Neil Walker

I Still Have Hope . . . Sandy Shouldn’t

After a sweep of the Giants in San Francisco, fans could allow themselves hope for the 2017 season again.  Yes, the Giants are a dreadful team, but there was a lot to like about the Mets in that series.  If you dig deeper, there is still things to like about this Mets team.

Jacob deGrom is in a stretch where he has gone at least eight innings in three consecutive starts.  This could be the best stretch of his career, which is certainly saying something.

Rafael Montero has now had three consecutive strong outings allowing just two earned runs over his last 14.1 inning pitched. In this stretch, he not only finally looks like a major league pitcher, he looks like a good major league pitcher.

Curtis Granderson has been the best hitting National League outfielder in the month of June (204 wRC+), and he’s been hitting .297/.408/.595 with 13 doubles, two triples, nine homers, and 23 RBI since May 1st.

Jay Bruce has been resurgent hitting .315/.358/.629 with four doubles, eight homers, and 17 RBI.  He’s on pace for his first 40 home run season and just his second 100 RBI season.

While acting unprofessional about the switch to second base in the clubhouse, Asdrubal Cabrera has been nothing but professional on the field going 7-14 in the series and playing a very good second base. 

Lucas Duda is flat out raking hitting .375/.474/.813 over the past week, and as we know when Duda gets hot like this, he can carry the team for a long stretch.  Just ask the 2015 Nationals.

Lost in all of that is Yoenis Cespedes being Cespedes, Addison Reed being a dominant closer, and Seth Lugo stabilizing the rotation.  There is even the specter of David Wright returning to the lineup.  When you combine that with the Mets schedule, this team is primed to reel off nine straight wins.

If the Mets were to win nine straight, they would be just one game under .500.  At that point, the Mets will be red hot heading to another big series in Washington.  Last time the teams played there, the Mets took two of three.  After that is a bad Cardinals team before the All Star Break.

Combine this hypothetical Mets run with a Rockies team losing six straight, and the Mets are right back in the mix with a bunch of teams hovering around .500 for a shot at the postseason.  Last year, the Mets were under .500 as late as August 19th, and they still made the postseason.  Throw in a potential Amed Rosario call up, and you really have things cooking.  Why not this year’s team?

Well, that’s easy.  The bullpen is a mess.  You have no idea when Noah Syndergaard and Neil Walker can return if they can return at all.  Jose Reyes is playing everyday.  The route to the postseason partially relies upon Montero being a good major league pitcher, and the Mets calling up Rosario.  At this point, those are two things no one should rely.

As a fan?  We should all enjoy the ride for as long as it will carry us.  As Mets fans, we have seen miracles.  We saw this team win in 1969.  We saw a team dead in the water in 1973 go all the way to game seven of the World Series.  We watched a Mookie Wilson grounder pass through Bill Buckner‘s legs.  We saw Mike Piazza homer in the first game in New York after 9/11.

As fans, we can hold out hope for the impossible.  We can dream.  Sandy doesn’t have that luxury.  He needs to look at the reality of the Mets situation and make the best moves he possibly can.  That includes trading Bruce, Duda, Granderson, and any other veteran who can get him a good return on the trade market.

That still shouldn’t stop us from dreaming.  Who knows?  Maybe Rosario, Gavin Cecchini, and Dominic Smith can led the Mets to the postseason after Sandy is done selling.

What Is There To Even Sell?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandy Didn’t Want To Call-Up Michael Conforto Either

Back in 2015, the New York Mets season was falling apart at the seams.  The Mets needed offense, and the fans wanted Michael Conforto.  Scouts and talent evaluators said the Mets 2014 first round draft pick was ready, but the Mets consistently insisted Conforto wasn’t ready.

Instead of Conforto, the Mets trotted out people who weren’t good and weren’t ready.  The Mets were happy trotting out John Mayberry, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Darrell Ceciliani in the outfield.  Briefly, the Mets would even try Eric Campbell in left field.  For the most part, the Mets mostly stuck with a clearly injured and hobbled Michael Cuddyer in left field.  He fell apart in June hitting just .211/.237/.311 in 25 games.

Finally, both Cuddyer and the Mets both had enough, Cuddyer would go the Disabled List, and Conforto would finally get called-up to the majors.  At that time, the Mets had lost two in a row and five of their last seven.  For a team that once had a 4.5 game lead in the division, they would fall to three games back.

It turns out Conforto was indeed ready.  He would play 56 games hitting .270/.335/.506 with 14 doubles nine homers, and 26 RBI.  He was a big part of the Mets turn-arond with the team having been 10 games over .500 in the games he played.  He was also a big part of the Mets postseason run.  He hit three homers in the postseason including two in Game Four of the World Series.

It’s possible Conforto needed every bit the time he had in Double-A.  Maybe the extra time he spent in Doube-A put him in position to succeed when he came to the majors.  It’s also likely Conforto was ready well before the Mets did what they didn’t want to do when they called him up.  Fact is, we’ll never know.  The only thing we do know is Conforto was very good when he was called up to the majors, and he has an important part of the Mets success in 2015.

The Mets are in the same exact situation in 2017.

The team has seen Asdrubal Cabrera struggled offensively and defensively, and he has landed on the Disabled List twice.  His primary back-up, Jose Reyes, has statistically been the worst infielder in the major leagues this year, and he appears to be getting worse.  Now, Neil Walker has suffered an injury that will keep him on the Disabled List for an extended time frame.

Unlike 2015, the real issue for this Mets team is defense.  As a team, the Mets rank last in the majors with a -13 DRS, and it is not likely to improve.  Reyes is not only struggling offensively, but he is struggling defensively as well.  The other players on the roster aren’t much better.

The Mets took the starting shortstop position away from Wilmer Flores for a reason.  The Mets also transitioned T.J. Rivera from shortstop to other positions because he couldn’t handle the position defensively.  Same goes for Gavin Cecchini who is now a second baseman.  Matt Reynolds is actually a good defensive shortstop, but he can’t hit enough to play everyday.

Like in 2015, the fans are clamoring for the Mets top prospect, and like in 2015, everyone but Sandy Alderson seems to believe he’s ready.  In 65 games for Las Vegas, he’s hitting .336/.378/.500 with 15 doubles, four triples, seven homers, 47 RBI, and 12 stolen bases.  Based on the offensive statistics, he seems ready, but that’s not an in depth analysis.  Truth is considering the hitting environment that is the Pacific Coast League, we probably don’t know how much improvement a player is making until they get to the majors.

However, the Mets don’t need Rosario for his offense even if anything else is likely better than what Reyes is providing.  No, the Mets need him for his defense, and the Mets need him sooner rather than later.

After losing last night’s game, the Mets are five games under .500, and they are 10.5 games back in the division.  Like in 2015, the Mets promising season is falling apart.  Instead of the team calling up the player who could help address the team’s needs, they are being stubborn in insisting the top prospect isn’t ready.  They are once again letting the season slip away.  Unlike 2015, things are much more dire.

Sure, the Mets could be right in saying Rosario isn’t ready.  After all, it is very well likely they know more than anyone about where Rosario stands in his development.  Maybe, just maybe, the Mets know what they’re doing, and when they finally bring Rosario up to the majors, he will have the success and impact Conforto did in 2015.

Hopefully, there is still a season to salvage whenever the Mets get around to calling up Rosario.

How The Mets Handle Injuries

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

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

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

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

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

Reyes/Rosario Game Log

Prior to Thurdsay’s game with the Nationals, Sandy Alderson indicated he believes the Mets roster is talented, and he’s content to leave his top prospects in the minors. Another way of saying this is with Asdrubal Cabrera landing on the Disabled List with a thumb injury, he’d rather go with Jose Reyes as the Mets shortstop over Amed Rosario

With Neil Walker going on the Disabled List for an extended period, the Mets had their excuse. But no, they’d rather go with an infield that has Reyes at SS. 

Considering when Cabrera was injured, Reyes was hitting .188/.261/.293 and Reyes’ -1.2 WAR ranking him as the worst infielder in all of baseball, Sandy’s decision making here should be called into question. 

In situations such as these, there’s only one thing you can do – Start a game log comparing Reyes and Rosario to see if Sandy was wrong, or if Sandy was right:

June 13th

Cubs 14 – Mets 3

Reyes 1-4, 2 K

51s 13 – River Cats 2 

Rosario 2-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, SB, GIDP

June 14th

Mets 9 – Cubs 4

Reyes 0-2, R, 2 BB, SB, K

River Cats 5 – 51s 4

Rosario 0-4, 2 GIDP

June 15th

Nationals 8 – Mets 3

Reyes 0-3, K 

51s 12 – River Cats 4

Rosario 2-4, 2B, BB, 2 RBI

CUMULATIVE 

Reyes 1-9, 2 BB, SB, 4 K

Rosario 4-13, 2 R, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, SB, 3 GIDP

Five Mets Not Alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite Struggles, Cecchini Gets The Call

Once Neil Walker pulled up lame when he tried to bunt for a single, every Mets fan had two thoughts:

  1. [Expletive Deleted]
  2. Will this lead to the Mets calling up Amed Rosario?

Apparently, the answer is no. After Walker’s injury, we were all waiting to see if Rosario would be removed from the Las Vegas 51s lineup. He wasn’t. Rather, it was Gavin Cecchini. Suffice it to say, this is not the guy Mets fans wanted to see.

That goes double when you consider how much he is slumping this year.  In 62 games in Triple-A, Cecchini is only hitting .249/.313/.349 with 14 doubles, a triple, three homers, 17 RBI, and three stolen bases.  In a league where everybody is hitting, Cecchini isn’t, and he has a 74 wRC+.

This is not the same Cecchini who had a breakout season last year.  In 117 games for Las Vegas last year, Cecchini hit .325/.390/.448 with 27 doubles, two triples, eight homers, 55 RBI, and four stolen bases.  His terrific play last year earned him a September call-up.  In this limited time he played down the stretch, Cecchini did not looked over-matched.  In his seven plate appearances, he hit two doubles with two RBI with a hit by pitch.

The stark difference between 2016 and 2017 leads you searching for answers.  The answer is likely a mix between Cecchini has been less selective at the plate, and he’s hitting into some hard luck.

Cecchini has seen his walk rate drop from 9.6% to 8.0%, and his strike out rate jump from 11.0% to 13.5%.  While, this is a relatively small move, we do see some implications across the board.  Cecchini’s isolated power has dropped from .125 in 2015 and .123 in 2016 to .100 this year.  His BABIP has gone from .348 in 2015 and .357 in 2016 to just .282 this year.

Going a little deeper, Cecchini is hitting more fly balls than last year and fewer ground balls and line drives. For a player who is a gap-to-gap doubles hitter, this is death.  At this point in his career, Cecchini just doesn’t have the type of power to make his living as a fly ball hitter.

It is possible Cecchini’s struggles has to do with his position change.  With his defensive struggles last year and with Rosario starting the year in Las Vegas, Cecchini has transitioned to second base.  At the same time, he is working on becoming more versatile in the field.  He has played six games at shortstop this year, and he has reportedly been working at third base.

Fortunately, the switch to second base has gone extraordinarily well for Cecchini.  He has really put his time in there, and he has become a good defensive second baseman.  Of course, the time he has spent there may have detracted from the work he has typically done at the plate.  If that isn’t the answer, it could just be the mental drain from shifting positions. Long story short, there’s no simple explanation.

Whatever it is, Cecchini has an opportunity here.  He is likely getting called up soon where he will at least have a chance to compete with T.J. Rivera for the starting second base job.  He will also have the opportunity to work with Kevin Long to help him return to the hitter he was the past two years. He also has a chance to show the Mets he is the second baseman of the future.

Like it or not, Cecchini is the guy getting called up now.  There is every chance this is the right move for both him and the Mets.  The Mets calling him up is certainly a defensible choice.  Still, Rosario should have been on the plane from Vegas with him.

It Was Juan Grandy Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lugo Reminds Us What We Were Missing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cespedes Grand And Pitching Goes Deep In Sweep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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