As has seemingly been the case since the dawn of time, the Mets played a big series against the Braves, and the Braves left them in the dust. Somehow, the Mets were not all that worse for ware:
1. Congratulations are due to Pete Alonso who tied Todd Hundley‘s and Carlos Beltran‘s Mets single season mark for homers. Of note, this broke his tie with Mike Piazza for single season homers by a right-handed batter.
2. That homer should’ve been a momentum change in Saturday’s game and for the rest of the series. Instead, due to the way the Mets played, it proved to be a footnote.
3. Speaking of historic footnotes, Jacob deGrom became the first ever pitcher to homer in a game where he struck out 13 batters twice in his career. In that game, the Mets struck out 26 tying a Major League record.
4. With the Yankees roughing up Hyun-Jin Ryu, we should be reminded the Cy Young race is still wide open. On that front, deGrom leads the league in bWAR, fWAR, and strikeouts while being top five in nearly every important statistical category.
5. Steven Matz has also been great recently. On Sunday, he ripped off his fourth straight start of at least six innings allowing two earned or fewer. Of course, with the way the Mets played in this series, he’d take the loss.
6. Two of the three losses were games Billy Hamilton had a huge impact. He got the game winning hit in one, and he scored from first on a single on what proved to be Ronald Acuna‘s game winning two RBI single.
7. One of the reasons Hamilton scored from first was J.D. Davis‘ not hustling in to field it and his weak throw back to the infield. It should be noted he’s a -7 DRS in left.
8. The only thing uglier than his defense was the uniforms this weekend. Seriously, what’s the point of having uniforms promoting players and their personalities if you can’t read them.
9. The only thing worse than that was not claiming Hamilton so you can keep having Aaron Altherr on the bench. To end the narratives, no, Hamilton would not have been designated for assignment when Jeff McNeil and/or Brandon Nimmo returned, especially with rosters expanding in September.
10. Nimmo’s recent rehab appearance looks promising. If he’s right, and Juan Lagares keeps hitting while playing Gold Glove defense, you have to wonder how long the Mets will be willing to live with Davis and his cooling bat in left.
12. On the topic of injuries, the Mets need to be heavily fined for how they handled Tomas Nido‘s concussion. He was hit on the head with the follow through of Josh Donaldson‘s back swing and went down. He had to be pulled then and not finish the inning with him then going through concussion protocol between innings. This is not okay.
13. This wasn’t the Mets only terrible decision. Mickey Callaway having Amed Rosario bunt was one of the dumbest decisions he’s made as Mets manager. He doubled down by overmanaging ordering a hit-and-run with Joe Panik. Panik swung and missed, and Rosario was caught at second easily.
16. On the Rivera point, Francisco Cervelli was released by the Pirates and was picked up by the Braves. Yes, he’s been bad, bout Nido was hitting .088/.162/.176 in the second half. With Ramos’ injury history, the Mets needed more depth, and they passed on that depth. Like with Hamilton, Cervelli made the Mets pay.
17. Brad Brach needs to be better. After allowing runs on three of his last five appearances, his 7.50 Mets ERA is higher than what it was with the Cubs before he was released. The Mets can’t afford for him to be this while Edwin Diaz is dealing with a trap issue. If he’s not, Paul Sewald May take his spot on the depth chart.
18. This series and history highlights why the Braves are the Mets biggest rival and should be the most hated team by Mets fans, not the Nationals.
19. If you’ve ever heard anyone scream about Brian Jordan, Mel Rojas, Kenny Rogers, or anything Armando Benitez and weren’t quite sure why the vitriol, just look at this series. Mets-Braves games in the late 90s were always like this series.
20. Feel depressed after watching this series? Don’t be. The Mets went from two games out of the Wild Card to two games out of the Wild Card. They’re now hosting the Cubs, the team currently in the second Wild Card spot, and they’re a bad road team.
With Noah Syndergaard painting the corners and uncharacteristically dominating up in the zone, the starting pitcher had the stuff.
Say Hey, J.D.! 😱😱😱 pic.twitter.com/YzfsaumJTz
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 23, 2019
Indians starter Adam Civale was doing his part as well pitching well keeping the game moving at a brisk pace.
For a moment, the only real concern seemed to be the weather. Then, with one out in the sixth, Tyler Naquin hit a really tough pitch by Syndergaard up the middle which dropped just in front of Lagares who busted in as hard as he could.
With this being the 50th anniversary of the 1969 World Series, there’s the obvious Tom Seaver/Jimmy Qualls comparisons, this had more of a David Cone/Benny Distefano feel to it even if Syndergaard was perfect through 5.1 innings (Cone was “just” a no-hitter).
As we have seen when many no-hitters/perfect games are lost, we are then left with a ballgame; a ballgame where things are the doubt shifts from the ability of a pitcher to compete the no-hitter to the pitcher being able to maintain the lead.
After Naquin singled, Civale struck out to flip over the lineup. Francisco Lindor made things all the more perilous with a single. The speedy Greg Allen hit a ball hard to the right side which appeared to be a surefire RBI single.
Pete Alonso made an incredible diving play which alone would have prevented the run from scoring. But in direct contrast to the play with Brad Hand last night, Syndergaard busted it to first, and he’d beat Allen to the bag ending the inning.
PUMPED UP PETE.
Watch Alonso chest bump Syndergaard 😂pic.twitter.com/7VyEBIKajC
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) August 23, 2019
While Naquin would rain on everybody’s parade, the actual rains came in the bottom of the sixth.
— Logan Barer (@LBarer32) August 23, 2019
With the way it was coming down and for how long, the Syndergaard gem was over. His final line was 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. The line was both amazing and disappointing because we are all left wondering what could’ve been.
After a lengthy rain delay, the Mets brought in exactly the person you wanted to see pitch – Jeurys Familia. Unlike July 30, 2015, there would be no blowup for him. Instead, it was a scoreless inning.
As strange as that might’ve seen for some fans, the bottom of the seventh was all the more bizarre. Frazier initially reached and took second on a Tyler Clippard throwing error. The only reason Frazier didn’t go for third was he respected Yasiel Puig‘s arm. Of course, Puig threw the bell away when he was flashing the arm.
With Frazier at third, Lagares hit a ball to medium left field. Between the wet track and Naquin’s arm, there was zero shot Frazier would be safe, so of course, Gary Disarcina sent him. The ball beat him by a healthy margin as Kevin Plawecki tagged him out.
Thirty-four minutes after the first rain delay, there would be another delay. At this moment in time, Paul Sewald has just a perfect eighth, and due to the delay, the chances of using him for the ninth were gone.
The Mets had runners at the corners due to a Luis Guillorme leadoff pinch hit walk and an Amed Rosario opposite field single. At least that’s where things were when they finally decided to call the game. That means Guillorme and Rosario never reached base, but it does mean Sewald gets the save.
In the end, it’s a series sweep for the Mets who are now SEVEN games over .500. They’re now a half-game behind the Cardinals (one in the loss column) for the second Wild Card. Not too shabby for a fringe postseason team.
The Mets had every reason to lose this game. Marcus Stroman left the game after four with what was a hamstring injury, which for some reason has been an injury plaguing the Mets a bit of late. This made this a bullpen game for the team in what became an extra inning game.
It was an extra inning game partially because Brad Brach gave up the lead in the sixth. It hurt all the more because the Mets bottom of the lineup delivered that run.
Heading into the fifth, Adam Plutko was rolling having allowed just one hit. Given the lineup, he appeared poised to rip through the fifth carrying the 1-0 lead forward as the Mets were already in their bullpen with Jeurys Familia having pitched the top of the inning.
After getting the first out, Todd Frazier singled. The Mets followed the single with a hit-and-run which Juan Lagares hit to the wall for a double. As surprising as the Lagares double might’ve been, the and Luis Guillorme pinch hit double was all the more so.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 22, 2019
In actuality, the big hits from Lagares and Guillorme weren’t really surprising. Both have been playing very well over the past month, and we’re even seeing Lagares get back to his Gold Glove form.
Make a nice catch ➡️ get a big hit.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 22, 2019
As alluded to earlier, Brach gave the lead right back. He’d issue a leadoff walk to Carlos Santana, and then he’d allow a one out triple to Jose Ramirez. The triple ruling was a bit generous as J.D. Davis did misplay it along the wall, and Ramirez just beat the throw to third. While Brach did give up the lead, he did settle down getting the next two outs keeping the game tied.
It stayed tied partially because the Mets blew some chances.
The Mets had two on and one out as Frazier and Lagares found a way to start a rally again. This time, it was Rajai Davis pinch hitting, and he struck out. Amed Rosario failed to deliver as well popping out to end the inning.
As bad as that blown opportunity was, for some Mets fans, it was probably worse for them to see Oliver Perez pitch a scoreless eighth. Even worse that included strike outs of Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto.
Perhaps worse than that was having to use Aaron Altherr as a pinch hitter in the ninth knowing he wasn’t going to deliver a big hit.
After Seth Lugo was Seth Lugo for two innings, it was time for Luis Avilan in the 10th. There were two outs, and Avilan had a 1-2 count to Santana. Three pitches later Santana reached across and hit a change-up for a go-ahead homer.
The Indians went to Brad Hand, who had been shaky of late. He was very shaky tonight.
Rosario began the inning with a double with the Indians catching a break because Rosario did not notice Greg Allen bobbling the ball on the transfer in center. In any event, Rosario would make his way to third when Joe Panik laid down a perfect sac bunt.
The Indians wanted no part of Alonso, so they opted to intentionally walk him to have Conforto hit the left-handed Hand. With the Indians infield halfway, Conforto hit a ball grabbed by Santana.
Instead of going home to try to get Rosario, Santana sought to start the 3-6-1 double play. The problem was Hand didn’t go to first apparently thinking Santana would go home. Instead of what could’ve been a close play at first, it was a tie game.
Wilson Ramos then extended his hitting streak to 15 games with an infield single which rolled feet from home plate. This brought the hot hitting Davis to the plate. He battled back from 0-2 to a full count. Finally, on the eighth pitch, Hand hung a slider over the plate, and Davis delivered his first career game winning hit.
J.D. CALLS GAME! pic.twitter.com/Cictia8VC5
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 22, 2019
As much of a frenzy the crowd was in, the players were in one themselves. Davis Jersey was torn off his back in what seems to be the new walk-off celebration, and in the postgame Davis sounded like he’s been a Mets fan all of his life belting out a loud “Lets Go Mets!”
The Mets should not have won this game at all. This was a game they lose easily a month ago. They’re winning these games now, and they’re six games over .500 for the first time all season.
So far this season, Aaron Altherr is hitting .085/.141/.169 (-20 wRC+) in 47 games this season. Last year, Altherr played 105 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, and he hit .181/.295/.333 (75 wRC+). As on outfielder this year, Altherr has a -1 DRS in 127.1 innings, and he was a 1 DRS in 524.1 innings last year. That followed a -4 DRS in 837.1 innings in 2017.
Taking everything into account, Altherr is a bad baseball player, and he has been one for two years now. Despite that, the Mets have continued to keep him on the roster, and they do little to challenge his roster status.
When Jeff McNeil went down, the Mets had a need for someone who could fill-in in the outfield. Instead of a Dilson Herrera who has some outfield experience, the Mets instead went with Ruben Tejada, who was no threat to taking away his outfield reps. The team also didn’t call-up Rajai Davis, who also could have presented a threat.
On Davis, most fans remember his Uber ride and his hitting a pinch hit homer. What they don’t see is his hitting .287/.334/.410 with Triple-A Syracuse. That’s not as good as the .274/.384/.565 batting line Altherr put up in admittedly far fewer games with Syracuse. On the one hand, that makes the Mets decision to go with Altherr over Davis defensible. However, it is still curious why you would not even challenge Altherr when you needed that extra outfielder.
What’s all the more baffling is how the Mets let Billy Hamilton go to the Braves.
There are many things you can say about Hamilton and his deficiencies as a player. In 93 games with the Royals this year, Hamilton hit .211/.275/.269 (44 wRC+). That’s actually a step backwards for him as he hit .239/.299/.327 (69 wRC+) in 153 games for the Reds last year. No matter how you look at it, Hamilton is a bad hitter. Terrible actually.
That makes the fact he’s been a significantly better hitter than Altherr all the worse. Hamilton is also a much better outfielder. In fact, Hamilton is an elite defensive outfielder. In 716.1 innings this year, Hamilton has a 9 DRS. Since he was called up in 2013, his 60 DRS trails only Lorenzo Cain among qualifying center fielders.
Right there, Hamilton is a significantly better hitter and fielder than Altherr. When you factor in Hamilton’s great speed and base running, you realize Hamilton does EVERYTHING better than Altherr. Everything.
With rosters expanding in September, and the Mets depth depleted to the point where they have to not only carry Altherr on the roster but also play him, there is zero reason to not put in a claim for Hamilton. He was a significant upgrade, and he was someone the Mets were going to be able to carry on the roster into September. If the Mets were lucky enough to make the postseason, Hamilton would have been a huge weapon as a late inning pinch runner and/or defensive replacement.
Go back and ask the 1969 Mets about the Ron Swoboda and Tommie Agee catches. Go back and ask the 2004 Red Sox about Dave Roberts stealing a base. The ability or a player to make that one impact can make all the difference in the world. Instead, the Mets just let Hamilton go to the Braves, who were lower in the waiver priority, unchallenged.
The Braves will get the benefit of his base running and defense while the Mets cross their fingers on Brandon Nimmo being able to return from a bulging disc in his neck. They’re also hoping Dominic Smith, who is still in a walking boot and using a knee scooter, can return. They’re hoping J.D. Davis‘ leg won’t continue to be an issue. Same for McNeil, who has gone from being able to immediately come off the 10 day IL to needing a rehab stint. There’s also Jed Lowrie, a player who has fewer pictures of him in a Mets uniform than people have photos of Big Foot or the Lockness Monster.
Going into the season, Brodie Van Wagenen kept telling us the Mets were all-in, and the team would have no ifs. It’s August 20, and the team wouldn’t go all-in on improving their roster, and they are seeing IF one of their injured players could contribute. Mostly, they’ve decided the team is better with Altherr, who has been terrible for over a year now, than any of the better alternatives . . . like Hamilton.
On Sunday, I was invited to join Tim Ryder for the Simply Amazin podcast to discuss the series against the Royals as well as other Mets matters. Off the top of my head, I remember mentioning J.D. Davis, Pete Alonso, Ruben Tejada, Brandon Nimmo, Dilson Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Amed Rosario, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, Luis Avilan, Jeff McNeil, Joe Panik, Juan Lagares, Dominic Smith, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Rajai Davis, Luis Guillorme, and others.
Please take a listen and keep an eye (or ear) out for Thursday when I’m next scheduled to appear.
The Mets went to Kansas City looking to sweep, and they wound up having to settle for less than that. Ultimately, they got the job done even if they did not perform well at all:
1. Alex Gordon may be the only Royals player remaining, but it was still good to see the Mets win a series in Kaufman Stadium, and it felt even better seeing Jeurys Familia get the win in a deciding game.
2. It’s also great to see Michael Conforto homer in a game against the Royals and not watch the Mets not blow the game. Seeing where Conforto hit that homer, we should have called that a Blue Moon Shot.
3. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Cody Bellinger‘s National League rookie home run record. He now joins Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge as the only rookies to hit 40 homers in a season. This has been a great ride, and he’s now in line to join Darryl Strawberry as the only other Mets position player to win Rookie of the Year.
4. It is criminal that when Alonso broke the record the call was made by Wayne Randazzo on the radio side and Gary Apple on the TV side. The Mets have all-time great broadcasters, and somehow that’s what we were left with for this great moment. Mets needs to do better when there are vacations.
5. There were two different times Alonso looked like he was going to break that record. The first ball was called foul, and to his credit, Alonso shook it off and delivered with a huge go-ahead two RBI single. The next time the ball actually hit the foul line towards the top of the right field wall. Many times we see people struggle or slump as they near a milestone; Alonso powered onward.
6. Jacob deGrom had his 12th start of the season pitching 7.0+ innings allowed two earned or fewer. That mark ties him with Hyun-Jin Ryu for the most in the Majors. This should only highlight how great deGrom has been this year and how deserving he is of another Cy Young.
7. Yes, Ryu is having a great year, but deGrom’s year is arguably better. For starters, deGrom has more innings pitched and strikeouts. Moreover, he has a higher K/9, K%, K-BB%, FIP, xFIP, fWAR, and bWAR while leading in other other categories as well.
8. One of the reasons the Mets took this series was Joe Panik playing great. Since joining the Mets, Panik is hitting .333/.379/.444 with a double, triple, and two RBI with two walks. On a side note, he was the second baseman when the Giants beat the Royals in the 2014 World Series.
10. With the way Panik and Lagares are playing, it appears Todd Frazier is the guy who has to go to the bench. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting .192/.239/.377. If he’s hitting this way, he cannot be in the lineup.
11. Going forward, Frazier has hit .283/.359/.543 off left-handed pitching. To that end, he should work out a de facto platoon with Panik, and given his glove, he should be the third baseman when Marcus Stroman is on the mound. Short of that, he should be a power bat off the bench and late inning defensive replacement.
12. These two were needed all the more with J.D. Davis twice going down with a calf injury in this series. With how hot he’s been hitting, the Mets need his bat in the lineup, and they were without it in a series against the Royals. One side point here, good for Mickey Callaway for being cautious in taking him out rather than leaving him to run 90 feet.
13. Davis coming out of Sunday’s game forced Amed Rosario to play left field. It didn’t take long for the ball to find him, and the played the ball like he’s been out there all year. He also doubled in his only at-bat as an outfielder. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise because Rosario has been legitimately great lately.
14. Since the All Star Break, Rosario has hit .368/.403/.544. He’s a 3 DRS at shortstop. When McNeil went down, he took over the leadoff spot, and he’s been hitting .333/.383/.535 in the leadoff spot. He is literally doing all that is being asked of him, and he is emerging as a legitimately great player. This has been a real joy to watch.
15. Rosario having to play left field only highlights the stupidity of the Mets going with Ruben Tejada over Dilson Herrera. What makes the move all the more hilariously stupid was the Mets justification for going with Tejada over Herrera was versatility. Between the two, Herrera is the only one with outfield experience. Since Tejada rejoined the Mets, he is 0-for-8 at the plate with two strikeouts and someone already a -0.3 WAR. Herrera is hitting .294/.368/.706 while playing second base and left field. Again, this decision made zero sense.
16. On the topic of baffling decisions, when Robert Gsellman landed on the Injured List, the Mets called up Walker Lockett over Chris Flexen. Between the two, Flexen has the better stuff, and he has experience pitching out of the bullpen.
17. One area where Callaway was criticized for making a baffling decision was using Edwin Diaz to get out of a bases loaded no out situation. While it was a near disaster with a grand slam overturned on replay, Diaz got out of the inning allowing just two runs. In his next appearance, he pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. Maybe, just maybe in the long run, this was a great decision by Callaway.
18. Zack Wheeler‘s start against the Royals was disappointing. That’s two straight disappointing five inning starts from him. This time, it was probably more bad luck than anything. However, this is his first real postseason race, so it will be interesting to see how he handles things in his next start.
19. The Mets would have been better off with a sweep, but they still won the series. They’re also just two games back of the second Wild Card. Overall, when looking at this stretch of six games, many are discounting just how hot and grueling that stretch of road games are in Atlanta and Kansas City along with their losing one of their hottest hitters.
20. Good for the White Sox for having Bill Walton and Michael Schur do color commentary with Steve Stone out. As noted on Saturday, that is what the Mets should have been doing by using the multitude of great local broadcasters and fans in Gary Cohen’s and Howie Rose’s absence. On a final note there, John Sadak did a great job on the radio. Here’s hoping there’s a spot for him in 2020.
Noah Syndergaard pitched perfectly well. Through four, he allowed just one hit. It’s the fifth where he got into trouble allowing back-to-back doubles to Meibrys Viloria and Nicky Lopez in what was a two run fifth for the Royals.
Before that fifth, Syndergaard appeared poised to shut out the Royals. It’s what the Mets needed to because the Mets couldn’t do anything against Mike Montgomery and the Royals bullpen, which is bizarre considering Montgomery entered the game with a 5.19 ERA, and the Royals bullpen had a 4.68 ERA.
After that third inning, the Mets offense could only muster two hits and one walk with no runners reaching scoring position. With the exception of Amed Rosario and J.D. Davis, each of whom were 2-for-4, it seemed no one brought their bats without them from Atlanta to Kansas City.
Like last night, Diaz walked the first batter he faced, Brett Phillips, forcing in a run. He then allowed an RBI single to Bubba Starling. By some miracle, a Ryan O’Hearn long fly went just foul. If not, it would’ve been the 8-1 it was for a moment before the replay overturned the grand slam.
After O’Hearn then struck out in that at-bat, Vitoria hit into an inning ending double play. We could say it kept things to a manageable three run deficit, but who are we kidding?
Not even when the Mets loaded the bases in the ninth with Rosario up could you have had faith. His game inning fielder’s choice confirmed that.
It was an inexcusable performance against a very bad 43-78, sorry 44-78, Royals team. Syndergaard took the loss for the penalty of only going six snapping his six start streak of pitching 7.0+ innings.
But hey, when you need to make it up to Ruben Tejada for missing the rest of the 2015 postseason, you have to do it even if it means DHing your best infield defender. Maybe now that the Mets took this loss, he can be designated for assignment for literally anyone else in Syracuse.
Game Notes: After allowing four homers last night, Drew Gagnon was optioned back to Syracuse, and the Mets selected the contract of Paul Sewald. To make room for Sewald on the 40 man roster, Tim Peterson was designated for assignment.
Depending on how you look at things, the Mets either showed they can play with the Braves, or they showed they are not in the same class as the Braves or the best teams in baseball leaving the postseason hopes all the more futile. Really, this was a wild three game series with a lot happening:
1. The one injury the Mets could ill-afford to handle was Jeff McNeil. His versatility is arguably more important than his bat. In any event, his absence really exposes not the Mets lineup but really their depth.
2. As we saw with the Mets yesterday, they can compete without McNeil. For that to happen, Pete Alonso needs to be the first half Alonso, and Amed Rosario needs to continue his breakout. The Mets need higher levels of production from Michael Conforto, and ultimately, they need Juan Lagares and Joe Panik to be everyday players.
3. It has been a pure joy to see Lagares become good again both in the field and at the plate. Of note, Lagares has had as many hits in this series as he’s had in his previous 15 games combined. If Lagares plays like this, he’s an everyday player especially with that glove in center.
4. With respect to second, Panik has to play everyday because Ruben Tejada isn’t good. In one game, he showed why he hasn’t been in the majors in two years, and he looked skittish with his back turned on double plays. You can point to his Triple-A stats, but that ball is all the more juiced than the Major League ball is.
5. Since the Mets opted to go with Tejada, Dilson Herrera has responded by going 3-for-6 with three runs, two homers, five RBI, and two walks in the past two games. He is red hot with a seven game hitting streak. While you may want to say the juiced ball theory applies to him as well (it does), his production was near this level last season. Tejada’s wasn’t.
6. It should be noted the Mets are carrying an extra pitcher with Drew Gagnon, who was beyond terrible last night, and really that spot in the bullpen has been terrible all year no matter who has filled the role. Given how the Mets need some power off the bench, and Herrera presents another player who could play outfield, there is no reason why he spends another day in Syracuse.
7. While Gagnon was terrible out of the bullpen, the rest of the bullpen has stepped up. Brad Brach looks as rejuvenated as Jeurys Familia does as late. Along with Justin Wilson, this gives the Mets three battle tested relievers who are pitching very well right now in front of Seth Lugo. That’s suddenly a good bullpen.
8. Lugo blew it on Wednedsay. We can try to say he didn’t have time to warm up (he did), or say it was another problem (not really), but he just wasn’t good. Fortunately for the Mets, he’s going to rebound from this and continue to be great.
9. Mickey Callaway was right in lifting Lugo for Steven Matz. There were many factors at play with that decision, and he ultimately went with the team’s best available pitcher in a high leverage spot. When he doesn’t have it, the Mets aren’t going to win those one run games.
10. On Matz, he was brilliant, and he has been much improved in the second half. In his six second half starts, he is 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.047 WHIP. If you’re getting that from your fifth spot in the rotation, you can beat the good and the bad teams.
11. Don’t make too much about Marcus Stroman‘s “struggles” since joining the Mets. He is adapting to a new team and a new pitching philosophy. The main takeaway from him is he has given the Mets a chance to win in his first three starts. This is probably the floor for his performance, and we should see him take off soon.
12. With Zack Wheeler, it was one poor start. Just one. Don’t overreact and just look forward to his next start against the Royals. On that front, it is interesting he is finally getting that chance to pitch against the Royals after he was supposed to be one of the team’s best starters in 2015 and his almost being traded away for Carlos Gomez that year.
13. The Mets really needed that game from Pete Alonso. He’s been struggling in the second half, and with McNeil down, they really need him to get back to being the All-Star level player. His five hit game was a reminder of just how good he can be. His tying Cody Bellinger‘s National League home run record with more than a month remaining in the season is a reminder as to just how good he has been.
14. Alonso and Rosario each having a five hit game in the same game was not only the first time it happened in team history, but it is a reason to get excited for the rest of the 2019 season and each of the ensuing years.
15. Yet again, we need to point out Rosario has figured things out, and he is now one of the best players on the team and emerging as one of the best shortstops in baseball. Since July 1, he is hitting .364/.399/.536, and in the second half he is a 3 DRS. Don’t be surprised, be ready.
16. Mets should have won this series, but they just couldn’t get that one big hit in either of the first two games. The main culprit was Conforto, but Wilson Ramos was also really bad. It should also be noted in Wednesday’s debacle, almost everyone was bad with the exception of Rosario, J.D. Davis, Luis Guillorme, Panik, and the pitchers not named Lugo.
17. Glass half full is the Mets showed they can play with the Braves. Glass half empty is the Mets chances of winning the division went from realistic to near pipe dream.
18. Starting this pivotal stretch of games 3-3 and being two out of the Wild Card is not a bad start. The Mets now have to make real headway in Kansas City before taking care of business at Citi Field. If they do that, we will have real season to be excited for the meaningful games in September.
19. Congratulations are in order to Howie Rose for being inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame. This is an honor long overdue, and it should hopefully serve as a precursor to both he and Gary Cohen being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
20. Gary Cohen and Howie Rose are no longer allowed to take time off at the same time. Gary Apple is terrible. He should never be allowed to do play-by-play again. Given his smug attitude, I wouldn’t care if he was gone from SNY all together.
As impressive as this Braves club has been since the start of last year, and even with them having a big lead in the division, they can be beat. The key is to wait them out.
That’s what the Mets almost did with Steven Matz tonight who was brilliant despite not getting much help in the second.
Matz got himself into trouble allowing a leadoff single to Josh Donaldson and a walk to Adam Duvall. He’d recover by inducing what should’ve been a double play for Johan Camargo. Instead, it was a fielder’s choice with Amed Rosario making a slightly wide throw and Ruben Tejada fielding it like Chase Utley was ready to tackle him.
The Mets got to Keuchel with a rally in the sixth, but it was killed by a Wilson Ramos double play. Conforto followed with a hard fought walk giving Todd Frazier a chance. For a moment, it looked like Frazier would deliver all the way up until Freddie Freeman made the incredible over the shoulder catch on the bloop to end the inning.
Apparently, Freeman doesn’t need a bat to be a Mets killer.
Keuchel looked poised to get through seven until Matz had a two out single. That was it for Keuchel who was lifted for Chris Martin as the lineup flipped over.
Rosario had a hard hit ball which ripped through Johan Camargo. With Duvall trying to get Matz at third, Rosario moved to second. Duvall’s poor decision loomed large when a Davis bloop landed softly into center giving the Mets a 2-1 lead.
At this point, Matz was at 79 pitches. He allowed just the one earned on two hits with a walk and five strikeouts. He retired the last 14 straight.
Conversely, he ran the bases. There was a long delay when Pete Alonso‘s follow through hit Flowers in the mask necessitating a trainer’s visit. The last three outs of the sixth were very hard hit and two of them likely fall for hits if Juan Lagares wasn’t in vintage form.
Opposing batters hit 284/.330/.490 off Matz the third time through the lineup, and Donaldson hits 263/.385/.526 the third time he faces a starter.
It just didn’t work out with the umpire squeezing him. A bunch of balls found a hole. There was Alonso going deep into the second base hole instead of allowing Tejada to make a routine play.
Donaldson had a leadoff walk, and Duvall followed with a hard hit single. After that it was hit after hit after hit. By the time he was lifted for Luis Avilan, it was 5-2 Braves. After Avilan allowed an RBI single to Ozzie Albies, it was 6-2 Braves.
Now, at this point, it was Luis Guillorme pinch hitting instead of Davis batting because Davis was inexplicably double switched out of the game when Lugo entered the game. That decision didn’t come back to bite the Mets as Guillorme hit an RBI single pulling the Mets to within 6-4.
This set the stage for Alonso. Throughout the first half he was great against bullpens and from the seventh inning on. He hasn’t been that in the second half. It was more of the second half Alonso with him hitting what should’ve been a game ending double play.
— MLB Replays (@MLBReplays) August 15, 2019
Instead, Camargo missed second initially, and then he dropped the ball. Bases were now loaded for Ramos. He came up short striking out. The Braves went to old friend Jerry Blevins who struck out Conforto to end the game.
Ultimately, Callaway went with his best guy in the biggest spot in the game. He made the right decision there (with Lugo, not Davis). It didn’t work. It happens. Chances are Lugo won’t blow up like that again, and the Mets win this game the next 10 times.
Game Notes: Tejada was called up for the injured Jeff McNeil.
As bad as it looked, it sounded worse. Jeff McNeil hit the first base bag awkwardly, and he was clearly in pain hobbling and hopping around in foul territory. After the game, he and Mickey Callaway tried to put a good face on it, but they came across despondent.
Even if this isn’t the worst case scenario, it looks like McNeil will have to miss sometime. We can pray for a game or two, but it’s probably more than that.
If you want to be glass half full, Lagares seems to be locked in recently. We saw a vintage Lagares defensive play when he robbed Yan Gomes of an extra base hit on Saturday. Last night, he was 4-for-4 against the Braves. That matched his hit total for all of July, and it was his fifth four hit game in his seven year career.
Looking back, the last time Lagares had struggled offensively and defensively like this was in 2015. Those struggles led to the Mets first trying to obtain Carlos Gomez, and then later “settling” on Yoenis Cespedes.
In 2015, after the Mets obtained Cespedes and the Mets started playing more meaningful games, Lagares stepped up god game. From August 1 until the end of the season, he hit .287/.326/.471. In that postseason, Lagares hit .348/.375/.435.
Maybe, Lagares has that ability to raise his game in these pressure situations. That’s at least the hope now.
The other hope is Panik can raise his game right now. So far, he hasn’t hit much with the Mets going 2-for-10 with a walk. However, what he has contributed has counted for something.
His single Friday led to Michael Conforto‘s walk off hit. His teaching on an error on Saturday led to J.D. Davis‘ go-ahead sacrifice fly. His RBI single Sunday was part of a three run inning to tie the game at 3-3.
That’s what the Mets need from Lagares and Panik. There’s no way they can match what McNeil gave the Mets. There’s maybe five players in all of baseball who could do that. Maybe. Instead, they need to make their hits count while also reaching back and rediscovering their Gold Glove form.
More than anything, if they give the Mets very good to elite defense, the Mets still have a chance. Both players have the skills to do it, so to that end, there’s a legitimate chance.
If they do that, they help the pitching, which in turn, lowers the bar on the amount of runs the Mets need to score to win.
The onus for scoring those runs will have to be shared collectively by the lineup. At the moment, you can’t ask more from Davis than what he’s been giving. The same goes for Wilson Ramos.
The burden shifts to Amed Rosario to pick it back up after going 4-for-23 over his last five games. Todd Frazier needs to return or get close to his June form. Pete Alonso has to get back to his first half form instead of being the guy hitting .188 in that second half hitting the occasional homer. Finally, no matter how good Conforto has been, as a leader and as a guy who’s been here before, he needs to raise his game to another level.
If these things happen, and you get a spark from one of Ruben Tejada, Dilson Herrera, and/or Arismendy Alcantara from Triple-A or a Luis Guillorme and Aaron Altherr from the Major League roster, McNeil missing any time doesn’t have to be a death knell for the season.
Overall, everyone on this roster raising their game is very possible. However, nothing is going to be possible unless Lagares and Panik raise their games. I’d they don’t do that, chances are McNeil missing time will be the reason the Mets moss the postseason.