The Indians came to town, and there were many storylines. The Mets had their flurry of roster moves. Mickey Callaway was facing off against his mentor Terry Francona. Mostly, these were two teams fighting for a spot in their respective postseasons.
On this front, both teams would get terrific pitching performances, and when there is a pitcher’s duel like this, it’s the team who makes a mistake who loses. That mistake would come in the sixth.
Up until that point it was 2-2. Steven Matz was cruising following up his Braves start with an even better one. On the night, Jason Kipnis was the only Indian to get to him with a solo homer in the second and an RBI single in the fourth.
Overall, Matz pitched 6.1 innings allowing two runs (one earned thanks to a Todd Frazier error) on five hits and two walks while striking out seven. He would pick up the win because the Frazier error wasn’t the game changing error.
Like Matz, Shane Bieber was very good. He was very economical with his pitches, and for a while, it appeared he was going to go the distance. Really, his only mistake before the fateful sixth was his allowing a two run homer in the second to J.D. Davis.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 20, 2019
In the sixth, Bieber has allowed those two runs. He began the inning retiring Amed Rosario, and he got Joe Panik to hit what should have been a harmless pop out to left. Instead, on the same day Luis Castillo was arrested in the Dominican Republic, Oscar Mercado dropped the ball.
For a moment, Bieber appeared to be getting out of the jam by striking out Pete Alonso. Then, Michael Conforto, who is maligned for not being clutch or not being considered a great player, hit a huge homer giving the Mets a 4-2 lead:
.@mconforto8 is good at baseball.
That is the tweet. pic.twitter.com/TNnEshRobl
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 21, 2019
Unlike in Atlanta, Callaway let Matz start the seventh. Matz got himself into trouble allowing a one out single to Greg Allen and walking Franmil Reyes. Callaway went to Justin Wilson who came up huge striking out Francisco Lindor and Mercado. After that, the Mets blew the game wide open.
Frazier got the rally started with a single off Adam Cimber. After that, Juan Lagares, who has been taking much better at-bats of late, drew a walk. A failed sac bunt later led to Rosario with another huge hit with an RBI single expanding the Mets lead to 5-2.
Rosario just continues being a legitimately great player in the second half. He’s hitting, running the bases well, and playing good defense. Tonight, he was an impact player going 2-for-4 with a run, walk, and an RBI.
After the RBI single from Rosario, Panik would hit an RBI single, and Alonso hit an RBI double capping off a four run seventh. After not getting a sac bunt down earlier in the game, Davis would cap off his Uber ride with an RBI double in the eighth capping off the scoring and giving the Mets a 9-2 lead.
After seeing Callaway had no faith in Chris Mazza, Drew Gagnon, or Donnie Hart to wrap up blowouts, Callaway would trust Paul Sewald, and Sewald would pitch with higher velocity pitching a scoreless ninth preserving the 9-2 victory.
The Mets are once again five games over .500, and they’re once again poised to make a run. This is an important stretch, and the Mets are playing with a requisite sense of urgency. Things are getting interesting again.
Game Notes: Rajai Davis was selected from Syracuse, and Walker Lockett was sent down to add him to the roster. Brooks Pounders was designated for assignment to make room for Davis on the 40 man roster. Jed Lowrie began a rehab assignment as the DH for St. Lucie, and Brandon Nimmo is continuing his in Syracuse. Robert Gsellman was a partially torn lat.
So far this season, Aaron Altherr is hitting .085/.141/.169 (-20 wRC+) in 47 games this season. Last year, Altherr played 105 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, and he hit .181/.295/.333 (75 wRC+). As on outfielder this year, Altherr has a -1 DRS in 127.1 innings, and he was a 1 DRS in 524.1 innings last year. That followed a -4 DRS in 837.1 innings in 2017.
Taking everything into account, Altherr is a bad baseball player, and he has been one for two years now. Despite that, the Mets have continued to keep him on the roster, and they do little to challenge his roster status.
When Jeff McNeil went down, the Mets had a need for someone who could fill-in in the outfield. Instead of a Dilson Herrera who has some outfield experience, the Mets instead went with Ruben Tejada, who was no threat to taking away his outfield reps. The team also didn’t call-up Rajai Davis, who also could have presented a threat.
On Davis, most fans remember his Uber ride and his hitting a pinch hit homer. What they don’t see is his hitting .287/.334/.410 with Triple-A Syracuse. That’s not as good as the .274/.384/.565 batting line Altherr put up in admittedly far fewer games with Syracuse. On the one hand, that makes the Mets decision to go with Altherr over Davis defensible. However, it is still curious why you would not even challenge Altherr when you needed that extra outfielder.
What’s all the more baffling is how the Mets let Billy Hamilton go to the Braves.
There are many things you can say about Hamilton and his deficiencies as a player. In 93 games with the Royals this year, Hamilton hit .211/.275/.269 (44 wRC+). That’s actually a step backwards for him as he hit .239/.299/.327 (69 wRC+) in 153 games for the Reds last year. No matter how you look at it, Hamilton is a bad hitter. Terrible actually.
That makes the fact he’s been a significantly better hitter than Altherr all the worse. Hamilton is also a much better outfielder. In fact, Hamilton is an elite defensive outfielder. In 716.1 innings this year, Hamilton has a 9 DRS. Since he was called up in 2013, his 60 DRS trails only Lorenzo Cain among qualifying center fielders.
Right there, Hamilton is a significantly better hitter and fielder than Altherr. When you factor in Hamilton’s great speed and base running, you realize Hamilton does EVERYTHING better than Altherr. Everything.
With rosters expanding in September, and the Mets depth depleted to the point where they have to not only carry Altherr on the roster but also play him, there is zero reason to not put in a claim for Hamilton. He was a significant upgrade, and he was someone the Mets were going to be able to carry on the roster into September. If the Mets were lucky enough to make the postseason, Hamilton would have been a huge weapon as a late inning pinch runner and/or defensive replacement.
Go back and ask the 1969 Mets about the Ron Swoboda and Tommie Agee catches. Go back and ask the 2004 Red Sox about Dave Roberts stealing a base. The ability or a player to make that one impact can make all the difference in the world. Instead, the Mets just let Hamilton go to the Braves, who were lower in the waiver priority, unchallenged.
The Braves will get the benefit of his base running and defense while the Mets cross their fingers on Brandon Nimmo being able to return from a bulging disc in his neck. They’re also hoping Dominic Smith, who is still in a walking boot and using a knee scooter, can return. They’re hoping J.D. Davis‘ leg won’t continue to be an issue. Same for McNeil, who has gone from being able to immediately come off the 10 day IL to needing a rehab stint. There’s also Jed Lowrie, a player who has fewer pictures of him in a Mets uniform than people have photos of Big Foot or the Lockness Monster.
Going into the season, Brodie Van Wagenen kept telling us the Mets were all-in, and the team would have no ifs. It’s August 20, and the team wouldn’t go all-in on improving their roster, and they are seeing IF one of their injured players could contribute. Mostly, they’ve decided the team is better with Altherr, who has been terrible for over a year now, than any of the better alternatives . . . like Hamilton.
On Sunday, I was invited to join Tim Ryder for the Simply Amazin podcast to discuss the series against the Royals as well as other Mets matters. Off the top of my head, I remember mentioning J.D. Davis, Pete Alonso, Ruben Tejada, Brandon Nimmo, Dilson Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Amed Rosario, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, Luis Avilan, Jeff McNeil, Joe Panik, Juan Lagares, Dominic Smith, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Rajai Davis, Luis Guillorme, and others.
Please take a listen and keep an eye (or ear) out for Thursday when I’m next scheduled to appear.
In Sunday’s game against the Dodgers, Braves manager Brian Snitker pulled Ronald Acuna Jr. from the game due to Acuna’s not hustling. More specifically, Acuna hit what he apparently thought was a homer in the third inning, and when it didn’t go out, he was left standing on first. Acuna then compounded the problems by getting caught stealing.
“What happened with Acuna when pulling him from the game?”
“He didn’t run.”
It is a coach’s job to hold you accountable as a player. It’s YOUR job to live up to the standard of doing things right, always and always, not only when things are going well. pic.twitter.com/zCn9mkyBDE
— Darren Fenster (@CoachYourKids) August 19, 2019
After the game, Snitker was widely lauded for how how he handled the situation. The same could be said for Acuna who was said to handle it maturely. You can be cynical and say these are the things a team can do when they are up six games in the loss column in the division, but being fair, this was a big game against the Dodgers.
Remember when Callaway tried to hide the fact that he benched Rosario for not running out a fly ball? Hope he sees this video of Snitker candidly discussing pulling Acuna out of a game for the same offense. This is how it's done. https://t.co/hR86LaPBMj
— John Harper (@NYNJHarper) August 19, 2019
Then, there was Matt Ehalt of Yahoo who didn’t use the opportunity to necessarily criticize Callaway. Instead, he thought it was interesting to compare how the Braves handled the situation to how Callaway and the Mets “Went out of their way to avoid saying they benched Rosario.”
Revisiting the moment, in the eighth inning of the July 13 game against the Cardinals, Rosario hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball out. However, it turned out to be anything but routine as the ball dropped between JT Riddle and Brian Anderson. Instead of standing on second, Rosario was at first. In terms of the game, it didn’t matter much as Tomas Nido flew out to end the inning, and the Mets won the game 4-2.
Going back to that point in time, the Mets were 10 games under .500, and they had the second worst record in the National League. All season long Robinson Cano‘s lack of hustle was an issue amongst fans and talking heads (something Ehalt alluded to in his tweet). At that time, it at least felt like Callaway could be fired for a season which had gone very wrong.
Initially, Callaway couched it as Rosario getting a scheduled day off. For some reason, the real reason was told to SNY. That was Rosario was being benched for a lack of hustle. Why the different messages is anyone’s guess. If you want to get on Callaway and the Mets for that, you absolutely should as the constant mixed messages has been an issue for the team.
If you’re going to criticize how Callaway handled Rosario, you should stop while you’re ahead. If you have been paying any attention, Rosario has blossomed this year.
At the time of the incident, Rosario was having a bad year hitting .263/.301/.413. Since that time, Rosario is hitting .367/.404/.555. He’s been a 3 DRS at shortstop. With Jeff McNeil‘s injury, he has stepped into the leadoff role, and he has hit well. When J.D. Davis had to be removed from Sunday’s game, Rosario played three innings in left, and he played them well. Ultimately, since the incident, Rosario has not had another “hustling incident,” has blossomed as a player, and he has been everything this team has needed.
Of course, this is all just garbage narratives.
The truth is likely Rosario had a bad moment in a brief career, and really, it wasn’t all that bad a moment. It was a routine fly ball which never should have dropped. Almost every single Major Leaguer would have been standing on first in that moment. Actually, almost every single Major Leaguer would have been sitting in the dugout.
Rosario has always been noted for his hustle and for his drive to be a better player. He didn’t need to be benched to be driven to be what he is now. Callaway didn’t need to deliver a message for Rosario to suddenly start hustling all the time like he does on 99 percent of plays. Mostly, Callaway doesn’t need to handle Rosario the way Snitker handled Acuna because they are two completely different players on two very different teams.
Callaway has his faults. How he’s handled his team and the development of his players like Rosario isn’t one of them. In fact, Rosario has never really been a problem in terms of his drive. We should all just move along and stop rushing to make criticisms of Callaway for everything that happens. Save your criticism for something he actually does wrong.
And while we’re at it, maybe start giving him some credit for the things he does well. Same goes for giving Rosario credit for the things he did well which led to this breakout. Mostly, just stop pushing agendas and narratives.
The Mets went to Kansas City looking to sweep, and they wound up having to settle for less than that. Ultimately, they got the job done even if they did not perform well at all:
1. Alex Gordon may be the only Royals player remaining, but it was still good to see the Mets win a series in Kaufman Stadium, and it felt even better seeing Jeurys Familia get the win in a deciding game.
2. It’s also great to see Michael Conforto homer in a game against the Royals and not watch the Mets not blow the game. Seeing where Conforto hit that homer, we should have called that a Blue Moon Shot.
3. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Cody Bellinger‘s National League rookie home run record. He now joins Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge as the only rookies to hit 40 homers in a season. This has been a great ride, and he’s now in line to join Darryl Strawberry as the only other Mets position player to win Rookie of the Year.
4. It is criminal that when Alonso broke the record the call was made by Wayne Randazzo on the radio side and Gary Apple on the TV side. The Mets have all-time great broadcasters, and somehow that’s what we were left with for this great moment. Mets needs to do better when there are vacations.
5. There were two different times Alonso looked like he was going to break that record. The first ball was called foul, and to his credit, Alonso shook it off and delivered with a huge go-ahead two RBI single. The next time the ball actually hit the foul line towards the top of the right field wall. Many times we see people struggle or slump as they near a milestone; Alonso powered onward.
6. Jacob deGrom had his 12th start of the season pitching 7.0+ innings allowed two earned or fewer. That mark ties him with Hyun-Jin Ryu for the most in the Majors. This should only highlight how great deGrom has been this year and how deserving he is of another Cy Young.
7. Yes, Ryu is having a great year, but deGrom’s year is arguably better. For starters, deGrom has more innings pitched and strikeouts. Moreover, he has a higher K/9, K%, K-BB%, FIP, xFIP, fWAR, and bWAR while leading in other other categories as well.
8. One of the reasons the Mets took this series was Joe Panik playing great. Since joining the Mets, Panik is hitting .333/.379/.444 with a double, triple, and two RBI with two walks. On a side note, he was the second baseman when the Giants beat the Royals in the 2014 World Series.
10. With the way Panik and Lagares are playing, it appears Todd Frazier is the guy who has to go to the bench. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting .192/.239/.377. If he’s hitting this way, he cannot be in the lineup.
11. Going forward, Frazier has hit .283/.359/.543 off left-handed pitching. To that end, he should work out a de facto platoon with Panik, and given his glove, he should be the third baseman when Marcus Stroman is on the mound. Short of that, he should be a power bat off the bench and late inning defensive replacement.
12. These two were needed all the more with J.D. Davis twice going down with a calf injury in this series. With how hot he’s been hitting, the Mets need his bat in the lineup, and they were without it in a series against the Royals. One side point here, good for Mickey Callaway for being cautious in taking him out rather than leaving him to run 90 feet.
13. Davis coming out of Sunday’s game forced Amed Rosario to play left field. It didn’t take long for the ball to find him, and the played the ball like he’s been out there all year. He also doubled in his only at-bat as an outfielder. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise because Rosario has been legitimately great lately.
14. Since the All Star Break, Rosario has hit .368/.403/.544. He’s a 3 DRS at shortstop. When McNeil went down, he took over the leadoff spot, and he’s been hitting .333/.383/.535 in the leadoff spot. He is literally doing all that is being asked of him, and he is emerging as a legitimately great player. This has been a real joy to watch.
15. Rosario having to play left field only highlights the stupidity of the Mets going with Ruben Tejada over Dilson Herrera. What makes the move all the more hilariously stupid was the Mets justification for going with Tejada over Herrera was versatility. Between the two, Herrera is the only one with outfield experience. Since Tejada rejoined the Mets, he is 0-for-8 at the plate with two strikeouts and someone already a -0.3 WAR. Herrera is hitting .294/.368/.706 while playing second base and left field. Again, this decision made zero sense.
16. On the topic of baffling decisions, when Robert Gsellman landed on the Injured List, the Mets called up Walker Lockett over Chris Flexen. Between the two, Flexen has the better stuff, and he has experience pitching out of the bullpen.
17. One area where Callaway was criticized for making a baffling decision was using Edwin Diaz to get out of a bases loaded no out situation. While it was a near disaster with a grand slam overturned on replay, Diaz got out of the inning allowing just two runs. In his next appearance, he pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. Maybe, just maybe in the long run, this was a great decision by Callaway.
18. Zack Wheeler‘s start against the Royals was disappointing. That’s two straight disappointing five inning starts from him. This time, it was probably more bad luck than anything. However, this is his first real postseason race, so it will be interesting to see how he handles things in his next start.
19. The Mets would have been better off with a sweep, but they still won the series. They’re also just two games back of the second Wild Card. Overall, when looking at this stretch of six games, many are discounting just how hot and grueling that stretch of road games are in Atlanta and Kansas City along with their losing one of their hottest hitters.
20. Good for the White Sox for having Bill Walton and Michael Schur do color commentary with Steve Stone out. As noted on Saturday, that is what the Mets should have been doing by using the multitude of great local broadcasters and fans in Gary Cohen’s and Howie Rose’s absence. On a final note there, John Sadak did a great job on the radio. Here’s hoping there’s a spot for him in 2020.
Noah Syndergaard pitched perfectly well. Through four, he allowed just one hit. It’s the fifth where he got into trouble allowing back-to-back doubles to Meibrys Viloria and Nicky Lopez in what was a two run fifth for the Royals.
Before that fifth, Syndergaard appeared poised to shut out the Royals. It’s what the Mets needed to because the Mets couldn’t do anything against Mike Montgomery and the Royals bullpen, which is bizarre considering Montgomery entered the game with a 5.19 ERA, and the Royals bullpen had a 4.68 ERA.
After that third inning, the Mets offense could only muster two hits and one walk with no runners reaching scoring position. With the exception of Amed Rosario and J.D. Davis, each of whom were 2-for-4, it seemed no one brought their bats without them from Atlanta to Kansas City.
Like last night, Diaz walked the first batter he faced, Brett Phillips, forcing in a run. He then allowed an RBI single to Bubba Starling. By some miracle, a Ryan O’Hearn long fly went just foul. If not, it would’ve been the 8-1 it was for a moment before the replay overturned the grand slam.
After O’Hearn then struck out in that at-bat, Vitoria hit into an inning ending double play. We could say it kept things to a manageable three run deficit, but who are we kidding?
Not even when the Mets loaded the bases in the ninth with Rosario up could you have had faith. His game inning fielder’s choice confirmed that.
It was an inexcusable performance against a very bad 43-78, sorry 44-78, Royals team. Syndergaard took the loss for the penalty of only going six snapping his six start streak of pitching 7.0+ innings.
But hey, when you need to make it up to Ruben Tejada for missing the rest of the 2015 postseason, you have to do it even if it means DHing your best infield defender. Maybe now that the Mets took this loss, he can be designated for assignment for literally anyone else in Syracuse.
Game Notes: After allowing four homers last night, Drew Gagnon was optioned back to Syracuse, and the Mets selected the contract of Paul Sewald. To make room for Sewald on the 40 man roster, Tim Peterson was designated for assignment.
Depending on how you look at things, the Mets either showed they can play with the Braves, or they showed they are not in the same class as the Braves or the best teams in baseball leaving the postseason hopes all the more futile. Really, this was a wild three game series with a lot happening:
1. The one injury the Mets could ill-afford to handle was Jeff McNeil. His versatility is arguably more important than his bat. In any event, his absence really exposes not the Mets lineup but really their depth.
2. As we saw with the Mets yesterday, they can compete without McNeil. For that to happen, Pete Alonso needs to be the first half Alonso, and Amed Rosario needs to continue his breakout. The Mets need higher levels of production from Michael Conforto, and ultimately, they need Juan Lagares and Joe Panik to be everyday players.
3. It has been a pure joy to see Lagares become good again both in the field and at the plate. Of note, Lagares has had as many hits in this series as he’s had in his previous 15 games combined. If Lagares plays like this, he’s an everyday player especially with that glove in center.
4. With respect to second, Panik has to play everyday because Ruben Tejada isn’t good. In one game, he showed why he hasn’t been in the majors in two years, and he looked skittish with his back turned on double plays. You can point to his Triple-A stats, but that ball is all the more juiced than the Major League ball is.
5. Since the Mets opted to go with Tejada, Dilson Herrera has responded by going 3-for-6 with three runs, two homers, five RBI, and two walks in the past two games. He is red hot with a seven game hitting streak. While you may want to say the juiced ball theory applies to him as well (it does), his production was near this level last season. Tejada’s wasn’t.
6. It should be noted the Mets are carrying an extra pitcher with Drew Gagnon, who was beyond terrible last night, and really that spot in the bullpen has been terrible all year no matter who has filled the role. Given how the Mets need some power off the bench, and Herrera presents another player who could play outfield, there is no reason why he spends another day in Syracuse.
7. While Gagnon was terrible out of the bullpen, the rest of the bullpen has stepped up. Brad Brach looks as rejuvenated as Jeurys Familia does as late. Along with Justin Wilson, this gives the Mets three battle tested relievers who are pitching very well right now in front of Seth Lugo. That’s suddenly a good bullpen.
8. Lugo blew it on Wednedsay. We can try to say he didn’t have time to warm up (he did), or say it was another problem (not really), but he just wasn’t good. Fortunately for the Mets, he’s going to rebound from this and continue to be great.
9. Mickey Callaway was right in lifting Lugo for Steven Matz. There were many factors at play with that decision, and he ultimately went with the team’s best available pitcher in a high leverage spot. When he doesn’t have it, the Mets aren’t going to win those one run games.
10. On Matz, he was brilliant, and he has been much improved in the second half. In his six second half starts, he is 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.047 WHIP. If you’re getting that from your fifth spot in the rotation, you can beat the good and the bad teams.
11. Don’t make too much about Marcus Stroman‘s “struggles” since joining the Mets. He is adapting to a new team and a new pitching philosophy. The main takeaway from him is he has given the Mets a chance to win in his first three starts. This is probably the floor for his performance, and we should see him take off soon.
12. With Zack Wheeler, it was one poor start. Just one. Don’t overreact and just look forward to his next start against the Royals. On that front, it is interesting he is finally getting that chance to pitch against the Royals after he was supposed to be one of the team’s best starters in 2015 and his almost being traded away for Carlos Gomez that year.
13. The Mets really needed that game from Pete Alonso. He’s been struggling in the second half, and with McNeil down, they really need him to get back to being the All-Star level player. His five hit game was a reminder of just how good he can be. His tying Cody Bellinger‘s National League home run record with more than a month remaining in the season is a reminder as to just how good he has been.
14. Alonso and Rosario each having a five hit game in the same game was not only the first time it happened in team history, but it is a reason to get excited for the rest of the 2019 season and each of the ensuing years.
15. Yet again, we need to point out Rosario has figured things out, and he is now one of the best players on the team and emerging as one of the best shortstops in baseball. Since July 1, he is hitting .364/.399/.536, and in the second half he is a 3 DRS. Don’t be surprised, be ready.
16. Mets should have won this series, but they just couldn’t get that one big hit in either of the first two games. The main culprit was Conforto, but Wilson Ramos was also really bad. It should also be noted in Wednesday’s debacle, almost everyone was bad with the exception of Rosario, J.D. Davis, Luis Guillorme, Panik, and the pitchers not named Lugo.
17. Glass half full is the Mets showed they can play with the Braves. Glass half empty is the Mets chances of winning the division went from realistic to near pipe dream.
18. Starting this pivotal stretch of games 3-3 and being two out of the Wild Card is not a bad start. The Mets now have to make real headway in Kansas City before taking care of business at Citi Field. If they do that, we will have real season to be excited for the meaningful games in September.
19. Congratulations are in order to Howie Rose for being inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame. This is an honor long overdue, and it should hopefully serve as a precursor to both he and Gary Cohen being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
20. Gary Cohen and Howie Rose are no longer allowed to take time off at the same time. Gary Apple is terrible. He should never be allowed to do play-by-play again. Given his smug attitude, I wouldn’t care if he was gone from SNY all together.
There was a time Julio Teheran owned the Mets. Not anymore. Not tonight. The roles are now reversed.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 15, 2019
The Mets were up 3-0 before recording an out, and the offense was off and running. Teheran wouldn’t make it past the second. Every starter would get at least one hit, and the Mets would record a season high 22 hits.
Rosario and Alonso each had their first five hit games, and it’s the first time in Rosario was a homer short of the cycle, and he’s had nine hits over the past two games. Alonso had a career high six RBI.
Another note with these two is Alonso was charged with an error when Rosario literally threw a ball through his mitt.
Juan Lagares continues his reawakening with a three hit game. Lagares’ eight hits in the series where as many as he’s had in his previous 52 AB.
Marcus Stroman was good enough allowing three runs (two earned) in four hits on four walks and five strikeouts in 5.1 innings. Luis Avilan and Brad Brach continued their improved pitching before handing it off to Drew Gagnon to mop up the game.
Gagnon was terrible allowing two homers to Freddie Freeman along with homers to Ronald Acuna Jr. and Josh Donaldson. That’s four homers making a 10-3 lead a 10-8 nail biter necessitating Edwin Diaz enter the game with two outs in the ninth to try to get the save.
Even if the Mets made a laugher scary, they got the win they needed, and now they fly to Kansas City where the can do some damage.
As impressive as this Braves club has been since the start of last year, and even with them having a big lead in the division, they can be beat. The key is to wait them out.
That’s what the Mets almost did with Steven Matz tonight who was brilliant despite not getting much help in the second.
Matz got himself into trouble allowing a leadoff single to Josh Donaldson and a walk to Adam Duvall. He’d recover by inducing what should’ve been a double play for Johan Camargo. Instead, it was a fielder’s choice with Amed Rosario making a slightly wide throw and Ruben Tejada fielding it like Chase Utley was ready to tackle him.
The Mets got to Keuchel with a rally in the sixth, but it was killed by a Wilson Ramos double play. Conforto followed with a hard fought walk giving Todd Frazier a chance. For a moment, it looked like Frazier would deliver all the way up until Freddie Freeman made the incredible over the shoulder catch on the bloop to end the inning.
Apparently, Freeman doesn’t need a bat to be a Mets killer.
Keuchel looked poised to get through seven until Matz had a two out single. That was it for Keuchel who was lifted for Chris Martin as the lineup flipped over.
Rosario had a hard hit ball which ripped through Johan Camargo. With Duvall trying to get Matz at third, Rosario moved to second. Duvall’s poor decision loomed large when a Davis bloop landed softly into center giving the Mets a 2-1 lead.
At this point, Matz was at 79 pitches. He allowed just the one earned on two hits with a walk and five strikeouts. He retired the last 14 straight.
Conversely, he ran the bases. There was a long delay when Pete Alonso‘s follow through hit Flowers in the mask necessitating a trainer’s visit. The last three outs of the sixth were very hard hit and two of them likely fall for hits if Juan Lagares wasn’t in vintage form.
Opposing batters hit 284/.330/.490 off Matz the third time through the lineup, and Donaldson hits 263/.385/.526 the third time he faces a starter.
It just didn’t work out with the umpire squeezing him. A bunch of balls found a hole. There was Alonso going deep into the second base hole instead of allowing Tejada to make a routine play.
Donaldson had a leadoff walk, and Duvall followed with a hard hit single. After that it was hit after hit after hit. By the time he was lifted for Luis Avilan, it was 5-2 Braves. After Avilan allowed an RBI single to Ozzie Albies, it was 6-2 Braves.
Now, at this point, it was Luis Guillorme pinch hitting instead of Davis batting because Davis was inexplicably double switched out of the game when Lugo entered the game. That decision didn’t come back to bite the Mets as Guillorme hit an RBI single pulling the Mets to within 6-4.
This set the stage for Alonso. Throughout the first half he was great against bullpens and from the seventh inning on. He hasn’t been that in the second half. It was more of the second half Alonso with him hitting what should’ve been a game ending double play.
— MLB Replays (@MLBReplays) August 15, 2019
Instead, Camargo missed second initially, and then he dropped the ball. Bases were now loaded for Ramos. He came up short striking out. The Braves went to old friend Jerry Blevins who struck out Conforto to end the game.
Ultimately, Callaway went with his best guy in the biggest spot in the game. He made the right decision there (with Lugo, not Davis). It didn’t work. It happens. Chances are Lugo won’t blow up like that again, and the Mets win this game the next 10 times.
Game Notes: Tejada was called up for the injured Jeff McNeil.
First and foremost, it’s obvious there is no replacing Jeff McNeil. The Mets can’t do that. As noted earlier, the Mets need Juan Lagares and Joe Panik to play like everyday players while hoping the healthy players on this roster raise their games. The Mets are also going to need production from the player who occupies McNeil’s spot on the roster (should he land on the IL).
According to various reports, the first person under consideration is Ruben Tejada. Part of the reason the Mets are considering Tejada is the great year he is having in Syracuse. Through 71 games, he is hitting .330/.408/.476 with 19 doubles, a triple, six homers, and 38 RBI.
It should be noted like the Major Leagues, there has been a juiced ball issue in Triple-A, and Tejada’s numbers could be attributed to that. For example, Tejada hit .230/.291/.298 in 101 games for Triple-A Norfolk last year. Tejada last played in the Major Leagues in 2017 when he hit .230/.293/.283 in 41 games for the Orioles.
The bigger issue with Tejada is the fact he has never played the outfield in his professional career. One of the things which made McNeil so important was his versatility and ability to play almost all seven defensive positions. With respect to Tejada, he has mostly played third base this year along with some time at second and short. Overall, while Tejada may hit, he is not going to be able to provide the versatility the Mets need causing the team to have to lean on Aaron Altherr all the more.
Another former Met on the Syracuse roster who should merit consideration is Dilson Herrera. Unlike Tejada, Herrera has some outfield experience playing 10 games in the outfield for Syracuse and 11 games for the Reds last season. It should be noted Herrera did not rate well with a -2 DRS in 56.2 innings for the Reds last year, but he should have the opportunity to work with Luis Rojas, who has done a fine job helping Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis not be nightmares in left field this year.
Offensively, Herrera has had a very good year in Syracuse hitting .255/.332/.528 with 26 doubles, a triple, 22 homers, and 53 RBI. Now, the juiced ball effect should be taken into account for Herrera like it was with Tejada. That said, Herrera hit .297/.367/.465 in 71 Triple-A games last year. Herrera did not impress during his call-up to the Reds last year hitting .184/.268/.414 in 53 games. However, it should be noted he hit five homers for the Reds last year showing Herrera could help provide some pop off a bench currently bereft of it.
Looking at former Reds currently in the Mets system, the team should also consider Arismendy Alcantara. Looking at his Major League numbers, Alcantara has hit less than Tejada or Herrera. In fact, over the course of his limited playing time from 2014 – 2017, he hit .189/.235/.248. Like Tejada and Herrera, he his having a good year with Syracuse hitting .302/.363/.523 with 12 doubles, five triples, 10 homers, 41 RBI in 73 games.
Defensively, he is much more versatile than either Tejada or Herrera. In fact, over his career, the two positions he has predominantly played have been center field and second base. In many ways, that makes the switch hitter a very good replacement for McNeil as he is going to provide the same level of versatility the Mets need.
If the Mets wanted to look outside the organization, Josh Harrison was released by the Detroit Tigers on August 9. In 31 games for the Tigers, he hit just .176/.219/.265. Part of his struggles could be attributable to his having an injury plagued year with him having a shoulder injury in March and a left hamstring tendon strain which landed him on the IL on May 28. Harrison has not played in the Majors since then.
Harrison has not played well in his seven game rehab stint before his release. Of course, the long layoff could have been a factor. However, it should also be noted Harrison hit .250/.293/.363 in 97 games for the Pirates last year.
One other note with Harrison is he’s not as versatile as you would believe. Since 2016, he has predominantly played second base, and he last played more than one game in the outfield in 2017. He last played more than 10 games there in 2015. Put another way, he is really now just a 31 year old infielder who is on the decline.
Looking at all the options, the Mets need to consider what they want for the bench piece. Are they looking for a platoon for Panik at second? Do they want the best possible hitter to pinch hit? Are they looking to catch lightning in a bottle? Do the Mets value versatility, comfort with a particular player, or possibly a name which could inspire faith among the team and fanbase?
The Mets focus is going to dictate which direction they should go. Ultimately, given the ability to play multiple positions and the team’s need for a bat off the bench, arguably, the Mets should look towards Dilson Herrera. However, the decision is not that clear cut, and the Mets can very justifiably decide to go with any of the other aforementioned players.
UPDATE: According to reports, the Mets are going with Tejada.