Jay Bruce

Steven Matz’s Near No-Hitter Throws Padres for a Curve 

Regardless of the results what Steven Matz has been doing this season has been admirable. Matz knows he’s going to need surgery in the offseason to remove bone spurs in his elbow, and yet he still goes out there and pitches because his team needs him. 

With that said the results haven’t been pretty.  From June 7th until August 9th, Matz has gone 1-7 with a 4.65 ERA and a 1.435 WHIP. That is a precipitous drop from the guy who started the year 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA and a 1.030 WHIP. The main reason for the dip is he’s getting hit much harder. He’s gone from an 18% line drive rate with batters hitting .225/.272/.294 with four homers to a 28% line drive rate with batters hitting .297/.346/.475 with 10 homers. 

During his slump or whatever you want to call it, Matz has been without his main breaking pitch – the fabled Warthen slider. In the beginning of the year, he threw it 15% of the time. Beginning June 7th, he was only throwing it 8% of the time. 

In place of the change, Matz began throwing more changeups going from throwing it 9% of the time to throwing it 14% of the time. It’s not a wise move as opposing batters hit .340 against the pitch while slugging .630. He’s fooling no one with the changeup and the opposition has been teeing off on the pitch. 

Sunday, Matz effectively scrapped both his changeup and his slider focusing on his fastball and curveball. The result was a near no-hitter. 

Over 7.1 dazzling innings, Matz only allowed the one hit allowing no runs and two walks with eight strikeouts. It was his best start since May. It was a return to the Steven Matz everyone once believed would emerge to join Jacob deGromMatt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard as one of four aces atop the Mets staff. 

Matz did it, in part, because he threw a lot more curveballs. He threw 29% curves on Sunday after throwing it 14% of the time ro start the year. It was the right move as it’s arguably his second best pitch (after his abandoned slider). Matz limits batters to a .235 batting average with his curveball, which is the second lowest batting average allowed against any one of his pitches.

With the fastball and curveball working, the only player who would get a hit off of Matz would be Alex Rios‘ former teammate Alexei Ramirez.  Like Harvey, Matz wouldn’t get the no-hitter. Unlike Harvey, his teammates would score runs did him a get the win. 

Wilmer Flores and Neil Walker hit solo homers in the first two innings respectively off Padres left-hander Clayton Richard giving Matz and the Mets a 2-0 lead. 
In the eighth, the Mets actually scored some insurance runs. Jose Reyes led off the inning with a single. He’d steal second and move to third when Padres catcher Derek Norris threw it into center. Reyes then scored on a Jose Dominguez wild pitch.  All of this happened during Ty Kelly‘s at bat.  It was vintage Reyes. 

The rally continued after the Reyes one man show, and it culminated in a T.J. Rivera two out two RBI double scoring Kelly and Jay Bruce. It was the first extra base hit and RBI in Kelly’s young career. It made the score 5-0. 

The final score would be 5-1 after Gabriel Ynoa allowed a run in the ninth. On the bright side, the Mets are 2-0 in games Ynoa pitched. Speaking of which, the Mets have finally won two games in a row. 

Overall, the story was Matz. He had a magical afternoon, and he made an adjustment to allow him to pitch more effectively. 

Pennant Race: Thr Marlins beat the White Sox 5-4. The Nationals beat the Braves 9-1. Three Cardinals beat the Cubs 6-4.  The Pirates bested the Dodgers 11-4. 

What’s There to Know?

The Mets lost 9-0. Seriously, what do you need to know about a game in which the Mets seemingly didn’t even bother?  That’s right, you should know where to direct your anger. Here’s the starting lineup:

  1. Alejandro De Aza (CF) 1-4, 2 K
  2. Neil Walker (2B) 1-3
  3. Jay Bruce (RF) 0-3
  4. James Loney (1B) 0-4, GIDP
  5. Kelly Johnson (LF) 0-2, BB, K
  6. Michael Conforto (RF) 0-3, K
  7. Rene Rivera (C)1-3 
  8. Matt Reynolds (SS) 1-3, K

And the pitchers:

  1. Noah Syndergaard (L, 9-7) 5.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, BB, 6 K
  2. Jon Niese 1.0 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
  3. Josh Edgin 1.2 IP, H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 2 K
  4. Jerry Blevins 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, K

Just pick any of the above to direct you ire. Don’t forget the subs, Ty Kelly (0-1), Curtis Granderson (0-1, K), T.J. Rivera (1-2), and Wilmer Flores (0-1). 

By the way, the Diamondbacks were 4/4 in stolen base attempts. 

Don’t forget the manager, Terry Collins, who made his latest entry into the case as to why he should be fired

Game Notes: This team stinks, and it was swept at home by the Diamondbacks.

Pennant Race: Reserved for teams over .500. 

Mets Have You Wishing On One Hand . . . 

Do you wish Terry Collins will become a better manager?  

Do you wish Jay Bruce will start hitting like he was hitting for the Reds this year?

Do you wish Asdrubal CabreraYoenis Cespedes, Jim HendersonJuan LagaresJose Reyes, Justin Ruggiano and/or Zack Wheeler can get off the disabled list soon?

Do you wish Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will return to their pre-bone spur form?

Do you wish Curtis Granderson can return to his 2015 form?

Do you wish Michael Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud will stop regressing and start fulfilling their promise?

Do you wish Neil Walker can stay this hot for the rest of the season?

Well for all those that wish for all that and much more like a postseason berth, Grandpa Gustafson has a message for you:

Extra Innings = Extra Frustration 

There was no hope until the ninth. Robbie Ray entered tonight’s game 5-11 with a 4.83 ERA and a 1.504 WHIP, so naturally he shut down the Mets allowing just three hits over seven innings.  The Mets lineup couldn’t hit a bad pitcher, but what else is new. It seems like the Mets were going to lose the first two games to an absolutely terrible Diamondbacks team. 

Then Diamondbacks closer Jake Barrett walked a pinch hitting Alejandro De Aza to start the inning. After a Curtis Granderson strikeout, Kelly Johnson was tabbed as the pinch hitter for Ty Kelly:

Tie game, and the Mets went to extras. 

It was notable that Johndon pinch hit for Kelly as he got the start in left over Michael Conforto and Alejandro De Aza

In the the tenth, Mets fans were having flashbacks to earlier in the game. 

In the third, Paul Goldschmidt, who has just been killing the Mets in this series, hit an RBI single with first and second open. Jean Segura scored on the play. He was on third as he stole second, and he advanced to third on a Travis d’Arnaud throwing error. 

In the eighth, Segura led off with a double against Addison Reed, and he moved to third off a Michael Bourn sacrifice bunt. Goldschmidt was the batter. The Mets did not walk him to set up the double play. Instead, he hit a sacrifice fly to Jay Bruce who fielded the fly ball awkwardly catching in near the line and not putting himself in position to use his strong arm to even make a play on Segura. 

In the tenth, Segura had a two out single off Jeurys Familia, and he would steal second. The Mets would also pitch to Goldschmidt with first base open. This time Familia would strike him out. 

Collins would help kill a rally in the 10th. After T.J. Rivera led off the inning with his first career hit, Collins ordered d’Arnaud to bunt. For all Collins knew, d’Arnaud could bunt. He couldn’t. He popped it up, and he didn’t advance the runner. The Mets wouldn’t bring Rivera home. 

It was another in a long line of bad decisions in this game and all season from Collins. 

There was the aforementioned decision to not only start Kelly, but also bat him second. In the sixth, he let Bartolo Colon lead off the inning with the Mets trailing 1-0. The there was Collins pitching Familia for a second inning after throwing 25 innings in his first inning of work. In Collins defense, he burned his long man, Jon Niese, to get two outs in the ninth in place of Erik Goeddel. Apparently, Collins never thought to double switch him into the game instead of having to lift Niese for a pinch hitter to lead off the ninth.  

That would leave Jerry Blevins, the LOOGY to start the season, as the last man in the bullpen due to Hansel Robles 32 pitch outing yesterday and Collins not yet trusting Josh Edgin. Blevins gave up a home run to Oscar Hernandez to lead off the 12th. 

The Mets had no rally in them in the bottom of the 12th leading them to lose the first two games in a three game set to a terrible Diamondbacks team. This was supposed to be the time for the Mets to make their move with them facing the soft spot in their schedule. 

Correction, the Mets are making a move. They’re moving their way out of Wild Card contention. 

Maybe tomorrow they can win a game with Noah Syndergaard starting. Then maybe, just maybe, the Mets can win on Friday, August 12th to finally win two in a row. I wouldn’t count on it. 

Pennant Race: The Marlins lost 1-0 to the Giants. The Dodgers lost to the Phillies 6-2. The Nationals beat the Indians 7-4. The Cardinals beat the Reds 3-2. 

Just Play Michael Conforto Everyday

This year has mostly been a struggle for Michael Conforto.  He has dealt with a wrist injury and declining production.  His manager, Terry Collins, has refused to play him against lefties and against tough right-handers like Jose Fernandez and Justin Verlander.  He was sent down to the minors for a long stint to rediscover his stroke.  Upon being recalled, he was expected to learn both center and right field on the fly.

Through it all, Conforto has just hit .224/301/.457 with 11 homers and 33 RBI in 81 games.  Based upon these numbers, Conforto has not taken the next step like everyone thought he was going to do this year.  He certainly didn’t build upon his great April.  It doesn’t matter.  The Mets should play him everyday anyway.

The fact of the matter is Conforto has the highest upside out of anyone currently available to play for the Mets.  On a team full of left-hand hitting corner outfielders, his upside is the highest.  Consider this:

  • Jay Bruce is having a career best year that has seen him hit .259/.311/.551.
  • Curtis Granderson is 35 years old, and he is hitting .233/.328/.437.
  • Alejandro De Aza has had to play out of his mind since July 1st to bring his season slash line to .201/.294/.306.
  • Brandon Nimmo is hitting .239/.297/.288 in 20 games.

Conforto is much more capable than any of those numbers.  Just this April, we saw him hit .365/.442/.676.  Since he was recalled from AAA, we have seen him try to get back to hitting the ball to the opposite field, and as a result, he hit an opposite field home run in Comerica Park.

Playing Conforto everyday is not without its risks.  He is only hitting .233/.327/.395 in his 16 games and 11 starts since being recalled from AAA.  He is still only hitting .133/.185/.150 with one extra base hit in 60 career at bats against left-handed pitching.  He is still a developing player.

With all that said, no one has his upside.  Conforto is the only Met who is truly capable to replacing Yoenis Cespedes‘ bat while Cespedes is on the disabled list.  With that in mind, it is worth the risk to play Conforto everyday.  At this point, the Mets need all the offensive help they can get, and Conforto is the best equipped to do that.  It’s why he was drafted, and it is why the Mets called him up last year despite his never having played above AA.

Overall, if the Mets are going to go anywhere, they need more offense.  Moreover, they need Conforto to start hitting like he is capable of hitting.  The only way either is going to happen is for Conforto to play everyday.

Its Time – The Mets Should Fire Terry Collins

Normally, you don’t fire someone until you have a viable replacement in place. It’s not the prudent course of action, and ultimately, you can make matters worse by acting off raw emotion to quickly fire someone. However, it’s time. The Mets need to move on from Terry Collins despite the lack of an obvious suitable replacement.

This isn’t said lightly. It was his ability to manage the clubhouse that kept the team together last summer until the Mets could make the trades to add Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe, and Yoenis Cespedes. Despite your impressions of his in-game management, Collins was the manager of a team that went to the World Series last year.

More than that, Collins appears to be a good man. He has written notes to Mets fans who are mourning the loss of a loved one. He stopped Spring Training practice so a young heart transplant survivor could meet his idols. Make no mistake, when you lose a human being of the caliber Collins is, your entire organization is worse off for it.

And yet, there comes a time when being a good person and past results need to be pushed aside. You need to focus on the job he’s doing and how he’s hurting the team.

This isn’t just about the Mets disappointing season thus far. You cannot pin a player underperforming on the manager alone even if Michael Conforto has regressed as the season progressed. Players certainly have to share in their responsibility as well. Furthermore, injuries have certainly played a part in this, and injuries cannot always be blamed on the manager.

It’s also not about Collins in-game management, which can be head-scratching at times. There are many factors at play to which we are not always privy. A player may feel under the weather or not ready to play in a game. Also, even if it may seem strange to people, a manager should be allowed to draw from 48 years of baseball experience to play a hunch every so often.

No, the reason why Collins needs to go is his decision making process and how it has hurt the team.

In April, there was his ill-advised decision to pitch Jim Henderson the day after he threw a career high 34 pitches. It was even worse when you consider Henderson is pitching in his first full season after having had his second shoulder surgery. Eventually, Henderson landed on the disabled list due to a shoulder impingement. Collins’ excuse for pitching Henderson was Henderson telling him before the game that “he felt great.

That signals that what was Collins’ greatest strength is also his biggest weakness. He puts too much trust in his players leading Collins to sometimes play players when they shouldn’t be playing.

It was the big issue with Game 5 of the World Series. He let Matt Harvey talk his way back into the ninth inning despite Collins belief that the Mets should go to Jeurys Familia in that spot. That moment wasn’t about whether anyone thought it was the right move to let Harvey stay in the game. It was about Collins thinking it wasn’t he right move and his letting the player control the situtation.

Speaking of Familia, Collins recently overworked him as well. Over a six day stretch from July 22nd to July 27th, Familia had worked in four games throwing 76 pitches. He was tiring, and in his last appearance, Familia finally blew his first save. The following game the Mets got seven innings from Jacob deGrom, and the rest of the bullpen was fairly rested and ready to go. Instead, Collins went back to Familia who would blow his second save in a row. Collins’ excuse? He was going to sit Familia until Familia approached him pre-game and told him he was ready, willing, and able to pitch.

With Henderson, Harvey, and Familia, it appears that Collins is losing control to the players. That seemed all the more apparent during the Cespedes golfing drama. The Mets star player and key to their entire lineup had been hobbled for over a month due to a quad injury, and yet he continued to golf everyday. That was news to Collins who said, “I didn’t know he played golf until you guys brought it up. Had it been bothering him then, he would’ve said something about it, but not a word.” (Ryan Hatch, NJ.com).

It is not fair to blame Collins for Cespedes’ injury. It also isn’t fair to blame Collins for Cespedes playing golf. However, your star player is injured, and his injury is severely hampering your team. Doesn’t a manager have an obligation to speak with Cespedes knowing he is an avid golfer that played golf throughout the postseason last year despite having a shoulder injury?

On it’s own the Cespedes golf situation would be overblown as well as the aforementioned pitching decisions. If that was the only issue, you could argue Collins should be permitted to stay on as manager. However, his decision making this past week was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

On August 5th, the Mets lost a game 4-3. The fourth and decisive run was set-up by a J.D. Martinez double. Upon replay, it appeared that Matt Reynolds had held the tag on Martinez appeared to came off the bag. Reynolds looked into the dugout, but there would be no challenge. Now, that’s not necessarily Collins’ fault as he is relying upon the advise of the replay adviser. However, it was important to denote this when setting the stage for what happened the following night.

The Mets trailed the Tigers 7-6 in the top of the ninth. Jay Bruce started a two out rally in the top of of the ninth, and he would try to score from second off a Travis d’Arnaud single. Martinez would throw him out at the plate, and the Mets just walked off the field without challenging the play to see if there was a missed tag or if Jarrod Saltalamacchia was illegally blocking the plate. Why? As Collins said himself, “Because I didn’t think about it — that’s why. Plain and simple.” (Ken Davidoff, New York Post).

The Mets literally lose the game without that challenge. They lost the night before, in part, because they failed to challenge a play where it appeared Martinez was out at second. Even with all of that, Collins still didn’t at least try to challenge the play to try to get the tying run home.

As if that wasn’t enough, there was the matter of why Brandon Nimmo wasn’t pinch running for Bruce in that spot. Collins didn’t choose Nimmo as a pinch runner because he simply doesn’t know which one of his players is faster:

When you cede decision making to the players, when you fail to do everything possible to win games, and when you don’t fully know the capabilities of every player on your roster, it is time to go.

It’s Time to Fire Terry Collins

Normally, you don’t fire someone until you have a viable replacement in place. It’s not the prudent course of action, and ultimately, you can make matters worse by acting off raw emotion to quickly fire someone. However, it’s time. The Mets need to move on from Terry Collins despite the lack of an obvious suitable replacement.

This isn’t said lightly. It was his ability to manage the clubhouse that kept the team together last summer until the Mets could make the trades to add Kelly JohnsonJuan Uribe, and Yoenis Cespedes. Despite your impressions of his in-game management, Collins was the manager of a team that went to the World Series last year.

More than that, Collins appears to be a good man. He has written notes to Mets fans who are mourning the loss of a loved one. He stopped Spring Training practice so a young heart transplant survivor could meet his idols. Make no mistake, when you lose a human being of the caliber Collins is, your entire organization is worse off for it.

And yet, there comes a time when being a good person and past results need to be pushed aside. You need to focus on the job he’s doing and how he’s hurting the team.

This isn’t just about the Mets disappointing season thus far.  You cannot pin a player underperforming on the manager alone even if Michael Conforto has regressed as the season progressed.  Players certainly have to share in their responsibility as well.  Furthermore, injuries have certainly played a part in this, and injuries cannot always be blamed on the manager.

It’s also not about Collins in-game management, which can be head-scratching at times.  There are many factors at play to which we are not always privy.  A player may feel under the weather or not ready to play in a game.  Also, even if it may seem strange to people, a manager should be allowed to draw from 48 years of baseball experience to play a hunch every so often.

No, the reason why Collins needs to go is his decision making process and how it has hurt the team.

In April, there was his ill-advised decision to pitch Jim Henderson the day after he threw a career high 34 pitches.  It was even worse when you consider Henderson is pitching in his first full season after having had his second shoulder surgery.  Eventually, Henderson landed on the disabled list due to a shoulder impingement.  Collins’ excuse for pitching Henderson was Henderson telling him before the game that “he felt great.

That signals that what was Collins’ greatest strength is also his biggest weakness.  He puts too much trust in his players leading Collins to sometimes play players when they shouldn’t be playing.

It was the big issue with Game 5 of the World Series.  He let Matt Harvey talk his way back into the ninth inning despite Collins belief that the Mets should go to Jeurys Familia in that spot.  That moment wasn’t about whether anyone thought it was the right move to let Harvey stay in the game.  It was about Collins thinking it wasn’t he right move and his letting the player control the situtation.

Speaking of Familia, Collins recently overworked him as well.  Over a six day stretch from July 22nd to July 27th, Familia had worked in four games throwing 76 pitches.  He was tiring, and in his last appearance, Familia finally blew his first save.  The following game the Mets got seven innings from Jacob deGrom, and the rest of the bullpen was fairly rested and ready to go.  Instead, Collins went back to Familia who would blow his second save in a row.  Collins’ excuse?  He was going to sit Familia until Familia approached him pre-game and told him he was ready, willing, and able to pitch.

With Henderson, Harvey, and Familia, it appears that Collins is losing control to the players.  That seemed all the more apparent during the Cespedes golfing drama.  The Mets star player and key to their entire lineup had been hobbled for over a month due to a quad injury, and yet he continued to golf everyday.  That was news to Collins who said, “I didn’t know he played golf until you guys brought it up. Had it been bothering him then, he would’ve said something about it, but not a word.”  (Ryan Hatch, NJ.com).

It is not fair to blame Collins for Cespedes’ injury.  It also isn’t fair to blame Collins for Cespedes playing golf.  However, your star player is injured, and his injury is severely hampering your team.  Doesn’t a manager have an obligation to speak with Cespedes knowing he is an avid golfer that played golf throughout the postseason last year despite having a shoulder injury?

On it’s own the Cespedes golf situation would be overblown as well as the aforementioned pitching decisions.  If that was the only issue, you could argue Collins should be permitted to stay on as manager.  However, his decision making this past week was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

On August 5th, the Mets lost a game 4-3.  The fourth and decisive run was set-up by a J.D. Martinez double.  Upon replay, it appeared that Matt Reynolds had held the tag on Martinez appeared to came off the bag.  Reynolds looked into the dugout, but there would be no challenge.  Now, that’s not necessarily Collins’ fault as he is relying upon the advise of the replay adviser.  However, it was important to denote this when setting the stage for what happened the following night.

The Mets trailed the Tigers 7-6 in the top of the ninth.  Jay Bruce started a two out rally in the top of of the ninth, and he would try to score from second off a Travis d’Arnaud single.  Martinez would throw him out at the plate, and the Mets just walked off the field without challenging the play to see if there was a missed tag or if Jarrod Saltalamacchia was illegally blocking the plate.  Why?  As Collins said himself, “Because I didn’t think about it — that’s why. Plain and simple.”  (Ken Davidoff, New York Post).

The Mets literally lose the game without that challenge.  They lost the night before, in part, because they failed to challenge a play where it appeared Martinez was out at second.  Even with all of that, Collins still didn’t at least try to challenge the play to try to get the tying run home.

As if that wasn’t enough, there was the matter of why Brandon Nimmo wasn’t pinch running for Bruce in that spot.  Collins didn’t choose Nimmo as a pinch runner because he simply doesn’t know which one of his players is faster:

When you cede decision making to the players, when you fail to do everything possible to win games, and when you don’t fully know the capabilities of every player on your roster, it is time to go.

Terry Collins Hurt This Team Again

The Mets batted Ty Kelly second and put him in left field leaving Brandon NimmoMichael Conforto, and the Mets hottest hitting outfielder, Alejandro De Aza, on the bench. 

Terry Collins decided to make Rene Rivera his DH. I can’t tell you how many times I checked the lineup and this sentence to see if it was correct. 

You had to do it because there is no way the left-handed hitters on the Mets could hit Tigers starter Matt Boyd who entered the game with a 4.71 ERA. 

The Mets started Logan Verrett

Seriously, how do you think things went?

Verrett only lasted 3.2 innings allowing seven hits, six runs, six earned, and two walks with two strikeouts. He spotted the Tigers a 6-1 lead with his only run supporting coming off a Jay Bruce solo fourth inning home run. 

The Tigers then proceeded to try to give the game away to a Mets team not fully equipped to take full advantage. 

Curtis Granderson started the charge with a fifth inning solo home run. Birthday boy Wilmer Flores would hit an RBI single to pull the Mets to with three runs. 
It was a terrific game for Flores at the plate going 2-4 with two RBI. With the lefty on the mound, he got the start at first base in place of James Loney

Flores’ RBI single actually scored Kelly, who actually played well going 2-4 with two runs and a walk. He’d score his second run in the seventh off a Miguel Cabrera throwing error. 

On the very next play Mike Aviles would misplay a ball off the bat of Flores allowing Neil Walker to score. Walker continued his hot play of late going 2-4 with a run and a walk. 

It set up runners on first and second with no out, and the Mets down a run. Naturally, the Mets wouldn’t score on a night they went 2-12 with runners in scoring position leaving 10 men on base. Travis d’Arnaud would hit into the second of three Mets double plays on the night, and Kelly Johnson popped out to end the threat. 

The Mets would have one rally left in them starting with a Bruce two out single off Francisco Rodriguez. De Aza would pinch hit for Flores, and move Bruce to second setting the stage for the final play of the game:

It took a great throw from J.D. Martinez, and a terrific job by Jarrod Saltalamacchia to legally block the plate under the new rules while getting the tag down. 

While Tim Teufel has made some curious decisions as the third base coach, this wasn’t one of them. He should’ve sent Bruce there. Like most of the night (season?), the real issue was with Collins. 

First, he could’ve pinch ran an arguably faster Brandon Nimmo which might’ve been the difference between scoring and making the final out at the plate. Second, Collins could’ve at least tried to challenge the play especially after what happened last night. 

Sure, it turns out Bruce didn’t touch home, but who cares?  There are enough quirks in these replay rules that it might not have mattered. Furthermore, what do you have to lose by challenging?  If you don’t, you lose the game. There should be nothing holding you back from challenging that play. 

Then again, there is no reason to believe the Mets were best off with Kelly and Rivera in the starting lineup. Collins found a way to do both. 

At least the Marlins and Cardinals lost tonight as well. 

Game Notes: Bruce had his best day as a Met going 2-5 with a run, an RBI, and the homer. Rivera only lasted two at bats going 0-1 with a walk at DH before getting lifted for Conforto. 

Mets Put Up No Challenge

This matchup was supposed to be Justin Verlander versus his heir apparent Noah Syndergaard. Instead, we got to see more of the struggling Syndergaard. 

In the first, Ian Kinsler would steal second and third off the battery of Syndergaard and Rene Rivera. He would then score on a Miguel Cabrera RBI ground out. 

Kelly Johnson gave Syndergaard and the Mets a 2-1 lead with a two run home run off Verlander in the fourth. That 2-1 lead would have been good enough for Syndergaard a couple of months ago. However, this diminished bone-chipped version of Syndergaard would give the lead right back in the bottom of the fourth. 
First, he allowed a long two run home run to Victor Martinez. The Tigers would continue the rally scoring another run on a James McCann RBI single. It should be noted that it was J.D. Martinez who scored on the play after doubling to right field. 

Jay Bruce made a strong throw to second, but Matt Reynolds laid down an awkward tag. Still, Reynolds held the tag on Martinez. Replays would show Martinez came off the bad, but Terry Collins would not challenge. Martinez would score later making it 4-2. It would prove to be the deciding run in the game. 

Syndergaard would make it through six innings throwing 112 pitches. His pitch count rose in part because he has issued a 10 pitch walk to Nick Castellanos and a nine pitch walk to Victor Martinez. It is indicative of Syndergaard’s location being off. Syndergaard’s final line was six innings, seven hits, four runs, four earned, two walks, and seven strikeouts. 

In contrast to Syndergaard, Verlander wouldn’t struggle. He dominanted the Mets over six innings allowing four hits, two runs, two earned, and one walk with nine strikeouts. Those nine gives him an American League leading 164 on the season. 

The Mets offense only mustered four hits until the ninth. The team had gone 0-3 with runners in scoring position. Even if you were to claim Verlander was that dominant, it does not explain why the Mets couldn’t do anything against a Tigers bullpen that entered the game with a 4.18 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP, and a .266 batting average against. 

Former Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez would come on and survive a Mets rally in the ninth. Neil Walker had a leadoff single, moved to second on a wild pitch, and to third on a Bruce ground out. He scored on a James Loney ground out ending the rally. The final score was 4-3 with the deciding run being scored Martinez, who would have been out if Collins challenged the play. 

Yet again, the Mets have failed to win back-to-back games. They haven’t done so since July 6th – July 7th. The Nationals won moving the Mets back to nine games out in the division. The Cardinals and Marlins are leading in their games. And, oh yeah, Gary Apple is terrible. 

Game Notes: Today’s game of center field musical chairs had Brandon Nimmo in center, Alejandro De Aza in left, and Curtis Granderson at DH. Michael Conforto sat even though it was a right-handed pitcher on the mound. 

The Time for the James Loney Stopgap Is Over

Unlike last season, the Mets were proactive in replacing an injured player on their roster when the obtained James Loney from the San Diego Padres to replace Lucas Duda who was slated to be on the disabled list for a long time with a broken back.

It was a good move as Loney was not only cheap, he was immediately available.  He was certainly better than what the Mets internal options of Eric Campbell and Ty Kelly.

Coming into the season, Loney was a .285/.338/.411 hitter who averaged 10 homers and 64 RBI in a season.  His OPS+ was 105 meaning he was roughly a league average hitter.  In his 55 games with the Mets, Loney has been a slightly better version of himself hitting .289/.339/.443 with six homers and 23 RBI.  His OPS+ is 108, which is what Mo Vaughn‘s OPS+ was as a Met.  Long story short, Loney is the perfect stopgap, but he is not a difference maker.  The problem is he was taking over for a difference maker in the lineup.

Since Duda became the Mets everyday first baseman, he has hit .249/.350/.483 while averaging 28 homers and 82 RBI.  His OPS+ over that stretch is 133 meaning he is batting at an All Star caliber level, and he is a difference maker at the plate.  To put it into context, David Wright‘s career OPS+ is 133.

Essentially, the Mets have gone from a David Wright level of production at first base back to the days of Mo Vaughn.  This drop in production goes a long way to explain why the Mets offense has been struggling since Duda has gone down with the broken back.

With the grim prognosis for Duda this season, and with the trade deadline having gone by, the Mets never made the necessary upgrade at first base.  If the Mets were to shift Jay Bruce (128 OPS+ this season) or Michael Conforto to first base (129 OPS+ last year), they would go a long way to replacing that production.  It is certainly worth a shot.  The time for stopgaps is over.  The Mets now need to find a real replacement for Duda’s offense.  That isn’t Loney.  Hopefully, it could be Bruce or Conforto.