The Nationals came into town, and the Mets players and fans raised their games in what was the biggest series since 2016. There was a lot to digest, mostly positive:
1. Who in the pool had Todd Frazier having the biggest hit all season?
2. That ninth inning culminating in Michael Conforto‘s first walkoff hit was crazy, and it was perhaps the best Mets moment since Asdrubal Cabrera‘s famous walk-off homer against the Phillies in 2016.
3. Things were so crazy for the Mets this series that Amed Rosario was understandably overlooked. He was 4-f0r-14 in the series with a double, and he made what proved to be somewhat of a game saving catch robbing Brian Dozier of an RBI single.
4. Marcus Stroman proved to be the perfect man to start that series. Even though he had allowed four earned on his six plus innings, he was electric to begin the game, and he really helped get the fans into that game. That set the stage for what was an electric Citi Field.
5. When Wilson Ramos homered off of Patrick Corbin, Citi Field was the loudest I’ve ever experienced it. To put that into context, I was there for when David Wright homered in Game 3 of the World Series.
6. J.D. Davis is unconscious right now. Since his hot streak started on June 30, his 189 wRC+ is the best in the National League. Like Steve Pearce in the World Series last year, just enjoy this ride for as far as it takes the Mets. Hopefully, like with the Red Sox, it will take them to a World Series Championship.
7. There is perhaps no bigger Mets fans and cheerleader right now than Dominic Smith. Despite being on a knee scooter, he has been leading “Lets Go Mets” chants from the dugout, and he has been rolling around the outfield with his “LFGM 2019” license plate cheering with the team. Seeing all of this, it is hard not to love him.
8. Noah Syndergaard put together another seven inning start giving the Mets a chance to win. That’s six in a row, and he has a 1.91 ERA over this stretch. It is a shame he had a rough start to the season while he was trying to figure out the ball because with the stretch he is on now he could have very well been in Cy Young discussions.
9. One important development this weekend was Ramos catching everyone this weekend which is an indicator as to how the Mets would handle things in the postseason should they make it that far. You can certainly understand the Mets pursuing that route with the way he’s been hitting of late. In August, he is hitting .400/.432/.714.
10. While you understand the push, the Mets need to be mindful Ramos is 32 and injury prone. He does not need to be catching day games after night games especially when Jacob deGrom is pitching. Let deGrom compensate for the lack of offense by shutting down the opponent. This will allow Ramos to stay fresh and continue hitting at this level.
11. It is just like to deGrom to struggle and allow zero earned runs. What was not like deGrom was his failing to really cover first base on that Pete Alonso throw. He also needs to make a better throw to Ramos, who should have had that throw anyway. Really, that was just an ugly play all around.
12. Brad Brach quickly endeared himself to Mets fans by relaying a story about how the lifelong Mets fan bought a Mets jersey to attend Game 3 of the 2015 World Series and calling it one of his favorite moments. He further endeared himself by getting Luis Avilan out of that sixth inning jam yesterday.
13. Joe Panik also made a good impression on Mets fans. He may have only had two hits in the series, but both times he got a hit was in the middle of a rally. He also played a good second base. In all, he looked like a real boost to this team.
15. Speaking of Lagares, when are the Mets going to learn he can’t bunt? You cannot send him up there to bunt. In the future, if the Mets need a bunt to get down, and Guillorme has already been used, the Mets should sent in Steven Matz, who is very good handling the bat.
16. While the position players all contributed, the bullpen was not very good with much of their struggles masked by the Mets comebacks. When Seth Lugo allows a run, you know things are going bad for the bullpen. Of course, with Lugo being Lugo, he rebounded from the Juan Soto homer to close out the win.
17. Soto has joined Anthony Rendon in being Mets killers. If the Mets didn’t step up Friday and Saturday night, those two really were in a position to bury the Mets chances of making this miracle run.
18. Speaking of Mets killers, Edwin Diaz has been one of those. He has been worse than anyone could have possible imagined. He’s already lost his role as the full-time closer, and now there are rumblings the Mets should consider demoting him to Triple-A to get straightened out. Of course, that happens the same weekend Jarred Kelenic is promoted to Double-A.
19. One of the brightest spots all weekend was Jeurys Familia striking out the side on Sunday. Whether this is the Mets straightening him out or his stepping up in a big moment, it was a great thing to see, and it gives the Mets some hope for the future, especially if Diaz is not ready to really contribute for the rest of the year.
20. The Braves have not had a good August with a 6-5 record. That record looks all the more suspect when you consider they split four game series with the Reds and Marlins. This has helped keep the Mets alive in the division race, and now, the Mets have a real opportunity to go to Atlanta and go from alive to being a real threat.
This game almost down to a questionably managed inning by Mickey Callaway (Brodie texting) in the sixth, bit things got crazy in the ninth.
Everything started with his sticking with Marcus Stroman.
Stroman started the night with electric stuff and was untouchable for the first three innings. He then lost it for three batters allowing an Adam Eaton single, Anthony Rendon RBI triple, and a Juan Soto homer.
After that third, Stroman pitches three more scoreless partially because of an absolute Houdini act in the sixth.
Soto led off that sixth with a double. He should have scored when Matt Adams hit a ball deflected by Pete Alonso into right field. Despite the third base coach waiving him in, Soto stopped there. He wouldn’t get past that point even though runners were at the corners with no outs.
Air Amed. pic.twitter.com/dtDsBswPvz
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 10, 2019
At the end of five and a half innings, the score was tied at three with the Mets three runs coming in the fourth when Alonso and J.D. Davis went back-to-back.
Two legends. 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/IBqyubp8lb
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 10, 2019
Strasburg was more dominant than Stroman on the night. Those were just two of the four hits he would allow the entire night. The other two came in the bottom of the sixth in the Mets owned botched chance.
Rosario and Conforto led off the bottom of the sixth with consecutive singles setting up runners at the corners with no outs. This was the Mets chance to take the lead. They didn’t as Alonzo lined out to second, Davis striking out, and Wilson Ramos grounding out.
The Davis strikeout was a particularly egregious call. Down 0-2, he did well to work the count full. The eighth pitch appeared close (possibly too close to take), but that didn’t matter. Despite Davis barely taking the bat off his shoulder, the first base umpire ruled he swung. Strike three.
At that point, Stroman was at 102 pitches. Instead of going right to the bullpen, Stroman was asked to get Trea Turner. Like he did in Turner’s previous at-bat, Stroman lost him and walked him.
Now, the pitcher’s spot was due up third in the bottom half of the inning. The Mets bench is exceedingly weak, and a double switch would require lifting Davis, who is the team’s hottest hitter.
With that in mind, Callaway trusted Justin Wilson to get through the rest of the inning. Things started off well with Eaton striking out. Now, Seth Lugo was tossing, but Callaway stuck with Wilson against Rendon. With Soto on deck and Rendon 0-5 against Wilson plus the pitchers spot up third, you could understand. It just didn’t work out well as Rendon hit a go-ahead two run homer.
As bleak as things looked then, they looked worse when Turner struck again in the top of the ninth. He led off the inning with a single, moved to second on an Eaton single, and he took third off McNeil on a shallow fly to right.
Luis Avilan threw one in the dirt which didn’t get too far from Ramos. Turner read it perfectly and scored easily.
After a Davis double and Ramos single, runners were at the corners with no outs. Todd Frazier has been incredibly cold of late, but there’s still pop in his bat. We saw that with him launching an unexpected game tying three run homer:
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 10, 2019
Unlike the old adage, the homer did not end the rally.
Joe Panik kept things going with a single up the middle. The Mets, who never learn, had Juan Lagares pinch hit to bunt. In typical Lagares fashion, he botched the bunt allowing Rendon to get the force out at second.
After McNeil flew out, Rosario singled. Lost in this game was how great Rosario was tonight. He made the leaping catch to keep the game tied in the sixth. He was 3-for-5 at the plate. He was arguably the Mets best player on the night. He’d get overlooked because of Frazier’s game tying homer, and Conforto’s first walk-off hit.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 10, 2019
So much for Conforto not being able to hit left-handers or hit in the clutch. So much for not recognizing how great a player he is.
This was a GREAT 7-6 win. Great. The Mets absolutely stole one. They rose to this challenge, and they’re dangerous right now. They may have started this run beating up on bad teams, but they’ve now continued it ripping the heart right out of the chest of a good team who got a great pitching performance from their best healthy starter.
This past week the New York Mets could not bring themselves to trust Donnie Hart or Chris Mazza to close out a five run ninth inning lead against the worst team in the National League. There were two opportunities to use them, and the Mets passed each time. More than anything, this was a sign the Mets were 1-2 arms short in the bullpen and something needed to be done.
Yes, Brach has walked an inordinate amount of batters this year. Part of that is the fact Willson Contreras has been one of the wort pitch framers in all of baseball with a -8.5 FRAA. This follows a year in which he was a -15.4 FRAA. Yes, Wilson Ramos has been bad behind the dish, but his -7.1 FRAA is still an improvement. With Ramos being better and Tomas Nido being a good framer, Brach will be getting some help on that front.
More than the walks, Brach still has the ability to get batters out. He has struck out 10.6 per nine which is is best mark since his 2016 All Star season. As noted by Baseball Savant, there are issues like barrels and exit velocity, but there are other factors like his fastball velocity and spin rate which provide hope.
On the hope front, it should be noted Brach had a very similar season last year with his struggling with the Orioles. He was moved to the Braves as the trade deadline, and he turned things back on after the trade. In his 27 games for the Braves, he was 1-2 with a 1.52 ERA, 1.310 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, and an 8.4 K/9.
Overall, by career ERA, August has historically Brach’s second best month of the season. If that proves true, and his career worst .375 BABIP stabilize (.291 career BABIP), things are really looking up for Brach, and that is before he gets to make adjustments working with Mickey Callaway, Phil Regan, and Ricky Bones.
At a minimum, Brach is another arm to the equation, and he is likely one who will be used unlike Mazza, who is still on the roster, or Hart, who was optioned to Syracuse. Unlike those other two relievers, Brach has Major League success, and with that comes some hope for upside.
Now, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Panik has not been good this year. In fact, this is the worst season of his career by any measure. He has a career worst batting average, SLG, OPS, OPS+, wRC+, and WAR. With his having a -0.4 WAR and a 69 wRC+, you can understand the Giants trading for Scooter Gennett and releasing Panik.
Even with Panik not being good enough for a Giants team who held onto Madison Bumgarner with the hopes of getting a Wild Card spot in Bruce Bochy‘s last season, it does not mean Panik is not an upgrade over what the Mets currently have.
The Mets current second base options are worse than Panik at the plate. Adeiny Hechavarria (62 wRC+) and Luis Guillorme (2 wRC+) have been worse at the plate. You could argue putting Jeff McNeil at second base is a better move, but Juan Lagares (40 wRC+) and Aaron Altherr (-33 wRC+) are probably even worse options than Hechavarria, Guillorme, or Panik.
Arguably, you get more defense at second with Hechavarria (1 DRS) and Guillorme (1 DRS), but Panik is no slouch. He is a former Gold Glove winner, and he has a 0 DRS. Ultimately, when you take the combination of the defense and the bat, Panik is a steadier presence at second.
It should also be noted like with Brach, Panik is historically very good in August with his career triple slash line being better in August than any other month. While it has been just five games, that has proven true so far this year. Overall, Panik finishes seasons well, and the Mets need someone who can finish this season well at second to help propel them into the postseason.
Ultimately, bringing Brach and Panik back home on the roster makes the Mets a significantly improved team. That’s the case even with Brach and Panik not being very good players this year. In some ways, you can treat this as an indictment of the Mets. However, it’s not about that. Right now, the only thing we should care about is the Mets improving. With Brach and Panik, the Mets are improved. With them being improved, they’re in a better position to make the postseason.