One of the most interesting phenomena in sports is how when an aging player returns to his old stomping grounds, sometimes he is just able to turn back the clock. As Mets fans, we saw this in 2006 when Mike Piazza had a two home run game against Pedro Martinez. Yesterday, we saw Adrian Gonzalez have one of those days.
It’s been bad for Gonzalez of late, really bad. He’s been mired in a 1-17 stretch with no extra base hits. Going back a little further, over his last 10 games, he’s hitting .121/.205/.212.
Things have been so bad Wilmer Flores got the previous two starts at first base. Yes, the Padres were starting left-handed pitchers both days, but Gonzalez has killed Clayton Richard. However, when you’re hitting like he’s been hitting, you’re not going to get into the lineup. You’re also going to hear about the Mets planning to move Jay Bruce to first base. This meant if Gonzalez was going to do anything to stop it all from happening, he was going to have to do it now.
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 29, 2018
That seventh inning three run homer was needed because it helped put what was a close game away. Instead of a tight 4-2 game with Mickey Callaway having to use his best relievers, it was a 7-2 laugher allowing Callaway to get work for guys like Matt Harvey.
It was all part of a great day for Gonzalez. Overall, he was 3-6 with a run, double, homer, and five RBI. He would have had an even better day had Franchy Cordero not robbed him of another double earlier in the game.
With Gonzalez front and center, this was really a day when a lot of beleaguered Mets got healthy. Jose Reyes contributed going 2-5 with three runs, a homer, RBI, walk, and a stolen base. Tomas Nido was 2-5 with a run, RBI, and a walk. And Harvey would pitch a scoreless ninth, even if he did allow a hard hit double to Eric Hosmer. Really, that’s the last time I want to ever put Harvey’s name, double, and a 2015 Royal in the same sentence.
Going with the rejuvenation theme, Zack Wheeler was good, which was needed from a Mets rotation still trying to figure out who can be an effective third starter in this rotation.
He battled most of the afternoon, and he did not get a 1-2-3 inning until the fifth, his last inning of work. That said, what impressed you most about this start was how Wheeler found that extra something at times when he’s usually lost it. Wheeler ended a rally in the first by striking out Freddy Galvis. He helped curb a third inning rally limiting the damage to two runs by striking out Carlos Asuaje. After Manuel Margot‘s two out single, stolen base, and advancing to third on a throwing error, Wheeler struck out Hosmer.
Overall, Wheeler had nine strikeouts, but what was really remarkable was how he got them at key moments when he needed a strikeout. That hasn’t always been his M.O., and it’s a real positive step going forward for him.
Even with his start and with Gonzalez turning back the clock was how the Mets offense put five spots on the board in consecutive innings. It was a full on onslaught by a Mets offense which saw every starting position player register two hits. Even Brandon Nimmo, who came on for Yoenis Cespedes, would register two hits. In addition to Gonzalez, Reyes and Todd Frazier would homer. The sum total of this barrage was a 14-2 Mets win marking the first ever time the Mets have scored double digits at Petco Park.
Of course with this being the Mets, not everything could be a positive. Cespedes, who has been torrid of late, had to come out of the game after executing a double steal with Bruce. In what was his second stolen base of the inning, Cespedes jammed his thumb. The good news is the x-rays were negative. The bad news is Cespedes believes he can’t play over the next three days, and that’s with the Braves coming to town.
Still, things could have been a lot worse with Cespedes, and with the Mets going to Petco, a place where they had only previously won one series, things could have gone a lot worse there. All in all, this was a good series where the Mets got back on track.
Game Notes: Paul Sewald recorded his first hold of the season. He initially came on to relieve Wheeler when it was a two run game. He now has a 1.98 ERA on the season.
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.
In Jacob deGrom's last two starts he's left the game in line for the win only to have the bullpen surrender the lead .According to Elias, since 2014, deGrom has 20 such "blown wins", the most in the majors.
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayerMMO) April 27, 2018
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
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.
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.
Entering the 2018 season, the Mets right side defense was a question mark. With veterans who could mitigate against their declining skills with positioning and baseball acumen, how much of a question mark the right side would be defensively would be open to debate.
With the Mets starting the year 15-6, it would be fair to say any concerns about any areas of this team could be overblown. And yet, it does seem the right side defense has been an issue on more than one occasion, and possibly, it helped cost the Mets some games. Here’s a review:
This game was known for a complete and utter bullpen meltdown with the bullpen walking in two runs, issuing another walk, hitting a batter, and allowing three hits in a six run Nationals inning. In a microcosm, the focus is the bullpen. In a macro sense, there is a question if the defense could have stemmed the tide.
The next RBI single was a game tying Wilmer Difo single by Wilmer Flores. Again, it is an open debate if another first baseman, maybe not Gonzalez, but another first baseman gets that ball or even knocks it down.
Lost in the meltdown were two plays where the right side could have made a play, and they didn’t. Maybe if those plays were made, that inning goes much differently.
With the game already tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ender Inciarte came to the plate with runners at the corners. In 2017, Inciarte was third in the NL in bunt hits. As a result, his dropping down a bunt, even against a drawn-in infield, could not be ruled out as a possibility. Even Gary Cohen predicted it could happen.
Inciarte would drop down that bunt, and even with Gonzalez charging in, he had no real shot to get the runner at home, and as a result, the Mets lost that game.
With the game tied and Matt Harvey on the mound, Dexter Fowler hit a line drive to right field. A plantar fascitiis plagued Jay Bruce took long to get there, and the speedy Fowler took advantage stretching the single to a double. That would put Fowler in position to score on the ensuing RBI double by Paul DeJong.
Unlike the aforementioned games, the Mets would not lose this close one due to a Gonzalez sacrifice fly and Bruce homer.
Advanced Stats Perspective
Looking at the trio of Gonzalez, Cabrera, and Bruce, they are some of the slower players in Major League Baseball. According to Baseball Savant, Gonzalez is the sixth slowest first baseman, Cabrera is the second slowest second baseman, and Bruce is the slowest outfielder in all of baseball. All combined, this is the slowest right side defense in all of baseball.
This creates an opportunity for teams to get more hits through the right side of the infield, drop those hits into the Bermuda Triangle, and take the extra base on balls hit to right.
Expanding it further, Gonzalez’s -1 DRS is 15th among MLB first baseman, Bruce’s -2 DRS is 16 among MLB right fielders, and Cabrera’s -3 DRS is worst in the majors among MLB second baseman.
Overall, the Mets -1 DRS among first baseman is 17th, -2 DRS among their right fielders is ranked 22nd, and -3 DRS among second baseman is third worst in the majors. The combined -6 DRS takes the Mets defense from a middle of the pack in the majors to a lower third defensive club.
It has created a soft spot in the Mets defense, which is all the more of a problem when you consider the bullpen has one left-handed reliever in Jerry Blevins and right now has just one left-handed starter in Steven Matz. Even with Jason Vargas soon to come off the disabled list and a bullpen full of platoon neutral to reverse platoon pitchers, this is a problem.
Now, when Cabrera is hitting like an MVP candidate, Gonzalez is getting key hits, and Bruce is hitting go-ahead homers, no one is going to care all that much.
However, when Cabrera comes back to Earth, Gonzalez stops getting those clutch RBIs, and Brandon Nimmo continues to pressure a hobbled Bruce for playing time, it’s going to become harder and harder to ignore the defensive liability the three present on one side of the field. While we can argue their impact on the aforementioned games, there will come a point in time the Mets right side defense will cost the team a game or two or more.
So, yes, right now there is no reason to have a cause for alarm or a sense of urgency. That said, sooner or later, Sandy Alderson and Mickey Callaway are going to have to find a way to mitigate against what could be the Mets biggest issue right now, even if that means bruising a couple of egos by lifting them late in games for defense.
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:
I think he played golf yesterday pic.twitter.com/Evp7wNzN7G
— Good Fundies is short for Good Fundamentals (@goodfundies) April 25, 2018
If you think he took out a month’s worth of frustrations and completely demolished that ball, you would be right:
How hard and how far?
115.1 mph, 463 feet. pic.twitter.com/KhniTFcOXL
— David Adler (@_dadler) April 25, 2018
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:
Matt Harvey's first relief outing is in the books:
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 25, 2018
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.
After another poor start, a frustrated and defiant Matt Harvey stood in front of his locker and declared, “I’m a starting pitcher. I’ve always been a starting pitcher. That’s my mindset.”
With an off-day and Jason Vargas not far away, Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland made the decision to removed Harvey from the rotation. On the move, Callaway said, “Dave and I have both seen guys go to the bullpen and come out of it better than they were before. I think that can be the case with Matt Harvey.” (New York Times).
Eiland was a little more assertive saying, “If he wants to be on this team, he has to do what’s asked of him to help this team win. And, if he wants to continue his career, he’s going to have to go out and pitch, and pitch well. What’s best for him is best for this team. It goes hand in hand.” (Matt Ehalt, Bergen Record).
Considering how Harvey’s stuff has dropped off, his assertions he is really best suited to the rotation, and the team finally making the decision to put Harvey in the bullpen, there are some parallels to be drawn here with Tim Lincecum.
Like Harvey did in 2012 and 2013, Lincecum burst onto the scene. He was more than an ace on a rotation of aces which included Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, he was the dominant figure of the group. He was the one who achieved the highest of highs, and as we have seen, he was the one who succumbed to the lowest of lows.
In 2012, the wheels came off for Linceum. The pitcher with two Cy Youngs and four straight All Star appearances was pedestrian. Instead of leading the league in strikeouts, he led the league in losses, earned runs, and wild pitches.
Come the postseason, the Giants made the tough choice. Instead of Lincecum joining Cain and Bumgarner in the rotation, it was going to be Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong. Years prio, it was unfathomable Lincecum would ever be bumped from any rotation for Vogelsong, and yet, there he was in the bullpen.
Lincecum turned out to be a revelation as a reliever. Over the course of that postseason, he made five relief appearances and one start. In his relief appearances, Linceum was completely dominant in his 13.0 innings. Overall, he was 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA, 0.385 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9.
Basically, Lincecum was what we have come to see from Andrew Miller over the past few postseasons.
This should have been a strong indication to both Lincecum and the Giants the former Cy Young should have become a full-time reliever to be a dominant force in the bullpen, to once again become a game-changer. Instead, like what the Mets have been doing with Harvey of late, both sides agreed to have Lincecum continue on in the rotation.
The dip in velocity and effectiveness continued. In the ensuing two seasons, Lincecum was 29-27 with a 4.46 ERA, 1.373 WHIP, and a 79 ERA+. This was decidedly not the Lincecum who was both a vital part of the Giants rise to prominence and their first World Series title.
This was a different pitcher, one who no one really wanted. After a disaster of a stint with the Angels in 2016, he didn’t pitch in the majors last year, and now finally, he has accepted his fate as a reliever. He’s now sitting on the 60 day disabled list with blister issues hoping they’ll resolve themselves, and he will get another chance.
Right now, Harvey is in the spot Lincecum was in 2012. He’s seen the dip in both velocity and results. He’s not the same pitcher anymore. For now, the Mets have decided he’s a reliever, which must be hard to accept for Harvey because he’s behind Vargas, the Mets version of Vogelsong.
Like Lincecum in 2012, Harvey is in a position where he needs to decide to put everything into a reliever. Given the competitor he is, and with his ability to get into the mid 90s in Spring Training, it’s possible, Harvey is going to be a shut down reliever.
The question is what happens from there. Does Harvey let his ego and heart stand in his way, and he keeps searching for that next starting pitching shot? Or does he return to his place in baseball as a dominant pitcher, albeit one in the bullpen?
If Harvey opts the bullpen route, similar to what we once saw with injury prone pitchers with great stuff like John Smoltz, we may see Harvey become a great pitcher again. Ultimately, we may see him have the career Tim Lineceum should have had if he was willing to accept the fact he was really a relief pitcher and no longer that ace atop the rotation.
Through seven innings, the batters in this game might as well have gone up to the plate blindfolded and holding onto a broken tennis racket. That was how good their chances were scoring a run against either Jacob deGrom or Julio Teheran, both of whom dominate the other team and allowed just four hits apiece tonight. Really, their final lines were practically identical:
deGrom (ND) 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K
Teheran (ND) 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, BB, 6 K
It wasn’t until the bullpens got involved that these offenses would wake up, and with the Mets being the away team, they were the ones who went off first.
Wilmer Flores drew a leadoff walk against Braves reliever Sam Freeman, and he moved to second on a Jose Reyes single. For Reyes, despite him entering this game 0-20, he had a resurgent game reaching in his first three plate attempts going 3-4 with a run and a stolen base.
The pivotal moment of the inning, and at that time, the game was when Ozzie Albies just botched catching the throw in his haste to turn a double play on a Michael Conforto grounder. While Reyes was initially ruled out, Mickey Callaway challenged the call, and Reyes was ruled safe.
As an aside, it was the second successful challenge for the Mets on the day. The other was just as important on what was initially ruled an Ender Inciarte stolen base of third with no outs in the sixth:
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) April 22, 2018
Todd Frazier‘s holding on the tag kept the game scoreless, and it helped allow this game remain scoreless into the eighth.
With the bases loaded and no outs, this was the spot where you assumed Yoenis Cespedes would come through. Even with his recent struggles, and his batting .195 on the season, he’s still gotten the clutch hits, and he is still hitting with the bases loaded. Except for tonight. He hit a shallow fly to Nick Markakis, and with Flores on third, there was no way he was going to tag up and score on that. With Cespedes’ failure to deliver, it put the rally in jeopardy.
Eventually, Adrian Gonzalez was intentionally walked, and Jose Lobaton hit a sinking line drive which Preston Tucker almost misplayed. Instead he made a sliding catch getting the Braves out of the inning down 3-0.
With his performance yesterday, you thought this would be enough for AJ Ramos to lock down. Unfortunately, we didn’t see that Ramos tonight.
No, we saw the Ramos who has troubles maintaining the strike zone. He’d bookend an Inciarte strikeout with walks to Ryan Flaherty and Albies. With Mets killer Freddie Freeman coming up, Callaway understandably went to his lone lefty Jerry Blevins.
Much like how he performed on the season, Blevins failed to get the exact guy he was brought into the game to get. Freeman hit a two RBI double to pull the Braves within one.
Blevins would strike out Markakis, but the damage was done. It was done not just because the Braves plated two runs, but because Blevins failure to get both left-handed batters, but also Ramos’ ineffectiveness, Jeurys Familia needed to come into the game to get the last out of the eighth.
Going multiple innings like this was something that was once old hat for Familia, and with him doing it already two times this season, the hope was he could do it tonight. He didn’t.
The Mets got a bit of a break with Kurt Suzuki lining a ball off of Frazier’s glove. Suzuki reached first safely, but Camargo wouldn’t score on the play. It seemed things were turning back towards the Mets direction as Charlie Culberson struck out, which at least created the possibility the Mets could get out of the inning with double play. That didn’t happen because, as Gary Cohen predicted may happen, Inciarte dropped down the drag bunt:
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) April 22, 2018
With that bunt, the Mets lost the game 4-3. More than that, the Mets blew a great start from deGrom. More than anything, this is the second time this week, the Mets bullpen has lost a game against a division rival. It is still too early to begin worrying about these sorts of things, but it is never to be soon to be aware of what issues it could raise for the Mets down the road.
Last night, Mickey Callaway made a crucial decision in the game, which surprisingly, helped lead towards the Mets scoring the winning run in the top of the 12th inning. Instead of pinch hitting for Robert Gsellman, he sent him up to the plate, and he was plunked by Josh Ravin to lead-off the inning.
Now, there were many things which informed the unuual decision of having a pitcher lead off an inning in extra frames. Mostly, this was the result of Paul Sewald being unavailable, Gerson Bautista likely unavailable, Seth Lugo and AJ Ramos having already pitched, and Callaway likely holding onto Jeurys Familia for a save inning.
For his career, Gsellman is 6-50, and yet, most Mets fans probably had more faith in Gsellman in that spot than Jose Reyes.
On the season, Reyes is 0-20, and he probably hasn’t even been that good.
So yes, with a the game still in the balance, I’d rather see a reliever hit for himself than see Reyes take the plate. That’w where things are for Reyes now. It is better to go with the reliever than trust the guy who simply cannot get a hit.
To rub salt into the wound, Gsellman was kept into the game to run for himself instead of Callaway going to Reyes. That’s pretty bad when you consider that’s the one thing Reyes actually still does well.
With the Mets blowout loss on a really bad Matt Harvey start, it looked like a team who lost three of their past four games needed to gain some momentum. Fortunately for the Mets, in baseball, momentum in the next day’s starting pitcher, and the Mets were sending Noah Syndergaard to the mound.
Unfortunately for the Mets, the rest of the team was not quite up to the task when he was on the mound.
Yes, Syndergaard was beat by Ozzie Albies on a fastball, but that was Albies hitting a good pitch. The other runs against Syndergaard was really on the Mets.
In the sixth, Nick Markakis made the mistake of challenging Yoenis Cespedes‘ arm trying to stretch and single into a double. As poor as the decision was to challenge Cespedes’ arm, it was a smart decision to test Asdrubal Cabrera‘s glove. With Cabrera unable to field the one hop throw, Markakis was safe at second.
The shame of it was Syndergaard was very good on the night. His final line was 6.0 innings, seven hits, three runs, three earned, no walks, and six strikeouts. He would get the no decision, partially because Wilmer Flores couldn’t quite score in the top half of the inning:
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) April 21, 2018
Still, the Mets did score three runs against Braves starter Sean Newcomb.
The Mets scored their first run in the third inning on an Amed Rosario double to deep center allowing Nido to score from first. With Ender Inciarte making a throwing error on the play, Rosario was able to scoot over to third. This allowed him to score on a Michael Conforto sacrifice fly, which, at the time, gave the Mets a 2-1 lead.
The Mets lead grew to 3-1 the following inning. Todd Frazier drew a walk to lead off the inning, and he stole second putting him in scoring position to score on a Flores RBI single.
After the sixth, the Mets would begin to play much better in the field, including Nido, who threw out both Flaherty on a strike ’em out-throw ’em out double play in the seventh. He would then nail Albies in the eighth. These would be the first two players thrown out on the basepaths by Mets catchers.
As impressive as that was, the Mets bullpen was even better allowing just one hit after Syndergaard departed the game. Seth Lugo pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth. AJ Ramos threw a scoreless ninth. Robert Gsellman contributed a scoreless 10th and 11th.
Gsellman would reach with Ravin hitting him with a pitch, and Gsellman quickly found himself on second on a successful Rosario sacrifice bunt. For a moment, it appeared the Mets were going to squander an opportunity with Conforto popping out, and the .197 hitting Cespedes, who had already had the golden sombrero on the night, coming to the plate.
However, like Cespedes has done many times this season, despite his struggles, he came through hitting an opposite field single against the shift scoring Gsellman from second and giving the Mets a 4-3 lead. That lead expanded to 5-3 when Cabrera hit a double off the right field wall.
Then for the second time in a week, Cabrera made a really bad base running mistake. On the way to third on what should have been a stand up triple, he did one of his slides to stop himself, and he went back to second. He was beaten back to the base by Swanson leading to the third out of the inning.
The good news is that play needed a replay review giving Jeurys Familia more time to warm up and get into the game. Between that and the two run lead, the Mets had all they needed to lock up this 5-3 win.
Once again, the Mets are back to their winning ways, are still in first place, and are sending another ace to the mound in tomorrow’s game. Once again, things are looking up for the Mets.
Game Notes: With a bloop opposite field double in the sixth, Bruce snapped an 0-19 skid. He then went hitless in his next two at-bats.
Last night, Matt Harvey had another low moment in his Mets career. Really after Terry Collins went to the mound in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, it has been nothing but low moments for Harvey. He’s was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, forever complained about his mechanics, and he had stress reactions from being rushed back to the rotation.
Now, this was supposed to be the year Harvey turned it around. He had Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland there to help get him back on track. He is also a pending free agent, and the assumption always is Scott Boras free agents always have their best years in their contract walk years.
In his first start of the season, there was a real glimmer of hope. In five innings, Harvey limited what is a pretty decent Phillies lineup to one hit over five scoreless innings while striking out five and walking one. He focused more on locating than blowing it by batters. Really, this is what everyone agrees Harvey needs to be now, and he looked great doing it.
Since then, he hasn’t been quite as good. Against the Nationals, he fooled no one allowing four runs on nine hits and one walk in five innings, and he only struck out two. That said, Harvey did keep the Mets in the game. That’s something he has failed to do in his two subsequent starts.
The worst of which being last night with the Braves tattooing Harvey in two separate innings to score six runs.
Even with that, if you wanted to find a silver lining, it was there for you as Harvey retired 11 of the last 12 Braves he faced. After the adversity of the first and third innings, he didn’t meldown. He refocused, and he at least got the Mets through the sixth inning. If you wanted to justify giving him another start, you had it right there.
As it stands anyway, it does not seem like Jason Vargas is going to be ready in five days. Corey Oswalt was held out of his last start with an illness meaning he’s no longer lined up for Harvey’s next start, and it’s not likely Chris Flexen is going to be lined up for Harvey’s next start either.
With the Mets in the midst of 10 straight games without an off day, and the team playing 15 games over the next 16 days, including stops at Atlanta, St. Louis, and San Diego, they should avoid using Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo for a spot start. The bullpen has issues of its own with the team twice needing to go into the minors to get a fresh arm, and after Gerson Bautista‘s performance last night, they may need to do it again. The bullpen issues need not be exacerbated for the sake of one start.
Really, all signs indicate Harvey should probably get just one more start. However, if that does happen Jose Lobaton cannot be the one who catches him.
In the two starts they have been paired, Harvey has an 8.18 ERA and batters are hitting .348/.367/.630 off of him. Contrast that to the 3.60 ERA and .250/.302/.375 batting line opposing batters have off of him when d’Arnaud caught him.
Maybe it’s just the reflection of small sample sizes. Maybe its’ the difference in opponents. Maybe Harvey doesn’t jive well with Lobaton, or maybe Harvey needs a good pitch framer to get those borderline strikes to ensure he doesn’t have to pitch closer to the strike and hitting zone.
Whatever the case, we’ve seen a glimmer of hope with Harvey. The team needs one more start out of him before Vargas returns. You’ve invested so much into him the past few seasons. Give him one last chance with the best chance to succeed with Tomas Nido behind the plate.
If that doesn’t work, you can honestly say you’ve tried all you can do, and it’s time to discuss bullpen, minors, or releasing him. But before you do that, just give him one last start with every chance for him to succeed.