hits being homers. He has also struck out 26 percent of the time while walking six percent of the time. As the season progresses, he looks more and more like this type of a hitter than he does the guy who set the world ablaze in April.

9. Alonso’s being in the top five in All Star voting is fun. We should celebrate that. However, it’s bizarre Mets fans are only rushing to help him when Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil have been so good all year.

10. As noted previously, McNeil is hitting like Ichiro Suzuki. This shouldn’t be sustainable, but yet, it has been. Hat tip to Jerry Beach, a man whose taste in television shows is as excellent as his taste in managers is poor, for saying McNeil is like Wade Boggs after Gare tried to say McNeil wasn’t Boggs.

11. As much as I adore Gary, Keith, and Ron, they need to stop talking about the advanced stats, especially since they clearly don’t fully understand it, and they are mostly doing it to disparage them. Case in point was Gare saying how the shift only affects ground balls.

12. Jeurys Familia has been looking much more like Familia. He now has three consecutive completely dominating innings/appearances. We are getting closer and closer to trusting him in pressure situations again. And the Mets should if everything is ironed out as this looks more like a mechanical issue than a mental one.

13. The Mets bullpen has too many bottom feeders in it. At most, you can have one of Wilmer Font, Drew Gagnon, Tim Peterson, or Hector Santiago. You cannot have four of them. That’s how you start burning out productive arms in the pen and putting games way out of reach.

14. Yesterday, Brandon Nimmo, Robinson Cano, and Justin Wilson played in a rehab game in Syracuse. The team needs all three of them back as soon as possible to help this team go on a run, but the team cannot bring them back until each one of these players is fully healthy and ready to contribute.

15. Somehow, someway, Jason Vargas escaped the third allowing just three runs, and he got out of the fourth unscathed. When all was said and done, he had a quality start and a win. That’s a big credit to him.

16. Right now, Vargas is on one of the better stretches in his career. He pitched well against two good offensive teams, and he flat out dominated a terrible Giants team. The .286 BABIP and 83.3 LOB% would indicate this is not at all sustainable. That said, Vargas is getting results, so you might as well ride this out as far as this takes you.

17. Wilson Ramos seems to be doing with the extra days off here and there. Starting in May, he played less frequently, and he started to become much more productive. When Tomas Nido hits like he did in the first game of the doubleheader, the plan to get the over 30 and injury prone Ramos more rest becomes a more viable solution.

18. Speaking of back-up catchers, good for Travis d’Arnaud for turning things around with the Rays. In addition to catching, he’s also working out at other spots in the diamond. This is what the Mets should have done with him. Instead, they rushed him up way too soon, and they then DFA’d him in a complete overreaction.

19. There was a real fear this team was going to repeat it’s horrendous June of last year. So far, the Mets are 4-4 this month meaning they are just one short of the total win total from June 2018. While things could be better, things could also be a lot worse.

20. Mickey Callaway said about the team how he believes once this team gets back to .500 they are going to take off. With Nimmo, Cano, and Wilson in Syracuse and as Syndergaard puts it, the Mets are a second half team, it’s hard not to believe him.

Apparently This Roster Is Callaway’s Fault

Last night, Mickey Callaway trusted Seth Lugo to finish the seventh inning over Noah Syndergaard. Even with Syndergaard cruising, the numbers were the numbers. As a result, Callaway decided to go with his best reliever to get the team a win rather than let Syndergaard get himself into a jam. It didn’t work out.

Sometimes managers make the right move, and it doesn’t work,. Sometimes, you want the managers to have a feel for the game and stick with their starters. After all, that was the justification for Terry Collins sticking with Matt Harvey, and we know how that ended.

But it’s not just Collins/Harvey, it’s also Callaway/Syndergaard.

Take the April 10th game against the Twins as an example. Syndergaard allowed one earned on two hits. He came out to start the eighth, and he allowed three straight hits starting what was a four run inning which chased him from the game.

There have been a number of instances all year where Syndergaard was cruising and just like that he lost it. There was the game against the Tigers where he struggled in the first two, but seemed to settle down only to allow homers in back-to-back innings. There was also his game against the Padres where he allowed homers, and as he got deeper into the game, he began to allow more base hits.

If we’re being honest, while Syndergaard has been much better starting May 1, he still has his issues while he is struggling with this slider. He’s allowed the most hits in the majors. He has a 4.83 ERA, 83 ERA+, and a 3.60 FIP. He’s allowed the most hits in the majors. Most of his numbers, including his strikeout rate, now stand at career worsts.

This isn’t the 2016 Syndergaard who was one of the best pitchers in baseball. This is a very talented pitcher impressively gutting through starts giving his team a chance to win while he’s still trying to rediscover pitches he’s lost due to the new ball.

Point is, we have seen Syndergaard lose it this year at a moment’s notice. It’s one of the reasons why Mets fans and reporters have jumped at the chance to criticize him all year long. But now, all of a sudden, everyone gets amnesia and pretends like they didn’t say the things they said about him about a week ago.

While you can defend keeping Syndergaard in, you can also realize why Callaway would go to Lugo. What you don’t understand is the composition of the roster and why there hasn’t been more attention focused upon it.

Right now, this team has only two reliable bullpen arms – Lugo and Edwin Diaz. That’s it.

In yesterday’s game, the Mets started J.D. Davis in left field and Carlos Gomez in center. They rushed Jeff McNeil off of the IL. Against a Giants bullpen, they mustered just four singles over the final four innings. They played poor defense in the field.

When Lugo blew the lead, eventually Callaway had to go to Robert Gsellman. Now, Callaway does deserve blame for completely overusing Gsellman. It’s led to him being terrible. However, as bad as he is, Callaway’s other options are worse. Honestly, in a pressure spot who do you want him to pick:

Looking at those options and the players who currently comprise the roster, you see that even with Callaway’s faults, this is on Brodie Van Wagenen and the just ridiculously bad offseason he had.

Take into consideration the fact he gave Jed Lowrie a two year $20 million deal. That’s $20 million to a 35 year old with a knee issue. In true J.J. Putz fashion, the Mets didn’t discover anything during the physical before the deal was consummated.

In lieu of that $20 million, the team could have signed Adam Jones ($3 million) and Greg Holland ($3.25 million) and saved some money to add another bench piece or reliever. The point is the Mets needed more depth in the outfield and the bullpen, and Van Wagenen instead opted on another infielder.

Sure, we can criticize Callaway for his faults, but this isn’t on him. This was a poorly constructed roster, and it will remain that way even if he’s fired and the team replaces him with Jim Riggleman, Joe Girardi, Buck Showalter, or whoever else you could conjure up.

So go ahead, blow up at Callaway for using a terrific reliever while pulling a starter you have likely been killing all year. Get angry with him for putting in one of his not up to the task relievers in a spot. Get upset when the offense full of bench players and Triple-A starters can’t score runs in a close game.

Certainly, he’s the issue here and not Van Wagenen or the Wilpons who haven’t come up with the money for Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel despite the team desperately needing the. Make Callaway the whipping boy here just like Van Wagenen and the Wilpons want. After all, what good is a human shied if he’s not there to block all the the criticism really due to other people?

 

Callaway’s Mistake Was Gsellman, Not Lugo

In the rematch of the 2016 NLDS between Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner, the key difference tonight seemed to be the Mets weren’t starting James Loney and Rene Rivera.

It seemed that way in the sixth inning when Pete Alonso homered to lead off the inning, and three batters later Wilson Ramos would hit a go-ahead two run homer to give the Mets a 3-2 lead.

With the lead in hand, Syndergaard went to pitch the seventh. There were two outs with a runner at first and Evan Longoria heading to the plate.

Some things to consider here. Longoria entered the game 3-for-10 off Syndergaard. Syndergaard was over 100 pitches. In his career, batters are hitting .320/.358/.400 off of him. Really, when you break it down, even if you wanted to see Syndergaard finish that inning, Mickey Callaway pulling Syndergaard for Seth Lugo.

After all, Lugo is the team’s best reliever, and although the bullpen had been taxed, Mets starters had a streak of six straight games with 6.0+ innings pitched, and the Mets were off yesterday. You may not agree, but Callaway made a defensible and arguably the right decision.

Being the Mets, it didn’t work out. Longoria singled, and Brandon Belt doubled to tie the game. The Giants didn’t take the lead there because Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil executed a perfect relay to cut down Longoria at the plate.

After Lugo pitched a scoreless eighth, and Edwin Diaz pitched a scoreless ninth, Callaway would make an indefensible decision. He brought in Robert Gsellman for the tenth.

Even with the off day and the starters giving length, Gsellman is completely gassed. He’s allowed at least one earned run in five of his last six appearances and has a 9.95 ERA over the stretch. Believe it or not, things got worse.

Stephen Vogt hit a two RBI double off Gsellman to give the Giants a 5-3 lead. As if that wasn’t enough, after a Kevin Pillar groundout and an intentional walk to Brandon Crawford, Steven Duggar hit what should’ve been an inning ending double play. Instead, it deflected off Gsellman’s back and became an RBI double giving the Giants a 6-3 lead.

Well, if you’re a fan who questions why exactly Callaway has gone to the whip so often with his top three guys, Hector Santiago would provide the answer.

He’d allow an RBI double to Pablo Sandoval and an RBI single to Mike Yastrzemski making it a 9-3 game. The inning would mercifully end when Santiago retired Tyler Austin, who became the zombie batter (PH making a second plate appearance in the inning).

The Mets lost this game 9-3. They lost it to the second worst team in the NL. With the Mets now four games under .500, they’re looking more and more like one of the worst teams in the game.

Game Notes: Despite saying Robinson Cano was much closer to return than McNeil, McNeil was activated while Cano wasn’t. Tyler Bashlor was sent down to make room for McNeil on the roster.

Mets Catchers Beat The Tigers

With the Tigers having a bottom five offense, you knew Jason Vargas was good for five. Seriously, the only teams Vargas has gone five innings has been against the five worst offenses in baseball (Reds, Marlins, Tigers). As with the typical Vargas start, the question is how would the Mets get enough innings from their relievers to get through the game. The reason that was an issue today was this game went 13.

One reason it went 13 was Wilson Ramos carried the Mets offense today.

His second inning homer tied the score at 1-1. His fourth inning RBI single gave the Mets a 2-1 lead. After Tyler Bashlor surrendered a two run homer to Brandon Dixon, Ramos responded with his second homer of the game:

After having just two homers entering this series, Ramos has three homers over his last two games. He now looks like the catcher the Mets believe they were signing, and with the injuries the team had sustained, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

It also seemed like today was the perfect time to use Edwin Diaz for four outs.

Robert Gsellman was in his second inning of work, and he was in trouble. After hitting a double earlier in the inning, Josh Harrison was on third with two outs. Mickey Callaway went to Diaz.

Because the Mets are making JaCoby Jones look like Al Kaline (recycled joke), he got the game tying RBI single.

Not only did this mean, Diaz would blow his first save as a Met, but with him throwing 13 pitches, it meant the Mets would need relievers to step up big starting in the ninth.

Those relievers did step up big, and it looked all the bigger considering they got themselves into trouble.

Wilmer Font pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth and tenth. In the tenth, the Tigers had two on and one out. Font struck out Grayson Greiner and Jones to end the jam.

Daniel Zamora took the ball in the eleventh. He’d allow two hits in the inning, but no real threat would mount as Ramos picked Gordon Beckham off first on what was supposed to be a bunt play:

For a moment, it looked like the Mets would take that momentum into the bottom of the inning and win the game.

After Tomas Nido flew out to begin the inning, Ramos walked. With his backup catcher already in the game and the Mets looking to pull out the win, Callaway pinch ran Steven Matz.

As is the Mets luck, Dominic Smith and Todd Frazier followed with bloop hits, but Matz couldn’t score. Matz’s inability to score looked fatal because Aaron Altherr struck out, Adeiny Hechavarria popped out to end the inning, and the Tigers had the bases loaded with one out against Hector Santiago in the 12th.

Santiago stepped up striking out Jones on three pitches (after walking two of his last three batters) and getting John Hicks to fly out to end the jam. Santiago then breezed through the top of the 13th, and with him due up second in the bottom of the inning, you wondered if Callaway was going to stick with him.

On Buck Farmer‘s third pitch to Nido, it would become a moot point:

The homer gave the Mets a 5-4 victory and once again pulled the Mets to within a game of .500. With Nido hitting the homer, it was once again an unsung hero. With Nido homering, it was the Mets catchers with all the offense.

Consider this, Ramos and Nido combined to go 4-for-6 with three homers and all five RBI. The rest of the lineup was 3-for-38. When you take out Todd Frazier, who made a nice play in the field to save a run earlier in the game, going 2-for-5, this means the Mets lineup was 1-for-33 with that hit coming from Dominic Smith, who entered the game in the ninth.

Looking at it, Callaway might have had his best game as a manager. He made the right calls (even if they didn’t work out), and he put all of his players in a position to succeed. His bullpen did, and eventually so did Nido.

Game Notes: In typical Mets fashion, Brandon Nimmo‘s injury was worse than the Mets led us to believe. He has a bulged disc in his neck with whiplash.

Five Homers Not Enough For Thor Or Gagnon

The Mets offense got home runs from Amed Rosario, Adeiny Hechavarria, Pete Alonso, Aaron Altherr, and Wilson Ramos resulting in eight runs scored. In essence, even though the lineup has been decimated by injuries, they did their job against Gregory Soto and the Tigers pitching staff.

This should have been the Tigers tenth straight loss. It wasn’t because Noah Syndergaard and Drew Gagnon were bad.

The Tigers went up 2-0 in the first before Syndergaard recorded an out. Actually, that’s not technically correct as the second run scored on a Miguel Cabrera sacrifice fly.

That lead grew to 4-0 in the second when JaCoby Jones, a career .195/.297/.335 career hitter who looked like Al Kaline tonight, hit a two run homer.

For a second, it looked like Syndergaard calmed down, and the Mets would rally to give him a 5-4 lead. He’d lose that lead surrendering a solo homer to Cabrera in the fifth.

The Mets handed him back the lead after the inning, and he’d hand it right back in the sixth leading to his having to be bailed out by Tyler Bashlor.

On the one hand, with Syndergaard due up in the bottom of the inning, you understand Mickey Callaway sticking with him, especially on a night where Edwin Diaz was unavailable. However, this is the same Callaway who loves double switching.

Despite it all, the Mets went to the top of the seventh with a 7-6 lead. Unfortunately, Gagnon just didn’t have it tonight.

There was a brief instant when you thought he’d get out of it. After a John Hick‘s double, the Tigers had runners at second and third with one out. Todd Frazier made a nice play on a Josh Harrison grounder keeping the runner at third and getting the out at first.

There was no bailing out Gagnon when Jones hit an RBI double after that giving the Tigers an 8-7 lead. After a Brandon Dixon RBI single, it was 9-7 Tigers.

In the bottom of that inning, it looked like the Mets were primed to come back again, but a Frazier double play killed that rally.

Ramos homered in the eighth, and later in the inning, Dominic Smith came up with Hechavarria at second with two outs. He’d strike out against Joe Jimenez to end the inning.

With that, the Mets would lose this game 9-8. They lost the game to a team who lost nine straight and were 11 games under .500. They lost the opportunity to get back to .500.

Game Notes: In addition to Altherr, Hector Santiago made his Mets debut. He pitched scoreless ninth. Like Altherr did tonight, former Met Keon Broxton hit a homer in his first at-bat with his new team.

Mets Savior Hector Santiago Is Here

Every so often, you hear a quote in a press conference which causes you to snap to attention so quickly you risk paralysis. You have to go back on multiple occasions just to make sure you heard it correctly because you cannot possibly believe it was said. Yesterday, Brodie Van Wagenen had one of those gems:

On a day where the Mets were starting Wilmer Font, announced Seth Lugo was heading to the IL, and Yoenis Cespedes broke his ankle ending his already tenuous ability to return this season, Brodie Van Wagenen stood up there and said he improved the roster by adding Hector Santiago to the roster.

Hector Santiago.

We shouldn’t be too sure to dismiss this as a mistake. After all, in February, Van Wagenen said, “Hector Santiago is an All-Star at the major-league level.” (Matt Ehalt, Yahoo).

You can spin this however you want. You can say this is part of his sales job as the General Manager. After all, he did say the Mets were the team to beat despite not having a fifth starter or starting center fielder. You could say this was meant to say Santiago is an upgrade over what was already there. However, his comments do jive with what he said during Spring Training.

No matter how you look at it, Van Wagenen is once again over-selling us on a below replacement level player. He is doing it while the Mets are paying Santiago a pro rated $3 million instead of say using that money on Gio Gonzalez as the fifth starter. Of course, the Mets couldn’t do that because they’d have to guarantee him a spot in the rotation over Jason Vargas, and we know he can’t do that to a former client even if it meant improving the club.

In any event, maybe Van Wagenen was right. After all, the Mets are now 1-0 in the Hector Santiago era.