Jerry Blevins

Bullpen Needed This Rest

One of the ongoing jokes during yesterday’s rain out was that despite the rain out, Terry Collins had Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas warming up in the bullpen in case the game started on time.  As with most jokes, this one did have a twinge of truth to it.

So far this season, the Mets bullpen has been going on an unsustainable rate.  Mike Marshall holds the single season record for appearances by a reliever with his making 106 appearances for the 1974 Dodgers.  The Mets record for appearances is Pedro Feliciano with 92 appearances in 2010.  This was the reason why Gary Cohen dubbed him Perpetual Pedro.  Interesting enough, Felicano’s record is tied for fourth all-time with Marshall, who had 92 appearances for the 1973 Expos.  Right now, the Mets bullpen is set to challenge these records at an alarming rate.

Blevins is on a pace to make 102 appearances this season.  Hansel Robles is on pace to make 94 appearances this season.  Addison Reed and Salas are on pace to make 85 appearances this season.  Josh Smoker is on pace to make 77 appearances this season. Obviously, this would be career highs for each of these pitchers.

If they are to keep up this pace, Blevins would be second all-time for single season appearances by a reliever, and Robles’ 94 appearances would tie the now standing second place position.  Looking over the record list, no one has made more than 74 appearances in a season over the last five years.  The bullpen’s usage is unprecedented in terms of how many appearances these relievers are making.  It is utterly amazing that the current pace of these relievers would put them at the top five appearances made by a reliever in single season over the past five seasons.

When you combine the appearances with the amount of times these pitchers warm up, they are going to be on fumes.  Certainly, we have seen some diminishing returns already from Salas.  The rest of the bullpen may not be too far behind him.  This bullpen needs a rest and the subsequent rain out helped.  However, they need more help.

They may receive some help now that Jeurys Familia has returned from his suspension.  Certainly, he is the reliever Collins’ trusts most, and he will likely be the one Collins over uses next.  More than Familia, the bullpen can use some length from their starting pitching.

Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom are the only relievers averaging at least six innings per start.  Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman are averaging just over five innings per start.  This means every night the bullpen needs to pick up at least 3-4 innings.  With the Mets having already played four extra inning games to start the season, it has been much more than that.

The relative lack of length from the bullpen is understood.  Harvey and deGrom are coming back from season ending surgeries last season.  Wheeler has not pitched since 2014.  Gsellman has not thrown more than 159.2 innings in a season.  Really, you’re only workhorse right now is Syndergaard.

However, sooner or later something is going to have to give.  The starters are going to have to give more length, or Collins is going to have to trust some of the other guys in the bullpen more.  It’s understandable he hasn’t when Josh Edgin is a LOOGY with a 3.68 ERA, and his former long man, Rafael Montero, managed to get worse.  The long story short here is someone has to step up.  Otherwise, the bullpen may not last very long.

 

Bruce Twice Found A Home in RF 

For a multitude of reasons, the Mets needed this one. They needed to snap the four game losing streak. They need to capitalize on all game against the Phillies if they have any designs on winning the NL East. Overall, they needed to get back on track. 

That starts with Robert Gsellman who was very good tonight. He looked more like the pitcher he was at the end of last year. Coincidentally, that pitcher had a 2.37 ERA against the Phillies last year. 

For a moment, it appeared the Mets would give Gsellman a first inning lead. Jay Bruce hit a two out double off Vince Velasquez. Despite Glenn Sherlock giving him the stop sign, Yoenis Cespedes tried to score and was nailed at the plate. 

With Cespedes not scoring there, the game remained scoreless through the first three until the Phillies would finally get to Gsellman. It started with Gsellman hitting Aaron Altherr, who went from first to third on an Odubel Herrera single. Altherr then scored on a Maikel Franco groundout. Gsellman bore down and got out of the inning without any further damage. 

The Phillies touched up Gsellman again in the fifth with Velasquez hitting an RBI single scoring Cameron Rupp who hit a leadoff single. 

The run scored that inning wasn’t the biggest damage to the Mets. Both Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud would suffer injuries that inning and would eventually have to come out of the game. 

Duda was hurt when Gsellman threw a ball into the runner. The ball and Cesar Hernandez arrived at the same time. Gsellman was charged with the error, and Duda suffered a hyperextended elbow. 

Later that inning, d’Arnaud was injured while trying to throw out Hernandez. On the pitch, Altherr struck out and moved towards home plate. Altherr’s bat hovered over home and d’Arnaud’s hand collided with the bat. d’Arnaud tried to argue with Home Plate Umpire Chad Whitson it was interference, but d’Arnaud’s pleas fell on deaf ears. d’Arnaud would stay on through the sixth, but he would have to leave the game as well. 

Just like that the Mets were down both two runs and two players.

In the sixth, the Mets would stage a two out rally after Curtis Granderson‘s GIDP seemingly killed a potential rally. 

Asdrubal Cabrera would get the two out rally started with a two out single. Cespedes followed with a walk. Bruce then: 

It was a huge home run, and it put Gsellman on the long side. Unfortunately, Gsellman would not get that win. 

Gsellman started the eighth inning due to game conditions. With Rene Rivera leading off the inning with a single, the Mets having a short bench, and with the right-handed Altherr due to lead-off in the top of the eighth, Terry Collins stuck with Gsellman. Considering how well Gsellman was pitching and how tired the Mets bullpen has been, it was probably the right move. 

Despite it being the right move, Altherr hit a bloop double to lead-off the inning. Collins wasted no time, and he went to Jerry Blevins who couldn’t quite get out of the jam. 

Herrera grounded out pushing Altherr to third. Then Blevins got a huge strikeout of Franco. Michael Saunders then lined a single that dropped right in front of a sliding Cespedes tying the score at three. 

It was a shame Gsellman wouldn’t get the win. He was the first Mets starter to pitch into the eighth.  He only allowed six hits, three runs, three earned, and one walk with seven strikeouts. 

Gsellman wouldn’t get the win, but Hansel Robles, who came on for Blevins, would. 

Cespedes would lead-off the bottom of the ninth with a single off Luis Garcia. Bruce then followed with his second home run of the game:

In what may be his last save attempt as the Mets designated closer with Jeurys Familia eligible to return from suspension tomorrow, Addison Reed recorded his fourth save. He allowed a run due in part to Franco’s one out triple, but Reed would shut the door on the 4-3 win. 

Game Notes: Jose Reyes was 0-2 and is now hitting .096. Granderson is 0-11 in his last 11 ABs. Neil Walker still doesn’t have an extra base hit from the left-hand side. Six of Bruce’s 14 homers with the Mets have come against the Phillies. 

Reyes & Montero Were The Difference 

This game came down to Jose Reyes and Rafael Montero. What do you think happened?  Of course they lost and spoiled a nice effort from Zack Wheeler 

The only run scored off Wheeler was a first inning Odubel Herrera solo home run.  From there, Wheeler was far from perfect and battled himself and the Phillies. The second inning was his only 1-2-3 inning. 

In the third, Cesar Hernandez singled to lead-off the inning, and he stole second on a horrendous throw by Travis d’Arnaud. The throw was to Neil Walker who wasn’t even the middle infielder covering on the play. Wheeler then issued a walk to Herrera to put runners on first and second with one out. 

Wheeler got back-to-back groundouts from Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders to put an end to the Phillies biggest rally of the night off of him. 

Wheeler would depart after five innings and 99 pitches. His final line was five innings, four hits, one run, one earned, two walks, and seven strikeouts.

He’d leave on the long side due to a Mets first inning rally. 

Michael Conforto, leadoff man extraordinaire, would earn a leadoff walk off Phillies starter Zach EflinYoenis Cespedes then earned a one out walk of his own. Conforto would then score on a Jay Bruce RBI single. 
Cespedes went to third on the play, and he would score on a wild pitch during the Walker at-bat. It’s a good thing Cespedes scored there because the Mets offense would do nothing from there on out. 

For the rest of the game, the Mets only amassed three more hits and no one would reach third. This is troubling considering Eflin’s career ERA is 5.54 and the Phillies have a mediocre bullpen. 

In the sixth, Hansel Robles struggled issuing a one out walk to Tommy Joseph and hitting Cameron Rupp. At this point, I’m sure Rupp has had enough of Robles. Terry Collins did as well lifting him for Josh Smoker with two outs in the inning. 

Smoker struck out Brock Stassi to get out of the inning. He’d start the seventh getting the first two out before giving up a Herrera single.  Fernando Salas came on and got out of the inning. 

Unfortunately, Salas couldn’t get out of the eighth. After getting the first two out, he walked Rupp. He then induced a pop up to Freddy Galvis which Jose Reyes Luis Castilloed.

A hustling Rupp went to third and the slow jogging Galvis would only go to first. It would cost both teams. 

Jerry Blevins came on for Salas, and his steak of stranding 11 batters would end.  Andres Blanco ripped a double into left field. It would have scored two, but upon replay, it was determined to have hopped the wall for a ground rule double. With that, it was a 2-2 instead of a 3-2 game. 
The Reyes error cost the Mets a run, and Galvis’ lack of hustle cost the Phillies. Had Galvis ran, he might’ve been in second. If he was on second, he scores on a ground rule double. 

Blevins got out of the jam, and Addison Reed mowed down the Phillies in the ninth. 

In the ninth, Reyes drew a two out walk and took off initially on a pitch in the dirt. He stopped half way and was only safe because Hernandez pegged him in the back with a throw. It wound up not mattering as d’Arnaud grounded out to end the inning. 

With Reyes’ horrible game and Collins double switched Rafael Montero into the game with Wilmer Flores taking over at third and batting fifth (pitchers spot when Juan Lagares was double switched into the game in the seventh). 

For some reason, Collins has been loathed to use Sean Gilmartin no matter how much the bullpen could use some length or how much Montero struggles. It costs the Mets. 

Saunders led off the 10th with a single off Montero.  Even with him having to freeze on a rope hit in his direction, he went to third on the Joseph single. Then, for some reason, Collins didn’t bring the infield in. 

It didn’t really matter. Rupp hit a deep sacrifice fly which would be the only out Montero would record. Galvis would follow with a single putting runners on first and second. 

Aaron Altherr then hit a pinch hit RBI single to center. On the play, Lagares made a good throw home, but d’Arnaud couldn’t corral it. 

On a night where many Mets struggled, perhaps no one struggled more than d’Arnaud. He was 0-4 with the two miscues. What am I saying?  Reyes and Montero were worse. 

In any event, Collins was finally forced to go to Gilmartin. Gilmartin pitched reasonably well, but the two inherited runners scored when Asdrubal Cabrera didn’t have enough range to get a ball hit up the middle. While Cabrera is as sure handed as it gets, he really lacks range. 

With that, the Mets had a frustrating and downright embarrassing 6-2 loss dropping them to .500. It’s their fourth consecutive loss. 

Game Notes: Walker still doesn’t have an extra base hit as a left-handed batter this year. Conforto was 0-4 with the one walk, one run, and two strikeouts. Collins had his excuse not to play him tomorrow. 

Enough Excuses, Lock Up These Starters

Looking at this Mets team since 2015, one thing has been perfectly clear: this team is built on pitching, and it will only go as far as the pitching carries them. In 2015, when their starters were healthy and able to last the season, the Mets were able to win the National League Pennant. In 2016, with three of the arms going down, the Mets were still good enough to enter the postseason as the top Wild Card.

The Mets have been fortunate because the pitching has been cheap. It was not until recently that Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom entered their arbitration years. Noah Syndergaard won’t be arbitration eligible until after this season. It is interesting because it is after this season that things begin to become murky. Harvey and Wheeler are scheduled to become free agents after the 2018 season with deGrom becoming a free agent the season after that.

With the Mets success rising and falling on their pitching, it begs the question why haven’t the Mets selected at least one or two pitchers and come to terms on a contract extension. The common refrain among Mets fans is the team should keep Syndergaard and deGrom and join them in a rotation that one day may also feature Robert Gsellman, Justin Dunn, and Thomas Szapucki. For now, even with the clock ticking, the Mets aren’t making a move.

While it may not make sense to most Mets fans, in a report by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Mets have advised why they have not entered into contract extension discussions with any of their young pitching:

1. Injuries

As GM John Ricco explained, “[GM] Sandy [Alderson] has not said let’s be aggressive in that area, and that [injuries] is the biggest reason.”

Fact of the matter is each one of these pitchers have an issue. Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler have all had Tommy John surgery. Harvey, deGrom, and Matz all had season ending surgery last year. Even someone healthy like Syndergaard dealt with bone spurs last year. Point is, the Mets pitchers have not been exactly healthy, nor do they inspire confidence they will be healthy going forward. To that end, the Mets relative inactivity has been understandable.

2. Lack of Urgency

As noted in Sherman’s piece, the Mets do not have a pending free agent until the after the 2018 season, and Syndergaard isn’t a free agent until after the 2021 season. Honestly, this reason is a bit disingenuous. With Harvey’s pending free agency many expect this is Harvey’s last season in a Mets uniform as the team does not want to risk him walking in free agency and the team getting nothing in return for him.

3. Pitchers Aren’t Interested In Extensions

According to Ricco, who would know this better than fans, extension discussions are typically begun by the player and his agent. Again, with fans not being in the business, it is hard to challenge him on this. With that said, it is hard to believe the Mets would be willing to let all their pitchers go to free agency without so much as initiating contract disucssions with them. Frankly, it is harder to believe when you consider back in 2012, the Mets pounced on an opportunity to give Jon Niese a five year contract extension.

4. Personalities

As noted in Sherman’s piece, when you give a contract extension to one player, it is going to have ripple effects. As Ricco said, “You would have to manage personalities because if you do [an extension] with one, how does it impact the others?”

Now, this is a bit of an overstatement on Ricco’s part. Entering into contract extensions with the pitchers should be part of an overall plan. For example, when Omar Minaya was the General Manager, he was faced with Jose Reyes pending arbitration in 2006, he agreed with a four year pact with his shortstop. Minaya then quickly moved and locked up David Wright to a six year deal. While Alderson is dealing with more than just two players, Minaya’s actions certainly show if the team has a plan an executes it, there should be no issues.

5. Budget

It is something Mets fans don’t want to hear, but it is a reality. After this season, the Mets will have Reyes, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and Fernando Salas as free agents. The team will have to decide on options for Jerry Blevins and Asdrubal Cabrera. In addition, all of the Mets marquee starting pitchers will be in arbitration thereby escalating their salaries. Furthermore, Jeurys Familia will also be owed a lot of money in arbitration if he has another stellar year. Long story short, the Mets will have to spend some money this offseason.

In order to do that, the Mets need to have the money. As Ricco explains, “Once you’ve locked in [on an extension], you do limit flexibility in some ways.”

Now, it is easy to say the Mets can plug in Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith next year, but at this point, it is not known if they will be ready to be 2018 Opening Day starters. Putting forth such a plan would be folly, especially for a team that can still compete for a World Series.

Overall, the Mets concerns over not extending their pitchers have some merit, especially when you consider the injury issues. Still, the longer the Mets wait, the more expensive each of these starting pitchers will become. As they become more expensive, the chances of locking up more than one of them significantly decreases. Sooner or later, the Mets are going to have to take a chance on a couple of these pitchers if they have designs of competing for World Series over the next decade. With Harvey being a free agent after next season, the sooner the Mets begin executing a plan, the better.

Despite Losing Mets Accomplished Primary Objective 

A baseball season is 162 games. While you want to win each and every game, there are games where there may be a goal other than just winning a game. After last night’s 16 inning victory leading to Josh Smoker and Hansel Robles being unavailable tonight was one of those nights.

The pen was limited and exhausted meaning Noah Syndergaard had to go deep in the game. Syndergaard mostly accomplished his job lasting six innings. 

It seemed as if Syndergaard was pitching more to contact than usual. It reflected in the first inning rally that saw a Gordon lead off single, error, and sacrifice fly to put the Marlins up 1-0. 

Despite that rally, Syndergaard was mostly effective with a final line of 6.0 innings, six hits, two runs, one earned, no walks, and four strike outs. He got through six having thrown just 87 pitches. As it turns out, he was lifted with his finger nail tearing off:

The Marlins needed their starter to go as deep just as much as the Mets did. However, with a Mets offense working the count against Edison Volquez, and with him pitching on short rest with today’s scheduled starter Adam Conley, he would only last 4.2 innings. 

Unfortunately, the Mets couldn’t take full advantage of Volquez. In the third, the Mets loaded the bases with one out. Michael Conforto, starting in place of Yoenis Cespedes because Cespedes has the flu, hit a deep sacrifice fly scoring Curtis Granderson.

It was the only run they’d score in the inning, but at least it tied the score up at one. 

The Mets took the lead in the fifth with Lucas Duda absolutely crushing a home run to deep center:

Unfortunately, Syndergaard couldn’t hold onto the lead. In the bottom of the inning, he allowed three straight one out singles to Miguel RojasTyler Moore, and Dee Gordon to tie the game. 

The runners would advance on a J.T. Realmuto groundout putting runners on second and third with two out. That’s when Thor reached back and struck out Christian Yelich with a 100 MPH fastball. 

The Mets had a chance to get Syndergaard the lead back , and they squandered it. Jose Reyes earned a lead-off walk, and he a advanced to third on Syndergaard’s sacrifice bunt. The Mets couldn’t push Reyes, and the team wouldn’t get another real chance. 

For the first time all season, Reyes had a good game going 1-2 with two walks. With the game, Reyes’ batting average is now at .100. 

For the second straight game, it was a battle of the bullpens. The difference was the Mets did not definitively have the upper hand with the tired and unavailable arms. 

In the seventh, Rafael Montero hit into trouble loading the bases with one out. At that point, Terry Collins brought in Jerry Blevins to get both Yelich out and get out of the jam. Blevins would with a little help from Conforto:

Now, despite T.J. Rivera being sent down to make room for Sean Gilmartin, Collins decided to go with Josh Edgin to pitch the final two innings. Collins did this despite Edgin’s early season struggles and the fact that it was Gilmartin’s turn in the Las Vegas rotation. 

It was a messy eighth that saw Edgin allow a lead-off single to Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna was then erased when Justin Bour grounded into the 6-6-3 double play. Right after that, Edgin hit Derek Dietrich with a pitch. Forunately, Edgin was able to escape the inning by striking out Ichiro Suzuki

In the ninth, Edgin wasn’t so lucky. He gave up a lead-off walk to Rojas, who would score from first on a walk-off two out double by Realmuto. 

While Bruce was hustling, his lack of range showed on the play.  It also didn’t help the ball took a huge hop off the wall. Bruce had zero chance to throw out Rojas. It’s possible if that was someone else out there, they get to the ball quicker. However, it’s likely Rojas scores there no matter who was in right. 

While you wanted the win, the Mets came out of that game only needing to use Blevins. To that end, the game was a successful one for the Mets even if it wasn’t a victorious one. 

Game Notes: It appears Granderson is the new lead-off hitter with his leading off the fourth time this year. Reyes returned to the line-up after a mental health day. Neil Walker got the day off, and Wilmer Flores got his first start of the year against a right-handed pitcher. Flores was 0-4. 

D’Arnaud’s Sweet 16

When you play 16 innings, the game takes many twists and turns. Tonight’s game was that and then some. It was full of clutch hits, clutch fielding, gutsy pitching, and bizarre managerial moves. 

This was just a classic Terry Collins game. He made a series of bizarre moves. As usual, they surrounded use of his pitching staff, but today was an extra treat because it wasn’t just limited to the pitching staff. 

From the beginning, it was apparent Robert Gsellman didn’t really have it. In the first, he walked two and eventually allowed a grand slam to Marcell Ozuna putting the Mets down 4-0 before anyone could blink. 

With the Mets offense humming with the series in Philadelphia, the Mets immediately tied the game in the top of the second. 

Travis d’Arnaud hit a bases clearing three RBI triple, and he’d come around to score on a Curtis Granderson two out RBI single. 

The Mets got the lead when Yoenis Cespedes and Wilmer Flores, batting clean-up and playing first with the Marlins starting the lefty Wei-Yin Chen hit back-to-back homers.

 Cespedes’ homer was absolutely annihilated:

With the two run lead, Collins made his first strange move of the game. While Flores started due to the lefty, T.J. Rivera started at third to give Jose Reyes a mental health day. Heading into the bottom of the fourth, with Chen only going three innings, Collins lifted Rivera for Lucas Duda

Obviously, Collins was just itching to shorten his bench with the activation of Juan Lagares from the DL giving him a full bench. Why Lagares didn’t start with this deep outfield and with a lefty on the mound is also bizarre in and of itself. Despite that, the Mets carried a 6-4 lead into the fourth. 

Cespedes added another homer in the fifth for good measure giving the Mets a 7-4 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth. 

Gsellman struggled just like the first. The Marlins quickly loaded the bases, and he walked Christian Yelich pulling the Marlins within two. Giancarlo Stanton hit a sacrifice fly pulling the Marlins within one. 

It was only at this point that Collins went to the pen. With the left-handed hitting Justin Bour coming to the plate in an absolutely pivotal moment, Collins went to Josh Edgin instead of Jerry Blevins

Bour doubled to tie the game. Ozuna was intentionally walked. Derek Dietrich then singled to give the Marlins an 8-7 lead. The Marlins probably would’ve done more damage, but on the Dietrich single, Jay Bruce nailed Bour trying to score from second. 

The Marlins got their revenge in the seventh.  Cespedes took first after he struck out on a wild pitch. He then appeared to score from first to tie the game on a Bruce double:

Naturally, Angel Hernandez got the call wrong necessitating the replay showing Ozuna nailed Cespedes at the plate. Between this play, the grand slam, and all the other plays we’ve seen from Ozuna, he’s become an extremely annoying player along the lines of Willie Harris, except Ozuna is a much better player. 

The Mets were still undeterred. In the top of the eighth, d’Arnaud got on with a two out single. Michael Conforto who has hit every chance he’s been given this year got his latest chance pinch hitting for Blevins. Conforto would double in d’Arnaud to tie the game at eight. 

The battle of the bullpens continued, and it became a war of attrition. 

With the exception of the two lefties, Edgin and Blevins, each reliever pitched over one inning. This includes Josh Smoker who really stepped up for the Mets. Smoker would throw 38 pitches over three scoreless innings. It was an outstanding appearance. Considering his struggles going over an inning last year and his struggles this year, it was simply incredible. 

In the top of the 15th, with the bench already empty to the point that Rene Rivera was playing first base, Jacob deGrom pinch hit for Smoker and struck out.

This left the Mets with no other choice but to put Hansel Robles in the game. Understandably, Collins was hesitant to use Robles with him pitching three straight days and four out of the last five. 

While the Mets plated eight runs, it was not as if everyone was hitting. Asdrubal Cabrera took an ugly 0-7. His double play partner Neil Walker was 1-7. 

Conversely, Cespedes, Flores, Bruce, and d’Arnaud was great. While Cespedes had the two home runs, d’Arnaud was the best of them all. 

In the 16th, having run out of pitchers Don Mattingly turned to tomorrow’s scheduled starter Adam Conley to pitch the 16th Despite, Conley being fresh and having dominated the Mets, and despite d’Arnaud having caught 15 innings, d’Arnaud hit the game winning homer. It was the Mets first hit since the 10th inning. 

By far, this was d’Arnaud’s most memorable game as a Met. He was 4-6 with three runs, a triple, a homer, and four RBI. This was the second game this week he came one hit short of the cycle.

Other Mets with great games were Cespedes with the two homers, Bruce going 3-7 and nailing a runner at the plate, and the entire bullpen not named Josh Edgin. 

After Edgin, everyone stepped up and pitched scoreless inning after scoreless inning. Given their respective usages this year, asking most of them to pitch over an inning, and some of their early season struggles, this was an absolutely amazing group performance from that pen. 

It wasn’t easy in a game where nothing was easy. Ozuna, an absolute pest, made a very loud final out with Lagare catching it right in front of the center field wall. 

It should be noted Collins elected to have Robles pitch to Ozuna with two outs and Conley on deck. Sure, you’re loathe to put the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on base, but the pitcher was on deck!  This game was a classic example of winning despite your manager. 

Robles despite having nothing pitched two innings and got the win in the 9-8 win. This is a special win that signifies just how special this team could be. 

Game Notes: The game lasted 5:38. Even with d’Arnaud behind the plate, the Marlins did not attempt a stolen base. Reyes pinch hit for Edgin in the sixth and singled. Despite starting the game 0-7, Asdrubal Cabrera extended his hitting streak to eight games with a 16th inning single. His double play partner Neil Walker similarly struggled going 1-7. Mets have won consecutive games despite giving up a grand slam in both games. 

Conforto Leads, Wheeler Deals, Mets Sweep

Given the fact that it was his second start since missing two plus years due to Tommy John surgery and the fact that the Mets were down to five starters with the Steven Matz and Seth Lugo injuries, Zack Wheeler‘s start had more importance attached to it than usual. 

After a 13 pitch scoreless first inning, things were looking good. He was hitting his spots, and he was hitting 97 on the gun. Then again that’s what happened in his first start. The real test was from the second inning on. 

Wheeler passed the test with flying colors. He maintained both his velocity and control. While he was getting the benefit of some excellent pitch framing from Travis d’Arnaud, Wheeler put the ball where d’Arnaud put his mitt. 

Wheeler put together a stretch of eleven straight retired. That ended in the sixth when he finally started to struggle with his location and velocity. 

There were runners on first and second with one out. Wheeler reached back and got a huge strikeout of Howie Kendrick, but Wheeler lost it all and walked Odubel Herrera. After 5.2 innings, Collins went to Hansel Robles

Third straight day of pitching or not, Robles made a horrendous pitch to what amounts to the Phillies only real power threat. The first pitch hung down the middle of the plate, and Maikel Franco launched it for a grand slam. 

The grand slam put somewhat of a damper on what was a terrific start for Wheeler. His final line was 5.2 innings, four hits, three runs, three earned, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

Arguably, it was the best Wheeler has ever looked in a Mets uniform. Certainly, it was his most important start. The effort earned him a well deserved and long awaited win. 

The Mets offense was humming once again even if Vince Velasquez was pitching pretty well. 

It all got started with surprise lead off hitter Michael Conforto getting the lead-off single and scoring on a Yoenis Cespedes RBI double. The score would become 2-0 when Conforto did this:

Like a true lead-off hitter and table setter, Conforto was in the middle of the next rally. 

The fifth inning started with d’Arnaud getting hit by a pitch, and like the smart player he is waiving off Ray Ramirez:

Wheeler tried to bunt him over, but the Phillies walked him instead. Velasquez then walked Conforto to load the bases. Asdrubal Cabrera, the same player who had an 0-32 streak with RISP last year, came to the plate. 

Cabrera delivered with a two RBI single making him 5-5 with RISP to begin the season. Conforto then scored on a Cespedes sacrifice fly to make it 5-0. As noted above, the Mets needed all of those runs. 

Fortunately, the rest of the Mets bullpen locked the game down. Jerry BlevinsFernando Salas, and Addison Reed combined to pitch 2.2 scoreless innings to preserve the 2.2 innings, the 5-4 win, and the series sweep. 

The Mets certainly got healthy in Philadelphia, and they have momentum as they take their rejuvenated talents to South Beach. 

Game Notes: Curtis Granderson was just given the day off. There were no injury issues. Jose Reyes batted seventh again. He went 0-4, and is now 1-10 from the seventh spot in the lineup. 

Bruce And The Homers Just Keep On Coming

Coming into this game, Jacob deGrom never lost against the Philliew. He was 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA against them. During a 31 pitch first inning that appeared to be in jeopardy. 

deGrom loaded the bases with one out. He first allowed a Michael Saunders RBI single, and then he issued a bases loaded walk to Cameron Rupp making it 2-0. With the Mets offense sputtering, the game was close to being over before it started. 

deGrom bore down, and he got Brock Stassi to ground into the inning ending 1-2-3 double play. The Phillies wouldn’t touch deGrom again. 

deGrom’s final line was six innings, six hits, two runs, two earned, two walks, and three strikeouts. 

It took a while, but the Mets would finally get him off the hook. At least this time, it was understandable Jerad Eickhoff had his good curveball, and he was dealing.

Fortunately, the Mets have Jay Bruce

Bruce homered in the fourth, and he started a rally with a lead-off walk in the seventh. Curtis Granderson followed with an infield single, and Bruce moved to third on the Cesar Hernandez throwing error. 

Bruce then scored on the Neil Walker sacrifice fly. Rupp couldn’t handle Odubel Herrera‘s throw home, and Granderson moved to second. He would stay there. 

First, Travis d’Arnaud flew out to right. It was his second rally he helped kill. In the second inning, with runners on first and second and no outs, d’Arnaud grounded into the inning ending double play. 

After the d’Arnaud fly out, Collins made a choice everyone second guessed. 

During the d’Arnaud at-bat, Michael Conforto was in the on deck circle apparently ready to pinch hit for deGrom. The Phillies countered by having Joely Rodriguez. This scared Collins enough to pull back Conforto and pinch hit T.J. Rivera

Actually no, that was the right move. Instead Collins went to Wilmer Flores and his career .252/.286/.372 batting line against right-handed pitching. He predictably flew out to end the inning. 

With the Mets rally ending meekly, it was questionable if anything would wake them up. Enter Edubray Ramos

After getting out Jose Reyes because that’s what everyone does, he faced Asdrubal Cabrera, and he promptly threw it behind Cabrera’s head. Why may you ask? Well, he was upset about last year’s bat flip:

https://mobile.twitter.com/byjameswagner/status/851605774522601474

Tempers flared. The benches were warned. Cabrera walked then Yoenis Cespedes struck out. The Phillies finally got Rodriguez in to pitch to Bruce who hit his second home run of the game:

The home run gave the Mets a 4-2 lead, and gave Jerry Blevins the win. 

Blevins had entered the game in the seventh with two on and two out because Josh Smoker was struggling and because Herrera was coming to the plate. 

Blevins would throw a terrible pitch wide and in the dirt. d’Arnaud was able to knock it down, and he tried to nail Herandez, who strayed a little too far from second. d’Arnaud’s throw almost went into center. Cabrera made a great play to snag it. 

While this was happening, Howie Kendrick broke for second and had to retreat. Cabrera nailed Kendrick for tour routine 2-6-3 put out. 

In the eighth, Blevins ran into trouble putting runners on first and second with no out. Collins summoned Hansel Robles to pitch to Rupp apparently in the spirit of the Ramos-Cabrera matchup. Robles got Rupp to hit into the 6-4-3 double play. Walker impressively stood in to turn that double play. 

Addison Reed came on for his second save opportunity. He allowed a lead-off home run to Stassi and a line out single. Reed was fighting it with his fastball, but he finally struck out Kendrick to end the game and put the 4-3 win in the books. 

It was a good win for the Mets. It was better that Bruce got his bat going again. It was better the Mets didn’t stand down when Cabrera was thrown at. 

Game Notes: Reyes is now hitting .037. Bruce is tied for the major league lead with four homers. 

Conley Shuts Down Non-Existent Mets Offense

For those that bemoan a day and age where men where men and starters went all nine innings today wasn’t for you. 

Robert Gsellman got the start, and he fought it all night long. The Marlins took advantage scoring runs in three consecutive innings. 
In the first, Giancarlo Stanton hit a two out RBI single scoring Miguel Rojas, who had reached on a double. 

In the second, Marcell Ozuna absolutely crushed one:

Leading off the third, Curtis Granderson misplayed a J.T. Realmuto liner into a triple. Really to scored on a Rojas sacrifice fly. 

Gsellman finally had a scoreless inning in the fourth, and he appeared to have found himself. He appeared to be settling in a bit. He then struggled in the fifth. 

Quickly, it was runners on the corners with one out. In what may be prove to be a building block for the season, Gsellman got out of the inning. First, Gsellman got Justin Bour to ground out weakly to Wilmer Flores freezing the runner at third. Gsellman then got out of the inning by striking out Ozuna with a beautiful change-up. 

It was a professional start from Gsellman. He fought it all game long, but he kept his team in the game. His final line was five innings, six hits, three runs, three earned, two walks, and seven strikeouts. He departed down 3-0 after throwing 91 pitches. 

While Gsellman kept his team in the game, it wasn’t enough as this Mets team is already showing their warts offensively. Worse yet, the Mets were facing Adam Conley, who absolutely owns the Mets:

It was more of the same from Conley tonight who carried a no-hitter into the fifth. Finally, his no-hitter and his Citi Field scoreless streak was broken up by Lucas Duda:

Duda has typically struggled against left-handed pitchers in his career with the exception of 2015. In that season, Duda stayed in and went the other way against lefties. The end result was Duda hitting .285/.333/.545 off left-handed pitching. So far this season, we’re seeing that Duda. He already has two extra-base hits off left-handed pitching and both hits went to left-center. 

For some reason, the Marlins pulled Conley after he only threw 85 pitches. There was hope the Mets could get into the Marlins bullpen, but the Duda home run would be as close as the Mets got on the night. 

Hansel Robles struggled again walking two and allowing a RBI single to Ozuna making it 4-1. 

Paul Sewald made his major league debut in the eighth. The Las Vegas native fittingly wore the number 51. 

Unfortunately, Sewald struggled. The Marlins greeted him with three straight singles. When he finally recorded an out, it was a safety squeeze that scored a run. The damage wasn’t worse as Jerry Blevins came on in relief and bailed him out. 

Just to rub salt into the wound that was this game, Christian Yelich robbed Yoenis Cespedes of an extra base hit in the ninth. As usual, all the great catches are against the Mets. 

In the ninth, Collins turned to Rafael Montero which was absurd and potentially dangerous. Yesterday, Montero threw 35 pitches over 2.2 innings. On Wednesday, Montero threw 35 pitches over 1.2 innings. That’s 70 pitches over 4.2 innings without much rest. 

This is shades of Jim Henderson. Henderson was no longer the same pitcher after Collins’ reckless use if him, and Henderson couldn’t get a roster spot with a major league team this year. Collins showed he learned nothing from the event. 

Naturally, it didn’t go well for Montero. Now, Montero attacked hitters, but he was a tired pitcher with nothing. It was a shame his manager put him in that position. His allowed three hits and two runs before Fernando Salas got the Mets out of the inning without further damage. 

By that point, it didn’t really matter anyway. It was 8-1, which was the final score. 

It is difficult picking who had the worst night, but it might have been Neil Walker who earned his first career golden sombrero. He’s now 3-20 on the season. 

With the loss, the Mets snap their streak of beating the Marlins in five straight series. Instead of winning a series, the Mets now need to win two in a row just to earn a split. Fortunately, the Mets have Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom the next two nights. 

Game Notes: The Phillies jumped all over Jeremy Guthrie and the Nationals scoring 12 first inning runs. Those 12 runs match the amount of runs the Mets have scored all season. Granderson lead off as Jose Reyes started the game on the bench. He was double switched into the game in the sixth. He went 0-1, and he’s 1-19 on the season. Josh Smoker rebounded after yesterday’s tough outing by pitching a scoreless sixth. Asdrubal Cabrera is dealing with a wrist injury. 

The Dark Knight Returns

With the injuries to both Steven Matz and Seth Lugo, the safety net was gone. Not only did Matt Harvey have to begin the year in the rotation, but he was going to have to be the Harvey of old to give the Mets a chance to fulfill their hopes of reclaiming the National League East. 

During Spring Training, that was far from a certainty. His velocity and confidence were all over the place. It was not until the end of Spring Training that Harvey began to look more like his old self. Still, when he took the mound on a cold wet night, there was doubt as to what we would be. 

Harvey was great. 

Now, it wasn’t quite the Harvey of old. He featured his two seamer more almost scrapping his four seamer. Instead of being in the upper 90s, he was sitting mostly at 94. He pitched more to contact than rack up the strikeouts. Still, his secondary pitches were there, especially his vaunted slider. With that, he might not have been the 2013 or 2015 Harvey, but he was still great. 

His only mistake was a thigh high fastball to Matt Kemp who deposited the pitch into the left field seats giving the Braves a 1-0 lead. 

In a rare sight for a pitcher who has historically gotten low run support, the Mets responded right away in the bottom of the fifth. 

Neil Walker finally got his first hit of the year. The red hot Jay Bruce followed with a single of his own. Both would score on Travis d’Arnaud‘s RBI double. 

It was a huge hit for d’Arnaud bot just because it gave the Mets the lead, but also because it was his first RBI off a left-handed pitcher since September 14, 2015. That’s not a typo – d’Arnaud had no RBIs off a left-handed pitcher last year. In what is a huge year for d’Arnaud, he got his first big hit. 

In the sixth, Wilmer Flores, who absolutely kills left-handed pitching, hit a two run homer right down the left field line off Jaime Garcia to give the Mets a 4-1 lead.

https://twitter.com/mets/status/850148178263408640 

Those four runs were enough for Harvey. Harvey lasted 6.2 innings allowing three hits, two runs, two earned, no walks, and four strikeouts. Two of his four strikeouts came in the seventh as he was pushing towards the finish line. He was then chased by Kemp’s second homer of the night. 

You honestly could not have expected more from Harvey. He was economical throwing just 77 pitches. He pitched to contact and enduced weak contact. He dominated. With that, the Mets rotation looks great again. 

Jerry Blevins got the last out of the inning before turning it over to Fernando Salas and Addison Reed.  Salas faced a bases loaded two out jam, but he was able to get out of it by striking out Swanson. 
There would be no save opportunity as the Mets added two in the seventh to make it a 6-2 game. Asdrubal Cabrera singled home Michael Conforto, who was hit by a pitch when pinch hitting for Blevins. Later in the inning, Reyes scored when Dansby Swanson threw the ball offline trying to complete a double play on the Yoenis Cespedes grounder. 

Game Notes: Jose Reyes got his first base hit after having started the year going 0-12. Flores got the start over Lucas Duda with the left-handed pitcher on the mound. Tim Tebow hit an opposite field home run in his first at-bat for Columbia