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.
As we have seen all season, the Mets basically need to hit home runs in order to score runs and win games. Last night, against the Phillies was no exception in what was a back-and-forth nail bitter.
The home run was an important one as it gave the Mets and Seth Lugo a 2-0 lead in a game they really had to have after being swept by the Braves.
Well, because this is the Mets, and nothing is easy, that two run lead would turn into a 3-2 deficit thanks to a couple of Phillies long balls. At the time, Seth Lugo was cruising, after only allowing a run off a Roman Quinn RBI groundout after Cesar Hernandez legged out a triple. However, in the top of the fifth, Ryan Howard and Cameron Rupp would got back-to-back. Those homers effectively knocked Lugo out of the game after another strong effort.
Ty Kelly would pinch hit for Lugo in the bottom of the inning, and he would get a rally started with a walk. He eventually came home on a Yoenis Cespedes clutch two-out single tying the game. With the way things have been going with the Mets lately that RBI single seemed bigger than it probably was. What was even bigger was Cespedes RBI double in the seventh that would score Jose Reyes to give the Mets a late 4-3 lead. With Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia ready for the eighth and ninth, this game seemed in the bag.
It wasn’t as Reed was done in by three balls that didn’t leave the infield and one that did. Hernandez used his speed again to bunt his way on, and he was standing at second after a Quinn sacrifice bunt. The Mets would challenge the next play, and it was really close, but Odubel Herrera beat T.J. Rivera‘s throw to first to set up runners on the corner with one out. Rivera really did all he could do on that play. He made a diving stop that saved a run, he popped up, and he made a strong throw. Herrera just beat the throw. Why? Well, as usual the “good defensive baseman” James Loney couldn’t bother stretching on the play. It was a crucial play because Maikel Franco would hit a three run homer to turn the Mets sure-handed victory into a 6-4 deficit.
There was an ominous tone to the home run after the Braves series. It was an even worse situation when the Mets failed to score in the bottom of the eighth and the bottom of the Mets lineup was due up in the bottom of the ninth. Brandon Nimmo would pinch hit for Travis d’Arnaud and get on with a single. After Nimmo, Jay Bruce made his obligatory pinch hit strike out thereby leaving the game in Reyes’ hands:
You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger hit in Reyes’ Mets career. As big as that home run was, what would follow in the 11th would loom even larger.
In his second straight multiple inning outing, Familia would put the Mets in position to lose in his second inning of work. After a clean 10th, Familia would allow a leadoff double to Freddy Galvis. Familia would be ever so close to navigating around it getting the next two guys out. Then in a curious move, perhaps to negate the ability of Hernandez killing the Mets with his legs again, Collins ordered an intentional walk. A.J. Ellis, who is a renown clutch hitter, would deliver the go-ahead single giving the Phillies a 7-6 lead.
Jerry Blevins would relieve Familia, and he would load the bases by hitting Herrera. That led Collins to turn to Jim Henderson, who would walk Franco to give the Phillies an almost insurmountable two run lead.
Still, the Mets had a chance with Nimmo leading off. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the same magic he had in his last at bat. Michael Conforto, pinch hitting for Henderson, would have to get this rally started. He did by drawing a walk. He would find himself standing on second after a Reyes single. At that point, the Mets would send Asdrubal Cabrera to the plate as the winning run. Right now, he is the guy you want at the plate more than anyone – not just the Mets, but in all of baseball. He would show you why:
His bat flip said it all. It was a huge emotionally charged home run to give the Mets the victory they so desperately needed. The home run also made baseball history as the Mets become the second team to come back with homers to erase two run deficits in the ninth inning or later in a game.
With the much needed victory, you felt the momentum for this team shift. You once again felt as if the Mets were assured of winning a Wild Card spot. As it stood, the win helped the Mets keep pace with the Giants and put them a half a game up on the idle Cardinals.
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.
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.
It doesn’t matter that the Twins are one if the worst teams in baseball. When you’re fighting for a postseason spot, the games are going to be tough. Tonight, the Twins showed a lot of fight. It certainly helped them that they were sending their ace, Ervin Santana, to the mound.
And you know with him being a former Brave, he’s pitches well against the Mets. That’s exactly what happened tonight.
The Mets did absolutely nothing against Santana for the first four innings. T.J. Rivera got things started with a single, and he moved to second on a balk. Because Paul Molitor apparently had no idea James Loney isn’t good, he ordered an intentional walk. It wouldn’t burn the Twins. First, Rene Rivera struck out. Then, Terry Collins gambled a bit pinch hitting Kelly Johnson for the starter Seth Lugo. Johnson popped out to end the inning.
It also closed the door on Lugo. It was the typical bend but don’t break Lugo outing where he found an extra gear on his fastball and three more curves when he was in trouble. The only run the Twins were able to score off of him was an Eddie Rosaro solo homer in the fourth.
Lugo’s final line would be five innings, four hits, one run, one earned, four walks, and two strikeouts.
The Mets had a chance to get Lugo off the hook in the seventh. T.J. got the rally sterted with a cue shot double down the first baseline followed by another inexplicable intentional walk to Loney. Alejandro De Aza pinch hit for Rene and walked to load the bases. Terry Collins then made two strange decisions.
The second, but most puzzling, was his waiting for a pitch to be thrown before having Ty Kelly pinch run for Loney. The other curious decision was going to Michael Conforto to pinch hit. It was strange because Conforto has been idle for too long and because he’s been uncomfortable pinch hitting. Furthermore, the Mets activated Lucas Duda just for spots like this. Collins went with Conforto, who had a bad at bat striking out on four pitches.
The bad news was the Mets missed out on another huge scoring opportunity. The good news was Santana was done for the night.
Jose Reyes gave a rude welcome to Twins reliever Ryan Pressly by hitting the first pitch by Pressly for a single. Reyes would quickly find himself on second after a wild pitch and an Asdrubal Cabrera groundout. With the game on the line, Yoenis Cespedes was at the plate with a 3-2 count, and he would lunge at a ball off the plate:
Of course, he came through in that spot tying the game at one. Molitor went to his left in the pen Taylor Rogers. Rogers would make quick work of the two lefties Collins was so nice to stack in the middle of the lineup, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. By the way, Bruce, the man Collins has the utmost confidence, was 0-5 with a strikeout.
The game would go into extras as:
The trifecta of T.J. Rivera, Ty Kelly and Kevin Plawecki were not able to drive in a run in the bottom of the ninth. I'll pause for gasps.
— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) September 18, 2016
Lost with the Mets practically emptying their bench was terrific work out of the bullpen. Josh Smoker, Fernando Salas, Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed, Jeurys Familia, and Hansel Robles combined to pitch five shutout innings allowing only three hits and one walk with striking out eight.
However, they wouldn’t get a sixth shutout inning. Byron Buxton would hit a long home run off Robles to give the Twins a 2-1 lead in the 11th. It wasn’t a bad pitch, and it shows why people think Buxton is going to be a great player. None if that matters.
What matters is Granderson led off the bottom of the 11th with an opposite field home run to tie the game at two.
After Granderson’s homer, and the obligatory Bruce out, the Mets, sorry, Las Vegas 51s, continued the rally. T.J. and Brandon Nimmo hit back-to-back singles. Kevin Plawecki almost ended the game. However, instead of his liner going into center, it hit the pitcher leading to the fielder’s choice. It put the game in Matt Reynolds hands. After fouling a ball off his foot, Reynolds was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Reyes worked out a nine pitch at bat, but he would strike out looking ending the inning and sending the game into the 12th.
Granderson once again hit the huge extra inning home run.
This one was a game winner – off a lefty to boot. It was the first time in Mets history a Mets player hit a game tying and game winning home run in extra innings.
With that, the Mets won a tough game and will make up ground on someone tonight.
Game Notes: Granderson’s homers wrre the Mets’ 200th & 201st of the season, which is the new Mets single season record.
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.
In many ways, Turner Field was an absolute eye sore from the general design of the place to the players who wore the Braves uniforms to Kenny Rogers inability to throw one over the plate against Andruw Jones. What was ugliest of all was the Mets record there as the Mets were 67-106 at Turner Field. Keep in mind, that record was boosted by the Mets winning 11 of their last 14 there.
Just as the Mets luck would go, just as they were getting the hang of things there, the Braves decided to tear the place down. At least the Mets would close out their book at Turner Field in style.
First, it was the pitching of Seth Lugo. Again, he was economical with his pitches, and he was able to go deep into games. What is also impressive was his ability to once again navigate his way out of trouble. This is where there is a real debate between “traditionalist” and “stat-guys.” The traditionalist say he has an innate ability to get himself out of trouble while stat-guys say he is going to regress to the mean. Right now, with the Mets in fight for the Wild Card, the results are all that matter, and Lugo is getting the results.
After Freddie Freeman singled home Adonis Garcia, the Braves would then load the bases with no outs. At this point, the game was quickly turning from an easy 6-1 lead to a typical Turner Field nightmare. Lugo then induced Anthony Recker to pop out to first base. To be fair, having seen his time with the Mets, that wasn’t exactly impressive. What was impressive was him using his slider to induce a groundball from Dansby Swanson. Despite his speed, the Mets were able to turn the 6-4-3 double play to keep it at 6-1.
It was another great game from Lugo whose final line was seven innings, six hits, two runs, two earned, one walk, and five strikeouts. Overall, he is solidifying his spot on the postseason roster. Lugo got the win not just because of his pitching, but also because the Mets offense exploded.
As usual, when discussing the Mets offense exploding, you need to start with Yoenis Cespedes. In the first, his ground out scored Asdrubal Cabrera, who somehow legged out a triple on one leg, to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. In the third, he then did this:
At this point, not even Lawrence Chipper Jones could have save the Braves.
A shocking James Loney home run in the fourth would make it a 6-0 game. Credit is due to Loney here. After a disturbingly bad August, he has turned things around in September. So far this month, he is hitting .333/.391/.571 with two doubles, a homer, and three RBI. At a time when the Mets need to ride the hot hand to get the Wild Card, Loney has to be playing right now. No, I did not like saying that.
Add in another big rally in the fifth, featuring another Loney RBI base hit, and the Mets would go on to win 10-3. It was such a beating that even Lugo got into the action hitting a sacrifice fly. With that huge lead, it was beyond bizarre that Terry Collins would take his sweet time removing his injured players from the game. He didn’t remove Cabrera until the eighth despite having Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds on the bench. At least, Cecchini would get a pinch hitting appearance in the game (striking out). He waited until the ninth to remove Curtis Granderson for Michael Conforto even if it would behoove the Mets to give Granderson some extra rest where they can find it. Naturally, Cespedes would play the entire game.
It was a good day for the Mets as is everyday they beat the Braves. With the Cardinals losing, the Mets found themselves back a half-game ahead of them in the Wild Card standings and tied with them in the loss column. The only real problem with the game was the fact that once again the Mets failed to wear the First Responders caps to honor the fallen.
Game Notes: Logan Verrett is pretty much done for the season. He got mop-up work in the ninth, and he couldn’t complete the task. After allowing a run, he then loaded the bases, and he needed to be bailed out by Josh Edgin. Edgin would get out of the inning without allowing another run.
Every time the Mets run Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to the mound, they’re out there trying to help the Mets return to the postseason. They’re also making their own case why the Mets should put them on the postseason roster.
Assuming the Mets make it back to the postseason, there is little guaranteed on who will and who won’t be on the postseason roster. In fact, as it stands today, Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon are the only two starting pitchers who will be guaranteed a spot on the postseason roster. If, and it is becoming a bigger if with each passing day, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom can return from their injuries, they will be guaranteed not only a spot on the roster, but also a start in the postseason.
Assuming deGrom and Matz can return for the postseason, there will still be room in the bullpen. Last season, the Mets went with 11 pitchers in the bullpen. The Mets were given that luxury, in part, because the team carried Colon and Jon Niese in the bullpen. This gave the Mets a number of pitchers who could go multiple innings out of the bullpen. Coupled with a starting rotation that could go deep into game, the Mets were able to add the extra bat on the bench. Looking at the Mets bullpen as constituted, there are few absolutely guaranteed spots:
With teams only needing four starters in the postseason, that leaves two open spots in the postseason bullpen.
If deGrom and Matz are able to pitch in the postseason, that means Lugo, Gsellman, and Montero will be competing for the last two spots in the bullpen most likely with Josh Smoker and Jim Henderson. If the Mets want to go with two lefties in the bullpen, Smoker could have the inside track. While he has been touched in three of his nine appearances, Smoker has shown he can strike people out. Currently, he strikes out 14.5 batters per nine innings, which is only slightly higher than his 12.8 strikeout per nine figure in AAA. If Smoker keeps striking people out, it is going to be hard to justify leaving him off the postseason roster.
Given his early season success, Henderson presumably has an excellent chance of being on the postseason roster. However, each and every time Henderson takes the mound, he makes a case why the Mets can’t trust him in a big spot. In his six appearances since coming off the disabled list, Henderson has a 7.20 ERA and has allowed opponents to hit .318 off of him.
If the Mets went with Smoker and Henderson, there may still be a spot for Lugo and Gsellman if the Mets decide to go with 12 pitchers this offseason. In that scenario, there would be one last bullpen available that would most likely go to Lugo or Gsellman. That means with every start, Lugo and Gsellman are not just pitching against the opponent, but also each other.
Overall, in order for Lugo and Gsellman to help their chances for a postseason roster spot, and for the Mets to even make the postseason, they are going to have to go out there and continue pitching as well as they have been.