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 Matz. Zack 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.
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.
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.
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:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 26, 2016
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:
The final home game of the season is over, here are the all 193 home runs hit in Citi Field this season. pic.twitter.com/KHfkv3lXFP
— CitiFieldHR (@CitiFieldHR) September 25, 2016
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.”
There is a fine line between being aggressive and going for it and just flat out panicking. The way Terry Collins managed last night was clearly the former.
In his two innings of work Gabriel Ynoa was getting hit by the Phillies. He allowed five hits, two runs, two earned, and one walk with only one strikeout. There were no extra base hits or any balls hit particularly hard. Still, Ynoa wasn’t fooling anyone. With him having already thrown 43 pitches, it was hard to imagine him going deep in the game.
However, no reasonable person could expect what happened next.
Travis d’Arnaud hit a two out RBI double to pull the Mets within 2-1. Then, rather than let Ynoa make his obligatory out to end the inning, Collins pinch hit Ty Kelly for Ynoa. In the second inning, Collins chased the run and pulled his starter from the game. If it’s Game Seven of the World Series where there’s no tomorrow, and you have your full compliment of arms, sure; why not? However, the Mets do have a game tomorrow.
By the way, in that game, the Mets are starting Sean Gilmartin because Noah Syndergaard has strep throat. Gilmartin’s last start was over a month ago. This means, at best, you can expect him to go five innings. More likely, you’re going to get less than that. With that in mind, you need as many guys as you can pitch tomorrow.
The Mets also needed to rest their bullpen as they have been taxed lately. Here is the breakdown in how much they’ve been used this week:
- Sunday 4.1 innings
- Monday 5.1 innings
- Tuesday 3.2 innings
- Wednesday 2.1 innings
- Thursday 6.0 innings
With that usage, Collins was asking his bullpen to find him seven innings the day before he was likely going to have to go deep into the bullpen again. Also, Sunday’s starter is Robert Gsellman who is averaging 5.2 innings per start meaning the Mets will most likely need to go deep into their bullpen again.
However, that’s addressing the future; a future that Collins ignored. Let’s focus on yesterday’s game.
Heading into the game, Collins already announced Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia were unavailable. Gilmartin is unavailable as he’s pitching tomorrow. All of the Mets arms have been used multiple times all week meaning the fresh arm in the bullpen was Logan Verrett. Verrett was where Collins went.
This season Verrett has a 5.22 ERA. Batters are hitting .284/.364/.530 off of him. While Ynoa hasn’t been great in his limited major league sample size, but there was no reason to believe Verrett would actually be a better option. If the Mets truly believed that Verrett was the better option, he would have been named the starter when it was announced Steven Matz was being shut down for the season.
Verrett would go out there and pitch two pretty ugly innings of his own. He allowed a leadoff homer to Maikel Franco in the third. He would then load the bases in the fourth, and he would narrowly escape the jam.
With Verrett pitching poorly, Collins would have to desperately find guys to go multiple innings to try to avoid going to Reed and Familia.
Despite his history of arm problems, Collins would try to push Goeddel another inning. When he got into a jam, Collins brought in Josh Edgin for a batter. After Edgin allowed a single, Collins did what he usually does in these situations. Collins brought in Hansel Robles not just to get out if the jam, but also to pitch the final 2.2 innings to get the win.
Robles did his job as did most of the Mets bullpen last night. However, Collins didn’t. He put the Mets in a position to empty their bullpen of their worst relievers instead of allowing Ynoa to go deeper in the game.
Now, the Mets bullpen is taxed, and it she’s not PpeR things will get better for them anytime soon.
Last night might’ve been the breaking point for Travis d’Arnaud. The Mets had a runner in scoring position with two outs in the bottom of the eighth as the Mets trailed the Braves 5-4. In what was his biggest at bat of the season, d’Arnaud weakly grounded out to shortstop to end the inning and the rally. This could have been the culmination in what has been a lost season for d’Arnaud.
After hitting .268/.340/.485 with 12 homers and 41 RBI last year, this was supposed to be the year d’Arnaud took off. It hasn’t happened. Whether it was losing catching and bench coach Bob Geren to the Dodgers, his rotator cuff injury, his irregular playing time, or just bad mechanics at the plate, this hasn’t been his year. He hasn’t been hitting for power. Overall, he is hitting .246/.300/.321 with only four homers and 14 RBI. In fact, d’Arnaud hasn’t had an RBI since August 26th. He hasn’t homered since August 2nd. In 11 games this month, he is hitting .200/.282/.200 with no extra base hits or RBI. At this point, with the Wild Card on the line, the Mets can ill afford to play him.
The question then become is not d’Arnaud, then who? People will mostly point to Rene Rivera.
Fact is, if the Mets are dissatisfied with d’Arnaud, they shouldn’t want Rivera either. Like d’Arnaud, Rivera has also played 11 games in September. In those games, he is hitting .174/.269/.174. Similarly, he has no extra base hits or RBI. Fact is, he’s been even more of a blackhole offensively than d’Arnaud. That should be no surprise given the fact that he’s a career .213/.263/.332 hitter. If you want Rivera to continue to be Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher, that’s one thing. However, Rivera cannot play everyday with those offensive numbers.
That leaves the Mets with only one other option – Kevin Plawecki.
From an offensive standpoint, there are many negative things you can say about Plawecki. Before being sent down to AAA, he was hitting .194/.301/.258 with five doubles, one homer, and 10 RBI. He is hitting .231 with runners in scoring position and .212 with men on base. In his entire major league career, he is a .208/.285/.281 hitter with four homers and 31 RBI. He’s been a dead pull hitter that hits for no power. Those are the numbers that got him sent down to AAA.
However, in AAA, he seemed to regain some of the promise he had as a good offensive catcher. In 55 AAA games, Plawecki hit .300/.384/.484 with 11 doubles, eight homers, and 40 RBI. Given the fact that the Pacific Coast League is a hitter’s league, these numers are not outstanding. However, they are a step in the right direction. Heading in the right direction is a lot more than you can say for Plawecki than you can for d’Arnaud and Rivera.
In his time with the Mets, one thing we have seen with Plawecki is he is a good defensive catcher and pitch framer. With his time in AAA, he has also had the opportunity to catch Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and Josh Smoker this year. With that in mind, he is already up to speed on what they throw and how they get batters out. This means the only real issue with Plawecki is whether he will hit like the Mets once thought he would.
Even if Plawecki hits at the same .208 clip he has in his entire major league career, he will be a better offensive option than d’Arnaud and Rivera have been this month. With that in mind, there is really no downside to giving Plawecki another shot.
Last night was a night of the narrowest of margins. The Mets entered the night with a one game lead in the Wild Card race. They were also facing Julio Teheran who absolutely owns the Mets. Once the Mets got a 1-0 lead, they needed to do everything they could do to protect that lead.
Terry Collins didn’t.
Robert Gsellman entered the sixth inning having thrown 75 pitches. In his young career, opposing batters are hitting .429/.500/.500 off Gsellman when he crosses the 75 pitch mark. Better yet, opposing batters are hitting .368/.455/.421 off of him the third time through the order. After Gsellman retired Teheran to start the inning, the Braves hitters were getting a third look at him.
Ender Inciarte and Adonis Garcia hit back-to-back singles. Gsellman was losing it, and Mets killer Freddie Freeman was stepping to the plate. It was at this point anyone would’ve gone to the bullpen for the lefty. However, Collins didn’t do that as HE HAD NO ONE WARMING UP!
It was the right spot for Josh Smoker. Freeman doesn’t hit sliders or splitters well, and he has a tendency to swing and miss at fastballs. Furthermore, Smoker entered the night striking out 15.3 batters per nine. Instead, Collins stuck with Gsellman, who would walk Freeman to load the bases.
That lead to Matt Kemp hitting a ball that should’ve been caught by either Curtis Granderson, or even better, Jay Bruce. Instead, it dropped in for an RBI “single.” At this point, Collins went to Smoker to pitch to Nick Markakis with the bases loaded. It was two batters too late.
Smoker here was the right spot even if he wound up walking Markakis to give the Braves a 2-1 lead.
Honorable mention for Collin’s Decision of the Game should also go to him leaving Jerry Blevins out to dry.
Fernando Salas had come on to get the last two outs of the sixth, and he started the seventh inning. After he allowed a leadoff single to Dansby Swanson, and Teheran failed to get the bunt down, Collins went to Blevins to pitch to Ender Inciarte. Blevins didn’t get the job done as he allowed Inciarte to get on with a single. Collins stuck with Blevins to pitch to Adonis Garcia. Even with Garcia killing lefties this year while being unable to hit righties, the move was understandable with Freddie Freeman on deck.
After Garcia homered to make it a 5-1 game and Freeman hit a double to deep center, you really had to question why Blevins was still in the game. The move to intentionally walk Kemp was certainly questionable. Still, Blevins settled down enough to strike out Nick Markakis for the second out. At that point, Collins went with Rafael Montero of all people to get the Mets out of the inning.
He went with Montero despite how hard he’s been hit this year and his troubles throwing strikes. It was just inviting further disaster and for the Braves to put the game completely out of reach. The fact that it wound up working isn’t proof it was the right move. Rather, it was proof that Collins got lucky.
At that point too, you have to question why Montero wasn’t double-switched into the game. Montero is now the Mets version of the white flag. If you’re bringing him in, you might as well let him close the game out and save your bullpen. The perfect opportunity was there too with Jay Bruce making the last out of the sixth inning. The move to Montero for one-third of an inning made no sense whatsoever. It made less sense when you consider Collins went to Jim Henderson in the next inning.
Overall, Collins had yet another bad game. Again, he was not prepared for the moment, and it wound up costing the Mets.
Other than Asdrubal Cabrera, who was 3-3 with two walks and an RBI double, everyone involved with the Mets had a hand in this putrid loss. That’s the way it is for a team that is 1-7 with RISP for the first seven innings.
Robert Gsellman cruised through five innings before struggling in the sixth. He loaded the bases with one out. To his credit, he did get Matt Kemp to hit a medium depth fly ball to right center that should’ve been caught.
It wasn’t. It fell between Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. The conversation probably went like this:
- Granderson: “Jay, that’s yours. I have no arm.”
- Bruce: “Sure, I got it.”
- [Ball Drops]
- Granderson: “I told you it was yours!”
- Bruce: “I know, but in case you haven’t noticed, I suck as a Met.”
By the way, yes, Terry Collins played Bruce over Michael Conforto despite: (1) Bruce being terrible; (2) Conforto playing well the past two nights; and (3) Playing Bruce over Conforto violates the “You hit you play” mantra. And, yes, Collins should’ve pulled Gsellman before it got to this point.
Josh Smoker relieved Gsellman, and he got squeezed on a 2-2 pitch:
— Mets Strike Zone (@MetsUmp) September 21, 2016
He then walked Nick Markakis on the 3-2 pitch giving the Braves a 2-1 lead.
That lead grew to 5-1 when Collins unnecessarily stayed with Jerry Blevins. Dansby Swanson led off the seventh with a single off Fernando Salas. After Julio Teheran failed to bunt him over, Collins went to Blevins to face Ender Inciarte.
Inciarte singled, and then the RIGHT hand hitting Adonis Garcia hit a three run homer. Of course, Collins could’ve stuck with Salas, but no, he went to his second lefty there.
The Braves continued to tee off Blevins. It got so bad Rafael Montero of all people had to bail him out of out the two on two out jam.
Collins’ inactivity proved costly especially after a Mets eighth inning rally that was helped by the Braves pulling Teheran.
Cabrera got it started with a one out walk. Seriously, who else would get things started? After Yoenis Cespedes was hit by a pitch, Granderson hit an RBI double. T.J. Rivera hit a sac fly to make it 5-3. The Braves would bring in the lefty Ian Krol to face Bruce.
It wouldn’t happen because Collins would hit Eric Campbell for Bruce. Campbell actually cane through with a pinch hit RBI single. As Terry was rolling the dice, he then hit Kevin Plawecki for James Loney. After Plawecki reached on an error, Collins rolled a snake eyes with his sending Travis d’Arnaud to the plate. d’Arnaud grounded out to kill the rally.
The Mets had their chance in the ninth off Braves closer Jim Johnson. Cabrera hit a seeing eye two out single to bring up Cespedes. It was the exact situation you want. Johnson then made Cespedes look silly on a 2-2 pitch to end the game.
When a player goes down, the natural inclination is to go seek out a veterans to be the stop gap or replacement. The reaction is understandable because you want a steady presence with someone who has proven stats. Granted, it’s most likely going to be diminished stats, but people would rather deal with that than a young player who may not be ready and could be even worse than the veteran.
That’s why we saw the Mets make a move to re-acquire Kelly Johnson not too long after David Wright went down. It’s why the Mets acquired James Loney to replace Lucas Duda. It’s also why the Mets brought back Jose Reyes to help an injured and underperforming Mets offense. It’s also why the Mets traded for Jay Bruce rather than counting on Michael Conforto to return to form. For the most part, it has worked out for the Mets.
With that said, Reyes is the only imported veteran who is currently producing. Johnson is mired in a 12-54 slump. Loney has hit .253/.287/.337 since the All Star Break. Bruce has hit .181/.261/.297 since joining the Mets.
T.J. Rivera has all but taken over the second base job for the rest of the year. In the five games since he became the starting second baseman, he is hitting .450/.455/.800 with two home runs. Both of those home runs proved to be game winners. For the season, he is hitting .344/.344/.492.
Yesterday, Conforto started for Bruce, who the Mets have taken to booing after every at bat. Conforto made the most of his opportunity going 2-4 with two RBI. In the four games he was given an opportunity to start since he was recalled when rosters expanded, Conforto has gone 4-16 with two doubles, two RBI, a walk, and a hit by pitch.
It’s not just the offensive players that are outprodicing the veterans, it is the young pitchers as well.
When Matt Harvey went down, the Mets understandably turned to Logan Verrett who did an admirable job filling in as a spot starter last year. Unfortunately, this year he had a 6.45 ERA as a starter in 12 starts. The Mets also went out and brought back Jon Niese who was actually worse with the Mets than he was with the Pirates before undergoing season ending knee surgery.
First was Seth Lugo, who has arguably been the Mets best starter since he has joined the rotation. Lugo has made six starts going 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP. Including his nine relief appearances, Lugo is 4-2 with a 2.35 ERA and a 1.043 WHIP.
He is joined in the rotation by Robert Gsellman. Gsellman has made four starts and one relief appearance where he came in for Niese when he went down for good with his knee injury. Overall, Gsellman is 2-1 with a 3.08 ERA and a 1.405 WHIP.
In addition to the offense and the rotation, the Mets have had Josh Smoker emerge in the bullpen. In 15 appearances, Smoker is 2-0 with a 4.38 ERA and a 1.135 WHIP while bailing the Mets out of a few jams. More impressively, he is striking out 15.3 batters per nine innings.
Overall, these young and untested players have stepped up and helped take the Mets from an under .500 team to a team 11 games over .500 and in the top Wild Card spot.
The Mets have had a number of players serve as admirable replacements and stop gaps to help lead the Mets charge back to the postseason.
Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have replaced the injured Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz in the Mets rotation, and they have combined to go 6-3 with a 2.64 ERA and a WHIP in nine starts and 10 relief appearances. James Loney had a terrific first half to help cushion the blow of the loss of Lucas Duda. Wilmer Flores and Kelly Johnson have helped to replicate the offensive production of Neil Walker who is done for the season after having season ending back surgery. After Flores went down with a neck injury, T.J. Rivera had the game of his life. When Juan Lagares needed surgery to repair a torn ligament in this thumb and Yoenis Cespedes found himself unable to play center field with his injured quad, Curtis Granderson began playing center field and hitting again. Same goes for Alejandro De Aza. For the very few games Justin Ruggiano played, he mashed left-handed pitching.
However, while each of these players have done a better than expected job, there is no doubt the Mets would be better off with their regulars. Fortunately, the reinforcements are on their way with Lagares being activated off the disabled list.
With the minor league seasons having been over for about a week, Lagares has not had the benefit of being able to face live pitching. That shouldn’t matter much as Lagares’ true value has always been as a center fielder. This season the 2014 Gold Glover has returned to form with a 4.5 UZR and a 7 DRS in 59 games this season. This will allow the Mets to put out their best defensive alignment of Cespedes in left, Lagares in center, and Granderson in right late in games.
This was the alignment the Mets used effectively in the stretch run last season and in their run to the World Series. Speaking of which, Lagares was a tremendous contributor to the Mets postseason run last year. Lagares appeared in 13 postseason games last year playing a Gold Glove caliber center field while hitting .348/.375/.435 with two stolen bases. If Lagares is again able to play and raise his game again, the Mets chances of returning to the World Series will greatly improved.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Duda will be activated later today, and at a minimum, he will be available to pinch hit. On Sunday, deGrom will return to the rotation. He will start to work his way back as he’s limited to 75 pitches. Finally, Matz has been throwing off a mound.
The reinforcements are coming, and with them the Mets chances of winning a World Series has vastly improved.