Jim Henderson

Terry Collins Decision of the Game – Staying with Robert Gsellman Too Long

Last night was a night of the narrowest of margins. The Mets entered the night with a one game lead in the Wild Card race. They were also facing Julio Teheran who absolutely owns the Mets. Once the Mets got a 1-0 lead, they needed to do everything they could do to protect that lead.

Terry Collins didn’t.

Robert Gsellman entered the sixth inning having thrown 75 pitches. In his young career, opposing batters are hitting .429/.500/.500 off Gsellman when he crosses the 75 pitch mark. Better yet, opposing batters are hitting .368/.455/.421 off of him the third time through the order. After Gsellman retired Teheran to start the inning, the Braves hitters were getting a third look at him.

Ender Inciarte and Adonis Garcia hit back-to-back singles. Gsellman was losing it, and Mets killer Freddie Freeman was stepping to the plate. It was at this point anyone would’ve gone to the bullpen for the lefty. However, Collins didn’t do that as HE HAD NO ONE WARMING UP!

It was the right spot for Josh Smoker. Freeman doesn’t hit sliders or splitters well, and he has a tendency to swing and miss at fastballs. Furthermore, Smoker entered the night striking out 15.3 batters per nine. Instead, Collins stuck with Gsellman, who would walk Freeman to load the bases.

That lead to Matt Kemp hitting a ball that should’ve been caught by either Curtis Granderson, or even better, Jay Bruce. Instead, it dropped in for an RBI “single.”  At this point, Collins went to Smoker to pitch to Nick Markakis with the bases loaded. It was two batters too late.

Smoker here was the right spot even if he wound up walking Markakis to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.

Honorable mention for Collin’s Decision of the Game should also go to him leaving Jerry Blevins out to dry.

Fernando Salas had come on to get the last two outs of the sixth, and he started the seventh inning.  After he allowed a leadoff single to Dansby Swanson, and Teheran failed to get the bunt down, Collins went to Blevins to pitch to Ender Inciarte.  Blevins didn’t get the job done as he allowed Inciarte to get on with a single.  Collins stuck with Blevins to pitch to Adonis Garcia.  Even with Garcia killing lefties this year while being unable to hit righties, the move was understandable with Freddie Freeman on deck.

After Garcia homered to make it a 5-1 game and Freeman hit a double to deep center, you really had to question why Blevins was still in the game.  The move to intentionally walk Kemp was certainly questionable.  Still, Blevins settled down enough to strike out Nick Markakis for the second out.  At that point, Collins went with Rafael Montero of all people to get the Mets out of the inning.

He went with Montero despite how hard he’s been hit this year and his troubles throwing strikes.  It was just inviting further disaster and for the Braves to put the game completely out of reach.  The fact that it wound up working isn’t proof it was the right move.  Rather, it was proof that Collins got lucky.

At that point too, you have to question why Montero wasn’t double-switched into the game.  Montero is now the Mets version of the white flag.  If you’re bringing him in, you might as well let him close the game out and save your bullpen.  The perfect opportunity was there too with Jay Bruce making the last out of the sixth inning.  The move to Montero for one-third of an inning made no sense whatsoever.  It made less sense when you consider Collins went to Jim Henderson in the next inning.

Overall, Collins had yet another bad game.  Again, he was not prepared for the moment, and it wound up costing the Mets.

Terry Collins’ Decision of the Game – Leaving in Asdrubal Cabrera

For much of this season, it is fair to say that the Mets have underachieved which has put them in a fight for the Wild Card instead of a fight for the division.  Nothing speaks more to that than the Mets going 3-13 against the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and the White Sox.  Flip that, and you have the Mets a game up on the Nationals right now.

If you want to argue the Mets are in this position due to injuries, you have to admit the Mets have exacerbated those problems.  Jim Henderson‘s usage may not have caused the shoulder impingement, how he was used early in the season certainly didn’t help.  Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera were thrown out there game after game despite dealing with leg injuries.  Neil Walker was playing everyday during the summer despite him not being able to feel his toes.  This doesn’t even address pitching Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz with injuries of their own.  Overall, the decisions to play these players was either Terry Collins‘ call or was a decision made in conjunction with him.

It’s important thing to keep in mind with Collins now being lauded for his managing and some wanting to put him in the Manager of the Year discussion.  People want him in the discussion despite all that he has done to harm the Mets chances (and possibly players) to put them in position to return to the postseason.  People want him in the discussion despite Collins making a poor decision each and every game that is at a minimum puzzling, and at worst prevents the Mets chances to win the game.  Accordingly, after each game, I will have a separate entry highlighting Collins’ poor managerial decision making.

Yesterday, the Mets annihilated the Braves 10-3.  In the fifth inning, the Mets had a 10-1 lead.  The chances of blowing that game are next to nothing, and yet Collins kept his starters in virtually the entire game.

Asdrubal Cabrera has a balky knee.  With the expanded rosters, the Mets had both Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds available to take over for him.  Behind them were Eric Campbell and Ty Kelly.  There was plenty of depth not just to get Cabrera out of the game, but also to have pinch hitters and infielders available.  Instead, Collins kept him in until the eighth inning.

Yoenis Cespedes has had an injured quad that has hampered him for most of the season.  Curtis Granderson has shown signs of fatigue with his playing center field.  The Mets had Jay Bruce, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto on the bench.  Instead of getting Cespedes and Granderson out of the game, Cespedes played the full game and Granderson only came out in the eighth.

So no, Collins didn’t prevent the Mets from winning yesterday’s game.  However, his decisions may have far-reaching implications for the Mets in the stretch run of the season.

Where There’s Smoker, Grandy’s on Fire

Given the pitching matchup and the location of today’s game, tonight’s game wasn’t a guarantee. That went double when you consider the game was at the Mets own House of Horrors in Turner Field that is thankfully closing at the end of the season. Before it closes, the Mets have some demons to exercise. They did just that tonight despite a slow start. 

The Mets had a chance to score off Julio Teheran in the first, but they couldn’t cash in. A Curtis Granderson walk loaded the bases with one out. However, the Mets wouldn’t score as Wilmer Flores hit into the inning ending 6-4-3 double play. It was a giant missed opportunity. 

Instead if having a lead, the Mets would soon trail in the game. Matt Kemp lead off the second with a solo home run off Robert Gsellman

The Braves would then expand on their 1-0 lead with a big fifth. Gsellman had almost navigated through a Dansby Swanson leadoff single.  He stood on third with two outs when Adonis Garcia singled him home. The Braves then proceeded to load the bases. Nick Markakis hit a two run single to right to give the Braves a 4-0 lead. Once again the tales of Jay Bruce‘s arm were greatly exaggerated. 

In reality, the main difference between this Gsellman start and his others was the Braves took advantage of their opportunities. In Gsellman’s short career, he has consistently played with fire. Tonight, he got burned. 

The Mets would begin the comeback in the sixth. Yoenis Cespedes hit a comebacker off Tehran which seemingly broke the spell. The insanely hot Granderson followed the Cespedes single with a two run homer to make it 4-2. It was the Mets first runs off Teheran in 29 innings. 

The Braves wouldn’t expand on this lead due to a truly great Josh Smoker appearance. 

Smoker inherited a mess in the sixth. Jose Reyes made a nice play to ball Swanson hit down the third base line off Jim Henderson. However, Reyes’ arm wasn’t strong enough to get the speedy Swanson. Worse yet, James Loney‘s arm wasn’t strong enough to get Jace Peterson who went from first to third on the play. Ultimately, it didn’t matter as Smoker was terrific. 

Smoker first struck out A.J. Pierzynski. Then he got Ender Inciarte to hit into the inning ending 3-6-3 double play.  The appearance might’ve been Smoker’s best in his short career. It did give the Mets a chance to win. 

While it wasn’t as impressive as Smoker’s effort, Hansel Robles got out of a jam in the seventh to keep the Braves from tacking on to their 4-2 lead. At the time, it seemed like nothing more than a nice recovery for Robles. As it turns out, Robles would get the win. 

The Mets loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth off Mauricio Cabrera. The bases shouldn’t have been loaded as Reyes hit what could’ve been a double play ball that Swanson booted. It would’ve been a tough turn with Reyes’ speed, but at a minimum, the lead runner should’ve been out. 

In any event, Cespedes came up with the bases loaded, and he put together a terrific at bat hitting a deep sacrifice fly to right scoring Alejandro De Aza. The ball was deep enough to permit Reyes to go to third. Granderson followed with a bloop that seemingly stayed up forever, and still Kemp could not get to it. Just like that tie game. 

The Mets took the lead on a Kelly Johnson pinch hit RBI double.  

Bruce was then intentionally walked by Cabrera before he departed in favor of Jose Ramirez. Ramirez then plunked the pinch hitting Michael Conforto to make it a 6-4 game. In the inning the Mets batted around with only two hits, but it was enough to score four runs. 

This set up the formula the Mets wanted. No, not Eric Campbell at first base due to all the lineup machinations, even if he did make two great plays at first in the eighth. The Mets were able to fog with Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia to close out the 6-4 win. 

The Mets had this chance because Granderson is playing like the Granderson of old. With him contributing like this each and every night, the Mets are certainly capable of repeating performances like tonight. 

Game Notes: Gavin Cecchini was the sole non-catcher bench player who didn’t get into the game. 

Lugo & Gsellman Are Pitching for the Postseason

Every time the Mets run Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to the mound, they’re out there trying to help the Mets return to the postseason. They’re also making their own case why the Mets should put them on the postseason roster.

Assuming the Mets make it back to the postseason, there is little guaranteed on who will and who won’t be on the postseason roster. In fact, as it stands today, Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon are the only two starting pitchers who will be guaranteed a spot on the postseason roster. If, and it is becoming a bigger if with each passing day, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom can return from their injuries, they will be guaranteed not only a spot on the roster, but also a start in the postseason.

Assuming deGrom and Matz can return for the postseason, there will still be room in the bullpen. Last season, the Mets went with 11 pitchers in the bullpen. The Mets were given that luxury, in part, because the team carried Colon and Jon Niese in the bullpen. This gave the Mets a number of pitchers who could go multiple innings out of the bullpen. Coupled with a starting rotation that could go deep into game, the Mets were able to add the extra bat on the bench. Looking at the Mets bullpen as constituted, there are few absolutely guaranteed spots:

  1. Jeurys Familia
  2. Addison Reed
  3. Hansel Robles
  4. Jerry Blevins
  5. Fernando Salas

With teams only needing four starters in the postseason, that leaves two open spots in the postseason bullpen.

If deGrom and Matz are able to pitch in the postseason, that means Lugo, Gsellman, and Montero will be competing for the last two spots in the bullpen most likely with Josh Smoker and Jim Henderson. If the Mets want to go with two lefties in the bullpen, Smoker could have the inside track. While he has been touched in three of his nine appearances, Smoker has shown he can strike people out. Currently, he strikes out 14.5 batters per nine innings, which is only slightly higher than his 12.8 strikeout per nine figure in AAA. If Smoker keeps striking people out, it is going to be hard to justify leaving him off the postseason roster.

Given his early season success, Henderson presumably has an excellent chance of being on the postseason roster. However, each and every time Henderson takes the mound, he makes a case why the Mets can’t trust him in a big spot. In his six appearances since coming off the disabled list, Henderson has a 7.20 ERA and has allowed opponents to hit .318 off of him.

If the Mets went with Smoker and Henderson, there may still be a spot for Lugo and Gsellman if the Mets decide to go with 12 pitchers this offseason. In that scenario, there would be one last bullpen available that would most likely go to Lugo or Gsellman. That means with every start, Lugo and Gsellman are not just pitching against the opponent, but also each other.

Overall, in order for Lugo and Gsellman to help their chances for a postseason roster spot, and for the Mets to even make the postseason, they are going to have to go out there and continue pitching as well as they have been.

Mets Consistently Did the Improbable 

If you took a poll asking Mets fans to ask who was the player who got the big two out hit with the bases loaded to give the Mets the lead, the most popular guess would be Yoenis Cespedes

It wasn’t Cespedes as he was intentionally walked by Tanner Roark to load the bases. It wasn’t Jay Bruce as he was sitting. It wasn’t James Loney. Even though he played, Terry Collins finally had the good sense to stop hitting him clean up and move him to the eighth spot in the lineup. In fact, the batter who got the hit might’ve been more unlikely than Loney. No, it wasn’t Bartolo Colon. It was Curtis Granderson:

The two run single scoring Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera was a long time coming. Granderson was 0-22 in his last 22 at bats with runners in scoring position. He was 2-42 with runners in scoring position and two outs all season. It was his first two RBI game without a homer since July 6th (hat tip @themainemets). 

Even more impressive than that was two of Robert Gsellman‘s feats. 

The first was being a Mets pitcher who actually holds on runners and pays attention to the running game. He has a good move to first. The result of which was him picking off . . . sorry catching Bryce Harper stealing. Seriously, the pickoff/caught stealing scoring rule is as it gets. 

More impressive than that was his escape in the sixth. 

The Nationals had two on and no out after an Anthony Rendon double and a Wilson Ramos walk. Both would advance on a Ryan Zimmerman ground out. 

It was a precarious situation not just because Gsellman is a young pitcher, but also because he isn’t a strikeout pitcher. He’s a ground ball pitcher in the ilk of a Chien-Ming Wang

Naturally, Gsellman would get a huge strikeout of Ben Revere, who is a tough batter to strike out. Gsellman then induced Danny Espinosa to groundout to end the inning. Incredibly, Gsellman got out of the jam, and he preserved the 2-1 lead.

It would be Gsellman’s last inning. Like his other starts, it was never pretty with him, but he managed to find a way. His final line was six innings, six hits, one run, one earned, three walks, and four strikeouts. 

Even more amazing than the aforementioned Granderson and Gsellman contributions was Loney’s. Loney came into the game not having hit an extra base hit in over a month and having gone 1-13 over the past week. Naturally, he hit an RBI double off Matt Belisle scoring Travis d’Arnaud making it a 3-1 game. 

It would stay that way in large part because of Michael Conforto‘s center field defense. 

Paint-by-number Collins brought in Jim Henderson because it was the seventh inning. Henderson allowed a one out single to Jayson Werth creating a hazardous situation with Daniel Murphy and Harper due up. With the two lefties coming up, Collins went to Josh Smoker

It was a huge appearance for Smoker not just because of the situation, but also because who he was facing. The Nationals were the team that made him a first round pick and the team that released him after his injuries. 

Murphy would hit a sinking line drive off Smoker that was almost assuredly a base hit until Conforto did this:

Smoker responded the same way we all did:

Smoker made the play stick by getting a huge strikeout of Harper to end the inning on a pitch that wasn’t in the next next batter’s box – it was in the next county.  

Smoker was equally pumped after that strikeout:

After Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia combined to pitch a scoreless eighth and ninth, Mets fans were celebrating like Smoker. 

With the Cardinals losing, it was a huge win that brought the Mets within one game of playoff position. It also kept their faint NL East hopes alive

Game Notes: Give Dusty Baker credit, he tried to win the game making an estimated 350 pitching changes to get the right match ups in critical spots. It was really six, which is still a lot. Olympic Gold Medalist Laurie Hernandez threw out the first pitch:

Pennant Race: The Cardinals lost to the Reds 9-1. The Marlins lost to the Indians 8-3. The Pirates trail the Brewers 6-3 in the eighth. 

Mets August 2016 Report Card

The Mets entered August 6.5 games back in the NL East race behind both the Nationals and the Marlins.  They also trailed the Marlins by 1.5 games for the last Wild Card spot.  The Mets have also fallen behind the Cardinals in the Wild Card race as well.

By going 15-14, August turned out to be just the second winning month the Mets have had this season.  They now trail the Nationals by nine games in the NL East.  After what has been a crazy month, the Mets still remain 1.5 games back of the final Wild Card spot.  Only now, the Mets trail the the Cardinals after having helped put the Marlins away having won the first three against them in a four game series.  Given the Mets weak September schedule, it should be an interesting finish to the season.

Bear in mind, these grades are on a curve. If a bench player gets an A and a position player gets a B, it doesn’t mean the bench player is having a better year. Rather, it means the bench player is performing better in his role.

Position Players

Travis d’Arnaud (C).  After the Jonathon Lucroy rumors died down, d’Arnaud starting hitting again.  However, he has cooled off to hit at a rate slightly better than his 2016 totals.  Part of the reason may be Collins playing Rivera over him with the Mets needing to throw a lot of young pitchers out there.

Kevin Plawecki (Inc.)  Plawecki spent the entire month down in AAA where he has started hitting again.  He should be among the first group of players called up today.  It’ll be interesting to see what, if any, impact he has over the final month of the season.

Rene Rivera (C).  Rivera came crashing back to Earth offensively.  However, his value has always been as a receiver, and he has done that job fairly well helping usher some of these young pitchers into the big leagues.

Lucas Duda (Inc). Duda is most likely gone for the season, and the debate will soon begin about whether he will be a Met in 2017.

James Loney (F).  He didn’t hit for average or power, nor did he get on base much during the entire month.  Worse yet, he has not been good in the field.  The next ball he stretches for will be his first.

Neil Walker (A+).  What has happened to Walker is nothing short of heart breaking.  He had completely turned his season around, and he appeared to be headed for a massive payday this offseason with him standing out as one of the better options in a weak free agent class.  Instead, Walker is going to have season ending back surgery to end his season.

David Wright (Inc.).  It’s clear he’s done for the season, but it is nice seeing him around Citi Field and looking better.

Asdrubal Cabrera (A+).  Since his return from the disabled list, Cabrera has been a blonde bombshell.  He moved into the second spot in the order, and he he has combine with Reyes to form a dynamic and powerful 1-2 duo at the top of the lineup.  The only concern is how much he is going to actually be able to play with that lingering knee issue.

Wilmer Flores (B+).  Flores has continued to rake putting up numbers at an unprecedented.  This month he hit seven homers.  He has benefited greatly by mostly facing left-handed pitchers, and now he’s hitting righties better. The Mets will need his versatility all the more as injuries mounted during the month.

Eric Campbell (Inc.) Campbell did not play in a game during the month, and the Mets are not likely to call him up again until rosters expand in September.

Matt Reynolds (D).  Reynolds didn’t hit well during his 10 games with the Mets this month.  Worse yet for him, he has been passed over on the team’s depth chart by Rivera.

Ty Kelly (A).  During his limited August playing time, Collins was able to maximize Kelly’s abilities by making him a short-lived platoon left fielder with Cespedes dealing with his quad injury.  In his nine August games, Kelly hit .381/.500/.524 with a double and a triple.

Michael Conforto (D).  After a stretch in which the Mets bottomed out, Conforto was sent down as he was a young player unable to handle sporadic playing time.  Since being sent down to AAA, Conforto has hit everything including lefties.  He should be called up today, and most likely, never play as Collins is his manager.

Yoenis Cespedes (A).  It was admirable that Cespedes played until he could play no longer (even if his golfing might’ve been part of the reason why).  Since his return, Cespedes is hitting home runs again.  He has had another incredible month, and he had a walkoff with a legendary bat flip to help the Mets beat the Marlins.

Curtis Granderson (D).  It hasn’t been fun seeing last year’s team MVP struggle the way he has this month.  He lost his job in right, moved to center, and now has become a part time player.  The hope is that with the time off, he rests up, and he returns to the Granderson of old.  Those hopes don’t seem that far fetched after he came off the bench the other night to hit two home runs.

Juan Lagares (Inc).  Lagares didn’t play in August due to the thumb surgery.  It remains questionable if he can return in September as he will most likely not be ready for rehab games until after the minor league affiliates have ended their seasons.

Alejandro De Aza (C-).  De Aza followed a great July with another poor August.  Mixed in there were a couple of terrific games that helped the Mets win a pivotal game against the Cardinals.  Right now, what he brings more than anything is the ability to play center field.

Kelly Johnson (A+).  Johnson continues to be the Mets top pinch hitter as well as a platoon option in the infield.  Over the past month, he has hit for more power including a surprising five homers.  His bases loaded double last night might’ve buried the Marlins.

Brandon Nimmo (Inc).  He only played two games before being sent down to AAA.  Given the fact that he’s one of the few healthy center fielders in the organization, he may see some real time when he gets called up with the expanded rosters.

Jose Reyes (A).  You could say we’re seeing the Reyes of old, but Reyes has never been this good in his career.  He has adapted extremely well to third base while playing a steady shortstop when the Mets have needed him to play over there when Cabrera has been injured or needing a day off.  The one caution is he still isn’t hitting right-handed pitching that well.  Still, his numbers were terrific.

T.J. Rivera (B).  After all this time, Rivera finally got his chance.  He made the most of it hitting .289 in 13 games while playing decently at second and third base.

Justin Ruggiano (Inc).  When he plays, he hits, but he is now on his second disabled list stint already with the Mets. With him being put on the 60 day disabled list, he’s now done for the season.   Seeing what we have seen with the team, there may be something in the water.

Jay Bruce (F).  Since coming to the Mets for Dilson Herrera, he has just been bad.  But hey, it’s not like the Mets need another second baseman, right?


Matt Harvey (Inc).  Harvey is done for the season after having had successful surgery to remove a rib.  For a player who has been criticized in the past for attending Yankee games while being gone for the season, Harvey has been a fixture in the Mets dugout during games.

Jacob deGrom (D).  deGrom had been pitching great until August rolled around.  In back-to-back big games against the Giants and the Cardinals, he couldn’t deliver pitching two of the worst games in his career.  Hopefully, the Mets skipping his last start will help get him back on track.

Noah Syndergaard (B). Syndergaard has had an uneven month, but after his last start, it appears he is dealing better with the bone spurs, and he is getting back to the pitcher who was dominant over the first half of the season.

Steven Matz (C).  Just as you thought he turned things around with his flirting with a no-hitter in his last start, he goes down with a shoulder injury.  At this time, it is unknown as to when or if he can return.

Bartolo Colon (A).  Colon stopped his good start-bad start streak in August, and he started pitching much better during the month of August at a time when the Mets needed him the most.

Logan Verrett (F).  Look, he shouldn’t have been tapped as the Mets fifth starter after Harvey went down, but with that said, he did everything he could to lose the job pitching to a 13.50 ERA in August.  He eventually lost the job to Niese of all people

Jeurys Familia (A).  That’s the Familia we all know and love.  He not only had a sub 1.00 ERA, but he also broke the single season Mets save record he shared with Armando Benitez.

Addison Reed (B+).  You knew he wasn’t going to keep up what he has been doing, but even with him coming back to Earth slightly, he has still be incredible.

Jim Henderson (F).  After being on the disabled list for so long with yet another shoulder injury, Henderson has made his way back to the majors.  Unfortunately, he’s not the same pitcher.  Collins owes him an apology.

Hansel Robles (F).  Robles showed how much he has been overworked this season by Collins this month.  Hopefully, with some rest, he should finally be able to rebound and contribute in September and beyond like he had done for most of the season.

Jerry Blevins (B+).  His 2.16 ERA was terrific, but his 1.560 WHIP gives some reason for pause.  Both righties and lefties are starting to hit him, and he has been allowing inherited runners to score.

Antonio Bastardo (Inc.)  Thankfully, he is gone, and it was worth it even if it meant the Mets had to take back Niese.

Rafael Montero (Inc.) He got an unexpected start due to injuries, and he fought his way through five scoreless innings.  Good for him.

Sean Gilmartin (Inc.)  Gilmartin has only made three appearances since being recalled, and he hasn’t pitched particularly well.  Whether it was the shoulder injury or teams figuring him out, he’s not the same guy he was last season.

Erik Goeddel (F).  There used to be two factions of the Mets fan base: those who thought Goeddel was a good major league pitcher, and those that didn’t.  Seemingly, everyone is now in the latter camp now.

Seth Lugo (A).  Lugo has been nothing short of a revelation this year.  Due to injuries, he has had to go from the bullpen to the rotation.  He has not only shown his stuff translates as a starter, but he also shown he could actually be more effective as a starter.  He has gotten his 2014 deGrom moment, and he has taken advantage of it.

Jon Niese (F).  Somehow, he was worse with the Mets than he was with the Pirates.  He has failed in the bullpen and the rotation.  Hopefully, for him, the reason is because of his knee injury that has required surgery.

Robert Gsellman (Inc.) It’s been a mixed bag for Gsellman.  In his one relief apperance and his one start, he has given the Mets a chance to win.   However, he’s a powder keg out there as it seems as if he is in trouble each and every inning.  To his credit, he has gotten out of most of the jams.  It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.

Gabriel Ynoa (Inc.) Ynao was surprisingly called up to pitch out of the bullpen.  In three rough appearances, the only thing you can fairly conclude is he isn’t comfortable yet pitching out of the bullpen.

Josh Edgin (D) Edgin has gone through the long Tommy John rehab process, but he’s not quite back yet.  His velocity isn’t quite there.  With that in mind, he has struggles getting major league batters out.

Josh Smoker (B) After a rough start to his major league career, he has gone out there and gotten better each and every time out.  He is getting his fastball in the upper 90s, and he is a strikeout machine.  He could be a real factor over the next month and in the postseason

Terry Collins (D)  He iced Conforto.  He continues to overwork the bullpen.  He makes baffling lineup decision after baffling lineup decision.  He is even worse with in-game management.  However, with the Mets on a stretch against some bad teams, and the Wild Card frontrunners not having run away with it, he may once again be in position to ride some good luck into the postseason.

Reyes & Cabrera Spark the Offense Again

Much like last night, the Marlins would not have a lead against the Mets for very long. 

In the top of the first, Christian Yelich hit a two run homer off Seth Lugo giving the Marlins an early 2-0 lead. After that, Lugo would shut the Marlins down including robbing Ichiro Suzuki of a base hit to get out of the first. Lugo grabbed the ball dribbling down the line and threw a dart over Ichiro’s head. 

His final line was six innings, five hits, two runs, two earned, one walk, and four strikeouts. 

Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera would set out to make sure Lugo got the win. With Cabrera playing after missing a game with a knee issue, the two once again served as sparks at the top of the lineup. They started immediately. 
After Reyes leadoff the bottom of the first with an infield single, Cabrera brought him home on a game tying two run homer. 

On the night, Reyes would go 4-5 with two runs and a double. Cabrera was 2-3 with a run, two RBI, a walk, and a homer. With them going like this, you can believe the Mets have what it takes to get back to the postseason.

The first inning rally would continue on a Jay Bruce double. Yes, that actually happened. He would then score on a Wilmer Flores RBI single. It was part of a big night for Flores who was 2-4 with a double and an RBI. 

Just like that, a Marlins lead became a 3-2 deficit. The Mets wouldn’t look back. 

After the first, the Mets kept threatening against Tom Koehler, but they couldn’t quite plate another run. Shocking, I know. The Mets not getting hits with runners in scoring position. 

Things changed in the sixth with Curtis Granderson hitting a pinch hit leadoff home run. It sparked a rally with the Mets loading the bases. Alejandro De Aza singled scoring Reyes making it 5-2, but that’s all the Mets would get that inning. 

On the De Aza single, Cabrera took a wide turn around third, but he did not appear as if he was really trying to score. Rather, it looked as if he was positioning himself in case there was a bobble or something. In any event, he tried to get back to third but he couldn’t because Bruce was standing there. 

Granderson would stay in the game and go to right. He would come back up in the seventh, and he would hit another home run. This was a two run shot scoring Rene Rivera making it a 7-2 game. 

With the Mets now having a big lead, Terry Collins decided to let Hansel Robles stay out there for a second inning because Collins is the only one who hasn’t figured out that Robles is overworked.Fortunately, Robles was able to pitch two scoreless helping to preserve the Mets win. 

The Mets had to turn to Jeurys Familia for the save as Jim Henderson just couldn’t lock down the 7-2 win. Henderson allowed a starting a J.T. Realmuto solo home run, a Jeff Francouer triple, and a Dee Gordon RBI single. Just like that it was a 7-4 game. Familia came in and put an end to the nonsense striking out Marcell Ozuna to record his 43rd save of the year tying the club record he shares with Armando Benitez

With the Mets second straight win against the Marlins, they are now a game ahead of them in the standings.  Things are starting to get interesting. 
Game Notes: Neil Walker missed the game with his lingering back injury. It’s now serious enough that Collins no longer believes Walker can play everyday. James Loney stayed consistent by going 0-3. Before the game, it was announced Steven Matz will not be ready to pitch when his disabled list stint is over because he is still having shoulder issues. 

Pennant Race: The Pirates are losing to the Cubs 3-0 in the seventh. The Cardinals are tied with the Brewers 1-1 in the eighth. The Nationals beat the Phillies 3-2. 

Mets Solution for Pitcher Injuries Has Been to Pitch More

The entire Jon Niese situation is just another unforced error in a series of unforced errors during the entire Mets season in how they have dealt with pitcher injuries.

It started with Matt Harvey.  From the beginning of the season when he had his medical issues, there was something wrong with Harvey.  However, even with his missing time due to it, he started on Opening Day.  He struggled somewhat on Opening Day as he would most of the season.  He consistently complained of issues with his mechanics, and on a few occasions, the Mets actually debated whether or not he should be sent down to the minors.  Even with his velocity drop, the Mets pinned it on mechanics.  As it would turn out, Harvey has thoracic outlet syndrome requiring him to have season ending surgery.

Next up was Steven Matz.  Matz has bone spurs in his elbow that are very painful.  Matz wanted to have the surgery, but the Mets talked him out of it.  Instead, the Mets shot him up with painkillers before every start, and they put him on the mound.  The Mets did this despite Matz not pitching anywhere near as well as he had been pitching before the bone spurs became an issue.  When Matz finally did seem to turn things around, he went on the disabled list with a shoulder strain and rotator cuff irritation.  For what it’s worth, it does not seem like he is going to miss the rest of the season.  However, given how the Mets have handled him thus far, it is fair to question if this decision is predicated on trying to win as many games as possible or whether Matz really will be ready to return.

Finally, we are back at Niese, who the Mets brought back because they needed another arm with all of the other injuries the Mets had.  When Niese faltered in the bullpen allowing six earned in an inning of relief work, the Mets moved him to the rotation believing starting would be better for him and his knee.  They were of course wrong.  Niese would only last four batters in his last start against the Cardinals before having to come out of the game.  Now, he is going to have surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.  He may very well be done for the season.

The Mets decision to start Niese taxed the bullpen as Mets relievers needed to go 8.2 innings in the game.  Speaking of the bullpen, we again circle back at the Jim Henderson decision.  Henderson is coming off two shoulder surgeries, and he did not pitch in the majors this year.  A day after Henderson threw a career high 34 pitches in a game, Terry Collins went right back to him in a “must-win” April game.  Henderson would have reduced velocity not just in that appearance, but also future appearances.  He would eventually have to go on the disabled list with a right should impingement.

Judging from how Collins has used Erik Goeddel both this season, a pitcher who has had a series of arm issues, it appears the Mets have no intention of learning from past mistakes.

There is no doubt the Mets have had some bad luck on the injury front.  Harvey’s thoracic outlet syndrome wasn’t caused by anything the team did, and bone spurs is a common issue for pitchers.  There is no evidence to suggest the Mets did anything to cause Niese’s injury.  So no, the injuries aren’t the Mets fault.  The issue is how the Mets have handled those injuries.  Instead of the Mets giving these players rest and putting them on the disabled list as a precaution like how the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg, the Mets told them to go out there and continue pitching.  It created the possibility that each and every single one of these pitchers could have been further injured.

So no, the Mets can’t be blamed for how each of these pitchers got injured.  Rather, the Mets can be blamed for these pitchers might have had further injuries with how the Mets have handled them.

De Aza Saves the Mets Season – Yes, that De Aza

As if the Cardinals weren’t evil enough, they sent Adam Wainwright of all people to the mound to end the Mets season. Fortunately for the Mets, they had the better right-handed with a terrific curveball on the mound. 

That’s right. In the most important game of the season, the 2011 34th round draft pick Seth Lugo took to the mound, and once again he was terrific. His final line was 5.0 innings, two hits, no runs, none earned, three walks, and five strikeouts. He only lasted five innings as he left the game with a cramp in what was a hot and humid day. 

Lugo was never supposed to be in this spot, but there he is. Better yet, much like Jacob deGrom in 2014, he’s taken advantage of an unexpected opportunity. 

The Mets offense took advantage of a struggling Wainwright and a bad Cardinals defense. 

In the fourth, with the Mets already up 1-0, Curtis Granderson would reach on a Jhonny Peralta error. He’d go to third on a Wilmer Flores double. Both would then score on an Alejandro De Aza RBI single expanding the Mets lead to 3-0. Flores, De Aza, and the Cardinals defense would conspire again in the fifth to blow the game open. 

The Mets had Yoenis Cespedes and James Loney on with two out, and Wainwright seemingly induced Flores to hit an inning ending ground out. Instead, second baseman Greg Garcia booted it allowing Flores to reach and Cespedes to score. De Aza would then really make the Cardinals pay:

Just like that it was 7-0 Mets. 

Wainwright’s final line was five innings, nine hits, seven runs, two earned, two walks and three strikeouts. 

The story of the night, aside from Lugo, was Flores and De Aza. Flores was the surprise starter with a right-handed on the mound and Neil Walker on paternity leave. De Aza got the start with Jay Bruce dealing with some type of leg injury. 
Flores would go 2-4 with three runs and sac fly RBI. De Aza would go 2-4 with two runs, five RBI, one walk, and a homer. 

De Aza would also rob Matt Carpenter of a homer on the Cardinals first at bat of the game. 

The Mets offense just exploded in the night. Everyone but Jose Reyes, Cespedes, and Granderson got at least two hits. However, even they reached base two times a piece. Reyes and Cespedes also drew a walk, and Granderson reached on the error. 

The 10 runs the Mets put up made up for some ugly bullpen work. Jim HendersonJosh Smoker, and Sean Gilmartin combined to allow six earned runs. 

Fortunately, the Mets offense put up 10 runs to win the game 10-6. With that, the Mets took two out of three from the Cardinals bringing them back to 3.5 games behind them for the second Wild Card. It also allowed Lugo to earn his first major league win. 

Game Notes: Loney hit cleanup and went 3-5 with three runs snapping his August cold streak. Asdrubal Cabrera was 2-5 with an RBI double. Rene Rivera was 2-4 with two RBI, a double, and a walk. His two RBI came on a single that went to the wall. 

Pennant Race:  The Pirates are tied with the Brewers 2-2 in the eighth. The Nationals beat the Orioles 4-0. The Marlins lost to the Royals 5-2. 

Winning Formula: Seven Pitchers & Seven Runs Scored

For some reason or other, the Mets went with an injured and bad Jon Niese over a healthy and ready Robert Gsellman. One thing was for certain, no matter who started, the Mets needed an early lead and hold on. 

The Mets just did that. Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera led off the game with back-to-back singles, and then they pulled off a double steal. Cleanup hitter Wilmer Flores then hit a three run homer to give the Mets a 3-0 lead. 

Niese would give it right back even with Ron Darling saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger, but Niese is 55-3 with a three run lead.”

Niese allowed three of the first batters to reach base narrowing the lead to 3-1. Then his knee became too much for him. Terry Collins then went to Gsellman with one out and runners on first and second. Gsellman was greeted by a Yadier Molina game tying RBI double. 

Gsellman would escape the first without allowing another run. Gsellman would be in trouble most of the night, but he would bend but not break. He was really helped by some terrific Mets defense.

Even with the struggles, Gsellman would earn his first win in his first ever game. His final line was 3.2 innings, two hits, no runs, none earned, three walks, and two strikeouts. 

Gsellman was in line for the win as the Mets offense responded immediately to losing the lead. Travis d’Arnaud would hit a one out single and move to second on a Gsellman sacrifice bunt. Reyes then singled him home as it seems every time d’Arnaud finda his way into scoring position, Reyes singles him home. Cabrera then doubled home Reyes to make it a 5-3 game. 

Justin Ruggiano effectively closed the book on Cardinals Jaime Garcia with a monster home run:

Garcia only lasted four innings himself in taking the loss allowing seven hits, six runs, six earned, and one walk with six strikeouts. 

Things calmed down once it became a battle of the bullpens. Alexander Reyes flashed his dominant stuff shutting the Mets down over 2.1 innings. 

Josh Smoker pitched two tension filled innings, but he only allowed one run on a monster Randal Grichuk solo homer in the sixth. There wouldn’t be another as Yoenis Cespedes robbed Stephen Piscotty of a homer:

It was an even bigger play when you consider Cespedes seemingly tweaked his quad chasing down a liner in the first. 

In the seventh, Jerry Blevins and his tight firearm left a runner on with one out. Jim Henderson would then make his first appearance since coming off the DL. He got the Mets out of the inning, and he punctuated it by striking out Jedd Gyorko looking to end the inning. 

Like every other Mets pitcher, Addison Reed pitched into trouble, but he got out of it unscathed. Jeurys Familia was the only one of the Mets seven pitchers to have a 1-2-3 inning in recording his 42nd save. 

At least for one night, the Mets and Cardinals switched places. The Cardinals were 2-10 with RISP leaving 11 men on base. The Mets were 5-10 with RISP including a James Loney ninth inning RBI single to make it 7-4. 

The Mets have finally won three in a row since the All Star Break. The Mets are now 3.5 games back of the Cardinals in the race for the second Wild Card. 

Game NotesNeil Walker missed the game as he is on paternity leave. His wife gave birth to a baby girl, Nora Vail Walker. T.J. Rivera is taking his spot until he returns. Curtis Granderson didn’t start with the lefty starter. Jay Bruce would go 0-5 with two strikeouts. He is now two for his last 22. 

Pennant Race: The Marlins lost to the Royals 1-0. The Nationals lost to the Orioles 8-1. The Pirates beat the Astros 7-1.