Juan Lagares

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Are the Mets for Real?

The Mets started 12-2, and it seemed like they could do no wrong.  That was until a complete bullpen eighth inning meltdown against the Nationals.  Since that point, the Mets have gone 5-9, and they have fallen to second place in the division.  With that as the backdrop, we turned to the Mets Blogger Roundtable to ask if Mickey Callaway‘s Mets team is for real:

Becky (Blue Seat Blogs)

We’re already seeing the Mets falling back to earth, and there was never any question that they would lose more than 15 games this year. The positive is that they have a core that’s skilled, and a new manager who will hopefully find ways to adapt and keep the room positive throughout the highs and lows of a season.

Roger Cormier (Good Fundies)

What *is* reality anyway? We are all one big consciousness agreeing upon a never ending list of rules and quibbling over interpretations of shared perceptions, right? That’s what I learned in third grade from the bus driver who smelled weird. If the reality of the situation is I am being asked if the Mets are as good as they were when they started 11-1, then no, they are not “for real.” They have been the fourth-luckiest team in all of baseball while the Nationals have been the most unlucky. We aren’t going to cry over Bryce Harper‘s misfortune (the Vegas native should be aware of streaks of bad luck at the very least anecdotally). We will cry over the Mets though. Yet we shouldn’t; they  just have to play .500 ball from their 13th to 162nd game to hit lucky number 86 wins. They uh, haven’t played over .500 ball since that time but I guessed they would make the wild card game five weeks ago, so I might as well keep my chips on 86.

Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)

Right now I want to jump off of my seat in section 509.

Editor’s Note: this response was sent during the game after we learned about deGrom’s elbow.

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

Yes, but they have holes to fix and this passive approach to every situation is part of the problem.

Joe Maracic (Loud Egg)

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

Are the Mets for real in the sense that they have a genuine chance to end the season where they ended April, in first place? Based on what we’ve seen…sure, why not? I’d hate to think they’re pulling the cap down over our eyes.

Are the Mets for real in the sense that I’m supremely confident they won’t fall out of the race altogether after a while? That’s what the rest of the schedule is for: to find out.

But overall I feel pretty good about this team. The next 130+ games are always the hardest.

Caveat: All of the above is up for grabs in light of the uncertainty surrounding Jacob deGrom.

Tim Ryder (MMO & FOB)

I think the Mets’ start is most-definitely indicative of the potential of this team moving forward through the season.

The inevitably-oncoming adage of “Jake and Thor, then pray for it to pour” that was true for most of the first month of the season seems to be slowly fading away.

After the inconsistencies of Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler over their first few starts, as well as the banishing of Matt Harvey to the bullpen and the alarming start to Jason Vargas’ second stint with the Mets, things have started to look up lately.

If Wheeler can be effective (read: keep his pitches low), his stuff alone places him among the upper-crust of middle-of-the-rotation starting pitchers in the NL, and the same goes for Matz.

If Vargas has shown anything over his career, he’s proven to be the model of mediocre-but-efficient consistency, and that’s all the team really needs out of him.

I think this offense is truly one of the more-dangerous groups we’ve seen here since the days of Carlos Beltran/David Wright/Carlos Delgado, and I mean that. The recent upticks in production for Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez are promising.

The incredible starts of Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo are even more exciting, but we, of course, must be wary of Newton’s Law of Physics in their cases.

The Mets’ bullpen has, for the most part, been the strength of this team and will continue to be, in my opinion. AJ Ramos looks to have found his groove and Robert Gsellman is absolutely thriving in his new role. Even Seth Lugo, who may not be adapting as easily as Gsellman has, has had some success and only figures to get more comfortable as time goes on. And, to be honest, Harvey could come to be a key cog in the relief corps once he gets a feel for things.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report

Are the Mets for real? It’s hard to say, but what’s becoming clear is that this season certainly won’t be easy. We got off to a hot start with Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Bruce all slumping, and you have to think we’ll get more from all of them going forward — but we’ll also presumably see regression from Todd Frazier and Asdrubal Cabrera, and the pitching has gone downhill fast since the first few turns through the rotation. Now deGrom is hurt too…if our starters besides Thor are a failed Harvey, a failed Matz, an inconsistent Wheeler, and an unimpressive Jason Vargas, there’s only so much room to get wins with that kind of rotation. Sure, things could turn out well — anything can happen. But as I said, the only thing that’s clear is that it certainly won’t be easy.

Mets Daddy

Initially, I had a long piece detailing how much the lineup and the pitching staff could benefit from Kevin Plawecki‘s return.  How even with the inability to hit for power right now, Conforto is playing a good outfield and getting on base.  How when you look deeper into the farm, you see Gavin Cecchini and Peter Alonso getting off to terrific starts making you wonder “What if . . . .”

None of that matters if deGrom is injured like he was in 2016 or Syndergaard was in 2017.

This is not to say his having a serious injury ends the Mets season.  Rather, it means the season needs a miracle.  In 2016, the Mets got that out of Lugo and Gsellman.  Maybe the Mets get that this year out of some group that includes Harvey, Matz, Corey Oswalt, or Chris Flexen.

Maybe . . . .

Personally, I’d like to thank everyone for being able to respond to this roundtable.  It was all the more impressive when you consider how panic striken we were collectively as a fanbase when deGrom left the game last night.  We do know when that news finally breaks, there will be some terrific things written about deGrom and the Mets.  Some of the best things will be written by the people in this roundtable, and I hope you will visit their sites.

That is except for Becky.  She is currently a free agent and needs a home to write about the Mets.  Hopefully, someone will soon jump in and find a home for her terrific work.

Vargas Picks Up Mets Career Where He Left It

If you blinked, you might’ve missed Jason Vargas pitching for the Mets 10 years ago. In his two starts for the 2007 Mets, he was 0-1 with a 12.19 ERA.

Well, if you missed it, you got a sample of it tonight.

Right off the bat, the Padres made Petco look like pre-humidor Coors Field.  Vargas allowed a two run homer to Christian Villaneuva, and later that inning, a Juan Lagares rare misplay led to a Manuel Margot two RBI triple.  Believe it or not, things got worse from there . . . much worse.

After all was said and done, Vargas’ final line was 3.2 innings, nine hits, nine runs, nine earned, three walks, and five strikeouts.  The Padres, who entered the game as the worst hitting club in the majors, had a triple and two homers off of Vargas.  That would have been three homers off Vargas had Lagares not made this incredible play to rob Villanueva on what should have been his second homer of the game:

Really, that Lagares play and a sixth inning Yoenis Cespedes two run homer was it for the highlights from the Mets for this game.  That’s typically the case in a game that ends at 1-2.  It’s just time to shake things off, forget about this game, and get back on track.

Game Notes: With the Padres starting a second straight game, Wilmer Flores started at first base.  The Mets also announced Jay Bruce will get getting some games at first in the upcoming homestand leaving you wondering what Adrian Gonzalez‘s role, if any, will continue to be for this team.

 

Mets Led by deGrom, Cabrera, and Lobaton (Yes, Lobaton) in Win

With the Mets having lost three straight series, the last thing they needed was a West Coast trip.  They needed to play in Petco Park even less.  It’s not just that it’s a suddenly woeful Mets offense was going to one of, if not the, most extreme pitcher’s park in the league.  No, it was the Mets all-time record at Petco Park entering this game was 18-32.

Fortunately for the Mets, they had their best weapon out there tonight – Jacob deGrom.

Once again, deGrom was brilliant.  His final line on the night was 7.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, and 8 K.

This is the third straight game he would strike out at least eight, and he now has the longest stretch in the National League of pitching at least 5.1 innings.  Basically, deGrom is pitching about as well as anyone, and really, he’s been better than almost everyone.

Given how he’s pitched of late, the offense, and his luck, the questions were whether he was going to get run support and whether the bullpen could hold things down.

Well, deGrom would get his run support before he even stepped foot on the mound.  After Doug Eddings, who had a wildly inconsistent strike zone all game long, ruled a 3-1 pitch was a strike and not a ball, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a lead-off double off Clayton Richard.  After moving to third on a Yoenis Cespedes fly out to deep right, Cabrera scored on a two out Todd Frazier RBI single.

The score stayed that way until the seventh because the Mets could not get anything going against Richard, Michael Conforto made a couple of nice plays in the field, and the Padres were afraid to challenge Yoenis Cespedes‘ arm.

At that point, it was time for Cabrera to once again leave his mark not just on the game but on the early part of the season.

Juan Lagares led off the inning with an infield single just beating Carlos Asuaje throw.  Jose Lobaton, who easily had his best game as a Met, singled to set up runners at the corners with no outs.  With Richard faltering, it seemed like this is where the Mets would blow the game open.  It almost . . . ALMOST didn’t happen.

First, there was the Lagares base running mistake.  Instead of following Christian Villanueva down the line on the deGrom sacrifice bunt/safety squeeze, he immediately dashed back to third.  If he followed Villanueva down the line, it’s quite possible he scores.  Instead he stayed, and when Amed Rosario hit a sharp grounder to Asuaje, the Mets had runners at second and third with no runs and two outs.

With the Padres going into a strong bullpen, it seemed as if they were going to get out of the jam. That perception was absolutely wrong as Cabrera hit a Craig Stammen mistake for a three run homer to effectively end the game.

In the eighth, the Mets would expand their lead with a two out rally.  After recording two quick outs, Kazuhisa Makita hit Lagares with a 1-2 pitch, and Lagares would score on the ensuing Lobaton RBI double.

Again, Lobaton easily had his best game as a Met.  He caught deGrom, who had a great game.  He threw out Franchy Cordero, who was the only Padre to attempt a stolen base.  On the play, it was a perfect throw and a perfect tag by Cabrera.  Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, Lobaton was 2-4 with a run, a double, and an RBI.

With the 5-0 lead, the only remaining question was whether the bullpen could hold onto the lead or whether there would be another meltdown.

When deGrom parted with one out in the eighth, there was a runner on, and Jerry Blevins came on to face Eric Hosmer.  Conforto needed every bit of that deep right field to corral the long fly Hosmer would send.  Mickey Callaway then went to AJ Ramos who got Villanueva to fly out.

Then, Callaway went with Matt Harvey in the ninth to close the door.  As bad as things have been for Harvey since 2015, no one could have imagined this outing.

No, he didn’t blow the lead, although he did make everyone nervous with Cordero greeting him with a homer, and Harvey walking Jose Pirela.  Given Harvey’s recent history and the recent bullpen meltdowns, this was an ominous sign, and Jeurys Familia was rapidly trying to get loose in the bullpen.

Fortunately for the Mets, Harvey, whose velocity dipped all the way down to 90, yes 90 MPH, got a fly out and a game ending double play.

Yes, there was plenty of reason to be excited for this 5-1 win, but seeing Harvey pitch this way certainly did put a bit of a damper on things.  Hopefully, both Harvey and the Mets can figure something out at this point because this has become sad and painful to watch.

GAME NOTES: Before the game the Mets recalled Jacob Rhame and sent Corey Oswalt back down.  The Mets moved David Wright to the 60 day disabled list to make room for LHP Buddy Baumann, who the team claimed off waivers from the Padres.  Bauman was sent down to Triple-A Vegas.  Despite his good numbers against Richard, Callaway sat Adrian Gonzalez in favor of Wilmer Flores

Mets Defense Blows Another Game

The story of this game should have been Noah Syndergaard returning to form.  Like on Opening Day, he was mowing down the Cardinals, but this time, he was much more efficient in doing so.  Through six, he kept the Cardinals scoreless striking out six and allowing just two hits, and it looked like the Mets were going to cruise to a 2-0 victory at that point.

Both RBI came from Yoenis Cespedes, who snapped out of his funk going 2-5 with a double and two RBI.  The first RBI was a first inning off Carlos Martinez scoring Brandon Nimmo from first.  In the seventh, in what looked like window dressing at the plate, he plated Amed Rosario with a sacrifice fly.

However, as we have learned with Cespedes, sometimes he will giveth and sometimes he will taketh.

That was evident with Tommy Pham “doubled” on a ball that hit off of Cespedes’ glove.  Pham would then come home to score on a Marcell Ozuna single to cut the lead to 2-1.  With the way Paul DeJong kills the Mets, really it was a miracle he didn’t tie the score on his double.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter as the Mets gave up the lead in the eighth with some more poor defense.

What was interesting was Mickey Callaway let Syndergaard start the eighth while holding back Robert Gsellman.  Really, you wonder why not just go to the fresh arm after an inning in which Syndergaard faced some trouble.  Really, this is a bit nitpicky because this is Syndergaard we are talking about here.

In any event, Rosario threw a ball away on a Greg Garcia grounder starting off the inning with a runner on first instead of one out and the pitcher’s spot coming up.  Syndergaard struck out Yadier Molina before allowing a single to Matt Carpenter leading to his getting pulled from the game.

Gsellman was in a tough spot, and he didn’t deliver immediately.  The first batter he faced, Pham, singled to tie the score.  To his credit, with the go-ahead run in scoring position and just one out, Gsellman got Jose Martinez to ground into the inning ending 6-4-3 double play.

After a rusty Seth Lugo battled through a hit batter and walk to get through a scoreless ninth, the Mets would get an absolute gift run in the 10th.

After two quick outs, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier hit back-to-back singles putting the game into Adrian Gonzalez‘s hands.  Somehow, not only would Luke Gregerson walk Gonzalez, but he would also walk Jose Lobaton to force in a run. With Jeurys Familia coming into the game, it seemed like the Mets would win a series after losing two straight.

Didn’t happen.

After two quick outs, Pham hit a ball up the middle most second baseman make fairly routinely.  The problem is Asdrubal Cabrera, even at full strength, doesn’t have much range.  With his current leg injury, he has almost no range.  Cabrera did all he could do, but he really had no shot at Pham.

Oddly enough, Juan Lagares wouldn’t have a shot at the subsequent Martinez double.  Oddly enough, Callaway went against his recent trends, and he put in Lagares for defense.  Martinez’s ball to deep center was a play almost no center fielder makes, but we have all become so spoiled by Lagares, he almost makes the impossible seem routine.  He ran back to dead center, leaped, and missed.  Instead of another highlight reel defensive play, it was a game tying double.

AJ Ramos pitched a perfect 11th, and Paul Sewald pitched a perfect 12th.  Unfortunately, the hottest pitcher in the Mets bullpen couldn’t keep the Cardinals off the board.  A Martinez walk followed by consecutive singles to Ozuna and Dexter Fowler was the ballgame.

With that, the Mets have lost three straight series, and the vibes from their amazing start have faded.  They have faded because the bottom of the lineup is black hole, but mostly, it is because this defense is bad and plays bad.

Game Notes: With the Mets out of position players, Sewald hit for himself in the top of the 13th.  Jose Reyes grounded out in the 10th to end that rally.

Resilient Mets Win Behind Resurgent Cespedes, Bruce

If you were paying attention before the game, there was a stir over a contrived controversy featuring Yoenis Cespedes.  No, it was not the typical contrived Cespedes controversies with his golf, cars, or his hat being backwards.  No, this one was the utterly false claim that somehow Mets fans are irritated with or hate Cespedes.  Today, Cespedes set out and showed why such claims are utterly preposterous:

If you think he took out a month’s worth of frustrations and completely demolished that ball, you would be right:

The Mets really needed that homer too because the Mets have not been playing their best baseball of late, and they were not really getting anything going against Cardinals starter Luke Weaver to that point, and Zack Wheeler was struggling.

Wheeler’s day started with his allowing a Tommy Pham two run homer in the first.  He would never quite settle in with his not registering one 1-2-3 inning in the game.  While he dodged troubled in the second and third, the Cardinals got to him again in the fourth with Kolten Wong‘s second double the day scoring a run, and Weaver delivering an RBI single of his own to give the Cardinals a 4-1 lead.

The Mets lone run had come off a complete Marcell Ozuna misplay in left on what was scored a Jay Bruce RBI triple.  The Mets continued rallying from there, but they were not able to score another run in that second inning.  The seminal play was an Adrian Gonzalez hot shot Wong made a great play on which kept the slow and injured Bruce at third.

Really, the Mets looked dead in the water until there were two outs in the top of the fifth, and Weaver lost the strike zone.  He walked Wilmer Flores and Michael Conforto on eight straight balls until the aforementioned Cespedes homer.

With Wheeler lifted after four uninspiring innings, this put the game in new reliever Matt Harvey‘s hands.

In the fifth, he was victimized a bit by Bruce’s complete and utterly lack of speed.  Dexter Fowler hit what should have been a single, but with Bruce’s speed, he made it an easy double.  That allowed Fowler to score easily on the subsequent Paul DeJong double. Likely, Fowler doesn’t score from first on the De Jong double.  Still, Harvey did allow back-to-back well struck balls which broke the 4-4 tie.

Overall, Harvey pitched fairly well out of the bullpen.  In his two innings, he allowed one earned on two hits with one walk while striking out two.  Tomas Nido was helping him get those extra calls, and Harvey had better velocity than we have seen of late:

All in all, it was a positive outing for Harvey was in line for the loss partially because Mickey Callaway has been making some odd decisions of late and because of Bruce’s speed.  Really, Bruce’s speed cost the Mets at least two runs tonight – when he couldn’t even score on the Wong play and his allowing Fowler to get into scoring position.

As for Callaway, in the top of the 7th, Callaway used Juan Lagares instead of Brandon Nimmo as a pinch hitter.  Considering Nimmo’s OBP and Jordan Hicks‘ 6.2 BB/9 this year, you might as well of put Nimmo on first to start the inning.  Instead Callaway went with his best defensive outfielder who struggles historically against right-handed pitching.

Still, even with the Bruce speed issues and Callaway’s curious decision making, this is a resilient Mets team.

Paul Sewald kept the Mets in the game with a scoreless seventh, and the Mets offense went to work against Hicks in the eighth.

Todd Frazier started the inning with a four pitch walk, and he went first to third on a Bruce single which snuck just past Jose Martinez.  A Gonzalez sacrifice fly would tie the game up at 5-5.  Unfortunately, that was where the rally would end.  Luke Gregerson came on and struck out Amed Rosario and got Nido to fly out to get out of the jam.

This would be the second time the weak bottom of the lineup prevented the Mets from cashing in on an opportunity, and it was another instance where you were left wondering why Callaway didn’t bring Nimmo into the game to take full advantage of a key opportunity.

Again, even with that, Sewald was great out of the Mets bullpen again.  He had two scoreless innings keeping the Mets in the game.

Robert Gsellman would make things really interesting in the ninth by first walking Matt Carpenter, and then allowing a bloop single to Pham.  However, he would send the game into extras by first striking out Martinez and then inducing Ozuna to hit into the inning ending 5-4-3 double play.

That play loomed large as Bruce would hit a go-ahead homer in the top of the 10th off Matthew Bowman.  Inexplicably, Mike Matheny challenged whether Bruce touched first base, which only served to give Jeurys Familia more time to warm up in the bullpen.  The well warmed up Familia came on to blow through the Cardinals for his ninth save of the year.

With some questionable decisions and calls, the Mets are back to their winning ways.  They won mostly because this is a resilient club with every member of this team summoning something each night to help deliver a win.

GAME NOTES: This was the first time all season the Mets wore a blue alternate jersey.  Mets are now 3-0 in extra inning games.

This Time, The Mets Own The Eighth Inning

Considering what happened the last two nights, the Mets really could have used a fast start to this game.  Instead, they got Steven Matz threw a 3-2 changeup that Ryan Zimmerman hit for a three run home run to give the Nationals an early 3-0 lead.

After the Zimmerman homer, Matz would allow a Moises Sierra single before going on a tear where he retired the next 11 Nationals in a row.  That stretch included a pick-off (scored a caught stealing), no walks, and five strikeouts.  He was at 74 pitches, and he looked good to go for a few more innings.

Essentially, Matz settled into the game.  However, where Matz settled in, his manager Mickey Callaway, did not.

With Tanner Roark starting to bark at the home plate umpire over some borderline calls, the Mets began to rally in the bottom of the fourth.

Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a double, and Todd Frazier would follow with a one out walk.  Once again, it was Adrian Gonzalez delivering a key and unexpected RBI single.  The single scored Cabrera and allowed Frazier to go to third.

Jose Lobaton followed with what should have been an inning ending double play.  The only problem for the Nationals is Zimmerman can’t throw anymore, and he pulled Trea Turner off the bag not only preventing the Nationals from getting the double play, but also them getting even just one out.

On the play Frazier scored pulling the Mets to within 3-2 with runners on first and second and just one out and Matz due up.  Instead of using Matz in an obvious sacrifice bunt situation, Callaway pinch hit Brandon Nimmo.

Considering the events of the past two days, this reeked of a panic move.  You could only hope it would work out.  Initially, it looked like it would with Roark hitting Nimmo, who smiled and cheered all his way to first base.  Still, the move blew up as Amed Rosario hit into the inning ending 6-4-3 double play.

Considering how the Mets left a small island nation on the bases yesterday, and the team going all-in on the fourth inning, there was legitimate concern the Mets blew their shot.

That’s where Paul Sewald came in, and he gave the Mets another incredible three inning relief appearance.  If not for an extremely ill advised Jay Bruce dive, it’s likely all three innings would have been scoreless.  Instead, his final line would be 3.0 innings, one run, one earned, one hit, no walks, and five strikeouts.

Sewald both saved a taxed bullpen, and he gave the Mets a chance to win.  For once this series, the Mets took advantage of that chance.

With Ryan Madson working a third day in a row, the Mets offense would immediately go to work starting with back-to-back-to-back singles from Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, and Cabrera to load the bases.  After an injured and struggled Bruce popped out, Frazier delivered with the game tying RBI single. On the single up the middle, Cespedes would get his hand in just ahead of the Severino tag.

The Mets weren’t done either.  Gonzalez was intentionally walked to re-load the bases, Madson struck out Wilmer Flores leaving the game in the hands of Juan Lagares.  Historically, Lagares has struggled against right-handed pitching, but this season he can do no wrong, and he did no wrong in this at-bat hitting a go-ahead two RBI double.

As the inning continued, and the Mets batted around, Sammy Solis would issue a bases loaded walk to Conforto giving the Mets a 7-4 lead.  The capper would be Cespedes hitting a grand slam to give the Mets an 11-4 lead.

No, it wasn’t quite the Nationals coming from down 6-1, but it still felt good and nearly as important.  Also, it might have demoralized a Nationals team who thought they were going to return the favor to the Mets for them sweeping them at home last week.

Thanks to the heroics of Sewald and a revitalized Mets offense, the Mets won 11-5, and they are well back on track as they go on the road to make a statement against the Braves.

Game Notes: Jose Reyes grounded out to the pitcher in a seventh inning.  He’s now 0-18 on the season.

Mets Don’t Execute, Callaway Makes Another Mistake, Mets Lose

In the top of the first, the Nationals quickly loaded the bases against Zack Wheeler with one out.  This is normally where Wheeler would implode, and based off of what happened last night, you’d think this was a spot where the Nationals would jump right out and put up a crooked number on the board.

Instead, Wheeler induced Moises Sierra to hit into the inning ending 6-4-3 double play.

What this told us about the Mets was this was not a completed deflated team.  They still had fight in them despite last night’s horrendous loss.  So, yes the fight was there.  The question was if the execution would be there to pull out a win.

As far as the Nationals were concerned the theme of the nights would be soft hits.  They’d use them to set up a Bryce Harper sacrifice fly in the third, and they’d use them to score two runs off Wheeler in the fourth to give the Nationals a 3-0 lead.

By that time, you were left wondering if the Mets had a rally in them.  They would in the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff single from Wheeler of all people.

Wheeler quickly found himself on third after an Amed Rosario double, which might have been a triple had Wheeler not been ahead of him on the basepaths.  Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a sacrifice fly.  With Michael Taylor overthrowing the cutoff man, Rosario moved to third allowing him to score on the subsequent Yoenis Cespedes RBI groundout.

That pulled the Mets to within 3-2.  The Mets would have their chances to take the lead, but they couldn’t get out of their own way.

In the sixth, the Mets had runners at the corners after back-to-back one out singles from Juan Lagares and Tomas Nido.  For reasons that defy all logic, Mickey Callaway decided to pinch hit Jose Reyes instead of using Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Adrian Gonzalez, or even the newly called-up reliever Gerson Bautista.  If you thought Callaway had a rough night last night, he showed he learned nothing.

Reyes struck out in an ugly at-bat against Gio Gonzalez, and Rosario followed with a weak pop out in foul territory to end the inning.

In the seventh, runners were once again on the corners with one out.  This time it was due to a Wilmer Flores and Cespedes single.  They’d be stranded when Todd Frazier had an ugly strikeout, and Jay Bruce got rung up on a pitch on what the umpire believed was the inside corner.  Bruce disagreed.

In the eighth, it was a two out rally that sputtered out after a Conforto walk and Rosario single.  Brandon Kintzler would completely overmatch Cabrera to strike him out for the final out of the inning.

While the Mets were failing to cash in on rallies going 0-9 with RISP, the Nationals were tacking on runs to give themselves some breathing room.  They’d push a run across in the seventh and eighth, both against Robert Gsellman expanding their lead to 5-2.

The run in the eighth was a little troubling.  Michael Taylor singled and stole second.  On the stolen base, Nido’s throw was there by Rosario whiffed on the tag.  Later in the inning, Pedro Severino hit the ball directly to the drawn in Rosario, who froze thereby allowing Taylor to score easily.

In the end, the Mets lost this game not because they didn’t have fight after last night’s loss.  No, they lost it because they didn’t execute against a Nationals team they breathed new life into.  As a result, the Mets have now lost their first series of the year and are now looking to prevent getting swept.

Game Notes: Bautista made his MLB debut in the ninth walking one, allowing a hit, and striking out on in a scoreless inning.

Mickey Callaway’s Eighth Inning

Look, it was bound to happen.  The revamped and praised bullpen was finally going to have a meltdown.  Mickey Callaway was going to have a game leaving fans scratching their heads a bit leading up to him getting criticized.  The fact it came against the Nationals was tough.  The fact it was a blown 6-1 lead was tougher.  The combination of the two left a really sour taste in your mouth despite the Mets 12-3 start.

In that eighth inning, the Mets would use five pitchers who allowed six runs on five hits, three walks, and a hit batter.  Two of those walks were bases loaded walks.  With the exception of Jacob deGrom, each and every pitcher who appeared that inning has some explaining to do.

Naturally, when you have a complete bullpen meltdown like that, much like we saw cause the 2008 Mets collapse, there are going to be some questions about how Callaway handled the inning.  Let’s take a look.

Questionable Decision No. 1 – Lifting deGrom

At the time Callaway lifted deGrom, the Mets had a 6-1 lead in the top of the eighth.  A Michael Taylor strikeout was book-ended by a pair of singles by Moises Sierra and Trea Turner.  At that point, deGrom had thrown 103 pitches, and he was about to go to the Nationals lineup a fourth time.

Before moving on, some key stats should be considered.  In his career, batters hit .277/.300/.447 when facing deGrom for a fourth time.  However, that stat should be mitigated by the batter Howie Kendrick.

For his career, Kendrick is hitting .087 with no walks or extra base hits against deGrom.  Last night, Kendrick was 0-3 with three strikeouts against deGrom.

Considering Bryce Harper is hitting behind him, and you have Jerry Blevins warming in the pen to face him, there’s no way you second guess Callaway for leaving deGrom in the game.

By removing deGrom, Callaway opened himself up to second guessing.  That second guessing grew louder when Seth Lugo, who had been excellent this year, walked Kendrick on four straight pitches.

Question Decision No. 2 – Using Lugo for One Batter

As noted above, with Harper on deck and Blevins warming, whoever you brought into the game to face Kendrick was only going to be in for one batter, so why Lugo?

There is a time to experiment with your bullpen guys to give them a different taste of different moments, but a game against the Nationals just isn’t that moment.  Not when there was something brewing that caused you to go out there and bring in a reliever to nip a potential rally in the bud.

Since you are bringing Blevins into the game to face Harper anyway, you could have used him to pitch to Kendrick.  After all, Kendrick is just 1-8 off Blevins.  Even if Kendrick hits an unlikely homer, you are still up 6-4 at that point, and you have Blevins to face Harper.

Instead, Lugo was put in an unfamiliar situation, and he struggled.  That doesn’t excuse Lugo’s performance in the least.  He should have gone out there and recorded the out, or at least forced Kendrick to put the ball in play.  Really, this at-bat was a seminal moment as this is where the rally really began to build momentum and begin to spiral out of control.

Questionable Decision No. 3 – Using Ramos

Iseemed odd Callaway would go to AJ Ramos over getting Jeurys Familia into the game at that spot.  Heading into this season, Callaway spoke about getting his best relievers into the biggest spots of the game regardless of whether there was a save situation or not.  That’s not what happened.

Instead of using Familia to nip the rally in the bud and let Ramos start a clean ninth, Callaway took a page out of Terry Collins book and saved his closer.  He also used Ramos, who has allowed 24.5% of inherited runners to score in his career.  Now, to be fair, Callaway may have wanted to shy away from Familia who has had a fairly high workload this season. Still, you have to wonder why Ramos there.

Out of anyone in the Mets bullpen, Ramos has the highest walk rate with a scary 4.9 BB/9 for his career.  That included his walking six batters in the 6.1 innings he had pitched entering last night’s game.  Bringing Ramos into this game into a powder keg of a situation could potentially light a fuse and blow the game.

It started out well with Ramos over powering Ryan Zimmerman to get the second out, and the Nationals sent up Matt Reynolds to the plate.  Right here was why the Mets should have never lost this game.  It’s also why using a walk prone Ramos is dangerous.

Reynolds, who is a career .224/.294/.393 hitter with an 8.1% walk rate, walked on four straight pitches to make it 6-4.

Questionable Decision No. 4 – Double Switching Flores into the Game

When Callaway brought Familia into the game, he obviously had the intention of using him for the four out save.  With the pitcher’s spot due up second in the bottom of the inning, Callaway understandably double switched him into the game.

What is interesting is Juan Lagares had made the last out of the bottom of the seventh.  By the book, you swap him out.  Being smarter than that, Callaway didn’t do that instead opting to keep his best fielder in the game in a crucial spot.  Instead, he went back and pulled Adrian Gonzalez.

Now, Gonzalez isn’t the four Gold Glove Gonzalez anymore.  In 92.1 innings this season, he has a -1 DRS and 0.1 UZR.  It’s a small sample size, but it is in line with what he’s been the past few seasons.  His dimished skill and range were prevalent when Harper had hit an RBI single earlier that inning between him and Asdrubal Cabrera.  That was more on Cabrera’s range, but it did speak to the limited range on the right side of the Mets infield.

Now, Flores arguably has more range than Gonzalez with a 0.2 UZR at first this year and a 2.3 UZR over the past three seasons.  However, he’s not yet good enough to consider using him for defense late in games at any position.  In fact, he also has a -1 DRS at first this year but in just 45.2 innings.  Flores’ poor defense and relative inexperience MIGHT have been at play when Wilmer Difo hit a single by him.  Whether Gonzalez gets to that or not, we’ll never know.

Another important point here is with Flores being double switched into the game, you do not get to deploy him against a left-handed pitcher.  Instead, you have to use him against a right-handed one.  Flores has improved against right-handed pitching, but not to the point where he’s your first option over Yoenis Cespedes or Jay Bruce.

As an aside, what would have been so wrong if Familia batted?  If he immediately gets out of the inning, you have a two run lead.  Let him go up there and take his strikeout, and you have your optimal defense for the eighth and ninth innings.  Instead, you weakened your infield defense with a power sinker pitcher, and you didn’t try to get a platoon advantage with Flores coming off the bench.

Questionable Decision No. 5 – No Gsellman At All

Arguably, Robert Gsellman has either been the Mets best or second best reliever this season.  In a pressure filled spot, you would think you would’ve found a spot for him, especially at a time when you were looking to get a ground ball double play to get out of the inning.  Instead, Callaway decided to go with Ramos and an obviously fatigued Familia.

Synopsis

When you have a complete meltdown like the Mets had, there is little a manager can do but pray.  Really, Callaway is getting second guessed because the Mets lost a game where they had a five run lead with one out in the eighth inning.  You should never lose those games.

Lugo can’t walk Kendrick on four pitches.  Blevins has to get Harper out in that situation.  Ramos can’t walk and hit batters.  Familia needs to dig just a little deeper and not hit a batter or walk in the go-ahead run.

Also, someone needed to make a play.  Two balls where hit between the first and second baseman.  Cabrera couldn’t make a play on either.  Certainly, you could argue an infielder with even average range gets to the Harper single.  Cabrera would then exacerbate his inability to make a play in the field by getting bizarrely aggressive on the base paths getting thrown out at third with one out in the ninth inning.  That was inexcusable.

Really, this game was your typical Callaway game.  When it comes to his bullpen, he’s going to be a little more aggressive than most in what is typically his attempt to put his players in the best position to succeed.  In his first 15 games, it seems he’d rather put players in a position to succeed than leave them out there and let them  make a play.

Until last night, that made Callaway look like a genius.  Last night?  Well, it made him look like a meddling over-manager.  Ultimately, that’s the way it goes with not just managing, but managing in New York.

Whatever the case, after that brutal loss, we are really going to find out something about both Callaway and this Mets team.  Do they get off the mat and show the Nationals they’re the better team?  Do they come out shell-shocked and lose this game?

Right now, we don’t know, but we are soon going to find out just how special both this team and this manager is and can be.

 

 

 

Mets Lose On Ugly Eighth Inning Meltdown

With two outs in the top of the first inning, Bryce Harper would hit one of the most incredible home runs you will ever see off of Jacob deGrom:

Harper was sawed off, and he still hit a no doubt home run.  Because of who the Mets are this season, they would immediately respond.

In the bottom of the first, Michael Conforto hit an opposite field double off of Jeremy Hellickson that Matt Adams just could not corral. After that, Todd Frazier, who is suddenly the hottest bat in the Mets lineup followed with a two out RBI single tying the game at one.

In the third, it was Frazier again.  After an Asdrubal Cabrera single and Conforto walk, Frazier ripped a go-ahead RBI double giving the Mets a 2-1 lead.  It could have been more but the Nationals nailed Conforto at home.

 

Juan Lagares would create the first rally after drawing a walk off of Matt Grace.  During Jose Lobatons at-bat, he would steal both second and third base. That led to Mickey Callaway surprising everyone by calling a squeeze:

With the ball scooting away, this allowed Lobaton, who had reached earlier by walk, to get to third.  This put him in perfect position to score on an Amed Rosario fielder’s choice giving the Mets a 4-1 lead.

The Mets would quickly make that a 6-1 lead in the seventh.  Brandon Nimmo began the inning with a triple off the outstretched glove of Michael Taylor, and he’d score when Cabrera hit a two run homer off A.J. Cole.

At 6-1, the Mets looked to be in great shape. deGrom was pitching like the ace he is being the first Mets starter to pitch into the eighth inning.  His final line would be 7.1 innings, six hits, three runs, three earned, one walk, and 12 strikeouts.

At the time the Mets added four tack on runs, it didn’t look like deGrom needed them.  While he might not have a suddenly imploding Mets bullpen would actually need more than a five run cushion.

After allowing a pair of singles, deGrom was done with one out in the eighth.  Seth Lugo relieved him and walked Howie Kendrick to load the bases.  This led Callaway to call on Jerry Blevins, who allowed Harper to hit a two RBI single to bring the Nationals to within 6-3.

All three runs were charged to deGrom, but the last two were allowed to score by the Mets bullpen.

With Lugo and Blevins not getting the job done, Callaway summoned AJ Ramos with two on and one out in what was now a ballgame.

Ramos would strike out Ryan Zimmerman before allowing a single to Pedro Severino to load the bases.  That put the game in the hands of former Mets infielder Matt Reynolds, who pinch hit for Cole.  After a four pitch walk. the Nationals were within 6-4 and still with the bases loaded with two outs.  At this point, Callaway had little choice but to go to Jeurys Familia.

Familia would choose a bad time to blow his first save of the year as he allowed Wilmer Difo to tie the score with a two RBI single.  It got worse with him hitting Moises Sierra, a player who has not played in the majors since 2014, before issuing a bases loaded walk, the Mets second of the inning, to Taylor to give the Nationals a 7-6 lead.

In the ugliest inning of the year, the Mets bullpen would allow six runs (two inherited) off three hits, three walks, and a hit by pitch.  That really is embarrassingly bad and reminiscent of last year’s terrible Mets team.

Kendrick would homer off Hansel Robles in the ninth to ensure the entire Mets bullpen would pitch poorly on the evening.

Just to make sure this loss would sting all the more, Cabreara would hit a one out double off Ryan Madson, he would try to get to third on a pitch that got away from the catcher.  The play would be reviewed, Cabrera would appear safe, but the out call was upheld.  In the end, it doesn’t matter, Cabrera made a real bone headed decision.

The Mets came into this series with a chance to maybe bury the 2018 Nationals in April.  Instead, they may have breathed new life into a team which desperately needed a shot in the arm with this 8-6 loss.  This is really the Mets first taste of adversity this year.  Let’s see how they respond.

Game Notes: Yoenis Cespedes did not start the game for the first time this year.  He pinch hit in the eighth and flew out.  Jay Bruce didn’t start again today with his plantar fascittis flaring up again.

Can’t No-Hit Or Beat The Mets

Well, isn’t this just the Mets luck?  On a day when Mets fans and the entire organization all were celebrating the Five Aces finally making one turn through the rotation, pitching would be the story of the game.  The story wasn’t Zack Wheeler, who had the best start by a Mets pitcher this season.  No, initially the story would be Marlins rookie Jarlin Garcia would no-hit the Mets through the first six innings of the game.

In his Major League debut, Garcia stared down the entire Mets lineup, and he didn’t allow anything except two ill-timed sixth inning walks and Todd Frazier reaching on an error.  Even the walks didn’t hurt him as Jay Bruce would get thrown out trying to steal third.

Naturally, when you have a no-hitter going, you know you are out-pitching the opposing pitcher.  What was surprising was it was not by much.

After making one start in Triple-A to hone his mechanics, Wheeler was great tonight.  He would become the first Mets pitcher to pitch into the seventh inning.  The knock on Wheeler was always his walking too many people and not being able to put batters away.  Tonight, he struck out seven while only walking one.

While Garcia allowed no hits, Wheeler would allow just two.  Unfortuantely, one of those was a Miguel Rojas home run.

With the Mets getting no-hit until Frazier had a single off of Marlins reliever Drew Steckenrider, you would think the Mets lost this game.  Yeah, that wasn’t happening to the 9-1 Mets.

Before the game, it was announced Travis d’Arnaud needed to go on the disabled list with a torn UCL.  Naturally, this meant Kevin Plawecki would get plunked on his catching hand by a 100 MPH from Marlins reliever Tayron Guerrero.

Plawecki stayed in the game, and Michael Conforto, who did not start against the left-handed Garcia, came on to pinch hit for Juan Lagares.  The Marlins countered with LOOGY Chris O’Grady.  It didn’t matter as Conforto his a double to the right field corner.

That set up runners on second and third with one out.  Instead of going with the hitless switch hitting Jose Reyes to pinch hit for Wheeler, Mickey Callaway went with Adrian Gonzalez.  Callaway’s faith in Gonzalez was rewarded with him delivering a go-ahead two RBI single.

When Starlin Castro couldn’t corral an Asdrubal Cabrera pop up in shallow right field, Junichi Tazawa would be brought on to neutralize Wilmer Flores.  It didn’t work with Flores delivering an RBI ground rule double.  Frazier would follow with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1 Mets.

To punctuate the win, Robert Gsellman struck out the side in the eighth.  He has now struck out 12 of the 27 batters he has faced this season.

Jerry Blevins and AJ Ramos would combine to pitch a scoreless ninth to secure the Mets 4-1 victory.

Really, this was a game the Mets were dead in the water.  They were unable to get a hit because of great Marlins pitching and defense.  All that ended in an epic eighth inning rally.  Really, that’s how great things are going for the 10-1 Mets right now.  Even when getting no-hit and having no catchers left from their Opening Day roster, they come back and give Wheeler the victory.

Game Notes: While Plawecki stayed in to run the bases after the HBP, he would be lifted when his turn in the order came back up.  Tomas Nidowho was called up to take d’Arnaud’s spot on the roster, pinch hit for Plawecki and hit into an inning ending double play.  Reyes remains hitless.