Juan Lagares

Eight Players The Mets Should Protect

With the NHL having their expansion draft tonight, each of the pre-existing 31 teams will sit and wait to see which one of their players will be selected to became an inaugural member of the Vegas Golden Knights.  With the Golden Knights being required to select one player from each NHL team, each franchise is going to see a player depart their franchise.

Occasionally, there have been discussions MLB will expand.  Whenever that happens, each MLB team will have to go through the same exercise each NHL team just did.  If that were to happen, it would be interesting to see exactly who each MLB team would protect.

In terms of the NHL draft, teams can protect somewhere between eight to 11 skaters and one goaltender depending on who the team decides to protect.  Given an NHL has a maximum roster size of 23 players, the 8 – 11 paradigm is a good framework for a potential MLB expansion draft.

Assuming MLB lands upon eight players, it would be interesting to see who the Mets decided to protect.  Now, where the Mets are lucky is players with less than two service years are automatically protected.  As such, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and any other young player you would consider protecting are already protected.  With that in mind, here are the eight players the Mets should protect should such a draft take place:

1. RHP Noah Syndergaard

Arbitration Eligible: 2018
Free Agent: 2022

Last year, Syndergaard emerged as the ace of the Mets staff with a repertoire that has never been seen by a Major League Starting pitcher.  He has a fastball that tops off at 100 MPH and a slider that he can throw in the mid 90s.  He also has a swagger on the mound, and he gets up for the biggest games.  Again, like Cespedes, this is a no-brainer even with his lat injury this year.

2.  LF Michael Conforto

Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022

Conforto has been around for only three years, but it has been a whirlwind.  In 2015, he was a budding superstar.  In 2016, he had a wrist injury, struggled, and was demoted to Triple-A multiple times.  In 2017, he has emerged as an All Star.  Even with a rough June, there’s reason to believe in Conforto being a budding superstar, including but not limited to his ability to hit left-handed pitching.  Conforto is a foundation piece and should be the Mets right fielder for decades.

3. LF Yoenis Cespedes

Remaining Contract: 3 years $87.5 million

Given the fact players with no trade clauses must be protected in an expansion draft, the Mets would be required to protect Cespedes.  Even if that wasn’t the case, the Mets need to protect Cespedes.  He’s been a superstar with the Mets hitting .286/.354/.565 with 56 homers and 146 RBI since joining the team.  More than that, he puts fans in the seats.  You have to protect him at all costs.

4.  RHP Jacob deGrom

Free Agent: 2021

After an injury riddled year, and some ups and downs this year, deGrom has rediscovered himself, and he’s back to pitching like an ace.  That is evident with his being the National League Pitcher of the Week last week.  We also saw what deGrom was made of during the 2015 NLCS when he outpitched both Clayton Kershaw and Zack GreinkeThere are only a handful of the pitchers on the planet that can do that, and when you have one of them, you don’t let them go.

5.  LHP Steven Matz

Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022

When Matz is healthy, he has the potential to be an ace.  Before his bone spur issues arose in late June last year, Matz was 11-3 with a 2.58 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9.  In his return from season ending surgery, he has pitched well lasting seven innings in both of his starts.  Overall, when he’s healthy, he’s terrific, and he’s not someone you part with so easily.

6. RHP Jeurys Familia

Free Agent: 2019

When you consider the Mets bullpen is in shambles, and they are going to have to rebuild it in totality, the Mets need to keep Familia at all costs.  It is also important to keep in mind that despite his injury this year, Familia has been an absolute work horse for the Mets with his making the most appearances out of the bullpen and pitching the most innings from 2014 – 2016.  If the medical reports are promising, there is every reason to believe Familia can return to being that pitcher again.

7.  C Travis d’Arnaud

Free Agent: 2020

There is every reason to leave him unprotected.  He has regressed in most aspects of his game, and he had yet another stint on the Disabled List this year.  Still, d’Arnaud is a good pitch framer, who still has offensive upside.  Before injuring his wrist, d’Arnaud was hitting .270/.357/.541.  While his stats have dropped precipitously, his .223 BABIP suggests d’Arnaud is due.  More than that, there’s really no better options available.  The catching across Major League Baseball is on a downturn, and you need someone to bridge the gap until Tomas Nido is ready.

8.  3B David Wright

Remaining Contract: 3 years $47 million

As noted above with Cespedes, the Mets would have to protect Wright due to his no trade clause.  Even without it, there is a case for keeping Wright.  Wright is the team captain, and he is the guy you want leaving an impression on Rosario and Smith when they get to the majors.  His contract is insured, so if he can’t play, you can reallocate the money.  More to the point, could you possibly imagine Wright in another uniform?  Me neither.  Is this all a stretch?  Sure, but fact is Wright will remain with the Mets until he finally decides it’s over.

As with any decision like this, there were hard choices.  Matt Harvey has been a cornerstone of the Mets rebuild, but his injuries and impending free agency, you’d be forced to expose him.  Zack Wheeler has had a strong return from the Disabled List, but even before he was injured, he was 18-16 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.339 WHIP, and a 100 ERA+ in 49 career starts.  In 2017, he has not appeared to be more than that.  That coupled with the rise of Gsellman and Lugo as well as other pitchers in the Mets farm system, you could very well expose Wheeler.

Overall, the hypothetical player that would get taken from the Mets roster would be damaging.  That includes Juan Lagares, who is a Gold Glover that showed some promise this year, but still has a terrible contract.  That also includes Wilmer Flores who still doesn’t quite have a position.

With all that said, it does speak to the talent Sandy Alderson has brought to this organization that the Mets could lose one of the aforementioned players and still have a team that could compete for a World Series next year.

What Is There To Even Sell?

After getting outclassed by the Washington Nationals, the Mets are now six games under .500, and they are 10.5 games back in the division.  Things are bleaker in the Wild Card race.  The Mets are now 12 games out of the second Wild Card spot.  One of the teams they are trailing are the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs.  While it may be too early on July 20th to say the season is over, realistically speaking, the Mets really need to consider selling.

Aside from Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, and the core group of starting pitchers, the Mets should look to sell everyone on the major league roster.  The problem is why would anyone want what the Mets are selling?

Travis d’Arnaud has had another injury this year and has regressed in all aspects of his game.  His backup, Rene Rivera has been hitting .162/.205/.297 over his last 10 games.  With Rivera, this isn’t too far from what he’s been his entire career.

Across the infield, the situation is no better.  Lucas Duda has had his typical hot and cold season with him hitting .175/.283/.375 over the past two weeks.  It also doesn’t help that he struggles against left-handed pitching.

Just as Neil Walker was playing great again, he suffered a tear in his hamstring, and he will not be able to come back from the disabled list until after the All Star Break.  That leaves little time for him to get back into form before the trade deadline assuming he is even able to return by then.

Asdrubal Cabrera is having a terrible season.  He has twice landed on the disabled list with a thumb injury.  His already poor range has been further limited.  While he’s always been a second-half hitter, his stats this season lag behind last year’s first half stats.

Flat out, Jose Reyes has been the worst infielder in the major leagues.  With his poor defense, he is little more than a pinch runner.

In the outfield, Curtis Granderson has shaken off his cold start, and he has been much better of late.  However, he’s still hitting .212/.302/.396, and he’s still 36 years old.  If a team were interested in Juan Lagares and his Gold Glove defense, that opportunity has passed with Lagares’ thumb injury.

Outside of Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins, the bullpen has been mostly terrible.  Josh Edgin has had a nice season there, but 30 year old LOOGYs hardly fetch a large haul at the trade deadline.  And for what it’s worth, the Mets still have years of control over Edgin.  He’s more valuable to the team as a pitcher than a trade asset.

Certainly, if the Mets were interested in moving Blevins, many teams would be interested in the LOOGY.  With his outstanding season, he’s probably going to get a larger return than your standard LOOGY, which still won’t be a prospect who will be a major piece of the future.

No, the only two players really capable of that are Reed and Jay Bruce.  With respect to Bruce, the bar has been set fairly high for his return.  Last year, the Mets traded Dilson Herrera, who was seen as an important part of the Mets future, and Max Wotell, who is an interesting left-handed pitching prospect.  If the Mets can match or come near that, they’ve done well.  The problem is Bruce is now a pending free agent making that kind of a return all the more unlikely.

Based on last year’s trade deadline, the Mets can legitimately ask for the moon for Reed.  He’s been great as a Met, and he’s been great this year.  He’s a great eighth inning reliever, and this year, he is showing he can replicate that success as a closer.  At the trade deadline, everyone is looking for relief help meaning everyone should be looking at Reed.

And the Mets better maximize that return because looking at the team as a whole, the Mets aren’t likely to get a whole lot back at the trade deadline.  Certainly, it will be paltry compared to the Yankees haul last year.  The sad part is if these players were playing better, the Mets return might’ve surpassed that.  Then again, if these players were playing that well, we wouldn’t be talking about selling at the trade deadline.

How The Mets Handle Injuries

Ray Ramirez and Barwin Method jokes aside, do we really know who to blame for all of these Mets injuries?  Thi has seemingly been an issue since Pedro Martinez was with the Mets when in three straight seasons the Mets suffered a rash of injuries to their starting rotation.  It should be noted, Pedro put some blame on Jeff Wilpon’s shoulder for making him pitch hurt, but that doesn’t address how Pedro go hurt in the first place.

We saw it again last year with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz needing season ending surgery.  It is happening again this year with Harvey and Matz both landing on the Disabled List.  We also have seen Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Tommy Milone, and Josh Smoker land on the Disabled List.

It goes further than that.  The position players keep getting injured too.  This year, Travis d’Arnaud, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, Asdrubal Cabrera (twice), Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares (twice), and Brandon Nimmo have all landed on the Disabled List.  If you’ll notice, you will have seen many of those names pop up on the Disabled List last year.

There’s a simple reason for that.  Here’s example of how the Mets handle the situtaion:

Maybe if the Mets continue handling training and treatment of injuries the same way, maybe they’ll have a breakthrough. Just like the Futurama clip, it’s not going to happen.

Five Mets Not Alive

Through the first four innings, this was a game. The Nationals got to Robert Gsellman, but the damage wasn’t as bad as it could have been. 

He made two mistakes. The first Bryce Harper hit for a long first inning home run. The second was a Matt Wieters fourth inning double. He came home to score on a Gio Gonzalez single. That’s problematic because Gonzalez is terrific at Citi Field. 

He was again tonight. The Mets had just one hit through the first three innings, and he looked like he was going to make that 2-0 lead stick. 

Still it was only 2-0 because in the third inning, Juan Lagares nailed Harper at the plate:

In the fourth, Yoenis Cespedes and Jay Bruce hit back-to-back one out doubles to bring the Mets within 2-1. Considering how terrible the Nationals bullpen has been, that isn’t a bad position for the Mets.  If they kept it close, you had to like their chances. 

The Mets didn’t keep it close as the Nationals went to work in the fifth inning. 

Daniel Murphy continued to torture the Mets hitting a two run triple with a ball Lucas Duda couldn’t knock down and Jay Bruce couldn’t pick up. Murphy then scored on an Anthony Rendon single that tipped Lagares glove as he dove for it. The Nationals capped off the inning with a Michael Taylor homer. 

At that point, it was 7-1 Nationals. The only thing left was to add some injury to insult. 

Because this is the Mets that happened. On Lagares’ dive, he broke his left thumb, the same one he injured last year. 

It really just kept getting better and better. With Gary, Keith, and Ron discussing Amed RosarioWilmer Flores made an error. With all the injuries the Mets have had, there was a Hospital for Special Surgery advertisement behind home plate. I

After that, there was insult to injury. Rafael Montero came on in the sixth, and he dominated the Nationals. He had three straight 1-2-3 innings, and he struck out three batters. 

All the Mets had to do was keep it close, and they couldn’t do that. The Wilmer Flores homer off Joe Blanton was a stark reminder of that. 

But no, the Mets lost to the Nationals, and they lost badly. With Lagares getting hurt and Neil Walker and Matt Harvey landing on the DL, it’s once again hard to see how things are going to get better.

Game Notes: Rene Rivera hit an opposite field homer in the fifth. Gavin Cecchini struck out in his pinch hitting attempt. Matt Reynolds was scratched from the Vegas lineup meaning he’s likely ticketed for the Mets. 

It Was Juan Grandy Win

This game started just like yesterday’s game with Anthony Rizzo leading off the game with a home run. Then, things were worse than where last night’s game started when Ian Happ followed with a home run of his own to make it 2-0 Cubs before there was an out in the game. 

It seemed Iike things were going to be worse than that. It has become passé to say Matt Harvey didn’t have it, but he really didn’t have it tonight. He was throwing his two seamer in the high 80s. Even when Harvey’s been at his most injured, he was never there. The Cubs would take advantage too. 

Kyle Schwarber was chief among them with this shot OVER the Shea Bridge:

The Cubs would go up 4-1, and Harvey would only last four innings. 

However, unlike last night, the Mets were in this game. 

In the second, the Mets took advantage of an error by Kris Bryant to cut the lead to 2-1. Bryant’s throw in the dirt allowed Jose Reyes to reach safely, and it allowed Jay Bruce to score. 

In the fourth, the Mets loaded the bases with no outs with Harvey due up. Yoenis Cespedes wasnot yet warmed up to play, because, why have all your players ready to play the game.  Michael Conforto likely wasn’t an option with the left-handed starter Mike Montgomery on the mound. Terry Collins opted to go with Steven Matz as the pinch hitter. 

Matz made Collins look like a genius (nah) with an infield single in a ball Javier Baez didn’t get quite cleanly enough. After Juan Lagares‘ sacrifice fly, the Mets rally sputtered, and the Mets went to the fifth inning and their bullpen down 4-3. 

The Mets pitchers contributions were terrific. Matz had the RBI single. Paul Sewald pitched two scoreless. Fernando Salas pitched two-thirds of an inning scoreless. Jerry Blevins had his longest outing of the year pitching 1.1 scoreless innings. Robert Gsellman entered the game as a pinch runner. 

Their collective work allowed the Mets to stay in the game and have a chance to win. 

The chance came when Curtis Granderson earn a lead-off walk. Two outs later and two strikes on Lagares, it appeared as if the Mets might squander the opportunity. Then, Lagares hit a ball off Pedro Strop only Lagares could’ve caught:

The score remained tied until the eighth when Granderson did what Granderson does when the Mets need a huge hit:

The homer ignited the Mets offense.  The next big hit came from Lucas Duda:

As it turns out, Duda wasn’t even supposed to be in the game. With the left-handed starter on the mound, he was on the bench. However, when Neil Walker suffered a leg injury attempting a bunt single, Duda came in the game.

The homer didn’t kill the rally either. The Mets poured it on against Carl Edwards, Jr. Three more hits would follow culminating in a T.J. RBI single to make it 9-4. 

Collins went to Addison Reed to close out the game.  It wasn’t easy with the Cubs loading the bases with two outs and Rizzo coming to the plate. Rizzo grounded out, and the Mets won 9-4. 

This was a huge win in front of a huge series this weekend. Things are definitely looking up for this Mets team. 

Game Notes: Walker is getting an MRI tomorrow and is likely DL bound. Gavin Cecchini was held out of the 51s game, and he looks like he will get the call once Walker is put on the DL. Granderson’s eighth inning home run was the 300th of his career. 


Cubs Maul The Mets

This game was probably over as soon as Anthony Rizzo lead off the game with a homer. If it wasn’t then, it was over in the second inning. Zack Wheeler just didn’t have it, and he got knocked out in the second inning. His final line was 1.2 innings, six hits, eight runs, eight earned, three walks, and three strikeouts. 

It was irresponsible for Terry Collins to leave Wheeler in as long as he did. After missing two years due to Tommy John surgery, he let Wheeler throw 46 pitches in the fourth inning. 

Look at it this way, Wheeler loaded the bases, walked in a run, and then allowed a grand slam to Ian Happ to make it 6-1. Collins left him in to put on two more runners who scored on an Addison Russell bases clearing double making it 8-1. 

Then Collins went to Josh Smoker, and he abused his arm. Smoker threw 81 pitches over four innings. That’s 40 pitches more than his career high. 

Sure you don’t want to burn your bullpen in these games, but you don’t risk a player’s health. Smoker is a guy who can get it up to 98 MPH. By the time he was pulled, he was struggling to hit 89 MPH. This gets pitchers hurt, and it’s inexcusable. Yes, it’s even inexcusable when a pitcher has a 7.45 ERA. You don’t mess with careers for one game.

By the way, it was unnecessary. The bullpen is rested with the last four Mets starters pitching into the seventh, and Jacob deGrom throwing a complete game yesterday. 

At least Collins wasn’t irresponsible with everyone.  Yoenis Cespedes was lifted after the fifth because the Mets were losing 8-1. 

It was that type of night. Gary, Keith, and Ron broke out the baseball cards. Keith was sighing loudly into the mic. Darling was taking pot shots at sabermetrians. Both Smoker and Neil Ramirez pitched. 

But you know what?  The Mets deserved this loss. Joe Maddon tried to wake up his team and get them going by mixing up the lineup. That included hitting Rizzo lead-off. 

On the Mets part, Jose Reyes played in his fifth straight game. And guess what, he’s going to play in at least nine more because Asdrubal Cabrera went on the DL with a thumb injury. Yes, it is the same thing that landed him in the DL earlier this year. 

Rather than the Mets using as an opportunity to call up Amed Rosario, the Mets said, “We’re good with Reyes hitting under the Mendoza Line and playing bad defense.”  

Organizations like that deserve to lose 14-3. 

However, this Mets roster deserves better. They’re a high character group that doesn’t give in. This was evident when Jay Bruce robbed Kyle Schwarber of a homer in a 12-1 game in the eighth inning. 

To make matters worse, the Nationals pen didn’t blow another one, so the Mets fell to 9.5 games out. 

Game Notes: Michael Conforto missed a second straight game with a back issue. With the left-handed Jon Lester on the mound, Juan Lagares got the start in center and lead-off. He went 1-4 scoring a run on a Cespedes first inning double. Neil Walker and Lucas Duda hit back-to-back homers in the ninth. 

Lugo Reminds Us What We Were Missing

At the end of last year, Seth Lugo was everything the Mets needed.  He was a terrific arm in the bullpen who made Anthony Rizzo look downright silly with one of his curveballs.  He transitioned to the starting rotation after the rash of injuries, and he was terrific there too.  Overall, Lugo had a largely unheralded season going 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.097 WHIP.

The offseason was a different season.  Many an article was written about the majesty of Lugo’s curveball.  In the World Baseball Classic, he was the ace of a Puerto Rican team that went all the way to the championship game.  As the team ace, Lugo dazzled with his full repertoire, curveball included.  The amazing thing to think watching his was that arm wasn’t good enough to crack the Mets starting rotation.

Then disaster struck not just to Lugo, but the Mets team as a whole.  Lugo went down, and the Mets starters either were injured or under-performed.   Lugo, who was once seen as a luxury for a Mets team purportedly deep in pitching, was now seen as a necessity.  The team needed him back, and they needed him back in the rotation.  They needed him to be the pitcher he was at the end of 2016.  Ideally, they wanted the pitcher they saw in the World Baseball Classic.

Yesterday, we saw Lugo go out there and dominate.  For a Mets team that has struggled to get their pitchers past the fifth inning, Lugo pitched seven innings, and he needed just 90 pitches to do so.  It wasn’t a mirage either.  Lugo did to the Braves what he did all of last year.

For those that forget, Lugo is a throwback.  He doesn’t max out on every pitch.  He pitches to contact because he’s the type of pitcher who is comfortable the opposition is not going to hit him very hard.  When he gets in trouble, he adds a little more to his fastball, and he increases his curveball rate.  This is a major reason why he is able to consistently get out of trouble.

The best example of that was the fifth inning.  After Lugo walked Matt Kemp, the Braves had bases loaded with no outs, and Matt Adams coming to the plate.  In that spot, Lugo did his job.  He got the ground ball from the slow footed Adams he needed.

That play was also reminiscent of what led the 2016 Mets to the postseason.  As we have seen time and time again, Asdrubal Cabrera has little to no range at shortstop.  His real value is being able to make the plays at short that he can get field.  Him and Neil Walker combine to make a veteran up the middle combination that do everything they can to ensure they can turn that double play.  There was no wasted motion by either infielder, which helped them JUST get Adams to get out of the inning preserving the 2-1 lead.

The Mets got the 2-1 lead by playing some small ball.  Michael Conforto led off the game with a double off Braves starter Jaime GarciaJuan Lagares followed by sacrificing him to third, and Conforto would score on a Wilmer Flores sacrifice fly.  It was the old get’em on, get ’em over, and get ’em in type of baseball.  It may not always be the most effective way to score runs, but when executed as perfectly as the Mets did in the first inning, it has its own beauty.

In the third inning, Lugo helped himself hitting a one out double, and he moved to second on a Conforto ground out.  Lagares came up, and he did what he needed to do most in that spot.  He put the ball in play.  Lagares hit a chopper to the left of Braves third baseman Johan Camargo who made a diving stop, but there was no throw.  You can debate whether it was Camargo never quite fully getting control of the ball or Lagares’ speed.  Either which way, Lagares got what was the game winning hit.

From there, the Mets had base runners in every inning but the eighth inning.  However, they could not push the insurance runs across the plate.  The seminal moment was the ninth inning.  Jose Ramirez quickly put Walker and Cabrera on.  After two quick outs, Curtis Granderson hit a pinch hit infield single to load the bases.  This seemed like a big spot for Conforto.  It wasn’t.

The Braves went to Ian Krol, and the Mets countered with Yoenis Cespedes.  Look, it’s easy to criticize Collins in this spot.  Conforto was 2-4 with a double in the game.  He’s a much better hitter against left-handed pitching this year hitting .265/.390/.559 off of them this year.  Collins was taking out a hitter going well for a cold hitter just off the Disabled List.  But, this is Cespedes.  Right now, it’s a fair debate over who is the better hitter right now.  With the way Krol has been dominating left-handed batter this year, Cespedes was the right choice.  His popping out to end the inning doesn’t change that.

With the lack of insurance runs, that meant the game was now in the hands of the Mets defense and bullpen.  For most of the season, this has spelled disaster.  Today, it worked.

Cabrera made a nice diving stop to get out of the seventh.  With Nick Markakis and Adams due up in the eighth, Collins was able to go to Jerry Blevins for a full inning, and he pitched a perfect inning.  Addison Reed, who has been much better of late, came on to pitch a perfect ninth for his 11th save.

Just like that, the Mets look like the team we expected them to be.  The veterans are playing solid if not spectacular baseball.  The starting pitching is going deep into games.  The left-handed batters can’t hit Blevins.  Reed looks like the dominant reliever he has been since joining the Mets.  The Mets are dominating bad baseball teams like the Braves.

As good as this feels right now, we’re about to find out if this team is for real with the Cubs and Nationals coming into town.

Game Notes: Jose Reyes started for the third time in this series.  He’s now in a 2-30 streak and his -1.1 WAR is the second worst among National League infielders.  This is the first time all season three Mets pitchers pitched into the seventh inning in consecutive games.

 

Cespedes Grand And Pitching Goes Deep In Sweep

Well, this was exactly how the Mets drew it up. Dominant starting pitching and an offense to match. They only thing missing was the players capable of doing it. 

Now that Yoenis Cespedes and Steven Matz are back, the Mets are in position to once again dominate lesser opponents like the Braves. 

But either Cespedes or Matz had an impact in this double header, Robert Gsellman made his latest case as to why the Mets should keep him in the rotation. 

Gsellman flat out dominated the Braves over 6.1 innings allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out four. It was his latest big start after he had been temporarily moved to the bullpen due to his early season struggles. 

The Mets needed that start too. They needed it because the Mets bullpen has been a mess. They needed it because of the double header. They needed it because Sean Newcomb was dealing for the Braves. 

The Mets were only able to scratch one run against him in the second with the assistance of a throwing error from Newcomb. T.J. Rivera hit a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0. Mets had to wait until the eighth to get another real threat going. 

The Mets had second and third with no outs against Luke Jackson after he hit Michael Conforto with a pitch, Cespedes singled, and Jackson threw a wild pitch. Ender Inciarte took what was a sure extra base hit and turned it into a Wilmer Flores sacrifice fly. 

The Mets had Jackson and the Braves on the ropes, but they left him off the hook. Then Fernando Salas allowed an eighth inning homer to Brandon Phillips, and he needed to get bailed out by Addison Reed, who was coming on for the five out save partially because Terry Collins ripped through his bullpen yet again. 

The ominous tone of the game, and perhaps the season changed with one swing of the bat:

Just like that, it was 6-1, but it was more than that.  The Mets were rejuvenated. They won the first game, and then they went out and dominated the second game. 

Like the first game of the double header, it all began with the starter. Matz pitched seven innings allowing just one run. That one run was in the seventh, but by that time, the game was already over. 

Jay Bruce hit a three run homer in the fifth off Matt Wisler. Somehow in the sixth, Flores hit a triple, and he scored on a Travis d’Arnaud sacrifice fly making it 4-0. 
T.J. Rivera provided insurance with an eighth inning two run homer. In the ninth, Juan Lagares hit a two run double making it 8-1. That’s a lead not even Neil Ramirez or Tyler Pill could blow. 
That’s how different things are with Cespedes back in the fold. The Mets are scoring insurance runs, and their bullpen doesn’t blow leads. 

Overall, it was a double header sweep where the Mets dominated the Braves. The Mets looked like the team many thought they would be to start the year. Both starters pitched into the seventh. There was a different vibe around this team. At least for one day, you believed this team still has some life. 

Game Notes: Neil Walker returned from the stiff knee and played in both games starting the second. Cespedes was the 26th man. Rivera and Pill were sent down after the game to accommodate Matz and Seth Lugo being activated from the disabled list. Flores, Jose Reyes, and Conforto were the only players to start both games. Asdrubal Cabrera committed two errors. 

Collins Decision Has Blevins Vulturing Wheeler

Tonight, it was a battle of the aces. For the Rangers, it was Yu Darvish who is having another fine season. For the Mets, it was Zack Wheeler. Yes, Zack Wheeler. 

While we watch Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom struggle, and with Noah Syndergaard gone for most of the year, it has been Wheeler. He’s been the most consistent starter, and he’s getting better as the season progresses. 

Tonight’s start was a microcosm of Wheeler’s season. In the first, the Rangers loaded the bases with no outs, but they only came away with one run on a Nomar Mazara RBI groundout. It was initially ruled a double play, but upon replay, he was ruled safe. It didn’t matter much, as Wheeler got out of the inning by inducing Robinson Chirinos to hit into the inning ending double play. 

From there, Wheeler was brilliant. He mowed down the Rangers, and he pitched into the seventh.  The Rangers put Wheeler on the ropes with runners on first and second with two out, and Delino DeShields coming to the plate. At that point in the game, DeShields was 2-2 with a run and a walk.  Despite this, Wheeler dug deep, and on his 108th pitch of the night, he got DeShields to fly out to right. 

The 108 pitches matched a season high for Wheeler. His final line on the night was seven innings, six hits, one run, one earned, three walks, and five strikeouts. Simply put, he was terrific. 

On the opposite side, Darvish probably had better stuff. He was perfect through three, and the Mets didn’t look like they had much of a chance on the night. Things changed in the fourth. 

Michael Conforto got hit by a pitch in the dirt thereby ending the perfect game. He then scored on what was initially a Jay Bruce triple. Upon replay, it was ruled Bruce hit a two run homer:

Darvish would not make another mistake until Bruce came up again in the sixth. Bruce took a slider off the plate, and he drove it opposite field for a solo home run making it 3-1. 

Overall, Darvish was nearly unhittable over his 7.1 innings pitched. In fact, other than Bruce, Juan Lagares was the only Met to get a hit off Darvish. That hit chased Darvish. Former Met Dario Alvarez would walk Conforto before getting Asdrubal Cabrera to hit into the inning ending double play. 

The Mets would rue failing to tack on runs there. Jerry Blevins got the first two out before allowing a Mazara single. That’s where Terry Collins poor managing reared its ugly head. 

Despite Blevins having a terrific year with a 1.42 ERA, he has struggled against righties. On the season, righties are hitting .364/.481/.591 off of him. The batter, Chirinos, the Rangers version of Wilmer Flores, is hitting .353/.389/.529 off lefties. Chirinos struggles against righties hitting just .210/.310/.460 off them. Looking at the splits, it was an obvious spot for Addison Reed to go with the four out save with the Mets having a day off tomorrow. 

If not Reed, at least Fernando Salas, who was warming in the bullpen. Instead of Salas, Collins stuck with Blevins, who hung one to Chirinos. Tie game. 

For the second straight night, the Mets would make Matt Bush in the ninth. Lucas Duda hit a one out double, and Curtis Granderson worked out a two out walk to put the game in Jose Reyes‘ hands. 

Reyes hit a bouncer to Rougned Odor who spiked the throw to Elvis Andrus. Andrus could not come up with the throw, and on the throw, Matt Reynolds, who came on to pinch run for Duda, never stopped and scored from second on the play. 

With the Rangers failing to make the play, and with Reynolds’ hustle, the Mets reclaimed the lead at 4-3. Reed came on in the ninth, and he pitched a rare 1-2-3 save for him.

If nothing else, this win shows this team has heart. They blew a game yesterday.  They had their stomach punched on the Chirinos homer. And yet, they pulled this one out. Maybe, just maybe, there’s still room for hope. 

Game Notes: Reyes got the start with Neil Walker out of the lineup. While Collins said it was a routine day off, reports indicated Walker may have a knee injury. 

Depressing: Gee Outpitched deGrom

Here’s the best way to synopsize both this game and the 2017 season ➡️ Dillon Gee allowed half the amount of runs in this game than Jacob deGrom did. And no, Gee was not good tonight. 

The former Met allowed four runs over 3.1 innings allowing solo homers to Juan LagaresAsdrubal Cabrera, and Neil Walker. The most impressive of these was Lagares, not just because he hit one, but because it went opposite field:

It was almost four homers, but Jay Bruce got robbed by Jared Hoying:

The other run came in the first and was set up when Michael Conforto led off the game with a double. He later scored on a two out RBI single by the red hot Lucas Duda

For his part, Lagares was uncharacteristicly good at the plate going 4-5 with a homer. 

It wouldn’t matter as deGrom couldn’t hold any lead. He just couldn’t protect a 1-0, 2-1, or a 4-3 lead. He allowed runs in every inning he pitched. 

It started when deGrom couldn’t get his footwork right in the first inning. Adrian Beltre grounded into what should’ve been an inning ending 3-6-1 double play, but deGrom was searching for the bag with his feet instead of stretching for the throw. Instead of getting out of the inning unscathed, deGrom allowed the tying run to score. 

In the second, deGrom lost a 2-1 lead. Rougned Odor hit a double after a Jonathan Lucroy single to set up runners at second and third and no out. Hoying hit an RBI ground out, and Delino DeShields followed with a sac fly to make it 3-2. 

The Mets took the lead, and deGrom gave it back in the third on a Joey Gallo two run homer. On the play, Bruce had a NL opportunity to return the favor to the Rangers by stealing a homer himself, but he fell just short:

It all came crashing down in the fourth for deGrom. With runners on second and third with no outs, deGrom threw a wild pitch while walking Shin-Soo Choo to make it 6-4. The seventh run scored when Elvis Andrus hit into a double play. Unfortunately, deGrom still couldn’t get out of the inning before allowing a solo homer to Nomar Mazara

It was a tough night for deGrom.  His final line was four innings, 10 hits, eight runs, eight earned, one walk, and just two strikeouts. Not too long ago, he seemed to turn the corner. This is now his second poor start, and his ERA has ballooned to 4.75. 

The best thing you could say scour the night was deGrom seems more devastated by his struggles than Mets fans are. 


From there, the Mets had little choice but to bring in Josh Smoker and his 7.43 ERA into the game. Things could’ve gone worse, but he still allowed two runs over his two innings pitched raising his ERA to 7.56. If you really want to be depressed, consider Neil Ramirez was the Mets best pitcher on the night. 

The Mets bats went mostly silent after the third with the team scoring just one run in the 10-5 loss. The team was 2-13 with RISP, and they were only able to score one run when they had bases loaded and one out in the eighth. They were one big hit away from getting back in the game. Instead, they made three quick outs. 

However, the bats reawoke in the ninth. After a Flores lead-off single, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud went back-to-back to get within 10-8. After a Lagares single and a Conforo walk, the Mets were really in business. Asdrubal Cabrera struck out, and then Bruce hit into a game ending double play. 

The Mets need to get going soon because the Nationals aren’t slowing down anytime soon. 

Game Notes: Duda (2-5, HR) and Wilmer Flores (3-5) continued to hit. Travis d’Arnaud played poorly going 0-4 leaving five runners on base. DeShields also stole two bases off of him.