Jose Reyes

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.

A Bizarre Split Doubleheader 

You knew it was going to be a strange day when Keith Hernandez showed up during the first end of the doubleheader wearing an Underdog shirt:

  

We would then see Noah Syndergaard give up an unearned run in the second when Syndergaard made an errant throw allowing Yadier Molina to score. The Cardinals scored a run that inning without a ball leaving the infield. Perhaps stranger than that was seeking Jedd Gyorko hit a two run bomb to left the following inning to give the Cardinals a 3-0 lead. For the day, Syndergaard would pitch six innings allowing three runs, two earned, and three walks with eight strikeouts. 

Of course, all of the Mets offense would come off a Rene Rivera two run homer in the fourth. After that hilarity would ensue. 

There was Curtis Granderson of all people throwing out a runner at the plate (with the really throw from Kelly Johnson). It’s bizarre that the Cardinals sent Matt Adams, who just might be slower than James Loney. It’s even stranger when you consider that earlier in the game the human windmill Tim Teufel held Jose Reyes at third when he could’ve scored off a Yoenis Cespedes two out double. 

Speaking of Cespedes, he had quite the juggling act in the outfield in the sixth: 

Then there were the curious decisions like Terry Collins keeping Wilmer Flores on the bench while sending James Loney and Johnson up to bat in the eighth against Cardinals lefty Kevin Siegrist. They weren’t able to muster a rally. 

The Mets would start a rally in the ninth with a Granderson leadoff single off new Cardinals closer Seung-hwan Oh. That rally would end when Granderson tagged up on Cardinals center fielder Tommy Pham after a deep Cespedes fly out:

After a Loney fly out, the Mets lost 3-2. The second game of the doubleheader would be much calmer, but it would still nevertheless be strange. 

For starters, the spark plug of the Mets offense in the game was Alejandro De Aza. De Aza would go 1-1 with a double, a walk with two runs. Even more bizarre is that he would be driven in both times by Asdrubal Cabrera

In the third, Cabrera followed a De Aza double with a double of his own striking an 0 for his last 697,597,475,491 streak (actually, it was 0-32). In the fifth, Cabrera would hit a sac fly to score De Aza from third. 

The other run would score when Loney hit into a fourth inning double play scoring Flores. Flores was on third because he hit a leadoff double, and he moved to third when Randal Grichuk flat out dropped a ball in right field off the bat of Neil Walker. Considering how he’s been playing lately, it’s just about the only way Walker can reach base. He would go 0-2 with a walk on the night. 

These three runs were enough for Bartolo Colon who was terrific tonight after pitching to a 7.36 ERA and allowing batters to hit .338/.386/.662 against him over his last three starts. Naturally, on this night, Colon only allowed one earned on three hits with no walks and eighth strikeouts. Of course, he would out pitch Syndergaard tonight in the Mets 3-1 win. 

Finally, in the sixth inning, things began to calm down. Collins made a curious decision to allow Colon to bat in the sixth with the bases loaded and two outs. Collins eschewed the chance to blow the game open. 

Then in the eighth and ninth, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia shut down the Cardinals to preserve the win. 

After all that craziness, the Mets and Cardinals split the doubleheader. The end result was nothing changed between them in the Wild Card standings. The Mets stayed a half game up on the Cardinals with the runner game tomorrow. 

Game Notes: Josh Smoker was called up to be the 26th man in the second game of the doubleheader. He would not make an appearance. 

Great Day to Be a Mets Fan

On a typical Sunday, I’ll catch the first few innings on the car radio. Not today. We got out of the house earlier than usual to ensure we’d be home in time for my son and I to watch not only the Mets game, but also Mike Piazza‘s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Everywhere we went, Mets were talking about how excited they were for both an important game against the Marlins, but also to see Piazza join Tom Seaver as the only Mets players in the Hall of Fame. My son got caught up in the excitement as well singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “Meet the Mets.”  However, he was most excited when he got his lemonade. Check that, he took my peach jalapeño sticking me with the Strawberry one. 

  
It’s a big Mets day, I’ll call it my Darryl Strawberry one. 

Naturally, we started with the Mets game as Piazza wasn’t at the podium. By the way, God bless whoever created picture-in-picture. The Mets game got off to a great start with Michael Conforto showing that he just might be able to play well in center field:

Then, in the third, Jose Reyes would hit a two out RBI triple scoring Conforto, who was actually in scoring position. The Mets had a 1-0 lead, and soon it would be time to tune in to watch Piazza officially become a Hall of Famer:

  
His speech was perfect. 

He touched on everything you would want him to touch upon.  He spoke glowingly about his boyhood idol Mike Schmidt and how Johnny Bench was the standard bearer at the position.  He thanked everyone on the Dodgers including Tommy LaSordaEric Karros, and Tom Candiotti. He talks about how great it was growing up as a Dodger before talking poignantly about what it meant to him to be a Met. 

He talked about how John Franco welcomed him into his home and gave him his #31. He talked about his on and off the field relationship with Al Leiter. He spoke about how clutch Edgardo Alfonzo was making it easier for him to do what he did, which was hit big homers including the post 9/11 home run. 

But like the most of the speech, Piazza deflected the attention away from himself. Instead, he talked about the real heroes were those that gave their lives on 9/11. Much like the moment he hit that home run, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house – Cooperstown, yours, and mine. 

His acknowledgment of Mets fans was also touching. It’s something that’s not always seen in Hall of Fame speeches. It was touching to hear he loved us as we loved him.

All while this was happening, Steven Matz was back in form, and he was mowing down the Marlins. I barely noticed him pitching six innings allowing four runs, none earned, and two walks with six strikeouts. By the time, I was fully re-engaged in the game I mostly ignored in the picture-in-picture, Hansel Robles was on the mound. 

Robles did what he has done for most of the year and shut down the opposition. He seems to have been given the seventh inning job, and he has it locked down. 

In the top of the eighth, the Mets finally got some insurance. Yoenis Cespedes singled home Alejandro De Aza, who had reached base on a wild pitch by Kyle Barraclough after striking out. Seriously, how else would De Aza reach base?  James Loney singled home Curtis Granderson. The Mets seemed poised for more after a Kelly Johnson walk. However, Asdrubal Cabrera hit into a force out with Cespedes out at home (initially ruled safe, but it was overturned on replay) making him 0-32 in his last 32 at bats with runners in scoring position. Juan Lagares then lined out to end the rally. 

Lagares had come on for defense in place of Conforto in the seventh. Conforto has played well before the seventh showing he could be a viable option going forward. He also had a nice day at the plate going 2-2 with a run scored. 

After eight, it was 3-0 Mets which was a lot more support than Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia needed. Reed and Familia shut the door giving the Mets a 3-0 win putting them a half-game behind the Marlins. It was Familia’s 34th straight save this year and 51 straight dating back to last year. 

It put the end to what was a great day to be a Mets fan. 

Stanton Owns deGrom

Fun fact: Giancarlo Stanton absolutely crushes Jacob deGrom:

How do you hit the scoreboard in that park?  It’s bigger than Yosemite. That ball travelled 441 feet, and it gave the Marlins a 3-2 lead. 

Stanton would follow with an RBI single in the fourth expanding the lead to 4-2. On the year, Stanton is 5-5 with three homers against deGrom this year. 

It was part of a night that saw deGrom get chased early from the game.  In his prior starts, his velocity seemed to be increasing, but in the fourth inning it dropped to the 90-91 MPH range. After he departed in the fourth, Seth Lugo would walk Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich back-to-back thereby walking in a run which was charged to deGrom. deGrom’s final line would be 3.2 innings, 10 hits, five earned, one walk, and five strike outs. This outing would raise deGrom’s ERA from 2.38 to 2.76. 

For his part, Lugo would finally allow his first earned run in the majors when Prado hit a fifth inning RBI single scoring Adeiny Hechavarria

It should be noted Lugo was double-switched into the game along with Alejandro De Aza as Terry Collins seems to be the only person remaining who has faith in De Aza. De Aza took over for Juan Lagares, who started the game despite the Marlins starting the right-hander Jose Fernandez. Lagares was presumably starting as Yoenis Cespedes is still dealing with the quad, and the Mets didn’t want to see Curtis Granderson in center again. 

Eventually, the game got out of hand. As a result, we got to see Antonio Bastardo pitch two innings only allowing a run (minor miracle). It got out of hand enough for Collins to put Michael Conforto in center in the bottom of the sixth. He would get only one chance catching an Ozuna pop out with aplomb. 

Conforto getting an opportunity in center was about the only good thing that happened on the night. Jose Reyes continued his struggles against righties going 1-5. Asdrubal Cabrera channeled his inner Gregg Jefferies going 0-2 with runners in scoring position stretching his streak to 0-31 (Jefferies was 0-37). Neil Walker continued to be Neil Walker. All that combined, and you get a 7-2 loss. 

Game Notes: The Mets two runs came off a Cespedes third inning RBI single followed by a James Loney sacrifice fly. 

Vintage Miami Reyes

When the Mets brought back Jose Reyes, they were hoping his being back I his old haunts would bring out the best in him. It turns out the Mets theory was right, but the location was wrong. He just needed to go back to Marlins Park instead of Citi Field. 

Right from the first at bat of the game, it was vintage Reyes. He led off with a double off Marlins starter Adam Conley. After stealing third, he would score on a Yoenis Cespedes sacrifice fly. Before Logan Verrett would throw a pitch, it was 1-0 Mets. 

In the fourth, the Mets would rally with Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares each getting a base hit. With two outs, it seemed like Conley was going to wriggle his way out of it until Reyes hit a chopper over the head of the third baseman Miguel Rojas scoring d’Arnaud to make it 2-0. With how well Verrett was pitching, it seemed like that would be enough. 

Coming into tonight’s game, Verrett had only allowed one earned run against the Marlins in 13 innings. Heading into the sixth inning, that streak went to 18 innings. The streak ended there when Christian Yelich hit a game tying two run home run. He would be lifted for Hansel Robles, who would of course get out of the inning further unscathed. Verrett’s final line would be 5.1 innings, four hits, two earned, one walk, and three strikeouts. 

Reyes would get back to work in the seventh with a leadoff single. He then went from first to third on a Curtis Granderson single. Reyes scored again on another Cespedes sacrifice fly. It gave the Mets a 3-2 lead, and it would give Robles his fifth win of the year after he pitched 1.2 scoreless innings. 

James Loney provided some insurance runs with a two run ninth inning home run off Fernando Rodney to give the Mets a 5-2 lead. Loney had come on for defense for Wilmer Flores in the eighth. It turned out to be avoid move. With the Mets bullpen, that would be the final score. 
Naturally, Addison Reed pitched a scoreless eighth, and Jeurys Familia would earn the save. It was his 34th straight save this season, and his 50th straight save dating back to last year. It was interesting as Cespedes lost one in the lights, and Familia walked Giancarlo Stanton to make it two on and no out. Familia struck out the next two before Martin Prado‘s RBI single making it 5-3. Adeiny Hechavarria would then ground out to end the game. 

Overall, the story of the night was Reyes. On the night, he was 3-5 with two runs, a double, an RBI, and a stolen base. He was terrific in the field even atoning for a fourth inning throwing error by starting the 5-4-3 double play. 

Game Notes: Even when Alejandro De Aza does something right, he falters. After drawing a walk, he was then thrown out trying to steal second. It should be noted at that time, Terry Collins had pretty much every left-handed batter at his disposal, and he still went with De Aza in a one run game. 

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. 

The RISP Issue

Time and time again, we have all seen the Mets fail to get a base hit with a runner in scoring position.  It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Mets woeful .207 team batting average with runners in scoring position is the worst in all of Major League Baseball.  It is 53 points lower than the .260 league average and 89 points lower than the St. Louis Cardinals .296 team batting average with runners in scoring position.  It gets worse.  The Mets have a .288 team OPB with runners in scoring position, which is again the worst in the Major Leagues.  This is 49 points lower than the league average .337 OBP with runners in scoring position, and it is 90 points lower than the St. Louis Cardinals league leading .378 team OBP with runners in scoring position.

At this point, what usually follows is a debate between traditional fans and fans that follow more of a stats based approach.  Traditional fans believe hitting with runners in scoring position is a real skill set, and if a team is unable to hit with runners in scoring position, a team will be unable to score runs.  Stat based fans will tell you hitting with runners in scoring position isn’t an actual skill, and like anything else, everything tends to regress to the mean.  Regardless of your point-of-view, all fans tend to subscribe to the back of the baseball card concept wherein players tend to play to their seasonal averages on a year-in and year-out basis.  With that common ground in mind, here are how the current Mets players have fared with runners in scoring position along with the amount of times they have come up this year with a runner in scoring position:

Player PA 2016 Career
Asdrubal Cabrera 70 .180 .256
Eric Campbell 19 .125 .168
Yoenis Cespedes 70 .254 .301
Michael Conforto 56 .250 .256
Travis d’Arnaud 24 .182 .224
Alejandro De Aza 23 .050 .294
Lucas Duda 34 .185 .235
Wilmer Flores 41 .297 .270
Curtis Granderson 73 .274 .242
Kelly Johnson 50 .214 .261
Ty Kelly 10 .111 .111
Juan Lagares 21 .158 .271
James Loney 37 .281 .302
Brandon Nimmo 11 .200 .200
Kevin Plawecki 30 .240 .274
Jose Reyes 8 .167 .285
Matt Reynolds 12 .250 .250
Rene Rivera 31 .259 .235
Neil Walker 75 .254 .276
David Wright 38 .226 .293

* Kelly Johnson’s stats includes his 2016 stats from his 49 games with the Braves this year

While much of the ills of the season has been pinned on Campbell, Kelly, and Reynolds, the three of them have combine for only 41 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.  To that end, another scapegoat, De Aza, has not hit whatsoever with runners in scoring position.  These four batters have combined for 63 plate appearances which is still less than the plate appearances the either Cabrera, Cespedes, Granderson, or Walker have had individually this year.

Of that group, Granderson is the only batter who is hitting well with runners in scoring position.  In fact, he is the only one who is hitting higher than his career average with runners in scoring position.  Considering the fact that Cabrera has not gotten a hit with a runner in scoring position since April, it should be no surprise that he is the biggest culprit of the group.

The one encouraging sign is that most of these Mets players are underachieving with runners in scoring position. If these players finish the rest of the year producing at the rate they have done throughout their careers, this Mets team will start to score many more runs. 

 

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. 

There’s an “S” in RISP

One thing that has become apparent with this Mets offense is they forgot there is an “S” in RISP because time and again runners find their way to second and third only to die. It was more of the same tonight. 

The Mets were 0-7 with RISP. The team left seven runners on base in a game they lost 5-1. This includes, but is not limited to, the two runners left on base when Travis d’Arnaud hit into a 4-4-3 game ending double play. Coming into the night, he was hitting .190 with runners in scoring position. 

This includes Neil Walker striking out in in a critical eighth inning spot where he came to the plate as the tying run. Coming into the game, he was hitting .258 with runners in scoring position. The fact that it is higher than his batting average tells you how his season has gone since April. 

It includes Asdrubal Cabrera grounding into a double play killing a two on no out rally in the second with the score tied at zero. He’s now 0 for his last 28 with runners in scoring position. 

The other Mets who failed to get a hit with runners in scoring position tonight were Juan Lagares (.167), Curtis Granderson (.150), Yoenis Cespedes (.259), and Jose Reyes. As usual, the Mets couldn’t score a run unless someone hit a homer. In fact, the only run the Mets scored on the night was a Wilmer Flores solo shot off Jon Lester in the seventh. Unfortunately, with the Mets not hitting with runners in scoring position, it was too little too late. 

With the Mets struggles with runners in scoring position, the game was effectively over when Anthony Rizzo hit a three run third inning home run off Steven Matz. Matz’s final line would be five innings, eight hits, four earned, one walk, and five strikeouts. Again, he is not the same pitcher with the bone spurs as it is preventing him from incorporating his slider. Matz is now 0-7 in his last seven decisions. 

Making things worse was a ball going through Cespedes’ wickets in the bottom of the eighth. Albert Amora hit a single to left that most likely would’ve scored Matt Szczur, who had previously hit a two out double off Erik Goeddel.  Szczur could walk home easy after the ball went between Cespedes’ legs and continued all the way to the ivy. It should be noted, he had a good throw earlier in the game:

Still, there were some positives to the game other than the Flores’ home run. Seth Lugo remains unscored upon in his young career after pitching another two scoreless innings. Michael Conforto made a pinch hitting appearance, and he had a well struck opposite field single. 

Other than that, it was a lost night that leaves you scratching your head about the problems with runners in scoring position.  You need to be concerned about Matz’s pitching. And while it is too early to be concerned, it should be noted the Mets fell to third place in the NL East to the Miami Marlins, who also have sole possession of the second Wild Card as of tonight. 

Wilmer Flores Needs to Play More

When David Wright went down with what is seemingly season ending neck surgery, the Mets were left scrambling to find their long term solution at third base.  Once Wilmer Flores came off of his own stint on the disabled list, he seemed to stake a claim to the position by playing the best baseball he has played in his young career.  In his first 33 games since coming off the disabled list, he hit .294/.345/.461 with five doubles, four homers, and 17 RBI.  He seemed to be fulfilling his promise as a versatile infielder with pop in his bat.

Ultimately, the Mets weren’t convinced.  The team decided to Jose Reyes to play third base for a myriad of reasons including but not limited to the speed dimension to a team who had trouble hitting home runs unless they hit a home run.  With that, Flores was back to being a bench option.

Yes, Flores would start the next three games upon Reyes’ arrival.  He would start at second base in place of Neil Walker against the lefty Wei-Yin Chen, and he was in the starting lineup the following day to give James Loney the day off against the lefty Justin Nicolino.  Flores would be double-switched into a few games, but he wouldn’t make another start until about a week later when the Mets faced the Nationals and Gio Gonzalez.  Essentially, Flores has turned into a platoon player who seemingly will start in place of Loney at first base when there is a lefty on the mound.  Terry Collins’ treatment of Flores is a far cry from the man who proclaimed about a year ago, “If you want to stay in the lineup, you’ve got to start hitting.”  (ESPN).

Since he came off the disabled list, Flores has hit.  He’s hit while the players around him haven’t.  Neil Walker has been mired in a two plus month slump hitting .234/.310/.346 since May 1st. Reyes is hitting .222/.275/.556 in the nine games he has played since supplanting Flores in the lineup. Over their careers, Walker and Reyes have been better players than Flores. Furthermore, with Walker’s April and Reyes’ speed, you can argue they are much more important to the success of the Mets. 

Still, they’re not hitting, and it’s one of many factors that’s hampering the team. From May 29th through July 4th, when Flores was the regular third baseman, the Mets averaged 4.3 runs per game. In the nine games since, the Mets are scoring 3.7 runs per game. In that stretch, the Mets went 4-5 including the team losing three of four to the Nationals. It’s a small sample size, but it’s an important one to keep in mind when Collins removed a productive hitter like Flores from the lineup. 

The Mets are in the middle of a dogfight for one of two Wild Card slots, and they trail the Nationals by six games in the division with less than half a season to play. In order to make the postseason, the Mets need to put their best lineup out there each and every day. Right now, that should include Flores whether he’s playing in place of Reyes who’s still working his way back to form or Walker who’s struggling mightily. 

Until such time as Reyes gets up to speed or Walker figured things out, Flores needs to play everyday.