Jerry Blevins

Neil Walker Salvages the Season for One Day

Today had the feeling of a death knell to the season. Noah Syndergaard couldn’t put batters away, had an early escalating pitch count, and he blew a 3-1 lead. 

Furthermore, Asdrubal Cabrera had to leave with a knee injury in the first inning adding his name to the ever growing list of the year’s injured players. 

The Mets then fell behind 4-3 as Jerry Blevins had a rare tough outing. Of course, part of that was the genius of Terry Collins walking Josh Thole-esque .239 hitting Tony Wolters to face Carlos Gonzalez, who hit the go-ahead sac fly. Right then and there, it looked like the Mets were going to get swept by the Rockies and fall 3.5 games behind the Marlins in the Wild Card race. 

Then, there was finally a sense of life from a player who has seemed washed up for three months now:

 Neil Walker, who has been hitting .235/.316/.343 since May 1st, hit a three run home run off Boone Logan to turn a sure fire 4-3 loss into a 6-3 win. The home run was reminiscent of Wilmer Flores‘ walk off home run that breathed life back into the Mets season. 
It seems like Walker is breaking out of this slump at a time when the Mets desperately need it. During the four game set against the Rockies, Walker was 9-16 with a double, triple, homer, and four RBI. That includes today game with him going 3-4 with four RBI falling a double short of the cycle. 

From there, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia do what they do and preserved the 6-4 victory. For at least one day, the Mets season seems intact, and we can all dream the Mets can add a difference maker at the trade deadline. 

Game Notes: Kelly Johnson came in for Cabrera. He played third, and Flores took over at short. Johnson and James Loney would score on the Walker home run. 

Jeurys Familia & Terry Collins Blew This Game

There were two reasons to believe that the Mets were going to win today’s game against the Rockies.  The first was that since July 10th, the Mets have alternated wins and losses, and the Mets lost last night.  The second reason was that Jacob deGrom was taking the hill during a day game, and deGrom is the Dayman having gone 15-3 with a 1.63 ERA and a 0.923 WHIP in day games.  In his last start, deGrom threw a complete game shut out.

With that in mind, you knew a Rockies team who played a night game was not going to do any damage against deGrom.  They didn’t as deGrom pitched seven scoreless innings allowing just five hits and walk one while striking out six.  Trevor Story was the only Rockies baserunner to reach second base, and no Rockies even reached third against him.  Seemingly, the only reason deGrom was lifted from the game having thrown 97 pitches was to get some more offense.

The Mets were in need of it as well.  The team didn’t have Jose Reyes and Yoenis Cespedes in the lineup due to injury.  Michael Conforto was sitting because the Rockies were starting the left-hander Tyler Anderson.  That meant Alejandro De Aza, and his extremely poor splits against lefties, was in the starting lineup.  Furthermore, Rene Rivera was starting over Travis d’Arnaud.  It was a weak lineup that featured the still struggling Neil Walker was batting cleanup.  It should then come as no surprise that heading towards deGrom’s spot in the lineup in the seventh inning, the Mets were only up 1-0.

That run would be scored on a Rene Rivera two out RBI double scoring James Loney from first.  Perhaps inspired how the Sid Bream-esque Loney was able to score from first, Rivera was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple.  He made the ill-advised last out of an inning at third base.  Even with that, he had a terrific day going 3-3 with two doubles and an RBI.  It was Rivera who would leadoff the seventh inning with a single off Rockies reliever and former Rays teammate Jake McGee starting a curious chain of events.

De Aza followed Rivera’s single with a double to deep left-center field.  That double would have scored anyone other than Rivera.  Still, the Mets had runners at second and third with no outs.  Terry Collins then made the bold choice of using Cespedes as a decoy.  The Rockies took the bait walking Cespedes to load the bases.  As Cespedes had a flare-up of his quad before the game preventing him from playing the field, he would be lifted for the pinch runner Steven Matz.  It was a defendable position considering with his bone spurs there was no way Matz would ever pitch in this game, and he has decent speed.  Furthermore, the Mets did not want to waste their bench any further.  After Collins made two very good and defendable decisions, he began to make some baffling decisions.

The Rockies would bring in the right-handed reliever Scott Oberg into the game to pitch to Juan Lagares.  Rather than keeping Lagares, his best defensive center fielder, in a tight 1-0 game, Collins went to his bench.  Instead of going with Michael Conforto, the best hitter he had on the bench, Collins went to Kelly Johnson for some reason or other.  At this point, the Mets struggles with runners in scoring position would really become magnified.  Johnson would hit into a fielder’s choice with Story choosing to take the force out at home.  Bases were still loaded, but now with one out.  Granderson would chase a ball in the dirt to strike out putting it all on Wilmer Flores to come through.  He didn’t.  He hit a shallow popout to the center fielder Charlie Blackmon to end the inning.  The Mets had bases loaded with no outs, and they still could not score.

The Mets were very fortunate they have an incredible bullpen that would hold onto this lead.  Despite pregame overtures that Jeurys Familia would be unavailable for today’s game, Collins went to Addison Reed in the eighth.  Reed would record two outs and would allow a single to DJ LeMahieu.  Collins then lifted Reed for Jerry Blevins, who struck out Carlos Gonzalez to get out of the inning.

Familia would come on in the ninth on a day he was supposedly unavailable, and a day after he blew his first save in approximately one year.  Of course, it wouldn’t be easy as it never is with the Mets.  Story would hit a leadoff single, and he would steal second.  Rivera was late on the throw, and it got through the infield.  Familia would then walk David Dahl on a 3-2 count.  Daniel Descalso was sent up there to lay down a sacrifice.  With two strikes, he laid down a bunt spinning towards the line.  Rivera let it go as it seemed as if it was going to go foul giving Familia the strikeout.  Instead, the ball stopped dead on the line loading the bases with no outs.

It seemed like Familia would get out of it for a split second.  He struck out Tony Wolters to get the first out.  Then Cristhian Adames hit a ball that Loney just booted.  The Mets weren’t going to turn two, but the Mets could’ve recorded at least one out.  With that, Story would score the game tying run.  With Blackmon at the plate, Familia spiked a ball at the edge of the grass that just ate up Rivera behind the plate.  The wild pitch allowed Dahl to score the tying run.  At that point, Familia intentionally walked Blackmon, and Collins lifted him from a game he shouldn’t have been used in the first place.  Hansel Robles then came on and get the Mets out of the inning without any further damage.  Maybe, just maybe, he should’ve pitched in the eighth or ninth rather than a tired Familia who Collins had declared was not available for this game.

When you peruse the official statistics for this game, you will see Familia blew the save and took the loss.  That is true.  However, it was a series of curious late inning decisions by Collins that really set the stage for this loss.  It is quite fitting the very Kelly Johnson Collins had to bring into the game would make the final out in the ninth.

Game Notes: A night after going 3-3 with a walk, Walker was 3-4 on the day.  It appears like his deep two and a half month slump might be coming to an end.

Mets Potential Bullpen Targets

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia have combined to hold the lead in 33 of 34 chances in which they have been given a lead in the eighth inning or later.  Jerry Blevins, the purported LOOGY, has actually held right-handed batters to a lower batting average while pitching to a 2.08 ERA.  Hansel Robles has been a veritable Swiss Army knife in the bullpen.  One day, he’s pitching 3.2 innings to help preserve the bullpen after a starter gets knocked out a game early.  The next, he’s coming into the game to get the Mets out of a no out bases loaded situation unscathed.  With these arms, the Mets have a dominating bullpen.

However, behind these arms is a question mark.  Jim Henderson has started to pitch well in his rehab assignment.  However, he has been a different pitcher since his ill advised April 13th appearance.  Seth Lugo has pitched six scoreless innings over three appearances.  However, each of these appearances were in low pressure situations, and Terry Collins does not appear to trust him enough to try him in a pressure situation.  Erik Goeddel entered the season with a 2.48 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9, but he has struggled this year pitching to a 4.50 ERA, 1.143 WHIP, and an 8.4 K/9.  There remains intriguing options in the minors like Josh Edgin, Josh Smoker, and Paul Sewald.  Between this group, the Mets could piece together a fine bullpen.  However, as the Mets are in heat for playoff spot, they do not want to take any chances.

The Mets are even more committed to finding that one bullpen piece considering how the team now has some question marks in the rotation with Matt Harvey‘s season ending surgery, Steven Matz‘s bone spurs, and Noah Syndergaard‘s dead arm.  According to Marc Carig, the Mets lost out on Kevin Jepsen and believe the pricetag for Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress will be too high.  Further hampering the Mets pursuit are the trades the team has made over the past year and a half.  Still, they are looking to preferably add a reliever who can lock down the seventh inning thereby taking some stress off their starting pitchers.  With that in mind, here are some options the Mets could pursue:

Jeremy Jeffress – As noted the pricetag should be high as Jeffress has the Brewers closer has recorded 23 saves with a 2.35 ERA and a 3.39 WHIP.  He is also under team control until 2020.

John Axford – Axford has some ugly numbers this year with a 5.21 ERA and a 1.579 WHIP for the last place Oakland Athletics.  However, it should be noted that his velocity is still there and he still has the same bite on his curveball.  A new voice and a pennant race could rejuvenate him.  It should also be noted in the postseason, Axford has a 1.42 ERA, 1.026 WHIP, and a 12.8 K/9.

Brad Hand – Like many relievers, Hand has seemingly figured things out in San Diego after having mostly struggled in his first five years with the Marlins.  He has a 2.94 ERA and a 1.269 WHIP this year as opposed to the 4.71 ERA and 1.424 WHIP he had with the Marlins.  Part of the reason for his success is his increased use of his slider which is a pitch that has generated a high percentage of swings and misses.  Hand does profile as the type of pitcher Dan Warthen has had success with during his tenure with the Mets.

Ryan Buchter – The 29 year old career minor leaguer and Sewell, New Jersey native has taken full advantage of his first read shot in the majors with a 2.41 ERA, a 1.098 WHIP, and a 12.5 K/9 in 44 appearances.  Like what Antonio Bastardo was supposed to be, he is a cross-over lefty.  Like his teammate Hand, he relies upon his fastball and slider to get outs.  However, unlike Hand, he throws it with greater velocity with a 94 MPH fastball and an 87 MPH slider.  Again, he is the type of pitcher that typically fairs well under Dan Warthen’s tutelage.

Chris Withrow – In his first season post-Tommy John, Withrow has a 3.38 ERA and a 1.313 WHIP in 33 appearances for the woeful Atlanta Braves.  He is a Mets kind of pitcher as he is a power pitcher out the bullpen that has a mid nineties fastball and a high eighties slider.  He may not come cheap as he is under team control until 2020, and the Braves consider him their future closer.

Tyler Clippard – The main thing that will prevent Clippard from becoming a Met is his contract.  He is in the first year of a two year $12.25 million contract that will pay him $6.15 million next year.  Further diminishing the chances of a reunion is the fact that Clippard is having a career worst season with a 3.53 ERA and a 1.234 WHIP.  Like with Axford, the much cheaper option, the Mets would be hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.  Like with Jose Reyes, the Mets would be hoping he is energized by putting on a Mets uniform again.

Adding one or more of these players should improve the Mets bullpen.  Regardless of whether or not the team adds one of these pitchers, or somebody else all together, they need Familia, Reed, Blevins, and Robles to continue pitching well out of the pen.  They also need Bastardo to figure things out sooner rather than later as it is his struggles that are precipitating this bullpen search. 

That Was a Great Game

That was just a good baseball game. It featured a pitcher’s duel between the Cubs ace Jake Arrieta and one of the Mets aces Noah Syndergaard

The Cubs struck first in the third when Syndergaard threw a wild pitch, which probably should have been smothered by Rene Rivera who made a backhand stab at the ball, allowing Willson Contreras to score. The Cubs were primed to score again in the following inning. Arrieta led off with a double, and he tried to score on a Tommy La Stella single. However, he would be mowed down by the new right fielder Michael Conforto:

As the replay would show, Rivera made a great tag. 

Syndergaard gutted his way through 5.2 innings throwing 105 pitches. He allowed seven hits, one unearned run, and two walks. He would strike out eight batters including his 300th career strike out. Jerry Blevins took over and would combine with Hansel Robles (two innings), and Jeurys Familia (33rd save) to win a 2-1 game. 

The loss was no fault of Arrieta, who was terrific. He pitched seven innings, one run, and one walk with eight strikeouts. For a while, it appeared like the Mets wouldn’t score that run, and that the Mets would lose 1-0. Then Jose Reyes did what he used to do best, what he was brought back to do. He hit his 100th triple as a Met and gave the Mets a chance to build a run off his speed. 

He would score off a Curtis Granderson sacrifice fly. The Mets tried to build another rally in the seventh. There were runners on first and second and Blevins was due up. For some reason, Terry Collins went to Alejandro De Aza instead of Kelly Johnson. Apparently, Collins was the only person who thought De Aza would come through in that spot. He didn’t. 

In the ninth, there would be no De Aza or Arrieta standing in the Mets way. Neil Walker hit into a fielder’s choice after a James Loney leadoff single. Initially, it was ruled a double play, but replay would overturn the call. Walker was safe, and it wasn’t particularly close. Walker moved to second on an Asdrubal Cabrera single. After a Conforto strikeout, it appeared the Mets would fail to score a runner in scoring position again. 

Instead, Rivera would hit a bloop single off Pedro Strop scoring Walker making it a 2-1 game. If that was the end of the game, it would have been a terrific game. However, it was what happened in the bottom of the ninth that made this a great game. 

Familia walked Addison Russell and Miguel Montero to start the inning. Javier Baez then laid down a terrific bunt that he beat out. It was bases loaded with no outs. That’s a problem for mere mortal closers. It wasn’t an issue for Familia and his bowling ball sinker. 

With the infield drawn-in, Matt Szczur to hit a ground ball to Loney, who threw out Russell at home. That brought up Kris Bryant to the plate, who could be the most dangerous hitter in the Cubs. Familia got him to ground into a game ending 5-4-3 double play. 

It was a great instinctive move for new third baseman Reyes to go did the double play instead of the force out, and it was an incredible turn by Walker, who took a slightly offline throw with the runner bearing down on him to get the last out of the game at first. 

This was easily the most exciting game of the year, and it was a great win. 

Game Notes: Granderson started in center, and he was shaky out there. It is supposed to be temporary until Conforto is ready to take over. In his first full game back from AAA, Conforto was 0-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. Yoenis Cespedes really looked hobbled out there. 

Dee Gordon’s Single Could Help Put the Marlins Into a Postseason He’s Ineligible to Play

When you have a game started by Jose Fernandez and Noah Syndergaard, you can expect a pitcher’s duel, and the game on April 12, 2016 did not disappoint. Fernandez would pitch five shutout innings allowing only three hits and one run while striking out five. Syndergaard was better lasting seven innings allowing one run while striking out 12. With the game deadlocked at one apiece, it officially became a battle of the bullpens in the eighth innings. The Mets sent Jim Henderson to the mound to face the Marlins leadoff hitter Dee Gordon.

It was an epic 16 pitch battle that eventually saw Gordon hit an opposite field single to start the game winning rally. He would eventually come around to score on a Martin Prado sacrifice fly off of Jerry Blevins. As it would turn out Gordon played that game while he was in the midst of appealing an 80 game suspension for his use of exogenous testosterone and clostebol. About two weeks later, he would drop his appeal begin serving his steroids suspension.

It should be noted that through the first 92 games of the season, this game is the one game that separates the Mets and the Marlins in the standings. This is the one game that stands as the difference between the Mets being in playoff position and being on the outside looking in.

It’s ironic when you think about it. Pursuant to Major League Baseball’s new steroid policy, players who test positive for banned PED substances are barred from postseason play. As the MLBPA Union President Tony Clark stated, the players themselves wanted to make sure “a player is not coming back and affecting a change in the postseason as a result of the decision that particular player made earlier in the year.” (ESPN). It is quite understandable why baseball would not want a dirty player to possibly be the difference between a team winning or losing a World Series. No one wants to question if the World Series was acquired through ill gotten means like the Athletics with Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, the Yankees with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, the Red Sox with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, or J.C. Romero, who got big out after big out en route to the Phillies winning the 2008 World Series.

Still, the way the rules are set up, the very same player can have a profound impact on whether or not that team even makes the postseason. We see that Gordon had an at bat that helps serve to separates the Mets and the Marlins in the standings. His suspension is scheduled to come to an end on July 28th. At that point, there will be 61 more games left on the schedule that Gordon can have a profound impact. Sixty-one more games in which he will be able to be the difference between winning and lose, between making the postseason or not. He can be the difference between making the postseason or not despite his being disqualified from making the postseason.

Even more ponderous is the fact that Gordon is going to play in his first minor league game tonight for the New Orleans Zephyrs. He’s playing for a AAA team despite being suspended from playing major league baseball for taking PEDs. Of course, baseball wants to have a player like Gordon banned from postseason play, but they’ll permit him to not only affect a pennant race, but also be in the best possible position to affect that pennant race once the suspension is over.

This isn’t to say that Gordon should forever be banned from playing baseball again. Players make mistakes. There can be false positives. No one wants to see a player forever lose their livelihood under these circumstances. However, it is contradictory for baseball to have a policy barring a player like Gordon from the postseason because they want to preserve the sanctity of that World Series title while also allowing Gordon to play games in that very same seasons thereby having an impact upon which teams do or do not qualify to play in that very same postseason.

Ultimately, if baseball’s goal is to preserve the sanctity of the World Series, the solution might be that if a player tests positive in a season, they are barred from playing in the regular season once the appeal process has been exhausted so that they tainted player will have no further impact upon the pennant race. If the player is not eligible for the postseason, that same player should have no impact upon which teams can play in the postseason. The player can still make their money once the suspension is over, and they can play games in the minors, but they will not be eligible to return to the majors until each and every team has clinched a postseason berth.

This is just one possible answer to the conundrum. It might be one that neither the owners or the players accept for various and sundry reasons. Hopefully, whatever it is, all of baseball needs to figure out a solution that makes sense for everyone as no one wants to be able to say that the difference between the Mets and Marlins in the 2016 season was a tainted player starting a game winning rally that proved to be the one game difference in the standings.


Mets Aim Small, Miss Small

Tonight, the Mets seemed more intent on manufacturing runs than putting together big innings. It’s a time when the Mets needed Benjamin Martin as their manager instead of Terry Collins: 

The first Mets run of the game was the result of Juan Lagares hitting a double, starter Logan Verrett bunting him over, and Jose Reyes scoring him on a sacrifice fly. In the following inning, Curtis Granderson hit a double, moved to third on a Neil Walker ground out, and scored on a Travis d’Arnaud sacrifice fly. The Mets tried to repeat the task in the seventh, but it proved to be one time too many. 

With runners on first and second with no outs, Collins ordered Juan Lagares to lay down a sac bunt with runners on first and second with no outs. Lagares’ successful bunt moved d’Arnaud to third. Kelly Johnson hit a shallow fly ball to left which wouldn’t have scored Usain Bolt. Still it’s very curious that Collins would go all-in on pushing in the one run and not use Alejandro De Aza to pinch run for d’Arnaud in that spot. It was inconsistent in what Collins was trying to accomplish. In the blink of an eye, the Mets went from two on with no outs to two on with two outs. 

Cabrera would be robbed of a hit by a sliding Cody Asche. As a result, the Phillies kept the score at 2-2, and Cabrera moved to 0 for his last 25 with RISP. 

Conversely, Phillies manager, Pete Mackanin didn’t seek to play small ball in the bottom of the seventh. The game winning rally started with a Cabrera throwing error allowing the speedy Peter Bourjos to get on base. He moved into scoring position after Jerry Blevins walked Asche. Hansel Robles came in and got one right into Maikel Franco‘s kitchen. Franco was able to fight it off for an RBI single. 

The Phillies would score another run in the eighth when Erik Goeddel threw a wild pitch allowing Ruiz to score from third. It would increase the Phillies lead to 4-2 ruining a decent start by Verrett and knocking the Mets to seven back of the Nationals. 

One other annoying aspect of the game was seeing yet another team try to re-enact Game Five of the World Series. No matter how slow they are, everyone thinks they can re-create the Eric Hosmer play no matter how slow. Tonight, it was Carlos Ruiz‘s turn:

Ruiz was running as Jerad Eickhoff worked a full count against Logan Verrett. Ruiz kept going as Eickhoff beat out Asdrubal Cabrera‘s throw. couldn’t get the ball to first in time to record the out. However, he wouldn’t score as James Loney alertly threw the ball home and d’Arnaud laid down an absolutely terrific tag. That play kept the game tied at 2-2. As we know, it proved to be all for naught. 

Game Notes: Ryan Howard opened the scoring with a solo home run. Yoenis Cespedes sat out the game with his injured quad. Fittingly, De Aza made the last out of the game. 

Juanderful Start to the Second Half

In the top of the sixth, Neil Walker hit a three run home run to make it 4-0 Mets. With the way Bartolo Colon was cruising, it seemed like the game was effectively over. 

Colon was perfect for the first 4.1 innings. His pitch count was low, and he was moving quickly through the Phillies lineup. He lost the perfect game in the fifth when Cameron Rupp hit a one out single.  Ultimately, it wasn’t the fifth that would be the issue, it was the sixth. 

After Colon was handed the 4-0 lead, the Phillies rallied. It started with a James Loney throwing error making him the only person able to miss the rather large Colon. The run scored on a Peter Bourjos hit RBI triple. After Maikel Franco and Cody Asche RBI singles, it was 4-3, and Colon was chased from the game with two outs in the fifth. 

Hansel Robles was double switched into the game along with Alejandro De Aza because whenever you have an excuse to bring De Aza into the game, you have to do it. Robles came into the game throwing 99 MPH, and he got Freddy Galvis to pop out to get the Mets out of the inning. 
What was once a magical night saw Colon pitch 5.2 innings allowing four hits, three unearned, and two walks with four strikeouts. Colon would still get the win as Robles, Jerry BlevinsAddison Reed, and Jeurys Familia combined to pitch 3.1 scoreless innings to preserve the 5-3 win. 

The insurance run was scored in the seventh courtesy of Juan Lagares, who had a terrific night starting with his third inning leadoff homer off Jeremy Hellickson. Lagares led off the seventh with a walk, and he would steal second base.  He moved to third off a long fly all out off the bat of De Aza. He then scored off a Jose Reyes fielder’s choice. Lagares got a good break on the ball, and made a terrific slide direct to home plate to just beat the drawn-in shortstop Galvis’ throw. 

On the night Lagares was 1-2 with two runs, one walk, one RBI, and the aforementioned homer. Asdrubal Cabrera would also have a great start to the second half going 3-4 with a run scored. Overall, it was a good night for the Mets who got off to a nice start in their first game after the All Star Break. 

Game Notes: Reyes charged in nicely on a ball and made a bare-handed play in the eighth that was reminiscent of David WrightYoenis Cespedes missed the game with his strained quad.

Mets Do Not Need Bullpen Help

As the trade deadline approaches, every team usually states that they need bullpen help, and those that are true contenders usually add an extra arm or two to the bullpen.  For example, back in 1999, one of the biggest strengths for a Mets team fighting for the NL East and the Wild Card was their bullpen.  Armando Benitez had taken over the closer role much earlier than anticipated.  Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook were having excellent seasons.  Pat Mahomes was a revelation as the long man in the bullpen.  Ex-closer John Franco was expected to return form injury to help with the playoff push.  Greg McMichael was having an off year, but he had previously been a valuable bullpen arm in a pennant race from his days with the Atlanta Braves.  On top of that, the Mets had some young promising arms to go to down the stretch with Jason Isringhausen and Octavio Dotel (even if Bobby Valentine thought they were better suited and belonged in the rotation).  Overall, the point being is the Mets did not need bullpen help.

Even with that being the case, a Mets team that was very active during the trade deadline made sure to acquire another arm for the bullpen by sending McMichael and Isringhausen for Billy Taylor.  It turns out Billy Taylor was washed up, and he would not even be on the postseason roster thereby forcing the Mets to make do with the already good bullpen pieces they had.  The Mets find themselves in a similar position than the 1999 Mets did.

The Mets bullpen is led to Jeurys Familia who is the best closer in the game. When needed, Familia can pitch two innings to get the big save that the Mets need.  The primary eighth inning set-up man has been Addison Reed, who is only sporting a 2.26 ERA and a 0.912 WHIP.  This duo has only lost one lead that has been given to them this year in 32 attempts.  Behind them is Hansel Robles who has done everything the Mets have needed in the bullpen.  He can come out and bail the Mets out of a bases loaded no out jam or pitch 3.2 terrific innings to save a Mets bullpen from a first inning injury to a starting pitcher.  Jerry Blevins has been an extremely effective LOOGY allowing lefties to hit .210/.269/.310.  By the way, he has been even better against righties limiting them to a .107/.188/.214 batting line.

Behind these pitchers are some very solid options.  There is Jim Henderson, who was great before Terry Collins abused his arm.  Henderson is currently in AAA on a rehab assignment.  Seth Lugo has been absolutely terrific out of the bullpen in his two appearances.  However, it is only two appearances, and there still remains a (remote) chance that he may wind up in the starting rotation with the Matt Harvey injury.  There is Erik Goeddel, who even despite one poor performance this season, still has a career 2.75 ERA and a 1.054 WHIP.  There is still Sean Gilmartin, who was an essential part of the Mets bullpen last year.  He is a starter in AAA, but if the Mets are that desperate for major league relief help that they will swing a trade, they should pull up a known quantity to help the team where he is needed.

If the Mets will consider calling up players from the minors, there are some good options in AAA.  Josh Edgin has a 2.45 ERA in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League.  Paul Sewald has taken over as the closer, and he has recorded nine saves.  There is always the alluring Josh Smoker, who is having a down year but still sports a mid-nineties fastball.

Finally, in addition to all of these players, there is still Antonio Bastardo, who is going nowhere.  It is doubtful a rebuilding team will want to add him into the mix with his high salary and poor production.  The Mets are stuck with him, and they are going to be stuck with him for the full season, regardless of whether they make another move to add a reliever or not.  In essence, Bastardo is the reason why people mistakenly believe the Mets need bullpen help.  With that in mind, the best thing the Mets can do is to find a way to get Bastardo back on track.  That will help the Mets bullpen more than them adding another reliever.

Overall, the Mets bullpen is in fine shape with four outstanding relievers and plenty of good options behind them.  The Mets do not need a reliever.  They need to fix Bastardo since he’s going to be here whether or not the Mets make a trade.  With that in mind, the Mets should leave the bullpen as is and turn their attention to the teams other needs at the trade deadline.

Cespedes Awakens the Mets Offense

It looked like more of the same for the Mets. Steven Matz allowed a first inning two run home run to Kris Bryant and a solo shot to Javier Baez in the sixth. The Mets were down 3-0 and didn’t seem to have a chance. It was the same old dreary Mets offense. In the bottom of the sixth, Yoenis Cespedes woke everyone up:

The 441 foot shot was the longest in Citi Field history and first into the Promemade Level. It was shades of Tommie Agee

The Mets looked like a different team after that. Travis d’Arnaud got it started with a one out single off Cubs starter John Lackey. Then a minor miracle happened when Alejandro De Aza worked out a walk against Cubs reliever Joel Peralta. Then Brandon Nimmo had the at bat of the night. 

Nimmo was quickly down 1-2 in the count. He would foul off three straight pitches, and he would hit an RBI single on the ninth pitch of the at bat. It narrowed the score to 3-2. He alertly moved to second when center fielder Albert Amora tried to get De Aza at third. 

Joe Maddon then went to Pedro Strop to pitch to Neil Walker. Strop quickly went ahead in the count 0-2, and the Cubs pulled the infield in. Walker then hit a hooper at second baseman Baez who had no shot at getting De Aza at home. He tried to get Nimmo at third, but he threw it wild. 

Nimmo then scored to make it 4-3. It was a comeback the likes of which the Mets have not made in quite a while. 

In the eighth, MLB history was made when Addison Reed pitched to Addison Russell. Russell won the first ever battle of the Addisons by walking. It set up runners at first and second with two outs. Maddon sent up Jason Heyward to pinch hit, and Terry Collins countered with Jerry Blevins. Blevins got Heyward to tap one back to Blevins to end the inning. 

Jeurys Familia recorded his 27th straight save this year to secure the 4-3 win. This one wasn’t easy. Ben Zobrist hit a double to make it second a third with no outs. Familia struck out Bryant, and then intentionally walked Anthony Rizzo to face rookie catcher Willson Contreras. Familia struck out the overmatched Contreras. Baez popped it up to end what was a tremendous save by Familia and win for the Mets. 

The Mets took the first game of a four game set against the Cubs. By the way, last year’s NLCS was also a four game set. 
Game Notes: Matz showed his frustration out there a few times, most notably when Lackey buzzed him on a sac bunt attempt. He also threw his glove after the Baez homer. Erik Goeddel earned the win after pitching 1.2 scoreless innings. 

Sandy Alderson Had a Poor Offseason

This past offseason Sandy Alderson and the Mets were heralded for building a deep roster that was better built to sustain a slate of injuries like the Mets fared last year.  Here are how all the players Sandy Alderson acquired during the offseason have fared with the Mets this year:

Neil Walker

So far, Walker has had a terrific 2015.  In fact, he is on pace to have the best year of his eight year career.  However, as the Mets offense has tailed off, so has Walker.  Here are his monthly splits:

  • April .307/.337/.625 with 9 homers and 19 RBI
  • May .250/.333/.420 with 4 homers and 6 RBI
  • June .224/.307/.289 with 1 homer and 6 RBI

Each and every month Walker has gone from one a career best year to stats worse than he has had over the course of his career.

Asdrubal Cabrera

Like his double play partner, Cabrera’s stats are masked by a hot April.  In April, Cabrera hit .300/.364/.400.  Since that time, Cabrera is only hitting .247/.307/.409.  Worse yet, despite many raving about his defense, the advanced metrics disagree.  So far, he has a -5 DRS and a -2.1 UZR.

Alejandro De Aza

He was supposed to be a platoon partner with Juan Lagares in center.  Given his .165/.216/.242 batting line, it is a blessing that never came to be.

Yoenis Cespedes

For the second straight year, Cespedes has been terrific for the Mets.  His OBP and slugging are on pace to be the highest in his career.  He’s also on pace for a career high 38 homers.  Even with his poor defense in center field, he has been day in and day out the best player on the Mets.

Rene Rivera

Like every other backup catcher during the Sandy Alderson regime, Rivera has not hit.  Initially, he was supposed to be a minor league depth, but after another Travis d’Arnaud injury, he was called-up to the majors.  He has worked well with Mets pitchers this year, specificially Noah Syndergaard  Mostly due to his defense, and also because of how poorly Kevin Plawecki has played, he has stayed in the majors when d’Arnaud came off the disabled list.

Ty Kelly

He was a minor league free agent that was never supposed to play in the majors.  When he hit .148/.207/.259 in 14 games we found out why.  Of course, he was pressed into action in part because the Mets found it wise to start with Eric Campbell on the 25 man roster instead of Ruben Tejada.

Bartolo Colon

Somewhat surprisingly, at the age of 43, Colon is having his best season with the Mets.  He’s 6-4 with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.170 WHIP.  He also did this:

Jerry Blevins

After he went down last year, the Mets searched high and low for a lefty out of the pen.  They never did quite find one.  Blevins has been healthy this year, and he has been terrific going 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA.  Only recently did he have a 21 appearance and 13 inning scoreless streak snapped.

Antonio Bastardo

He has been the worst reliever in the Mets bullpen with a 5.28 ERA and a 1.565 WHIP.  Terry Collins has shoved him to the back of the bullpen and tries to avoid using him in high leverage situations at all costs.

Jim Henderson

The minor league free agent had a great Spring Training and made the Opening Day roster.  He was having a terrific season until Collins pushed him too far for what he perceived to be a must-win game in April.  His production tailed off, and now he is on the disabled list with an injured shoulder.  This is the same shoulder that caused Henderson to miss all of the 2015 season after having had two surgeries on the joint.

Overall, looking over how these moves have panned out thus far, it does not appear that Sandy Alderson has had as good an offseason as many proclaimed him to have had.  In fact, as the season progresses, it makes Alderson’s season look worse and worse.  In order for the perception of Alderson’s offseason to change again, the underperforming players are going to have to improve.  Time is growing shorter and shorter for that to happen.