While things have been going well recently, the Mets have had trouble identifying those relievers whom they can use and trust to eat up innings and take care of games where they have large leads. When that is an issue for your team, you wind up using and wasting good relievers in non-critical spots. You are also forced to use good relievers when it should not have been necessary.
On August 6, the Mets had a five run lead heading into the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins, the worst team in the National League. After eight dominant innings from Zack Wheeler, the Mets went to Robert Gsellman in the ninth. The following night, the Mets once again had a five run lead heading into the ninth. The team would use Jeurys Familia and Luis Avilan to close out the game.
On the roster at that time was Chris Mazza and Donnie Hart. The team did not use either reliever in that spot or really any spot. Truth be told if you can’t trust those relievers to close out games against the worst team in the National League, you don’t have any business being on the roster. It should come as no surprise neither pitcher is currently on the Mets roster.
When Mazza and Hart went down, Drew Gagnon was one of the relievers who replaced them on the roster. The Mets would bring Gagnon to pitch the eighth inning in the August 15 game against the Braves. At that time, the Mets had a 10-3 lead, and they just needed someone to pitch the final two innings to give the bullpen a rest. Instead, Gagnon would allow four homers, including a homer to Freddie Freeman in consecutive innings, thereby necessitating Edwin Diaz coming into the game to record the save in a 10-8 game.
This led to Paul Sewald being selected from Syracuse and re-joining the Mets bullpen. While this was largely met with eye rolls and consternation, Sewald is exactly what the Mets needed. In yesterday’s 9-2 victory over the Indians, the Mets would use Sewald out of the bullpen in the ninth. There would be no drama as he would allow a double while striking out three batters. In the grand scheme of things, these are the types of outings which are both necessary and overlooked.
Since his debut in 2017, Sewald has handled these situations well. In his career, in what is characterized as low leverage situations, he has held opposing batters to a .209/.262/.341 batting line. When there is a four run lead in either direction, Sewald has held opposing batters to a .223/.294/.365 batting line. This has permitted him to pitch multiple innings in these situations. In turn, this has allowed the Mets to save their better relievers for higher leverage situations.
This has an immense amount of value to a team, and these are the types of outings which helps a team get to the postseason. This is what Pat Mahomes provided the Mets in 1999 and 2000, Darren Oliver provided in 2006, and Sean Gilmartin provided in 2015. This is what Sewald can be over the remaining 37 games of the season. His doing that frees up Lugo, Diaz, Familia, and Justin Wilson for the higher leverage situations.
All told, Sewald can provide an immense amount of value to the Mets bullpen by eating up those innings and not having Mickey Callaway need to worry about needing to go deeper into the bullpen in these situations. As we have seen this year, this is not a role which is easily filled. Ultimately, Sewald can perform well in situations where others cannot, and as a result, he provides this bullpen and this Mets team with real value.
The Indians came to town, and there were many storylines. The Mets had their flurry of roster moves. Mickey Callaway was facing off against his mentor Terry Francona. Mostly, these were two teams fighting for a spot in their respective postseasons.
On this front, both teams would get terrific pitching performances, and when there is a pitcher’s duel like this, it’s the team who makes a mistake who loses. That mistake would come in the sixth.
Up until that point it was 2-2. Steven Matz was cruising following up his Braves start with an even better one. On the night, Jason Kipnis was the only Indian to get to him with a solo homer in the second and an RBI single in the fourth.
Overall, Matz pitched 6.1 innings allowing two runs (one earned thanks to a Todd Frazier error) on five hits and two walks while striking out seven. He would pick up the win because the Frazier error wasn’t the game changing error.
Like Matz, Shane Bieber was very good. He was very economical with his pitches, and for a while, it appeared he was going to go the distance. Really, his only mistake before the fateful sixth was his allowing a two run homer in the second to J.D. Davis.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 20, 2019
In the sixth, Bieber has allowed those two runs. He began the inning retiring Amed Rosario, and he got Joe Panik to hit what should have been a harmless pop out to left. Instead, on the same day Luis Castillo was arrested in the Dominican Republic, Oscar Mercado dropped the ball.
For a moment, Bieber appeared to be getting out of the jam by striking out Pete Alonso. Then, Michael Conforto, who is maligned for not being clutch or not being considered a great player, hit a huge homer giving the Mets a 4-2 lead:
.@mconforto8 is good at baseball.
That is the tweet. pic.twitter.com/TNnEshRobl
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 21, 2019
Unlike in Atlanta, Callaway let Matz start the seventh. Matz got himself into trouble allowing a one out single to Greg Allen and walking Franmil Reyes. Callaway went to Justin Wilson who came up huge striking out Francisco Lindor and Mercado. After that, the Mets blew the game wide open.
Frazier got the rally started with a single off Adam Cimber. After that, Juan Lagares, who has been taking much better at-bats of late, drew a walk. A failed sac bunt later led to Rosario with another huge hit with an RBI single expanding the Mets lead to 5-2.
Rosario just continues being a legitimately great player in the second half. He’s hitting, running the bases well, and playing good defense. Tonight, he was an impact player going 2-for-4 with a run, walk, and an RBI.
After the RBI single from Rosario, Panik would hit an RBI single, and Alonso hit an RBI double capping off a four run seventh. After not getting a sac bunt down earlier in the game, Davis would cap off his Uber ride with an RBI double in the eighth capping off the scoring and giving the Mets a 9-2 lead.
After seeing Callaway had no faith in Chris Mazza, Drew Gagnon, or Donnie Hart to wrap up blowouts, Callaway would trust Paul Sewald, and Sewald would pitch with higher velocity pitching a scoreless ninth preserving the 9-2 victory.
The Mets are once again five games over .500, and they’re once again poised to make a run. This is an important stretch, and the Mets are playing with a requisite sense of urgency. Things are getting interesting again.
Game Notes: Rajai Davis was selected from Syracuse, and Walker Lockett was sent down to add him to the roster. Brooks Pounders was designated for assignment to make room for Davis on the 40 man roster. Jed Lowrie began a rehab assignment as the DH for St. Lucie, and Brandon Nimmo is continuing his in Syracuse. Robert Gsellman was a partially torn lat.
In Sunday’s game against the Dodgers, Braves manager Brian Snitker pulled Ronald Acuna Jr. from the game due to Acuna’s not hustling. More specifically, Acuna hit what he apparently thought was a homer in the third inning, and when it didn’t go out, he was left standing on first. Acuna then compounded the problems by getting caught stealing.
“What happened with Acuna when pulling him from the game?”
“He didn’t run.”
It is a coach’s job to hold you accountable as a player. It’s YOUR job to live up to the standard of doing things right, always and always, not only when things are going well. pic.twitter.com/zCn9mkyBDE
— Darren Fenster (@CoachYourKids) August 19, 2019
After the game, Snitker was widely lauded for how how he handled the situation. The same could be said for Acuna who was said to handle it maturely. You can be cynical and say these are the things a team can do when they are up six games in the loss column in the division, but being fair, this was a big game against the Dodgers.
Remember when Callaway tried to hide the fact that he benched Rosario for not running out a fly ball? Hope he sees this video of Snitker candidly discussing pulling Acuna out of a game for the same offense. This is how it's done. https://t.co/hR86LaPBMj
— John Harper (@NYNJHarper) August 19, 2019
Then, there was Matt Ehalt of Yahoo who didn’t use the opportunity to necessarily criticize Callaway. Instead, he thought it was interesting to compare how the Braves handled the situation to how Callaway and the Mets “Went out of their way to avoid saying they benched Rosario.”
Revisiting the moment, in the eighth inning of the July 13 game against the Cardinals, Rosario hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball out. However, it turned out to be anything but routine as the ball dropped between JT Riddle and Brian Anderson. Instead of standing on second, Rosario was at first. In terms of the game, it didn’t matter much as Tomas Nido flew out to end the inning, and the Mets won the game 4-2.
Going back to that point in time, the Mets were 10 games under .500, and they had the second worst record in the National League. All season long Robinson Cano‘s lack of hustle was an issue amongst fans and talking heads (something Ehalt alluded to in his tweet). At that time, it at least felt like Callaway could be fired for a season which had gone very wrong.
Initially, Callaway couched it as Rosario getting a scheduled day off. For some reason, the real reason was told to SNY. That was Rosario was being benched for a lack of hustle. Why the different messages is anyone’s guess. If you want to get on Callaway and the Mets for that, you absolutely should as the constant mixed messages has been an issue for the team.
If you’re going to criticize how Callaway handled Rosario, you should stop while you’re ahead. If you have been paying any attention, Rosario has blossomed this year.
At the time of the incident, Rosario was having a bad year hitting .263/.301/.413. Since that time, Rosario is hitting .367/.404/.555. He’s been a 3 DRS at shortstop. With Jeff McNeil‘s injury, he has stepped into the leadoff role, and he has hit well. When J.D. Davis had to be removed from Sunday’s game, Rosario played three innings in left, and he played them well. Ultimately, since the incident, Rosario has not had another “hustling incident,” has blossomed as a player, and he has been everything this team has needed.
Of course, this is all just garbage narratives.
The truth is likely Rosario had a bad moment in a brief career, and really, it wasn’t all that bad a moment. It was a routine fly ball which never should have dropped. Almost every single Major Leaguer would have been standing on first in that moment. Actually, almost every single Major Leaguer would have been sitting in the dugout.
Rosario has always been noted for his hustle and for his drive to be a better player. He didn’t need to be benched to be driven to be what he is now. Callaway didn’t need to deliver a message for Rosario to suddenly start hustling all the time like he does on 99 percent of plays. Mostly, Callaway doesn’t need to handle Rosario the way Snitker handled Acuna because they are two completely different players on two very different teams.
Callaway has his faults. How he’s handled his team and the development of his players like Rosario isn’t one of them. In fact, Rosario has never really been a problem in terms of his drive. We should all just move along and stop rushing to make criticisms of Callaway for everything that happens. Save your criticism for something he actually does wrong.
And while we’re at it, maybe start giving him some credit for the things he does well. Same goes for giving Rosario credit for the things he did well which led to this breakout. Mostly, just stop pushing agendas and narratives.
The Mets went to Kansas City looking to sweep, and they wound up having to settle for less than that. Ultimately, they got the job done even if they did not perform well at all:
1. Alex Gordon may be the only Royals player remaining, but it was still good to see the Mets win a series in Kaufman Stadium, and it felt even better seeing Jeurys Familia get the win in a deciding game.
2. It’s also great to see Michael Conforto homer in a game against the Royals and not watch the Mets not blow the game. Seeing where Conforto hit that homer, we should have called that a Blue Moon Shot.
3. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Cody Bellinger‘s National League rookie home run record. He now joins Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge as the only rookies to hit 40 homers in a season. This has been a great ride, and he’s now in line to join Darryl Strawberry as the only other Mets position player to win Rookie of the Year.
4. It is criminal that when Alonso broke the record the call was made by Wayne Randazzo on the radio side and Gary Apple on the TV side. The Mets have all-time great broadcasters, and somehow that’s what we were left with for this great moment. Mets needs to do better when there are vacations.
5. There were two different times Alonso looked like he was going to break that record. The first ball was called foul, and to his credit, Alonso shook it off and delivered with a huge go-ahead two RBI single. The next time the ball actually hit the foul line towards the top of the right field wall. Many times we see people struggle or slump as they near a milestone; Alonso powered onward.
6. Jacob deGrom had his 12th start of the season pitching 7.0+ innings allowed two earned or fewer. That mark ties him with Hyun-Jin Ryu for the most in the Majors. This should only highlight how great deGrom has been this year and how deserving he is of another Cy Young.
7. Yes, Ryu is having a great year, but deGrom’s year is arguably better. For starters, deGrom has more innings pitched and strikeouts. Moreover, he has a higher K/9, K%, K-BB%, FIP, xFIP, fWAR, and bWAR while leading in other other categories as well.
8. One of the reasons the Mets took this series was Joe Panik playing great. Since joining the Mets, Panik is hitting .333/.379/.444 with a double, triple, and two RBI with two walks. On a side note, he was the second baseman when the Giants beat the Royals in the 2014 World Series.
10. With the way Panik and Lagares are playing, it appears Todd Frazier is the guy who has to go to the bench. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting .192/.239/.377. If he’s hitting this way, he cannot be in the lineup.
11. Going forward, Frazier has hit .283/.359/.543 off left-handed pitching. To that end, he should work out a de facto platoon with Panik, and given his glove, he should be the third baseman when Marcus Stroman is on the mound. Short of that, he should be a power bat off the bench and late inning defensive replacement.
12. These two were needed all the more with J.D. Davis twice going down with a calf injury in this series. With how hot he’s been hitting, the Mets need his bat in the lineup, and they were without it in a series against the Royals. One side point here, good for Mickey Callaway for being cautious in taking him out rather than leaving him to run 90 feet.
13. Davis coming out of Sunday’s game forced Amed Rosario to play left field. It didn’t take long for the ball to find him, and the played the ball like he’s been out there all year. He also doubled in his only at-bat as an outfielder. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise because Rosario has been legitimately great lately.
14. Since the All Star Break, Rosario has hit .368/.403/.544. He’s a 3 DRS at shortstop. When McNeil went down, he took over the leadoff spot, and he’s been hitting .333/.383/.535 in the leadoff spot. He is literally doing all that is being asked of him, and he is emerging as a legitimately great player. This has been a real joy to watch.
15. Rosario having to play left field only highlights the stupidity of the Mets going with Ruben Tejada over Dilson Herrera. What makes the move all the more hilariously stupid was the Mets justification for going with Tejada over Herrera was versatility. Between the two, Herrera is the only one with outfield experience. Since Tejada rejoined the Mets, he is 0-for-8 at the plate with two strikeouts and someone already a -0.3 WAR. Herrera is hitting .294/.368/.706 while playing second base and left field. Again, this decision made zero sense.
16. On the topic of baffling decisions, when Robert Gsellman landed on the Injured List, the Mets called up Walker Lockett over Chris Flexen. Between the two, Flexen has the better stuff, and he has experience pitching out of the bullpen.
17. One area where Callaway was criticized for making a baffling decision was using Edwin Diaz to get out of a bases loaded no out situation. While it was a near disaster with a grand slam overturned on replay, Diaz got out of the inning allowing just two runs. In his next appearance, he pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. Maybe, just maybe in the long run, this was a great decision by Callaway.
18. Zack Wheeler‘s start against the Royals was disappointing. That’s two straight disappointing five inning starts from him. This time, it was probably more bad luck than anything. However, this is his first real postseason race, so it will be interesting to see how he handles things in his next start.
19. The Mets would have been better off with a sweep, but they still won the series. They’re also just two games back of the second Wild Card. Overall, when looking at this stretch of six games, many are discounting just how hot and grueling that stretch of road games are in Atlanta and Kansas City along with their losing one of their hottest hitters.
20. Good for the White Sox for having Bill Walton and Michael Schur do color commentary with Steve Stone out. As noted on Saturday, that is what the Mets should have been doing by using the multitude of great local broadcasters and fans in Gary Cohen’s and Howie Rose’s absence. On a final note there, John Sadak did a great job on the radio. Here’s hoping there’s a spot for him in 2020.
Noah Syndergaard pitched perfectly well. Through four, he allowed just one hit. It’s the fifth where he got into trouble allowing back-to-back doubles to Meibrys Viloria and Nicky Lopez in what was a two run fifth for the Royals.
Before that fifth, Syndergaard appeared poised to shut out the Royals. It’s what the Mets needed to because the Mets couldn’t do anything against Mike Montgomery and the Royals bullpen, which is bizarre considering Montgomery entered the game with a 5.19 ERA, and the Royals bullpen had a 4.68 ERA.
After that third inning, the Mets offense could only muster two hits and one walk with no runners reaching scoring position. With the exception of Amed Rosario and J.D. Davis, each of whom were 2-for-4, it seemed no one brought their bats without them from Atlanta to Kansas City.
Like last night, Diaz walked the first batter he faced, Brett Phillips, forcing in a run. He then allowed an RBI single to Bubba Starling. By some miracle, a Ryan O’Hearn long fly went just foul. If not, it would’ve been the 8-1 it was for a moment before the replay overturned the grand slam.
After O’Hearn then struck out in that at-bat, Vitoria hit into an inning ending double play. We could say it kept things to a manageable three run deficit, but who are we kidding?
Not even when the Mets loaded the bases in the ninth with Rosario up could you have had faith. His game inning fielder’s choice confirmed that.
It was an inexcusable performance against a very bad 43-78, sorry 44-78, Royals team. Syndergaard took the loss for the penalty of only going six snapping his six start streak of pitching 7.0+ innings.
But hey, when you need to make it up to Ruben Tejada for missing the rest of the 2015 postseason, you have to do it even if it means DHing your best infield defender. Maybe now that the Mets took this loss, he can be designated for assignment for literally anyone else in Syracuse.
Game Notes: After allowing four homers last night, Drew Gagnon was optioned back to Syracuse, and the Mets selected the contract of Paul Sewald. To make room for Sewald on the 40 man roster, Tim Peterson was designated for assignment.
Depending on how you look at things, the Mets either showed they can play with the Braves, or they showed they are not in the same class as the Braves or the best teams in baseball leaving the postseason hopes all the more futile. Really, this was a wild three game series with a lot happening:
1. The one injury the Mets could ill-afford to handle was Jeff McNeil. His versatility is arguably more important than his bat. In any event, his absence really exposes not the Mets lineup but really their depth.
2. As we saw with the Mets yesterday, they can compete without McNeil. For that to happen, Pete Alonso needs to be the first half Alonso, and Amed Rosario needs to continue his breakout. The Mets need higher levels of production from Michael Conforto, and ultimately, they need Juan Lagares and Joe Panik to be everyday players.
3. It has been a pure joy to see Lagares become good again both in the field and at the plate. Of note, Lagares has had as many hits in this series as he’s had in his previous 15 games combined. If Lagares plays like this, he’s an everyday player especially with that glove in center.
4. With respect to second, Panik has to play everyday because Ruben Tejada isn’t good. In one game, he showed why he hasn’t been in the majors in two years, and he looked skittish with his back turned on double plays. You can point to his Triple-A stats, but that ball is all the more juiced than the Major League ball is.
5. Since the Mets opted to go with Tejada, Dilson Herrera has responded by going 3-for-6 with three runs, two homers, five RBI, and two walks in the past two games. He is red hot with a seven game hitting streak. While you may want to say the juiced ball theory applies to him as well (it does), his production was near this level last season. Tejada’s wasn’t.
6. It should be noted the Mets are carrying an extra pitcher with Drew Gagnon, who was beyond terrible last night, and really that spot in the bullpen has been terrible all year no matter who has filled the role. Given how the Mets need some power off the bench, and Herrera presents another player who could play outfield, there is no reason why he spends another day in Syracuse.
7. While Gagnon was terrible out of the bullpen, the rest of the bullpen has stepped up. Brad Brach looks as rejuvenated as Jeurys Familia does as late. Along with Justin Wilson, this gives the Mets three battle tested relievers who are pitching very well right now in front of Seth Lugo. That’s suddenly a good bullpen.
8. Lugo blew it on Wednedsay. We can try to say he didn’t have time to warm up (he did), or say it was another problem (not really), but he just wasn’t good. Fortunately for the Mets, he’s going to rebound from this and continue to be great.
9. Mickey Callaway was right in lifting Lugo for Steven Matz. There were many factors at play with that decision, and he ultimately went with the team’s best available pitcher in a high leverage spot. When he doesn’t have it, the Mets aren’t going to win those one run games.
10. On Matz, he was brilliant, and he has been much improved in the second half. In his six second half starts, he is 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.047 WHIP. If you’re getting that from your fifth spot in the rotation, you can beat the good and the bad teams.
11. Don’t make too much about Marcus Stroman‘s “struggles” since joining the Mets. He is adapting to a new team and a new pitching philosophy. The main takeaway from him is he has given the Mets a chance to win in his first three starts. This is probably the floor for his performance, and we should see him take off soon.
12. With Zack Wheeler, it was one poor start. Just one. Don’t overreact and just look forward to his next start against the Royals. On that front, it is interesting he is finally getting that chance to pitch against the Royals after he was supposed to be one of the team’s best starters in 2015 and his almost being traded away for Carlos Gomez that year.
13. The Mets really needed that game from Pete Alonso. He’s been struggling in the second half, and with McNeil down, they really need him to get back to being the All-Star level player. His five hit game was a reminder of just how good he can be. His tying Cody Bellinger‘s National League home run record with more than a month remaining in the season is a reminder as to just how good he has been.
14. Alonso and Rosario each having a five hit game in the same game was not only the first time it happened in team history, but it is a reason to get excited for the rest of the 2019 season and each of the ensuing years.
15. Yet again, we need to point out Rosario has figured things out, and he is now one of the best players on the team and emerging as one of the best shortstops in baseball. Since July 1, he is hitting .364/.399/.536, and in the second half he is a 3 DRS. Don’t be surprised, be ready.
16. Mets should have won this series, but they just couldn’t get that one big hit in either of the first two games. The main culprit was Conforto, but Wilson Ramos was also really bad. It should also be noted in Wednesday’s debacle, almost everyone was bad with the exception of Rosario, J.D. Davis, Luis Guillorme, Panik, and the pitchers not named Lugo.
17. Glass half full is the Mets showed they can play with the Braves. Glass half empty is the Mets chances of winning the division went from realistic to near pipe dream.
18. Starting this pivotal stretch of games 3-3 and being two out of the Wild Card is not a bad start. The Mets now have to make real headway in Kansas City before taking care of business at Citi Field. If they do that, we will have real season to be excited for the meaningful games in September.
19. Congratulations are in order to Howie Rose for being inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame. This is an honor long overdue, and it should hopefully serve as a precursor to both he and Gary Cohen being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
20. Gary Cohen and Howie Rose are no longer allowed to take time off at the same time. Gary Apple is terrible. He should never be allowed to do play-by-play again. Given his smug attitude, I wouldn’t care if he was gone from SNY all together.
Steven Matz was absolutely cruising having thrown fewer than 100 pitches in the game. He had not allowed a hit for over four innings, and Josh Donaldson was due up in the bottom half of the inning. This was going to be the third time Matz was going to face Donaldson in the game. We all know where things went from there.
Mickey Callaway kept Matz in the game. He allowed a single to Freddie Freeman before allowing a go-ahead two run homer to Donaldson putting the Mets behind 4-2. Things quickly unraveled with Austin Riley and Ozzie Albies hitting consecutive doubles to expand the Braves lead to 5-2 before Callaway could get Chris Flexen into the game to get Matz out of the jam.
No, that wasn’t last night’s game. That was the June 19 game against the Braves at SunTrust Park.
This has been Matz throughout his Major League career. He has the tendency to show brilliant flashes only to suddenly lose it. Recalling back to Game 4 of the 2015 World Series, he completely shut down the Royals for four innings before the Royals got to him for a run in the fifth. He began the sixth allowing hard hits to Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain leading to Terry Collins having to go get Jon Niese to bail him out.
These are just two of the countless examples where Matz seemed to be dominating only to unexpectedly lose it. This has left his managers scrambling to get people up in the bullpen to bail him out. On a number of those occasions, it is too late.
When you are sitting in the dugout, this is exactly what needs to go through your mind. You need to remember of all those instances where Matz blew it. You have to remember opposing batters hit .284/.330/.490 when facing him a third time in the game this year.
While you may want to say it’s the bottom of the lineup, but it still was not a good situation for Matz. Adam Duvall is hitting .400/.412/.800 against LHP this year. Johan Camargo is 3-for-7 with a homer against Matz. And of course, there was the Donaldson June 19 homer against the Braves in a similar situation to what we saw last night.
If you are a manager in the dugout, you have seen Matz for almost two full years now. In the bottom of the sixth, Ronald Acuna Jr., Albies, and Freeman each had hard hit balls. Likely, one or two of those balls drop if Juan Lagares wasn’t vintage Lagares last night.
You have seen him have random and sudden implosions. You have the numbers at hand. You saw him run the bases and deal with a delay when Dallas Keuchel was removed from the game. There was another delay when Pete Alonso‘s follow through hit Tyler Flowers in the mask.
Take everything into consideration. Are you still trusting Matz, or are you going to Seth Lugo, a pitcher you honestly believe is the best reliever in all of baseball? Even if you personally disagree with the move, taking everything into account, can you really sit there and say it was a dumb decision.
If you’re being objective, no, you cannot honestly conclude it was dumb to remove Matz for Lugo. It’s fair to disagree or raise reasonable objections. But to suggest this was a stupid decision is to completely ignore everything is just lying and being purely reactionary to one of the rare times Lugo didn’t have it.
As impressive as this Braves club has been since the start of last year, and even with them having a big lead in the division, they can be beat. The key is to wait them out.
That’s what the Mets almost did with Steven Matz tonight who was brilliant despite not getting much help in the second.
Matz got himself into trouble allowing a leadoff single to Josh Donaldson and a walk to Adam Duvall. He’d recover by inducing what should’ve been a double play for Johan Camargo. Instead, it was a fielder’s choice with Amed Rosario making a slightly wide throw and Ruben Tejada fielding it like Chase Utley was ready to tackle him.
The Mets got to Keuchel with a rally in the sixth, but it was killed by a Wilson Ramos double play. Conforto followed with a hard fought walk giving Todd Frazier a chance. For a moment, it looked like Frazier would deliver all the way up until Freddie Freeman made the incredible over the shoulder catch on the bloop to end the inning.
Apparently, Freeman doesn’t need a bat to be a Mets killer.
Keuchel looked poised to get through seven until Matz had a two out single. That was it for Keuchel who was lifted for Chris Martin as the lineup flipped over.
Rosario had a hard hit ball which ripped through Johan Camargo. With Duvall trying to get Matz at third, Rosario moved to second. Duvall’s poor decision loomed large when a Davis bloop landed softly into center giving the Mets a 2-1 lead.
At this point, Matz was at 79 pitches. He allowed just the one earned on two hits with a walk and five strikeouts. He retired the last 14 straight.
Conversely, he ran the bases. There was a long delay when Pete Alonso‘s follow through hit Flowers in the mask necessitating a trainer’s visit. The last three outs of the sixth were very hard hit and two of them likely fall for hits if Juan Lagares wasn’t in vintage form.
Opposing batters hit 284/.330/.490 off Matz the third time through the lineup, and Donaldson hits 263/.385/.526 the third time he faces a starter.
It just didn’t work out with the umpire squeezing him. A bunch of balls found a hole. There was Alonso going deep into the second base hole instead of allowing Tejada to make a routine play.
Donaldson had a leadoff walk, and Duvall followed with a hard hit single. After that it was hit after hit after hit. By the time he was lifted for Luis Avilan, it was 5-2 Braves. After Avilan allowed an RBI single to Ozzie Albies, it was 6-2 Braves.
Now, at this point, it was Luis Guillorme pinch hitting instead of Davis batting because Davis was inexplicably double switched out of the game when Lugo entered the game. That decision didn’t come back to bite the Mets as Guillorme hit an RBI single pulling the Mets to within 6-4.
This set the stage for Alonso. Throughout the first half he was great against bullpens and from the seventh inning on. He hasn’t been that in the second half. It was more of the second half Alonso with him hitting what should’ve been a game ending double play.
— MLB Replays (@MLBReplays) August 15, 2019
Instead, Camargo missed second initially, and then he dropped the ball. Bases were now loaded for Ramos. He came up short striking out. The Braves went to old friend Jerry Blevins who struck out Conforto to end the game.
Ultimately, Callaway went with his best guy in the biggest spot in the game. He made the right decision there (with Lugo, not Davis). It didn’t work. It happens. Chances are Lugo won’t blow up like that again, and the Mets win this game the next 10 times.
Game Notes: Tejada was called up for the injured Jeff McNeil.
As bad as it looked, it sounded worse. Jeff McNeil hit the first base bag awkwardly, and he was clearly in pain hobbling and hopping around in foul territory. After the game, he and Mickey Callaway tried to put a good face on it, but they came across despondent.
Even if this isn’t the worst case scenario, it looks like McNeil will have to miss sometime. We can pray for a game or two, but it’s probably more than that.
If you want to be glass half full, Lagares seems to be locked in recently. We saw a vintage Lagares defensive play when he robbed Yan Gomes of an extra base hit on Saturday. Last night, he was 4-for-4 against the Braves. That matched his hit total for all of July, and it was his fifth four hit game in his seven year career.
Looking back, the last time Lagares had struggled offensively and defensively like this was in 2015. Those struggles led to the Mets first trying to obtain Carlos Gomez, and then later “settling” on Yoenis Cespedes.
In 2015, after the Mets obtained Cespedes and the Mets started playing more meaningful games, Lagares stepped up god game. From August 1 until the end of the season, he hit .287/.326/.471. In that postseason, Lagares hit .348/.375/.435.
Maybe, Lagares has that ability to raise his game in these pressure situations. That’s at least the hope now.
The other hope is Panik can raise his game right now. So far, he hasn’t hit much with the Mets going 2-for-10 with a walk. However, what he has contributed has counted for something.
His single Friday led to Michael Conforto‘s walk off hit. His teaching on an error on Saturday led to J.D. Davis‘ go-ahead sacrifice fly. His RBI single Sunday was part of a three run inning to tie the game at 3-3.
That’s what the Mets need from Lagares and Panik. There’s no way they can match what McNeil gave the Mets. There’s maybe five players in all of baseball who could do that. Maybe. Instead, they need to make their hits count while also reaching back and rediscovering their Gold Glove form.
More than anything, if they give the Mets very good to elite defense, the Mets still have a chance. Both players have the skills to do it, so to that end, there’s a legitimate chance.
If they do that, they help the pitching, which in turn, lowers the bar on the amount of runs the Mets need to score to win.
The onus for scoring those runs will have to be shared collectively by the lineup. At the moment, you can’t ask more from Davis than what he’s been giving. The same goes for Wilson Ramos.
The burden shifts to Amed Rosario to pick it back up after going 4-for-23 over his last five games. Todd Frazier needs to return or get close to his June form. Pete Alonso has to get back to his first half form instead of being the guy hitting .188 in that second half hitting the occasional homer. Finally, no matter how good Conforto has been, as a leader and as a guy who’s been here before, he needs to raise his game to another level.
If these things happen, and you get a spark from one of Ruben Tejada, Dilson Herrera, and/or Arismendy Alcantara from Triple-A or a Luis Guillorme and Aaron Altherr from the Major League roster, McNeil missing any time doesn’t have to be a death knell for the season.
Overall, everyone on this roster raising their game is very possible. However, nothing is going to be possible unless Lagares and Panik raise their games. I’d they don’t do that, chances are McNeil missing time will be the reason the Mets moss the postseason.
As big as the Nationals series was, the series against the Braves is bigger. It’s bigger because it’s on the road, a step up in competition, and it’s an opportunity to get into the division race.
Unlike this past weekend, the Mets were not up to the task.
Right off the bat, Zack Wheeler‘s 15 inning scoreless steak was snapped. Actually, it was 15.1 innings as Ozzie Albies flew out between the trio of singles from Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, and Josh Donaldson. That 1-0 deficit grew to 2-0 on a Matt Joyce RBI single in the first.
That first hit was a two out single in the second. He moved to scoring position on a Wheeler HBP, and he’d score on a Jeff McNeil RBI single. It was 2-1, and the Mets would get no closer.
The Braves got that run back in the bottom of the inning on a Freeman RBI single. That lead grew to 3-1 when Acuna homered in the fourth, and then 5-1 when Ender Inciarte hit an RBI double in the fifth.
In total, Wheeler lasted just the five innings allowing a run in four of the five innings he pitched. He was easily out-pitched by Fried, and Acuna was a one man wrecking crew.
For example, in the sixth, the Mets had Fried on the ropes, but they’d shoot themselves in the foot.
Michael Conforto followed a Wilson Ramos leadoff walk with a GIDP. Todd Frazier then just missed a homer hitting it off the center field wall, and he’d need a great slide to get the double. Lagares followed with his third hit of the night, and for some reason, Gary Disarcina thought it wise to challenge Acuna’s arm:
— Atlañta Braves (@Braves) August 14, 2019
With that, the Mets blew a chance to score, and they trailed 5-1 in what was now a battle of the bullpens.
Brad Brach pitched a clean sixth. Luis Avilan got into trouble in the seventh allowing a leadoff single to Donaldson an led plunking Adam Duvall. With Mets killer Charlie Culberson up, Mickey Callaway turned to Jeurys Familia. Familia continued his recent strong stretch by striking out Culberson to end the jam.
It was 5-1, but with the way the Mets have played and with the Braves weak bullpen, there was a chance. That chance came in the eighth.
Shane Greene, who has already lost his closer’s job, did little to instill confidence tonight.
Then, with Jerry Blevins relieving Greene to face Conforto, the Braves could not convert the 3-6-3 double play allowing Alonso to score. Anthony Swarzak came on to face Frazier. After Frazier singled, Lagares hit a ball which ate up Freeman allowing Conforto to score.
Unfortunately, Joe Panik could not get the big pinch hit. This left the Mets squandering what could’ve been a much bigger opportunity and entering the ninth 5-3.
As if things could’ve be bad enough in this frustrating loss, McNeil hurt himself trying to leg out a single against newly installed Braves closer Mark Melancon. With so many games remaining, the Mets could afford to lose a game, but they cannot afford to lose McNeil.
We will all be holding our breath awaiting word.