After his epic run at the end of the 2015 season, it is understandable how many view Yoenis Cespedes as the driving force of this Mets team. However, if you look at the past few seasons, the person who has really been at the forefront of the Mets peaks and valleys has been Asdrubal Cabrera.
Looking over the past few seasons, Cabrera never really did get the credit Cespedes received for his propelling the Mets to the postseason in 2016. Consider from August 19th until the end of the 2016 season, he hit .345/.406/.635 with 11 doubles, a triple, 10 homers, and 29 RBI. Really, looking at that decimated team who was looking for an everyday second baseman at they entered September, it was Cabrera who carried that team to the postseason.
As the 2018 season began, it was once again Cabrera who was the driving force of this Mets team.
In April, Cabrera hit .340/.393/.580 with nine doubles, five homers, and 17 RBI. For a Mets team who was in first place, Cabrera was in the all too early conversation for National League MVP.
That’s not a stretch either as Cabrera’s hot bat masked much of what was wrong with the Mets. The Mets were winning despite Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard being the only Mets starters who would give the team credible starts. Amed Rosario was struggling along with Cespedes, Jay Bruce, and countless other Mets. The teams two catchers, Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki went down with injuries, and they were replaced by an underwhelming duo of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido.
Through all of it, Cabrera got big hit after big hit after big hit, and the Mets were 17-9, and they led the Braves by 1.5 games in the National League East, and they lead the Nationals by 4.5 games.
Since that time, we have seen Cabrera get nicked up on more than one occasion, have seen his play fall off of a cliff, and we have seen the Mets go 10-21 while plummeting to fourth in the standings.
Since May 1st, Cabrera is hitting .252/.282/.445 with six doubles, a triple, five homers, and 17 RBI. These are more befitting a hitter towards the end of the lineup than the second place hitter Cabrera has been for this team.
Cabrera isn’t just struggling at the plate. He’s struggling mightily in the field as well. In fact, with a -11 DRS, Cabrera is the worst defensive second baseman in all of baseball. Expanding the worldview a bit more, Cabrera’s -11 DRS ranks worst among all Major League infielders.
Simply put, Cabrera is not hitting or fielding right now. In a season where the was the driving force who bailed the Mets out of a number of situations, he has become one of the many liabilities on this team.
No, the current state of the Mets cannot be pinned on Cabrera. There are far more issues than his recent play. However, when he struggles like this, with Cespedes on the disabled list, and Michael Conforto still trying to get back to form, you no longer have a bat in the lineup who can carry this Mets team and help mask some of those other issues.
As the Mets opened the 2018 season, there was supposed to be a catching competition, or at least a time sharing between Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud. This situation was created because both catchers had failed to do anything to truly claim the job as their own, but they had shown flashes which gave your confidence either or both could figure it out this year.
Then, in one week, both players would suffer injuries. With respect to d’Arnaud, it was a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery. For Plawecki, it was a broken hand resulting from getting hit by a Tayron Guerrero fastball.
From there, the Mets had to turn to the tandem of Tomas Nido and Jose Lobaton. Neither one of these players would Wally Pipp Plawecki as they and the Mets struggled. With their play behind the plate, and with Plawecki not healing as quick as the team hoped, it was time to do something drastic.
That drastic move came from Matt Harvey being designated for assignment. Now, Harvey was not designated for assignment as a means to get a catcher. However, when he was designated, and the Mets having a small window to get a deal done, the team did all they could do to land a catcher.
The end result was Reds backup catcher and former All Star Devin Mesoraco.
After the injuries and hitting .195/.291/.318 in 316 plate attempts between 2015 and the trade, Mesoraco and the remainder of his $13.1 million salary was more than expendable for the Reds. In many ways, getting a broken down player who could no replicate his prior success due to extensive injuries was the perfect return for Harvey.
In some ways,. Mesoraco has revitalized the Mets. He has worked well with the pitching staff, and he has hit again. In 15 games with the Mets, Mesoraco is hiting .261/.358/.630 with two doubles, five homers, and 10 RBI. During telecasts, we hear Keith Hernandez dropping Mike Piazza comparisons on him. Yes, it’s related to his back swing, but the way he has slugged in a Mets uniform, the comparisons are apt.
With Mesoraco’s emergence, things are murky again for Plawecki. While he has not hit for power so far his year, he was handling the staff quite well before his injury, and he was getting on base with a .455 OBP.
Certainly, both catchers have made a case for why they should be the primary or starting catcher with Mesoraco likely ahead. Yesterday, in both games of the doubleheader, both catchers made their claim for the spot.
In the first game, Mesoraco was 2-3 with two runs, a homer, and two RBI. His homer should have proven to be a go-ahead game winning homer in the top of the ninth.
In the second game, Plawecki was 3-4 with two runs, an RBI, and a walk. He also reached on an error meaning he reached safely in all five of his plate appearances.
There are many other factors at play including how comfortable the pitching staff is with each catcher and certainly Noah Syndergaard‘s seeming need to have a personal catcher. Through all the stats, there is one interesting consideration. In games Mesoraco starts, the Mets are 6-6 as opposed to being 7-1 in games Plawecki starts.
Right now, with the Mets trying to figure out the infield, bench, and back end of the starting rotation, the catching situation presents a welcome “problem” for Mickey Callaway and his staff. Fortunately, the Mets have two good options back there – two options who have raised their game with the prospect of competition.
Let the best catcher win.
In many ways, Devin Mesoraco proved to be the perfect return for Matt Harvey – former first round draft pick and All Star whose career has been completely altered by injuries, and he has now been surpassed by others. While we don’t know if Mesoraco wore out his welcome in Cincinnati, we do know that like Harvey, he needed a change of scenery to at least see if it could rejuvenate his career.
In that way, New York was the perfect place for Mesoraco.
Right off the bat, with Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido, the one thing the Mets were able to provide was playing time. With playing time comes opportunity, and after that it is just a matter of whether you take advantage of it or not.
Another thing in Mesoraco’s favor was the lack of expectation. That’s not just because Mesoraco hit .195/.291/.318 in 316 plate attempts between 2015 and the trade. No, it is because Lobaton was hitting .152/.250/.239 before he was designated for assignment, and Nido is hitting .154/.214/.179. Simply put, even is Mesoraco was the bad version of himself, he’s an offensive upgrade for this Mets team.
He’s also an upgrade behind the plate. From a pitch framing perspective, he’s a better catcher than Lobaton, and he’s on par with Kevin Plawecki. Since a tough start to his career, with the nadir coming in 2014, he has made significant strides blocking balls in the dirt, and he is now quite capable to good in that perspective.
Perhaps it is a change of scenery, consistent playing time, playing for a better team, or the limitations of a small sample size, but Mesoraco certainly has looked like a much improved player since coming to the Mets. In eight games, he is hitting .200/.333/.600 with a double, three homers, and five RBI.
More than anything, his play behind and at the plate shows early indications of a player who is rejuvenated. This doesn’t mean Mesoraco will return to his All Star form. The injuries may limit him from ever being that again. However, we see for the first time since those injuries how good a catcher Mesoraco can still be if given the chance, and right now, the Mets are being rewarded for taking this chance.
There is a tangible effect too. In one of the most bizarre stats you’ll ever see, the Reds were 0-18 in games Mesoraco played this season. Since coming to the Mets, the team is 5-2 in games he has started. Part of that is how much his bat is a big upgrade over what the Mets had. Another part is how well he has handled the pitching staff.
As noted by Wayne Randazzo, the Mets pitchers are 5-2 with a 2.03 ERA in games Mesoraco has started. Keep in mind, those games include games started by Jason Vargas, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler as well as a bullpen game when Jacob deGrom couldn’t pitch past the first due to a high pitch count.
Overall, the Mets are seeing tangible results from the significant upgrade Mesoraco has provided. They are playing better baseball, and they are winning games.
Watching the game tonight, it is really difficult to assess how well Zack Wheeler performed. On the one hand, he was executing his pitches as well as he ever has, and yet he earned the loss against a bad Marlins team.
Actually, there is a debate how much he “earned” that loss. Really, there was just one hiccup for him, and that was in the second inning when the Marlins scored all three of their runs.
The first run was on Wheeler, who allowed three straight hard hit balls by Brian Anderson (double), Derek Dietrich, and Miguel Rojas. After that, it’s hard to pin anything else on him. Caleb Smith popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt, which Jose Reyes fielded on hop, looked at every single base, and then threw the ball in the dirt thereby loading the bases.
That three run lead was brutal because as Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling kept opining, Smith was dealing for the Marlins. That is a plausible explanation considering Smith entered the game striking out 12 batters per nine. However, it needs to be noted the Mets bats are really awful against left-handed batters. Tonight, was no exception as Smith allowed one run on three hits over 6.2 innings.
The one run he allowed was in the bottom of the second, and it started with a Jose Bautista double. Speaking of Bautista, he was signed just before the game, and he was put in the starting lineup ahead of Jay Bruce, and he played left field. After the predictable Reyes out, Bautista moved to third, and he scored on a Tomas Nido sacrifice fly.
The Mets really wouldn’t get another rally started until the eighth. Adrian Gonzalez led off the inning with a double, and later than inning Brandon Nimmo earned a one out walk. The rally would falter there as Cabrera would hit into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.
While disappointing, that rally was too little too late anyway. In the top of the inning, Derek Dietrich hit a two run homer off AJ Ramos to expand the Marlins lead to 5-1. That would be the final score on a deeply disappointing day.
Game Notes: Reyes made two errors in the game, and he now has three hits and two errors on the month. Devin Mesoraco did not start after getting hit on the elbow with an errant swing last night. He did pinch hit in the seventh and flew out.
Admittedly, this is beating a dead horse, a horse deader than Jose Reyes‘ ability to contribute to a Major League team, but if you are going to complain about something, you need to present solutions. After all, what is the good in saying Reyes should be released if you are not prepared to suggest improvements?
As much as I like to joke about it, no, David Wright would not be an improvement over Reyes right now, even if the argument could sadly be made. Jokes aside, there are plenty of better options available to the Mets over what Reyes is giving the team right now and in the future:
MLB Stats: .400/.400/.500, 2B, RBI
MiLB Stats: .300/.394/.433, 7 2B, 3B, HR, 15 RBI, 2 SB, CS
The main thing Guillorme brings to the table is great middle infield defense. Even if his ability to drive the ball will remind you of Luis Castillo, he does have the ability to give you a good at-bat and get on base. At a minimum, since getting called-up, he has show he is not over-matched, and he is ready right now to contribute as a utility player for the Mets right now.
MiLB Stats: .274/.350/.500, 7 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 24 RBI, SB
The immediate reaction whenever Kelly is mentioned is he is a Four-A player because he has a MLB career stat line of .211/.297/.340. Even if you’re right, it bears mentioning this would be a huge upgrade over Reyes’ current stats. More than that, Kelly is a versatile player and switch hitter who can play all four infield positions and can handle both corner outfield spots. And for the knocks against him, he is .255/.351/.340 against left-handed pitching.
MLB Stats: .154/.214/.179, 2B, RBI
MiLB Stats: .257/.333/371, 4 2B, 6 RBI
Nido would mean carrying three catchers and pressing Wilmer Flores to become a backup at short as well. Given Reyes’ -15 DRS at short last year, Flores is not a dropoff defensively. Nido’s presence on the roster would accomplish a few things. First, you can give Noah Syndergaard his own personal catcher, which may not be a bad thing given the challenges catching Syndergaard possesses. Second, having Nido would free up both Devin Mesoraco and Kevin Plawecki for more pinch hitting attempts. Third, Nido would allow the Mets to take it easier on Mesoraco, who has an extensive injury history, and it permits the team to not over rely on Plawecki, who is still not quite established as a major leaguer. However, you would ideally keep Nido in the minors once Plawecki returns to give him the regular at-bats he needs to improve offensively.
MiLB Stats: .294/.342/.468, 11 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBI, SB, CS
After a lost season last year, Cecchini worked on a number of things in the offseason, and he is back to being the player he was just two years ago. However, this is more on the long-term view as Cecchini has not played since May 9th when he fouled a ball off his foot.
MiLB Stats: .328/.403/.715, 11 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 31 RBI, SB
For all the clamoring over Peter Alonso, many are overlooking his teammate McNeil, who has recently surpassed Alonso in doubles, homers, SLG, and OPS. The 26 year old is healthy after a few injury riddled seasons, and he’s flat out raking. With him mashing right-handed pitching, he would be a good platoon partner for Wilmer Flores in Todd Frazier‘s absence. However, ideally, you’d like to keep him in Double-A longer, and you would want to see him in Triple-A before rushing him to the majors, especially when there are more than sufficient options ahead of him.
In complete fairness, Phillip Evans, who has not gotten a hit in seven at-bats and was not great in Las Vegas was not mentioned. Also not mentioned is T.J. Rivera because no one can be quite sure when he will be ready to return to playing after his Tommy John surgery. Really, the Mets need Rivera to return as soon as he can because he would be the best possible internal addition to the Mets bench.
Before this series against the Diamondbacks, much of the discussion surrounding this Mets team was about what was wrong with this team. There were many, many answers, but two of the more surprising ones were Amed Rosario and Noah Syndergaard.
With Rosario, he was struggling at the plate. He was swinging at too much, and he was not hitting for any power whatsoever. This also prevented him from using his game breaking speed, and when he tried, he was inevitably caught stealing.
With respect to Syndergaard, he hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t been Thor. Considering how this team and pitching staff has been assembled, for this team to have a shot at competing, they needed Thor to be Thor. Yesterday, Syndergaard made a huge step getting back to that point.
At first, it didn’t seem that way. Syndergaard got himself into a bit of trouble in the first, but he managed his way out of it. He would not be as lucky in the second allowing back-to-back hits to Jarrod Dyson and Nick Ahmed, i.e. the soft spot of the Diamondbacks lineup, before yielding an RBI groundout to Jeff Mathis to give the Diamondbacks an early 1-0 lead.
Through those first two innings, he had thrown 44 pitches, and it looked like it was going to be another one of those short five inning starts Syndergaard has made this year.
Then, something clicked . . . finally, and it began with a 1-2-3 third, and it also helped that Syndergaard got some help in the fifth.
After Mathis led off the inning reaching on a Wilmer Flores error, Buchholz sacrificed him to second. David Peralta hit what initially looked like an RBI single, but Jay Bruce made a perfect throw to nail Mathis at the plate.
This was really the last time all game the Diamondbacks threatened. Part of the reason for that is in the sixth Syndergaard actually picked Paul Goldschmidt off of first:
#Dbacks challenge call that Paul Goldschmidt is out at 2B in the 6th; call stands, runner is out.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) May 20, 2018
Syndergaard’s final line was a very Thor like 7.0 innings, six hits, one run, one earned, on walk, and seven strikeouts.
The only problem is with the Mets offense being stymied by a Clay Buchholz, who had not pitched in over a year, and the strong Diamondbacks bullpen, Syndergaard was not in line for the win.
Fortunately, he was not in line for a loss because in the sixth inning, Rosario hit his first home run of the year off of Buchholz to tie the score at 1-1:
1️⃣ swing, 1️⃣ run from #️⃣1️⃣. pic.twitter.com/D4rpKaMIJ8
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 20, 2018
In the seventh inning, it was apparent Syndergaard was done for the day, and with two quick outs, it seemed as if he was destined for a no decision. However, Tomas Nido, who took the place of the recently designated for assignment Jose Lobaton, singled to allow Mickey Callaway to use Asdrubal Cabrera to pinch hit. Like he has done all season, he delivered hitting a go-ahead two run homer off Jorge De La Rosa.
Then, Rosario is what might have been his best game in a Mets uniform, followed with his second homer of the game to give the Mets a 4-1 lead:
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 20, 2018
For Rosario, this would be his first two run homer game of his career. It was also a big step forward after his making incremental steps forward over the past few weeks. If he really takes off now, the sky is the limit for this Mets team.
With that, the Mets have their first three game home sweep of the season, and they have their first series win at home since the April 13-15 series against the Brewers. They are now back on track and once again ahead of the Nationals. Things are once again looking much better.
Game Notes: Luis Guillorme went 0-4 snapping a 13 game hitting streak he had combined between the majors and Triple-A.
Well, just when you think things can’t get worse, you’re reminded this is the Mets. Perhaps the biggest punchline of this season, maybe the past decade, was how the Mets BATTED OUT OF ORDER IN THE FIRST INNING!
Can someone send this down to the third base dugout? https://t.co/htjvJss5k1
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) May 9, 2018
Basically, the Mets skipped Asdrubal Cabrera, and Wilmer Flores took his spot striking out. Cabrera, who was supposed to bat second, came up third and doubled. That’s when Reds manager Jim Riggleman pointed out to the umpires the Mets were batting out of order.
Cabrera’s double was erased from the record books, and Jay Bruce, whose turn it was actually to bat, was ruled out.
Aside from making Mickey Callaway and bench coach Gary Disarcina looking completely incompetent, it really hurt the Mets because this game would prove to be a pitcher’s duel between Zack Wheeler and Sal Romano.
For his part, Wheeler was brilliant, and it was one of the better starts in his Mets career. Over six innings, he limited to the Reds to just one run on four hits and three walks while he struck out seven. He would only really face trouble in the first and the sixth. He got out of the jam easily in the first, but he would not be able to escape the sixth.
The sixth inning Reds rally started with a leadoff walk to Jesse Winker. He’d come around to score after a Jose Peraza bunt single. You could get on Wilmer Flores all you like, but he had no shot on this, and really no one does whenever Peraza lays one down as he is the Major League leader in bunt hits with six.
Joey Votto would follow with an RBI single, and the Mets and Wheeler were teetering. While it was not pretty, Wheeler deserves credit for buckling down and getting the last three outs of that inning without allowing another run.
Unfortunately, that rally tied the score 1-1 because the Mets just blew opportunity after opportunity after opportunity.
After the aforementioned blunder in the first inning, Michael Conforto hit a one out double that Adrian Gonzalez could not score. They stood idly by as Wheeler struck out, and Amed Rosario grounded out to the catcher.
In the third, the Mets did actually score. Brandon Nimmo hit a leadoff triple, and with the team hitting in the correct batting order, Cabrera drove him home with an RBI groundout.
In the fifth, the Mets had runners at first and second with one out only to see Cabrera and Flores come up short. From there, the Mets would little to nothing at the plate, which coupled with some strong work out of the bullpen from Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, both of whom have had recent multiple inning relief appearances, bore down and pitched a scoreless seventh through ninth.
At this point, it is important to note the Mets had called up Corey Oswalt to help out with an overworked bullpen. They did this despite his being on three days rest yesterday. As a result, the Mets called up a guy they would be hesitant to use making calling him up in the first place a complete waste of transaction.
As a result, in the tenth inning, Callaway went with AJ Ramos for his second straight game and third time in four days. Callaway went with Ramos instead of going with Jeurys Familia, who was presumably being saved for a save situation. This is a far departure from Callaway’s overtures early in the season when he said he was going to use his best reliever in the highest leverage situations.
Well, that save situation Callaway was waiting for never materialized as Adam Duvall hit a walk off homer off Ramos.
As a result, the Mets dropped to 18-17 after losing a series to the worst team in the National League. This is a far cry from the who went 12-2 and were world beaters. Now, they are just getting beaten up by the world.
Game Notes: Luis Guillorme was called-up from Tripe-A, and Tomas Nido was sent down. Guillorme would not appear in the game. Devin Mesoraco started his first game for the Mets, and he was 0-4 with two strikeouts.
Back on April 11th, which was the last day the Mets would have either Travis d’Arnaud or Kevin Plawecki, the Mets would beat the Miami Marlins to improve to a National League best 10-1. At that time, one of the driving forces for the Mets incredible start was their pitching.
In the ensuing 21 games with Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido behind the plate, the Mets have gone 7-14. In that time, one of the main culprits has been how poorly the Mets pitching staff has performed. In fact, the Mets team ERA has ballooned from 2.47 to 4.21. The once dominant bullpen now has a 3.89 ERA.
There are many possible causes for this. Certainly, you could expect some regression to the mean after a fast start. Moreover, there is something to be said about how Mickey Callaway has used his bullpen. There are many reasons you can cite, but one which should not be overlooked is pitch framing, especially with the drop-off we have seen since the injuries. Here are the catchers’ respective RAAs:
Really, Lobaton is the worst of the group, and yet, somehow, in the absence of Plawecki and d’Arnaud, he is getting the bulk of the playing time. You could almost understand it if he was hitting, but Lobaton is hitting .163/.265/.256, and no, there’s not much upside with him as he is coming off a .170/.248/.277 year and is a .216/.294/.321 hitter.
Whatever it is too, Lobaton is just not working well with this Mets pitching staff. Remember, he was the catcher when the Mets bullpen completely collapsed against the Washington Nationals. During his time, we have seen the ERAs of almost every Mets pitcher rise.
For example, Steven Matz struggled mightily in his three starts with Lobaton. In those three starts, Matz averaged 4.0 innings per start, had a 6.39 ERA, and opposing batters hit .239/.333/.478 off of him. Short sample size for sure, and it may be a coincidence Matz had his best start since July of last year with Nido behind the plate.
It could also be the result of pitch framing. Certainly, the ability to get the extra strike and/or make sure a strike is called a strike is of vital importance. It is the difference between getting ahead in the count to set the batter up to make an out and making sure you get your pitches more over the plate so you don’t walk batters. The more you have to pitch over the plate, the worse a pitcher is going to fare.
Ultimately, with Lobaton behind the plate, nearly all of the Mets pitchers are struggling. There are many reasons why with his pitch framing chief among them. Until Plawecki is ready to return, at a minimum, Nido has to become the primary catcher. Ideally, Sandy Alderson is trying to make a move for a catcher even if if means grabbing Miguel Montero off the scrap heap.
No matter what, the only thing that is clear is Lobaton cannot be the starting catcher anymore.
Up until that point, the Mets catching situation was actually one of the bright spots to what was a great start to the season. The combination of Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud combined to hit .229/.341/.343 with six runs, a double, a homer, and four RBI. While they were catching, the Mets pitching staff had a 2.47 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, and a 9.9 K/9.
Since d’Arnaud opted to have Tommy John surgery and Plawecki’s hand has taken longer to heal than expected, things have gone quite differently for this Mets team with the new catching tandem of Jose Lobaton and Tomas Nido.
Whereas the Plawecki/d’Arnaud tandem was at least passable offensively, Lobaton/Nido have not. Combined, Lobaton and Nido have hit .164/.269/.218 with a double, triple, and four RBI.
While we should be cautioned not to rely upon things like catcher ERA or results in small sample sizes, the Mets pitching staff has had a 5.30 ERA. Surprisingly, the walks have come slightly down to a 3.0 BB/9 while the strikeouts have remained at a 9.9 K/9.
More troubling, the Mets who got off to a 10-1 start have gone 7-9 with their new catching duo.
There are many reasons for the difference in records including a natural regression from a team that started the season 10-1. Really, no one believed the Mets were going to go 147-15 for the full season.
And the catching situation has nothing to do with Amed Rosario regressing, Michael Conforto not hitting for power, or Adrian Gonzalez not contributing anywhere near what the Mets expected. Still, these catchers are part of a black hole the Mets have in the bottom of their lineup.
The Mets have also had two bad bullpen meltdowns with Lobaton behind the plate. The first one was the Nationals six run 8th inning. It was a complete meltdown, and no one quite knew how to stop it from happening. Not Mickey Callaway. Not Dave Eiland. Not Lobaton.
The second one, much smaller in scale was the Mets blowing a 3-0 lead to the Braves. Lobaton was on for the two run eighth, and Nido was there for the two run ninth.
Maybe these meltdowns were coincidences. It’s possible Matt Harvey would have regressed the way he has anyway. We’ve seen enough of Steven Matz to know we don’t know what he’s going to provide. AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins always had difficulty with walks. The list goes on and on.
Whatever the case, the one thing that is apparent, even if this stretch is not completely the fault of either Lobaton or Nido, the Mets miss their catchers. Unfortunately, d’Arnaud is gone for the season, and he may never suit up for the Mets again. As for Plawecki, he’s still a few weeks away. Seeing how the Mets are performing in his absence, he cannot get back here soon enough.
One of the most interesting phenomena in sports is how when an aging player returns to his old stomping grounds, sometimes he is just able to turn back the clock. As Mets fans, we saw this in 2006 when Mike Piazza had a two home run game against Pedro Martinez. Yesterday, we saw Adrian Gonzalez have one of those days.
It’s been bad for Gonzalez of late, really bad. He’s been mired in a 1-17 stretch with no extra base hits. Going back a little further, over his last 10 games, he’s hitting .121/.205/.212.
Things have been so bad Wilmer Flores got the previous two starts at first base. Yes, the Padres were starting left-handed pitchers both days, but Gonzalez has killed Clayton Richard. However, when you’re hitting like he’s been hitting, you’re not going to get into the lineup. You’re also going to hear about the Mets planning to move Jay Bruce to first base. This meant if Gonzalez was going to do anything to stop it all from happening, he was going to have to do it now.
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 29, 2018
That seventh inning three run homer was needed because it helped put what was a close game away. Instead of a tight 4-2 game with Mickey Callaway having to use his best relievers, it was a 7-2 laugher allowing Callaway to get work for guys like Matt Harvey.
It was all part of a great day for Gonzalez. Overall, he was 3-6 with a run, double, homer, and five RBI. He would have had an even better day had Franchy Cordero not robbed him of another double earlier in the game.
With Gonzalez front and center, this was really a day when a lot of beleaguered Mets got healthy. Jose Reyes contributed going 2-5 with three runs, a homer, RBI, walk, and a stolen base. Tomas Nido was 2-5 with a run, RBI, and a walk. And Harvey would pitch a scoreless ninth, even if he did allow a hard hit double to Eric Hosmer. Really, that’s the last time I want to ever put Harvey’s name, double, and a 2015 Royal in the same sentence.
Going with the rejuvenation theme, Zack Wheeler was good, which was needed from a Mets rotation still trying to figure out who can be an effective third starter in this rotation.
He battled most of the afternoon, and he did not get a 1-2-3 inning until the fifth, his last inning of work. That said, what impressed you most about this start was how Wheeler found that extra something at times when he’s usually lost it. Wheeler ended a rally in the first by striking out Freddy Galvis. He helped curb a third inning rally limiting the damage to two runs by striking out Carlos Asuaje. After Manuel Margot‘s two out single, stolen base, and advancing to third on a throwing error, Wheeler struck out Hosmer.
Overall, Wheeler had nine strikeouts, but what was really remarkable was how he got them at key moments when he needed a strikeout. That hasn’t always been his M.O., and it’s a real positive step going forward for him.
Even with his start and with Gonzalez turning back the clock was how the Mets offense put five spots on the board in consecutive innings. It was a full on onslaught by a Mets offense which saw every starting position player register two hits. Even Brandon Nimmo, who came on for Yoenis Cespedes, would register two hits. In addition to Gonzalez, Reyes and Todd Frazier would homer. The sum total of this barrage was a 14-2 Mets win marking the first ever time the Mets have scored double digits at Petco Park.
Of course with this being the Mets, not everything could be a positive. Cespedes, who has been torrid of late, had to come out of the game after executing a double steal with Bruce. In what was his second stolen base of the inning, Cespedes jammed his thumb. The good news is the x-rays were negative. The bad news is Cespedes believes he can’t play over the next three days, and that’s with the Braves coming to town.
Still, things could have been a lot worse with Cespedes, and with the Mets going to Petco, a place where they had only previously won one series, things could have gone a lot worse there. All in all, this was a good series where the Mets got back on track.
Game Notes: Paul Sewald recorded his first hold of the season. He initially came on to relieve Wheeler when it was a two run game. He now has a 1.98 ERA on the season.