Robert Gsellman

The Mets 2016 Minor League Season

Like the Mets, the minor league affiliates’ seasons are long over, and over at Mets Minors, organizational leaderboards are being compiled, and awards are being handed out:

Full Season Batting Leaders – statistically speaking Brandon Nimmo might’ve had the best year especially with him missing out on the Pacific League batting title by .001 points and him having the top OBP in the farm system.

Short Season Batting Leaders – Despite having had the shortest season, Peter Alonso might’ve had the biggest impact

Minor League Best Starting Pitchers – Statistically speaking, the Mets best minor league pitchers were P.J. Conlon, Thomas Szapucki, Harol Gonzalez, Ricky Knapp, and Andrew Church

Full Season Pitching Leaders – Naturally, the above-referenced pitchers were listed throughout.

Short Season Pitching Leaders – Gonzalez and Gary Cornish dominated for the Brooklyn Cyclones while Szapucki continued to show why he is becoming a big time prospect.

Here is how all the 2015 draft picks fared with Alonso and Justin Dunn as standouts.  And nowadays, you would be remiss without mentioning the fact that Tim Tebow homered in his first professional at-bat.

However, here are the bigger awards everyone is most curious about:

Position Player of the YearAmed Rosario with honorable mention to Dominic Smith

Pitcher of the YearP.J. Conlon

Reliever of the YearDavid Roseboom

As you saw this season, there were major contributors from the Mets minor league system this year.  If not for Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Josh Smoker, T.J. Rivera, and others, the Mets may not make the postseason this year.  It is not only good to know the Mets minor league system has been this beneficial, but also that there is a significant amount of talent behind the players we have already seen contribute.

Josh Edgin & Robert Gsellman on the Wild Card Game Roster; Lucas Duda, Seth Lugo, Josh Smoker Left Off

The New York Mets have announced their Wild Card Game Roster for tonight’s winner-take-all game tonight at Citi Field

Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders

Pitchers

There were a few surprises on this roster. The one that immediately stands out is the Mets not carrying Lucas Duda on the roster. In a short period of time, Duda has gone from in the conversation to starting at first base tonight to not even being on the roster. His will be a big bat the Mets will miss for a late inning pinch hitting opportunity.

The next surprise was the Mets carrying Gsellman over Seth Lugo. While Gsellman has been the hotter pitcher over the past couple of starts, Gsellman does not have the experience Lugo has coming out of the bullpen.

The biggest surprise was the Mets carrying Edgin over Josh Smoker. This season, Smoker has struck out 14.7 batters per nine, and he has gotten the Mets out of a few tough jams. Edgin, on the other hand, has struggled this season due in large part to him not fully regaining his velocity after Tommy John surgery. However, despite the surprise, there is some justification for the decision.

First, both Smoker and Edgin are one inning pitchers. Each time Terry Collins has tried to push Smoker past one inning of work, he has allowed a second home run. With them both being one inning pitchers, the Mets most likely sought to use the pitcher who matches up better against the Giants. Given the Giants have many left-handed batters, Edgin seems to be the better choice. This season, lefties are hitting .235/.300/.235 off of Edgin as opposed to .360/.448/.600 off of Smoker.

Overall, the hope is that the Mets don’t have to use Edgin or worry about leaving Smoker off the roster. First and foremost, Blevins is going to be the LOOGY in the big spot, and Robleshas reverse splits. Additionally, the Mets 7-8-9- combination of Salas-Reed-Familia pitch just as well against lefties as they do to righties. In the end, so long as Syndergaard and the back end of the bullpen do their job, as we all expect they will do, the Edgin/Smoker decision will not amount to much.

That Was Wild 

Baseball is funny. There was about a four month stretch where watching Mets baseball was a tedious and frustrating exercise. It was about as painful as watching Yoenis Cespedes try to play on an injured quad. 

Speaking of pain, seemingly everyone got hurt. Of all the people in the Opening Day lineup, only Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto didn’t wind up on the disabled list at some point. With Conforto making two trips to AAA, that left Granderson as the only Met starter available all season. 

We saw something similar last year.  However, we saw last year that a team can make it to the postseason with some big trade deadline moves, a weak schedule to finish the season, and tremendous pitching. 

Well, the trade deadline wasn’t the boon it was last year. Jay Bruce would struggle mightily until the last week of the season. 

The starting pitching we all expected wasn’t there. Matt Harvey was never healthy and needed season ending surgery. Zack Wheeler had multiple setbacks during his Tommy John rehab, and he wouldn’t pitch this year. Both Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom pitched with injuries until they couldn’t anymore. Both had season ending surgeries. 

Speaking of season ending surgeries, the Mets also lost David Wright to cervical fusion surgery and Neil Walker to discectomy. Speaking of bad backs, Lucas Duda was nowhere to be found for most of the year with him suffering a stress fracture in his back. 

Still, the Mets made it back to the postseason. They did take advantage of that weak season ending schedule. Since August 20th, the Mets have the best record in baseball. How did we get here?

Well, Noah Syndergaard and his 95 MPH slider had a Cy Young caliber season. Bartolo Colon had his best season as a Met. Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia were the most dominant 8-9 combination in all of baseball. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman became not only unlikely contributors, but also reliable starters in the stretch run. 

Offensively, Asdrubal Cabrera became the best hitter in all of baseball the final month of the season. Cespedes got healthy, and Granderson regained his stroke. Wilmer Flores and Kelly Johnson combined to reasonably replicate Walker’s production until Flores got hurt and Johnson regressed. At that point, T.J. Rivera took complete advantage of the opportunity with the 27 year old undrafted rookie playing solid defense and spraying line drives all over the field. And yes, Jose Reyes returned to the Mets after his domestic violence issues to play better than anyone could’ve reasonably expected. 

That coupled with the Giants and Cardinals playing sub .500 ball, the Mets had their 1973 window, and the Mets took full advantage. All they needed to do was win one more game. 

Fittingly, Colon got the start (pun intended). He’d get a 2-0 lead off a pair of RBI singles from Rivera and Reyes. As he has seemingly done all year, Reyes scored Travis d’Arnaud from second. As usual, it was a questionable send by Tim Teufel as the ball beat d’Arnaud to the plate. Fortunately, the throw was to the first base side of the plate, and d’Arnaud made a nifty slide to just avoid the tag. 

That’s when ghost of Phillies past Ryan Howard tried to put a damper on the party by hitting a game tying two run home run. Up until the Howard home run, he was cruising and showing no ill effects from his tendon injury. 

In the sixth, James Loney would do his best Dave Magadan impression:

He also had a Cabrera impression with an impressive bat flip. 

Of course, Cabrera would be heard from with an RBI single in the ninth. Cespedes would also be heard from, but in a completely different way altogether:

Reed and Familia locked down the eighth and ninth inning for the 51st time this season, which is by far the most in the majors. 

The last out was recorded by Conforto making a sliding catch in left. The last time a left fielder with the number 30 caught the clinching out was Cliff Floyd in 2006.  Hopefully, these Mets can have a long playoff run like that team. Honestly though, we’re hoping for more than that. 

With that, the 2016 Mets completed their 1973 Mets regular season run. Now comes the hard part. That begins Wednesday with Syndergaard taking the mound against either the Giants or Cardinals in the winner take all Wild Card Game. 

The Bruce Is Loose

Coming into tonight’s game, the Phillies made overtures they wanted to knock the Mets out if the postseason. 

Early on, Cameron Rupp would put the money where his mouth is by hitting a second inning sacrifice fly off Robert Gsellman. With Alec Asher starting with three perfect innings, it appeared that the Mets would have a dog fight on their hands. The Mets were up to the task. 

In the fourth, Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson would hit back-to-back two out singles to set the stage for Jay Bruce. Two weeks ago, it would be inning and rally over. Now?  He’s scorching hot, and he confined the hot streak with an RBI single in this spot. T.J. Rivera followed with an RBI single of his own to make it 2-1. 

That’s as close as the Phillies would get despite Jimmy Paredes giving one a ride in the sixth that looked as if it would put the Phillies ahead until Granderson ran his long fly down:

That would close the book on Gsellman who had a terrific slider going all night long. After that second inning rally, the Phillies wouldn’t get much going against him. Gsell man’s final line was six innings, seven hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and seven strikeouts. He’d hand the ball off to the unstoppable 7-8-9 combination of Fernando SalasAddison ReedJeurys Familia

Unlike most games where they find themselves walking a tightrope, the Mets would get them some insurance runs. 

First, Bruce would chase Asher with a home run in the seventh making it 3-1.  Then, in the eighth, the Mets would have one of the more bizarre rallies, you will ever see. 

It started innocently enough with an Alejandro De Aza pinch hit single. He’d move to second on a Jose Reyes single, and then he’d find himself on third when Aaron Altherr overran the ball. Then, well, it was one of the more bizarre sequences, you’ll ever see.

While Reyes was running back to first with his hands on his head, Ryan Howard just couldn’t get to it. He couldn’t get to a ball that landed on the first base bag!  With that the ball bounced off the bag, with Cespedes reaching safely, Reyes being forced out at second, and De Aza scoring from third. 

Granderson would then walk moving Cespedes into scoring position. Bruce then followed this tomfoolery with an RBI single just against the shift to make it 5-1 Mets. Bruce continued the hot hitting going 3-4 with a run, three RBI, and a homer. After his RBI single, he was lifted for Juan Lagares for defense as Collins was taking no chances.  

With the Mets looking to potentially lock down a Wild Card spot tonight, Collins stuck with the Reed-Familia plan to close it out. With the appearance, Familia would set a career high in appearances and games finished. 

Depending on the outcome of the Cardinals game, the Mets mission for the 2016 season is almost finished.  

Game Notes: Lucas Duda returned to the lineup going 0-4. James Loney replaced him for defense in the ninth. This was Ron Darling‘s last game of the year on SNY. Something tells me it won’t be his last Mets game of the year. 

Projected Wild Card Game Roster

One of the quirks of the Wild Card Game is a team is able to create a standalone 25 man roster just for that game.  After the completion of the Wild Card Game, the winning team is able to reset its roster for the Division Series.  With that in mind, when the Mets construct their roster, they really have no need to carry extra starting pitchers.  Instead, they can carry an extra reliever or two, and they can add a couple of bats on the bench for pinch hitting and running opportunities.  With that in mind, here is how I would construct the roster.

Catchers (2)Travis d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera

With the Wild Card Game starting pitcher likely to be either Syndergaard or Lugo, it seems that Rivera will be Terry Collins choice as the starting catcher.  If the Mets fall behind early, he may very well go to d’Arnaud for offense.  However, for now, Rivera seems the likely starter.

First Base (2) – Lucas Duda and James Loney

The only variable we don’t know right now is whether Duda can play everyday during a postseason run.  However, we have seen him play effectively here and there as he gets more playing time.  If Duda is ready to go, he has to start.  If not, Loney can start with Duda being the power bat off the bench.  If Duda does start, Loney is there for insurance for Duda’s back, and he can hit right-handed pitching reaosnably well in the event the Mets need an extra pinch hitter.

Second Base (2) – Kelly Johnson and T.J. Rivera

If the Mets face the Giants and Madison Bumgarner, it is likely Rivera gets the start.  If the Mets face the Cardinals and Carlos Martinez, it is likely Johnson gets the start.  No matter which one gets the start, we know that the other one will be the best pinch hitting option when the Mets need a bit hit.

Third Base (1)Jose Reyes

At this point, barring something unusual happening, Reyes is the team’s everyday third baseman and leadoff hitter.  He also serves as a backup shortstop in the event something happens to Cabrera

Shortstop (1) – Asdrubal Cabrera

Cabrera is the best hitter in the major leagues during the month of September, and while he has two injured knees, he is able to effectively handle all the balls that come within the vicinity of shortstop.

Outfield – (5) Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Alejandro De Aza, Curtis Granderson

Given how Bruce’s bat has come alive the past few games and with the way Conforto has been adapting to being a pinch hitter, both players should find themselves on the Wild Card Game roster.  What will be curious is whether it is Bruce or De Aza that finds themselves in the outfield with Cespedes and Granderson.  In a winner-take-all situation, Collins just might be inclined to go with the defense over the bat.

Starting Pitchers (3) – Bartolo Colon, Seth Lugo, and Noah Syndergaard

Whether or not Syndergaard pitches on Sunday, he has to be on the roster.  You cannot go down without the ability to throw your best pitcher, even if it is for one inning.  Same goes for your second best pitcher, which is why Colon should be on the roster.  As for Lugo, he should make the roster because: 1) he has experience as a short reliever; and 2) it is his turn in the rotation, so he can give you as many innings as you need.

Bullpen (5) – Jerry Blevins, Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Fernando Salas and Josh Smoker

If things go to plan, it is likely the Mets are not going to need more than Reed and Familia.  If the starter is able to go six, Reed can pitch the seventh and Familia can get the final two innings like he did in the NLDS clincher last year.  In the event things don’t go as smoothly, this bullpen can effectively mix and match.  Smoker seems like a given to make the roster because it gives the Mets an extra lefty in the pen, one with reverse splits, that can get a big strikeout when the Mets are in a jam.

Bubble –

If the Mets were to go with this group of players, and it seems likely they would that leaves the team with 22 players on the roster with decisions to make for the final four spots.  Here is a case for each of the potential bubble players:

Position Players

UT Eric Campbell  – As we saw when the Mets faced Adam Conley and the Marlins, Collins has fallen back in the habit of using Campbell as his right-handed first baseman.  In the event the Mets face the Giants, Campbell may well find himself getting a postseason start.  If not, he has shown the ability to be a very effective pinch hitter in tight games.

UT Ty KellyCollins has liked using as a pinch runner towards the back-end of the season.  Even though he is much better hitting right-handed in his short major league career, Kelly’s switch hitting ability does have some usefulness in neutralizing an opposing manager’s ability to go to a lefty/righty in a big spot for multiple outs.

CF Juan LagaresLagares just started to swing the bat, but we still don’t know if he can do it multiple times in a game if necessary.  However, with the Mets not needing to carry as many pitchers, Lagares could be kept on the roster to bunt, pinch run, and play defense in the late innings.

C Kevin Plawecki – Plawecki has not done much of anything offensively this season.  However, he remains a good defensive catcher, and his presence on the team would permit Collins to be aggressive in bringing in d’Arnaud for offense with full knowledge that the Mets have other catcher on the bench.

SS Matt ReynoldsEspecially given Cabrera’s injuries further limiting his range, Reynolds could very well be the Mets best defensive shortstop.  Should Cabrera have to leave the game with an injury, Reynolds could step right in defensively.  Additionally, in the event Collins needs to start double switching people in and out of the game to keep a pitcher in longer, Reynolds’ ability to competently play second, third, short, and left make him a versatile and valuable bench piece.

Bullpen

LHP Josh Edgin – His chances of making the roster increase if the Mets play the Giants given the presence of Denard Span and Brandon Belt.  In that event, the Mets may want that one extra lefty to have multiple matchup opportunities.  Against the Cardinals, the need for the extra left-hander won’t be as great.

RHP Erik GoeddelEven if it has been mostly in mop-up duty, Goeddel has pitched much better in September than he has all season.  Unlike Edgin or Henderson (below), Goedell has also shown the ability to go multiple innings lately thereby increasing his usefulness out of the pen.

RHP Robert Gsellman – Gsellman could make the team as a long reliever with Collins then using Lugo as a one inning reliever who can let it fly for one or two innings.  Additionally, with Gsellman’s sinker, Collins could elect to go with him in a situation in which the Mets need to get a double play.

RHP Jim HendersonHenderson hasn’t been the same since coming back from the disabled list.  With that said, he’s still striking out 10.6 per nine, and so far this month, he has seven scoreless appearances.  More than any of the above, he has the biggest upside.  However, when he loses with 95+ MPH fastball, and it happens without a moment’s notice, he’s going to get hit around.

Prediction

Who the Mets carry for the final three spots will be largely based upon the opponent.  In the event that the Mets face the Giants, the odds of Campbell and Edgin making the roster go up significantly.  If the Mets face the Cardinals, who have multiple effective lefties out of the pen, someone like Kelly with his switch hitting ability could see his chances of making the roster increase.

Overall, considering how the Mets have handled the catching situation late in the season, the Mets should probably carry Plawecki as a third catcher.  Doing so will permit Collins to switch out Rivera for d’Arnaud if the Mets fall behind early or if the Mets need a right-handed pinch hitter.

If the Mets face the Giants, it is likely that Campbell will make the roster as the starting first baseman.  If the Mets face the Cardinals, the Mets will then likely carry Kelly as a pinch runner/pinch hitter or Reynolds.  Given how the concerns over Cabrera’s knees, and the need to double switch late in games, and because Reynolds has some extra pop in his bat than Kelly, Reynolds should be the choice.

The last spot becomes dicey.  As the Mets bullpen is constituted, the team has multiple pitchers who can go multiple innings thereby negating the need to carry an eighth reliever.  This choice here will likely be and should be opponent driven.  If the Mets face the Giants, Edgin should be the choice so the Mets can get multiple lefty/lefty matchups late in games.  If the Mets face the Cardinals, the team should probably carry both Reynolds and Kelly.  This would help the Mets neutralize the Cardinals unleashing their left-handed relievers against the Mets late in the game.

Of course, if Lagares is truly healthy enough to swing the bat, as he has done the past few games, he definitely needs to be on the roster.  He had a good postseason last year, and he’s the team’s best defensive outfielder.

There are a number of interesting decisions ahead, and ultimately it will depend on the opponent and whether the Cardinals keep enough heat on the Giants so Bumgarner had to pitch on Sunday.

Editor’s Note: this was also published on Mets Merized Online

Mets Need to Clinch As Soon As Possible

With the Mets beating the Marlins, and the Reds beating the Cardinals, the Mets magic number to claim one of the two Wild Card spots is two. This means the Mets can claim a Wild Card spot as early as Friday or as late as Saturday. It would behoove the Mets to clinch as soon as possible for many reasons. 

For starters, there is the issue of their starting pitcher. As it stands right now, Noah Syndergaard is slated to pitch on the regular season finale. In the event the Mets have not wrapped up the Wild Card by then, Terry Collins will have little choice but to throw Syndergaard. You do not want the Mets to miss out on the postseason because you held your ace back for a game that was not yet guaranteed. If the Mets are forced to pitch Syndergaard on Sunday, the Mets choices for the Wild Card Game will be either Bartolo Colon, who has an injured tendon in his right foot, on short rest or the unproven rookies Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. In reality, there is only one pitcher the Mets can trust right now in a winner-take-all game and that is Syndergaard.

Another important reason the Mets need to clinch early is some of their better players need some rest. Asdrubal Cabrera has been the best hitter in all of major league baseball in September.  He is also dealing with two knee problems.  He has really been dealing with a left knee issue all season and just the other day, he fouled a ball off his right knee.  As a result of these injuries, Cabrera has taken up the habit of sliding whenever possible to stop his momentum to keep pressure off his knees.  With that in mind, he can certainly use an extra couple of days off.  The Mets should want to get them for him too considering how well he has hit since coming off the disabled list.

There is also the issue of Yoenis Cespedes and his injured quad.  While he has been much healthier and hitting better than he was while he was hobbled, he has not been the same hot hitting Cespedes Mets fans have grown to love.  Since coming off the disabled list he is “only hitting” .269/.346/.522 with nine homers and 26 RBI.  These are for sure terrific numbers, but they are not the numbers the Mets have come to expect from Cespedes.  An extra couple of days should help him recuperate a little more and get some more of his power back.

The Mets bullpen can also use some time off as well.  Right now, Addison Reed has made the third most appearances in the major leagues.  The 77 appearances is already a career high for him as are the 74.2 innings pitched.  Jeurys Familia has pitched in more games and thrown more innings than any other closer in baseball.  Throw in Fernando Salas heavy September workload, and you have a tired 7-8-9 trio heading into the postseason.  A couple of days off will certainly do each of these pitchers a lot of good.

Additionally, clinching early will allow the Mets to give an older player like Curtis Granderson a few days of rest before the postseason.  It will also allow the Mets to see if Lucas Duda is ready to fully takeover for James Loney at first base.  Furthermore, it allows the Mets to play Michael Conforto to get him going to permit him to be as effective a pinch hitter off the bench as possible this postseason.

One or two days may not seem like much to accomplish all of these goals, but it really is. Those days permit the Mets to set up Syndergaard to be ready to pitch, and it gives Cabrera and Cespedes, the Mets two most important hitters right now, time off their feet to be as fresh as possible. As long as the Mets have that, they will not only have a good shot at winning the Wild Card Game, but it will also improve their chances of making a deep run in the postseason. 

Seth Lugo’s Last Start Is Just the Beginning

Tonight marks Seth Lugo‘s last start in what has been an already incredible season for him.  More than any other pitcher in the Mets organization, it was unlikely that Lugo would find himself in this position.

After 14 starts and a 6.93 ERA for AAA Las Vegas, the Mets organization decided Lugo should not be a starting pitcher.  It was certainly understandable.  The Mets major league team was flush with young starting pitching with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven MatzZack Wheeler was supposed to join them soon as he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.  If the Mets needed a spot starter, there was Logan Verrett, who did the job quite admirably last year, and Sean Gilmartin, who pitched well in the majors last season.  When you also consider the Mets had well regarded pitching prospects in Gabriel Ynoa and Robert Gsellman, it was seemingly time to move Lugo to the bullpen.  At 26 years old, it was probably his best chance to make it to the majors.

Lo and behold, that’s exactly how he would make it to the bigs.  In his first major league appearance, he unleashed what was then the best curveball ever thrown in the Statcast Era.  The pitch fooled Anthony Rizzo, a player who finished in the top four in MVP voting last year, is a three time All Star, and is hitting .305/.395/.579 with 23 homers and 72 RBI off right-handed pitching.  Right then and there Lugo not only showed that his curveball may be the best pitch in the entire Mets system, but that he belongs in the major leagues.

Lugo would continue to show he was a major leauger in his next nine appearances.  In those appearances, he pitched 17.0 innings with a 2.65 ERA and a 0.941 WHIP.  In those appearances, he limited batters to a .185/.273/.222 batting line.

Then disaster struck – not to Lugo, but to the Mets starting rotation.  With Lugo pitching well out of the bullpen, he soon found himself in the one place no one thought he was ever going to be.  The starting rotation.  In his first start, Lugo was much better than anyone ever imagined pitching 6.2 innings against the Giants.  He was able to be economical with his pitches thereby allowing him to go deep into the game despite it being his first start in two months.

From there, Lugo has shown he belongs in the rotation.  In Lugo’s seven starts, he is 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA and a 1.104 WHIP.  When there are runners in scoring position, Lugo has shown the ability to bear down (some would call it luck) adding a few extra MPH to his fastball and relying a little more heavily on a curveball that generates both swings and misses as well as groundballs.  As a result, batters are only hitting .163/.259/.233 off of him in those situations.

That’s where Lugo finds himself on his last start of the regular season.  He’s taking the mound against the Marlins in the hopes of dropping the Mets magic number to clinch one of the Wild Card spots from four to three or two.  He’s also making his case that he should pitch the Wild Card Game in the event Syndergaard has to pitch in the regular season finale on Sunday.  He’s also making the case he should be the third starter over Gsellman this postseason.

He’s also making the case that he belongs in the long term plans of the New York Mets.  He’s already done a terrific job of doing that so far.  Another strong start here and a good postseason, it’ll be a guarantee.

Terry Collins Decision of the Game: Are You Sticking with Bartolo Colon or Not?

The reason why Bartolo Colon has been effective all season has been his ability to locate and put movement on his high 80s fastball.  When he is unable to do that, he becomes a batting practice pitcher.  Last night, Colon was a batting practice pitcher.  It all come unraveling in a four run second inning.

Consider for a second, the first out of the inning was a sacrifice bunt by the opposing pitcher Adam Conley. Up until that point, the Marlins first four batters of the inning had hit the ball hard, and there were already two runs scored.  Dee Gordon the followed his first inning home run with a two RBI single making it 5-0.  With the way the Mets offense has been hitting lately, and with the Marlins bullpen most likely needing to do a bulk of the heavy lifting on the night, this game was not out of reach.

What was interesting was Colon was due up second in the top of the third.  Last week, Terry Collins was very aggressive pulling his pitchers in a search for more offense to win games.  Granted, there is a massive difference between pulling Colon early than Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, or Gabriel Ynoa, but the game was already on the verge of getting out of hand at 5-0.  Furthermore, with Gsellman going deep into Sunday’s game along with the Mets not needing Ynoa or Rafael Montero to start another game this year, the Mets could’ve rolled the dice in pulling Colon.  Instead, Collins stuck with the veteran in the hopes that he would get himself right and go deep in the game.

In the bottom of the third, it was clear that wasn’t going to happen.  Right off the bat, Christian Yelich hit the ball hard, and it deflected off of Colon.  After the play, Collins and Ray Ramirez would go out to the mound with Colon ignoring Ramirez.  Giancarlo Stanton followed with a hard line drive out to center.  At this point in time, it was clear Colon didn’t have it, and yet he would go another batter.  Justin Bour then hit a hard line drive to right that Jay Bruce misplayed into a two run triple to make it 7-0.  Right then and there, the game was effectively over.  It was right then and there that Collins lifted Colon for Ynoa.

If you want to defend Colon pitching to start the third, you can make the case.  You can make an even better case given the emotions of the night and the way Colon was being hit around, he should not have been in the game.  The issue becomes why not let Colon finish the inning?  It’s one thing to go to your bullpen for six plus innings to stay in a close game.  It’s a whole other matter to go that deep into the pen for a game you’ve already lost.  Why not let Colon figure it out?  At that point, what is the difference between 7-0 and 10-0?  You might as well try to steal a couple of innings out of him to save the bullpen a bit – even with the expanded rosters.

As it turned out, the Mets bullpen wouldn’t get burned.  They got good work out of a group of relievers who are most likely not going to be on the postseason roster with Ynoa, Montero, Erik Goeddel, Josh Edgin, and Jim Henderson.  Still, you have to question what Collins would have done if one of those guys were hit hard.  Would he have made one of them wear it, or would he have chased the unlikely comeback?  We’ll never be sure.  What we are sure of is Collins inability to play it one way might’ve cost the Mets what might’ve been a winnable game.

Syndergaard Needs to Make This His Last Start of the Year

As we saw with the Mets last year, your chances of winning in the postseason are greatly enhanced when you are able to properly set your rotation.  With the Mets clinching in plenty of time, they were able to make sure Jacob deGrom went against Clayton Kershaw in Game One of the NLDS, and they were ready to make sure Matt Harvey started a pivotal Game Three.  The Mets were also able to start Noah Syndergaard in Game Two and have him ready for a lights out relief appearance in the clinching Game Five.  If the Mets were not able to set their rotation just like that, it is very possible the Mets don’t make it out of the NLDS let alone make it all the way to the World Series.

In many ways, that is what is on the line for Syndergaard in his start against the Marlins tonight.

As it stands right now, the Mets have a half game lead over the Giants for the first Wild Card.  With the Mets having won the season series against the Giants, all they need to do is just tie the Giants for the first Wild Card to play the Wild Card Game at Citi Field.  The Mets also have a 1.5 game lead over the Cardinals for one of the two Wild Card spots.  All told, the Mets magic number to get a Wild Card spot is five. That number goes down to four if Syndergaard goes out there and wins tonight.  It could go even lower with a Cardinals loss.

The Mets need to get to that clincher as soon as possible.  With Syndergaard pitching tonight, his next scheduled start will be on Sunday, which is the regular season finale.  If Syndergaard is forced to make this start, that means he will be unavailable to start in Wednesday’s Wild Card Game.  If Syndergaard has to start on Sunday, it means the Mets have to choose between Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman on normal rest or Bartolo Colon on short rest to make the biggest start of the season.  Simply put, Syndergaard is the Mets best pitcher, and he is the man the Mets want on the mound for the Wild Card Game.

The Mets also need a big start from Syndergaard because the Mets need to help move on from the emotion that swept them up last night.  Both Yoenis Cespedes and Travis d’Arnaud were crying on the field.  It was a hard game for the Mets to play.  From an outsider’s perspective, it appeared that the emotions of the night got the better of them.  That is certainly understandable, and it would be understandable if it happened again tonight.  No one expects the pain from losing Jose Fernandez to go away just because the Marlins won a big game last night.  Still, the Mets have to move on and get back to playing winning baseball.  Syndergaard shutting down the Marlins will go a long way towards helping the team get back on the winning track.

Finally, Syndergaard needs a big start for himself.  In his last outing, he threw 99 pitches, and he couldn’t get out of the fourth inning against a terrible Braves team.  In that game, he allowed eight hits and walked three while allowing five runs in just 3.2 innings.  That’s not Syndergaard.  He needs to get back on the mound tonight and get back to being Syndergaard.  If he doesn’t, the Mets have no shot at winning the Wild Card Game or in making a deep run in the postseason.

There is a lot on the line in tonight’s start.  Syndergaard has to help rejuventate not just the Mets but also himself.  He has to do all that is necessary to make sure this is his last start of the regular season.  It’s a lot to put on his broad shoulders.  However, as we have seen in his young career, he can certainly handle it.

That’s How You Finish Out the Regular Season at Home

Growing up, my family did not always go to Opening Day.  It was sometimes difficult for my Dad to get off of work, and even if he could, we had my mother insisting that my brother and I could not miss a day of school just to go to a Mets game.  What eventually happened is that my father, brother, and I usually found ourselves going to the last game of the season, which usually falls on a Sunday.

When you go to Opening Day, there is always hope.  Even when your team stinks, you can find some reason for hope. I remember thinking back in 1993 that the 1992 Mets season was just a fluke.  Bobby Bonilla was certainly going to be better.  Howard Johnson was back in the infield where he belonged.  This could be the year Todd Hundley and Jeff Kent break out.  The team still had Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, and Bret Saberhagen with John Franco in the bullpen.  It turns out the 1993 team was even worse than the 1992 team.

The last game of the season always has an interesting feel to it.  When we went to the final game of the season, it was more of a farewell to an awful season.  Being ever the optimist, we still had hope for a bright future with Pete Schourek throwing eight brillant innings to cap off a Mets six game winning streak.  It seemed like 1994 was going to be a big year in baseball.  It was, but that’s a whole other story.

There was the devastating 2007 finale.  Heading into that game, most Mets fans believed that despite the epic collapse, the Mets were going to take care of the Marlins.  They just snapped a five game losing streak behind a brilliant John Maine performance and the offense coming alive to score 13 runs.  Even better, the Phillies seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit with them getting shut down by Matt Chico and a terrible Marlins team.  The sense was if the Mets won this game, the Phillies would feel the pressure and lose their game.  Even if the Phillies won their game, the Mets would beat the Phillies and return to the postseason like everyone expected.

After Tom Glavine laid an egg, which included out and out throwing a ball into left field trying to get Cody Ross, who was going to third on the original throw to home.  At 5-0, the Mets were still in the game.  David Wright was having a torrid September.  Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were big game players.  I don’t think Moises Alou made an out that entire month.  With that in mind, I turned to my father, and I said to him, “If the Mets allow one more run, the game is over . . . .”  As the words left my mouth, Jorge Soler allowed a two run double to Dan Uggla.  Sure, they would play eight and a half more innings, but the collapse was over right then and there.

That 2007 finale hung over the 2008 finale.  Mets fans were probably a bit more optimistic than they had a right to be.  The day before Johan Santana took the ball with three days rest, and he pitched a complete game three hitter.  The Mets had Oliver Perez going in the finale.  Back then, this was considered a good thing.  The offense was clicking again.  However, that bullpen was just so awful.  The Mets were relying on Luis Ayala to close out games, and believe it or not, his 5.05 ERA and 1.389 WHIP was considered a steadying presence to an injury ravaged bullpen.  Beltran would hit a huge home run to tie the game, but the joy wouldn’t last.  Jerry Manuel, just an awful manager, turned to Scott Schoeneweis to gave up the winning home run to Wes Helms (Mets killer no matter what uniform he wore), and then aforementioned Ayala gave up another one that inning to Uggla to seal the deal at 4-2.

Fittingly, the last out was made by Ryan Church.  He was the same Mets player the Mets flew back and forth to the West Coast despite him having a concussion.  Remember the days when the Mets didn’t handle injuries well?  Nevermind.  In any event, I was one of the few that stayed to watch Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza close out Shea Stadium.  Many disagree, but I thought it helped.

Last year, was just a celebration.  The Mets had already clinched the NL East, and they were off to their first postseason since 2006.  The only thing left was the Mets winning one more game to get to 90 wins.  The 90 wins was window dressing, but the shift from 89 to 90 is just so satisfying.  It means more than 86 to 87 wins or 88 to 89 wins.  That 90 win mark is an important threshold for the psyche of teams and fans.

This year was something different altogether.  In terms of pure baseball, the Mets entered the day tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card with the Cardinals just a half a game behind (tied in the loss column).  The night before the Mets had seen Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero combine to put the team in a 10-0 hole that the Las Vegas 51s just couldn’t quite pull them out from under.  Still, that rally had created some buzz as did Robert Gsellman starting the game.  However, there was the shock of the Jose Fernandez news that muted some of the pregame buzz.

After the moment of silence, there was a game to be played, and it was just pure Mets dominance.

Gsellman would pitch seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.  More amazing than that was the fact that he actually got a bunt single.  For a player that can only bunt due to an injury to his non-pitching shoulder, the Phillies sure acted surprised by the play.  Overall, it was a great day by Gsellman who was helped out by the Mets offense and a little defense along the way:

 

It was that type of day for the Mets.  After Saturday’s pinch hit home run there was a Jay Bruce sighting again on Sunday.  On the day, he was 2-4 with two runs and a double.  It was easily the best game he had as a Met.  His second inning double would start the rally that ended with James Loney hitting an RBI groundout.  Then, as  Cousin Brucey would say, “the hits just keep on comin’!”  No, that was not just an allusion to the Phillies pitchers who hit three batters in the game.  It refers to the Mets offense.

Curtis Granderson hit a fourth inning solo shot to make it 2-0.  It was his 30th of the year making it the first time  the Mets have had a pair of 30 home run outfielders since, really who even knows?  In the fifth, T.J. Rivera plated a run with an RBI single.  Later in the fifth, Jose Reyes would the first of his two RBI bases loaded walks.  Overall, the big blow would come in the seventh off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera:

The grand slam put the capper on not just the game, but a pretty remarkable season at home where the Mets were 44-37 on the season.  The Mets also hit 193 homers at home, which was the most ever hit at Citi Field, and more than any the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium in any one season:

In the eighth, the Mets just poured it on with some of the 51s getting into the game.  Gavin Cecchini was hit by a pitch, Brandon Nimmo and Ty Kelly walked, and Eric Campbell got another RBI pinch hit.  Throw in a Michael Conforto two RBI double, and the Mets would win 17-0.  Exiting Citi Field, you got the sense this was not the last time you would see this team at home.  As it stands now, the Mets back to being a game up on the Giants, and the Cardinals fell to 1.5 games back.

There haven’t been many final games to the season like this one, and I’m not sure there ever will be.  Overall, it was a great way to close out the regular season at Citi Field.  However, for right now, it is not good-bye like it was in 1993, and it certainly isn’t good riddance like it was in 2007.  Rather, this game had more of a feeling of, “See you again soon.”