Zack Wheeler

Mets Should Be Angry They’re Terrible, Not at Puig Homers

Yesterday, the Mets lost their cool with Yasiel Puig‘s home run trot.  Wilmer Flores had something to say to him as he passed first base.  Travis d’Arnaud said something as Puig crossed home plate.  Between innings, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Reyes pulled Puig aside to talk with him about the incident.  Jay Bruce voiced his displeasure with Puig in a post-game interview.  That’s where we are this season.
Cespedes and Reyes, two players known for their on field celebrations, are talking to another player about how he acts on the field.  More than that, it’s bizarre that a Mets team who has played terrible baseball this year is going to go out there and tell another player how the game should be played.  Instead of Puig, maybe the Mets players should be focusing on their own issues:

1.  They Can’t Pitch

The Mets have a team 5.05 ERA, which is the worst ERA the Mets have had since the 1962 Mets.  It doesn’t matter Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and Steven Matz have been injured this year.  That ERA is just inexcusable.  There was still enough talent on this roster that an ERA that high should never be that possible.  Certainly, there is no reason why this pitching staff should be in the same conversation as the worst baseball team in history.

2.  The Defense Is Terrible

The team -9 DRS and team -7.3 UZR ranks 21st in baseball.  Their -14 DRS at the shortstop position is the worst in baseball, and the -6.0 UZR is ranked 27th.  At third base, the Mets -7 DRS is 27th and -4.8 UZR is 26th.  Behind those numbers, Asdrubal Cabrera has no range anymore.  Travis d’Arnaud is having difficulty throwing out base stealers.  Flores and T.J. Rivera have once again showed they are bats without a position.  Overall, it’s ugly, and they are not helping their pitching staff.

3.  They’re Always Injured

Of all the position players on the Opening Day roster, Michael Conforto, Bruce, and Reyes are the only ones who have not spent time on the Disabled List.  For his part, Conforto is playing through back issues, and his play has dipped in June.  The only two pitchers in the starting rotation from the famed seven deep group who haven’t been on the Disabled List are deGrom and Gsellman, both of whom are coming off of offseason surgeries.  In the bullpen, the Mets have seen Jeurys Familia go down with an injury, and Terry Collins pitched Josh Smoker into one.  If the Mets want to be angry, be angry with their trainers, physicians, and maybe even themselves for how they prepare.

4.  They’re Under-Performing

So far this season, the Mets have had 13 position players with at least 100 plate appearances.  Only five of them have an OPS+ over 100.  Cespedes is the only player with a .300 batting average.  Conforto is the only one with a .400 OBP.  Aside from Cespedes, each player has had one month where they have been in a deep slump.

Other than Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins, no Mets pitcher who has thrown at least 15 innings has an ERA below 3.29, and that ERA belongs to Syndergaard.  After him the lowest ERA on the team is 3.94.  There are five pitchers who have an ERA over 6.00 and seven with an ERA over 5.0

We can get on Collins for his bizarre managing decisions all we want, and they are quite justified.  Still, Collins is not to blame for these players under-performing.  That’s on all of them.

5.  They’re Not Showing Up For The Big Games

It’s easy to forget, but the Mets were on the precipice of being relevant in the National League East and Wild Card races.  They had back-to-back four game sets against the Nationals, who were reeling with their terrible bullpen, and the Dodgers, who have had injury issues of their own.  Instead of taking control of their destiny and making themselves relevant, the Mets fell flat on their faces.  In the seven games thus far, they have allowed 14 homers and have been outscored 53-22.  It is one thing lost six of seven.  It is a whole other thing to be dominated by teams the Mets believed they were better than entering the season.

If the Mets want to be angry with anyone, they should be angry with themselves.  They are allowing the homers.  They are the ones who are getting their doors blown off on a nightly basis.  They are the ones who have taken a promising season and made it a disaster.

For once, Collins had it right when he said, “We’ve got bigger problems than somebody’s home run trot right now.” (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com).  Maybe instead of focusing on Puig, the Mets should be focusing on those bigger problems.

Should The Mets Give Montero A Chance Now?

Stop it.  The notion is insane.  In fact, it is completely preposterous.  No self respecting Mets fan should even broach the topic.  Before even pursuing further, we should all stop while we are ahead.

Except the Mets aren’t ahead.  They’re way down in the standings.  They are eight games under .500 trailing the Nationals by 11.5 games in the division.  Things are worse for the Wild Card.  They are behind the Diamondbacks for the second Wild Card by 12.5 games with five other teams ahead of them.  Seriously, at this point what is there to lose?

And that right there is the Mets best rationale to finally seeing what they have with Rafael Montero.

Let’s dispense with what we all know.  Montero has been absolutely terrible in his time with the Mets.  In his major league career, he has pitched in 39 games going 1-9 with a 5.51 ERA, 1.756 WHIP, and a 5.7 BB/9.  Each year he pitches in the majors, he has arguably gotten worse.  What makes that all the more frustrating is when he gets sent down to the minors, he dominates.  This has led the Mets to keeping him on the 40 man roster while getting rid of valuable pitchers like Gabriel Ynoa when it had come time to clear space on the 40 man roster.

It has been a frustrating four years.  However, in that time frame, the Mets still see something in him that leads to them keeping him on the roster.  They have given him chance after chance after chance.  About the only thing they haven’t given him was an extended shot. Maybe it’s time they give him one.

For the first time, Montero has earned the shot.  Due to Matt Harvey‘s injury, Montero was recalled, and he has pitched well.

On Thursday, after Robert Gsellman was only able to pitch five innings against the Nationals, Montero came in and pitched surprisingly well.  In three shutout innings, he didn’t allow a hit, and in a complete shock, he didn’t walk a batter while striking out three.

On Monday, when Zack Wheeler couldn’t get out of the second inning, Montero came in, and he pitched well again.  Over 3.2 innings, Montero allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out five.  The only run against him was a Justin Turner home run in what was the last batter Montero would face in the game.

In those two combined outings, Montero has pitched 6.2 innings allowing three hits, one run, one earned, and two walks while striking out eight batters.  If that was one start, it would be an outstanding start.

It at least seems like Montero is a different pitcher over those past two appearances.  He has been throwing more strikes, and he has been trusting his stuff.  These are exactly the things people have been waiting for him to do for years.  It appears now he’s finally doing it, and in this ever so brief sample size, he appears that he could be an effective major league pitcher.

Fact is, we don’t know if this is for real or not.  This could be another one of his mirages.  It could also be him FINALLY figuring things out.  If he has figured it out, the Mets owe it to themselves to finally see the fruit of their patience.  With the Mets being so far out, now is the time to give him that chance.  With the Mets going nowhere, you need to find out who can be piece of the future.  That is especially important with Montero being out of options.  Next year, he has to be on the roster or exposed to another team on waivers.

At this point, the Mets need to use the rest of the season to find out who is a part of the future.  For the longest time, the Mets assumed that would include Montero.  It’s time to find out if he is.

 

Eight Players The Mets Should Protect

With the NHL having their expansion draft tonight, each of the pre-existing 31 teams will sit and wait to see which one of their players will be selected to became an inaugural member of the Vegas Golden Knights.  With the Golden Knights being required to select one player from each NHL team, each franchise is going to see a player depart their franchise.

Occasionally, there have been discussions MLB will expand.  Whenever that happens, each MLB team will have to go through the same exercise each NHL team just did.  If that were to happen, it would be interesting to see exactly who each MLB team would protect.

In terms of the NHL draft, teams can protect somewhere between eight to 11 skaters and one goaltender depending on who the team decides to protect.  Given an NHL has a maximum roster size of 23 players, the 8 – 11 paradigm is a good framework for a potential MLB expansion draft.

Assuming MLB lands upon eight players, it would be interesting to see who the Mets decided to protect.  Now, where the Mets are lucky is players with less than two service years are automatically protected.  As such, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and any other young player you would consider protecting are already protected.  With that in mind, here are the eight players the Mets should protect should such a draft take place:

1. RHP Noah Syndergaard

Arbitration Eligible: 2018
Free Agent: 2022

Last year, Syndergaard emerged as the ace of the Mets staff with a repertoire that has never been seen by a Major League Starting pitcher.  He has a fastball that tops off at 100 MPH and a slider that he can throw in the mid 90s.  He also has a swagger on the mound, and he gets up for the biggest games.  Again, like Cespedes, this is a no-brainer even with his lat injury this year.

2.  LF Michael Conforto

Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022

Conforto has been around for only three years, but it has been a whirlwind.  In 2015, he was a budding superstar.  In 2016, he had a wrist injury, struggled, and was demoted to Triple-A multiple times.  In 2017, he has emerged as an All Star.  Even with a rough June, there’s reason to believe in Conforto being a budding superstar, including but not limited to his ability to hit left-handed pitching.  Conforto is a foundation piece and should be the Mets right fielder for decades.

3. LF Yoenis Cespedes

Remaining Contract: 3 years $87.5 million

Given the fact players with no trade clauses must be protected in an expansion draft, the Mets would be required to protect Cespedes.  Even if that wasn’t the case, the Mets need to protect Cespedes.  He’s been a superstar with the Mets hitting .286/.354/.565 with 56 homers and 146 RBI since joining the team.  More than that, he puts fans in the seats.  You have to protect him at all costs.

4.  RHP Jacob deGrom

Free Agent: 2021

After an injury riddled year, and some ups and downs this year, deGrom has rediscovered himself, and he’s back to pitching like an ace.  That is evident with his being the National League Pitcher of the Week last week.  We also saw what deGrom was made of during the 2015 NLCS when he outpitched both Clayton Kershaw and Zack GreinkeThere are only a handful of the pitchers on the planet that can do that, and when you have one of them, you don’t let them go.

5.  LHP Steven Matz

Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022

When Matz is healthy, he has the potential to be an ace.  Before his bone spur issues arose in late June last year, Matz was 11-3 with a 2.58 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9.  In his return from season ending surgery, he has pitched well lasting seven innings in both of his starts.  Overall, when he’s healthy, he’s terrific, and he’s not someone you part with so easily.

6. RHP Jeurys Familia

Free Agent: 2019

When you consider the Mets bullpen is in shambles, and they are going to have to rebuild it in totality, the Mets need to keep Familia at all costs.  It is also important to keep in mind that despite his injury this year, Familia has been an absolute work horse for the Mets with his making the most appearances out of the bullpen and pitching the most innings from 2014 – 2016.  If the medical reports are promising, there is every reason to believe Familia can return to being that pitcher again.

7.  C Travis d’Arnaud

Free Agent: 2020

There is every reason to leave him unprotected.  He has regressed in most aspects of his game, and he had yet another stint on the Disabled List this year.  Still, d’Arnaud is a good pitch framer, who still has offensive upside.  Before injuring his wrist, d’Arnaud was hitting .270/.357/.541.  While his stats have dropped precipitously, his .223 BABIP suggests d’Arnaud is due.  More than that, there’s really no better options available.  The catching across Major League Baseball is on a downturn, and you need someone to bridge the gap until Tomas Nido is ready.

8.  3B David Wright

Remaining Contract: 3 years $47 million

As noted above with Cespedes, the Mets would have to protect Wright due to his no trade clause.  Even without it, there is a case for keeping Wright.  Wright is the team captain, and he is the guy you want leaving an impression on Rosario and Smith when they get to the majors.  His contract is insured, so if he can’t play, you can reallocate the money.  More to the point, could you possibly imagine Wright in another uniform?  Me neither.  Is this all a stretch?  Sure, but fact is Wright will remain with the Mets until he finally decides it’s over.

As with any decision like this, there were hard choices.  Matt Harvey has been a cornerstone of the Mets rebuild, but his injuries and impending free agency, you’d be forced to expose him.  Zack Wheeler has had a strong return from the Disabled List, but even before he was injured, he was 18-16 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.339 WHIP, and a 100 ERA+ in 49 career starts.  In 2017, he has not appeared to be more than that.  That coupled with the rise of Gsellman and Lugo as well as other pitchers in the Mets farm system, you could very well expose Wheeler.

Overall, the hypothetical player that would get taken from the Mets roster would be damaging.  That includes Juan Lagares, who is a Gold Glover that showed some promise this year, but still has a terrible contract.  That also includes Wilmer Flores who still doesn’t quite have a position.

With all that said, it does speak to the talent Sandy Alderson has brought to this organization that the Mets could lose one of the aforementioned players and still have a team that could compete for a World Series next year.

You Can’t Spot Kershaw A Seven Run Lead

From the minute Chase Utley hit a lead-off double against Zack Wheeler, you knew the game was over.  

The first five Dodgers would reach against Wheeler. Justin Turner, the guy Sandy Alderson non-tendered, got the first RBI of the game. They all scored on a Cody Bellinger home run.

Dating back to his last start, Wheeler allowed 12 straight batters to reach base. With the first four scoring, the Dodgers handed Clayton Kershaw a 4-0 lead, which basically ensured the Dodgers would win the game:

Even the most eternal optimist had their dreams shattered in the second when Turner homered and Bellinger hit his second homer of the game. The Dodgers then had an insurmountable 7-0 lead. 

When Jose Reyes hit a solo homer too lead off get third, there was little reason to continue watching. Kershaw wasn’t getting his no hitter. At that point, there was little reason to continue watching. 

To their credit, the Mets made it competitive. Jay Bruce hit a solo shot in the fourth, and Gavin Cecchini hit a a two run shot in the fifth. 

While this was happening Rafael Montero kept the Dodgers off the board with three scoreless innings. It’s amazing. Montero now had a 6.2 inning scoreless streak. He has looked like a completely different pitcher. 

Still, this is the same underachieving Mets team. On top of that, when you spot Ketshaw a 7-0 lead, you’re simply not going to win the game. 

After Kershaw struck out the side in the sixth, he had his fourth straight 10 strikeout performance against the Mets. It was honestly as far as I could go. Seeing Utley score again will certainly give me nightmares about breaking my legs. 

[I’ll update as necessary tomorrow provided I had scheduled enough time on the DVR] 

Game Notes: With Montero pitching today, Tyler Pill will likely get the start on Wednesday. 

Terry Collins Is Going To Get A Pitcher Hurt . . . Again

Despite teams pouring a tremendous amount of money into the topic, no one is still definitive on what causes pitcher injuries. Many will suggest it is fatigue, but even that is inconclusive. The Verducci Effect has been debunked time and again. Moreover, there was a 2003 Nate Silver and Matt Carroll Baseball Prospetus article which suggests the link between fatigue and arm injuries might be overstated. Still, there is evidence there is a link between fatigue and arm injuries. That is especially the case with pitchers over 25.

It is that link that made what Terry Collins did last night inexcusable.

Now, if you want to argue the inning snuck up Collins, you could make that argument. There were two outs in the second inning with Jon Lester coming up. Reasonably, a manager should expect his pitcher to get out of the inning. As we all know, Zack Wheeler didn’t. He grooved a pitch right down the middle to Lester, who hit a single to left. From there the doors fell off and the inning fell apart.

Wheeler was still only 18 pitches deep into the inning when he walked Albert Almora on four straight pitches. However, at this point, it was clear Wheeler was losing it, and to make matters worse, the Cubs lineup had turned over. From there Collins allowed Wheeler to throw 28 more pitches before lifting him for Josh Smoker. In total, Wheeler threw an inexcusable 46 pitches in the second inning.

This is the same Wheeler who missed two years after having Tommy John surgery. This is the same pitcher the Mets were rumored to want to limit to 125 innings this year. You need to be careful with Wheeler. Collins wasn’t. He would then compound his error with Wheeler by abusing Smoker.

Last year, Smoker’s high in pitches thrown in a game was 32. This year, he has already topped that six times. However, last night took the cake. Collins pushed Smoker to pitch four innings throwing 81 pitches. That’s a starter’s workload, not a reliever’s. There was a tangible effect.

Smoker is a pitcher that can get his fastball up to 97 MPH, which he did a couple of times last night. By the time Collins finally lifted Smoker in the sixth inning, he was throwing 89 MPH.

Collins went ahead and asked more from Smoker than he could possibly give. He did it despite the Mets bullpen only having thrown only 6.2 innings over the past four games. That was also despite the fact Jacob deGrom gave the bullpen a night off with his complete game. By the way, the only reason the Mets were able to obtain Smoker was because the Nationals former first round pick was released after two shoulder surgeries.

It’s not that Wheeler and Smoker need to be babied by their manager. Rather, they need their manager to not push them past the breaking point. This is no different than the protection Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Jim Henderson, and any number of pitchers Collins has left in his wake as manager.

In the modern game of baseball, the most important job a manager can do is managing his pitching staff. He needs to do all he can do to get them through a season both healthy and effective. Time and again, Collins has failed in that regard. Last night was the latest example. For his part, Collins has never had to face any ramifications for his actions. Unfortunately, his pitchers have. We should all cross our fingers Wheeler and Smoker will not be the next.

Cubs Maul The Mets

This game was probably over as soon as Anthony Rizzo lead off the game with a homer. If it wasn’t then, it was over in the second inning. Zack Wheeler just didn’t have it, and he got knocked out in the second inning. His final line was 1.2 innings, six hits, eight runs, eight earned, three walks, and three strikeouts. 

It was irresponsible for Terry Collins to leave Wheeler in as long as he did. After missing two years due to Tommy John surgery, he let Wheeler throw 46 pitches in the fourth inning. 

Look at it this way, Wheeler loaded the bases, walked in a run, and then allowed a grand slam to Ian Happ to make it 6-1. Collins left him in to put on two more runners who scored on an Addison Russell bases clearing double making it 8-1. 

Then Collins went to Josh Smoker, and he abused his arm. Smoker threw 81 pitches over four innings. That’s 40 pitches more than his career high. 

Sure you don’t want to burn your bullpen in these games, but you don’t risk a player’s health. Smoker is a guy who can get it up to 98 MPH. By the time he was pulled, he was struggling to hit 89 MPH. This gets pitchers hurt, and it’s inexcusable. Yes, it’s even inexcusable when a pitcher has a 7.45 ERA. You don’t mess with careers for one game.

By the way, it was unnecessary. The bullpen is rested with the last four Mets starters pitching into the seventh, and Jacob deGrom throwing a complete game yesterday. 

At least Collins wasn’t irresponsible with everyone.  Yoenis Cespedes was lifted after the fifth because the Mets were losing 8-1. 

It was that type of night. Gary, Keith, and Ron broke out the baseball cards. Keith was sighing loudly into the mic. Darling was taking pot shots at sabermetrians. Both Smoker and Neil Ramirez pitched. 

But you know what?  The Mets deserved this loss. Joe Maddon tried to wake up his team and get them going by mixing up the lineup. That included hitting Rizzo lead-off. 

On the Mets part, Jose Reyes played in his fifth straight game. And guess what, he’s going to play in at least nine more because Asdrubal Cabrera went on the DL with a thumb injury. Yes, it is the same thing that landed him in the DL earlier this year. 

Rather than the Mets using as an opportunity to call up Amed Rosario, the Mets said, “We’re good with Reyes hitting under the Mendoza Line and playing bad defense.”  

Organizations like that deserve to lose 14-3. 

However, this Mets roster deserves better. They’re a high character group that doesn’t give in. This was evident when Jay Bruce robbed Kyle Schwarber of a homer in a 12-1 game in the eighth inning. 

To make matters worse, the Nationals pen didn’t blow another one, so the Mets fell to 9.5 games out. 

Game Notes: Michael Conforto missed a second straight game with a back issue. With the left-handed Jon Lester on the mound, Juan Lagares got the start in center and lead-off. He went 1-4 scoring a run on a Cespedes first inning double. Neil Walker and Lucas Duda hit back-to-back homers in the ninth. 

How Did Wheeler Become The Mets Ace?

Back when the Mets traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler, the Mets touted the trade as the team adding another potential ace that would one day serve as one of the cornerstones of a rotation that would bring the Mets their third World Series title.  Unfortunately, with Wheeler missing two years after his Tommy John surgery, it hasn’t happened that way.

In the time he was gone, he almost became expendable.  Matt Harvey was the ace in 2013, and he was well on his way in 2015 to re-claiming that spot.  Jacob deGrom went from 2014 Rookie of the Year to the Game 1 starter of the 2015 NLDS.  Noah Syndergaard brought a repertoire that included a 100 MPH fastball and a mid 90s slider.  Throw in the tantalizing talent of Steven Matz, and the Mets almost moved Wheeler in 2015 as part of the ill-fated Carlos Gomez deal.  With Gomez’s hips, Wheeler remained a Met, but after he missed all of 2016 as well, he was almost an afterthought.

Now, he has gone from damaged goods to the staff ace.  After shaking off some rust in the early part of the season, he really has been a dominant starting pitchers.  Since May, Wheeler has made six starts going 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA, 1.431 WHIP, and a 7.7 K/9 while averaging over six inning per start.  Last night, we watched Wheeler play the part of the stopper with him going seven strong and giving the Mets a chance to snap the Mets out of a funk that saw the team lose five out of its last six games.

Now, many would point to the fact Wheeler is now the staff ace because the rest of the rotation is either injured or has struggled.  Syndergaard is likely gone for the year with a torn lat.  Matz and Seth Lugo have yet to throw a pitch this season.  Harvey and deGrom have not been the same pitchers after last year’s season ending surgeries.  And frankly, anyone is better than Rafael Montero, Adam Wilk, and Tommy MiloneStill, even if everyone was pitching to their best abilities, Wheeler would stand out.

It’s easy to forget, but we did get a taste of this with Wheeler.  In 2014, Wheeler had a stretch from July until September 6th where he made 12 terrific starts.  In those starts, Wheeler was 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9.  During that stretch, Wheeler looked like the ace the Mets thought they were getting when they traded away Beltran.  It was during that stretch where you believed the three starters who would carry the Mets to the World Series were Harvey, deGrom, and Wheeler.

It seems as if Wheeler is recapturing some of what he was back in that terrific 2014 stretch.  If he is, he is certainly becoming the ace the Mets believed he could be.  More than anything, he is the ace the Mets need right now.

Collins Decision Has Blevins Vulturing Wheeler

Tonight, it was a battle of the aces. For the Rangers, it was Yu Darvish who is having another fine season. For the Mets, it was Zack Wheeler. Yes, Zack Wheeler. 

While we watch Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom struggle, and with Noah Syndergaard gone for most of the year, it has been Wheeler. He’s been the most consistent starter, and he’s getting better as the season progresses. 

Tonight’s start was a microcosm of Wheeler’s season. In the first, the Rangers loaded the bases with no outs, but they only came away with one run on a Nomar Mazara RBI groundout. It was initially ruled a double play, but upon replay, he was ruled safe. It didn’t matter much, as Wheeler got out of the inning by inducing Robinson Chirinos to hit into the inning ending double play. 

From there, Wheeler was brilliant. He mowed down the Rangers, and he pitched into the seventh.  The Rangers put Wheeler on the ropes with runners on first and second with two out, and Delino DeShields coming to the plate. At that point in the game, DeShields was 2-2 with a run and a walk.  Despite this, Wheeler dug deep, and on his 108th pitch of the night, he got DeShields to fly out to right. 

The 108 pitches matched a season high for Wheeler. His final line on the night was seven innings, six hits, one run, one earned, three walks, and five strikeouts. Simply put, he was terrific. 

On the opposite side, Darvish probably had better stuff. He was perfect through three, and the Mets didn’t look like they had much of a chance on the night. Things changed in the fourth. 

Michael Conforto got hit by a pitch in the dirt thereby ending the perfect game. He then scored on what was initially a Jay Bruce triple. Upon replay, it was ruled Bruce hit a two run homer:

Darvish would not make another mistake until Bruce came up again in the sixth. Bruce took a slider off the plate, and he drove it opposite field for a solo home run making it 3-1. 

Overall, Darvish was nearly unhittable over his 7.1 innings pitched. In fact, other than Bruce, Juan Lagares was the only Met to get a hit off Darvish. That hit chased Darvish. Former Met Dario Alvarez would walk Conforto before getting Asdrubal Cabrera to hit into the inning ending double play. 

The Mets would rue failing to tack on runs there. Jerry Blevins got the first two out before allowing a Mazara single. That’s where Terry Collins poor managing reared its ugly head. 

Despite Blevins having a terrific year with a 1.42 ERA, he has struggled against righties. On the season, righties are hitting .364/.481/.591 off of him. The batter, Chirinos, the Rangers version of Wilmer Flores, is hitting .353/.389/.529 off lefties. Chirinos struggles against righties hitting just .210/.310/.460 off them. Looking at the splits, it was an obvious spot for Addison Reed to go with the four out save with the Mets having a day off tomorrow. 

If not Reed, at least Fernando Salas, who was warming in the bullpen. Instead of Salas, Collins stuck with Blevins, who hung one to Chirinos. Tie game. 

For the second straight night, the Mets would make Matt Bush in the ninth. Lucas Duda hit a one out double, and Curtis Granderson worked out a two out walk to put the game in Jose Reyes‘ hands. 

Reyes hit a bouncer to Rougned Odor who spiked the throw to Elvis Andrus. Andrus could not come up with the throw, and on the throw, Matt Reynolds, who came on to pinch run for Duda, never stopped and scored from second on the play. 

With the Rangers failing to make the play, and with Reynolds’ hustle, the Mets reclaimed the lead at 4-3. Reed came on in the ninth, and he pitched a rare 1-2-3 save for him.

If nothing else, this win shows this team has heart. They blew a game yesterday.  They had their stomach punched on the Chirinos homer. And yet, they pulled this one out. Maybe, just maybe, there’s still room for hope. 

Game Notes: Reyes got the start with Neil Walker out of the lineup. While Collins said it was a routine day off, reports indicated Walker may have a knee injury. 

Typical Bizarre Mets Game

Mets games have just become the theater of the absurd.  Noah Syndergaard refuses an MRI and then leaves his next start with a torn lat.  Matt Harvey doesn’t show up to every game.  Kevin Plawecki apparently is kinkier than we think.  Mr. Met is walking through Citi Field flipping off the fans.  Today?  Well, for the Mets, it was more of the same.

In the fourth, the Brewers got a rally going on a couple of base hits including a Jonathan Villar single that deflected off Zack Wheeler.  After a Nick Franklin RBI single, the Brewers had a 2-0 lead and runners on first and second.  Brewers pitcher Chase Anderson squared to bunt and popped it up in front of home plate.  Travis d’Arnaud went to let it drop in the hopes of starting a double play.  Instead, he hesitated after picking the ball up, and he couldn’t get an out.  In a normal baseball game, this would be a fairly event filled inning.  Not the Mets.

Eric Sogard would pop up in fair ground in what should have been the second out in the inning.  Instead the ball boy ran directly into Wilmer Flores‘ arm causing him to drop the ball:

Same old Mets.  Fortunately, Wheeler settled down, and he was able to induce Sogard to hit into the inning ending double play.  It was one of three double plays the Brewers would hit into on the day.  The double plays would allow Wheeler to go deep into the game.  He would throw 102 pitches over 6.1 innings allowing 1o hits, two runs, two earned, and one walk with six strikeouts.  He departed the game down 2-0 with a runner left on second base.

Jerry Blevins got the job done getting Sogard to ground out by striking Eric Thames out.

Unfortunately, it didn’t matter as the Mets offense did nothing against the Brewers starter for the second straight game.  Lucas Duda (2-3) and d’Arnaud (1-2) were the entirety of the Mets offense on the day.  To be shut down yesterday by Junior Guerra is one thing.  Getting shut down today by Anderson is another.

While the Mets offense was inept, the pitching was doing its job.  That includes the bullpen.  After Blevins bailed out Wheeler, he got into some trouble of his own in the eighth leaving runners on first and second with no outs.  Fernando Salas came on and he got the Mets out of the jam striking out three batters.

In the eighth, the Brewers went to Jacob Barnes.  On the first pitch he threw, Flores launched a home run to deep left field to cut the score to 2-1.  Unfortunately, it was not the start of a comeback, but rather a single flare that went unheeded by the rest of the Mets offense leading to a 2-1 loss.  Case in point, Reyes and Jay Bruce took back-to-back strikeouts looking to start the ninth against Brewers closer Corey Knebel.

This was an extremely winnable game, and the Mets let it slip through their fingers.  For a team fighting just to get back to .500, they can’t keep doing this.  It’s losses like this that have put them in this position, and it is losses like this that will sink their season.

Game Notes: Asdrubal Cabrera got the day off, and Jose Reyes moved from third to shortstop for the day game.

Ya Gotta Believe In This Team

Let’s be honest.  With nearly two months gone in the season, there is not a lot of reason to believe in the 2017 Mets.  The team is five games under .500 and just 14-16 against their own division.  Important players like Yoenis Cespedes, Jeurys Familia, Steven MatzNoah Syndergaard and David Wright have had extended stints on the disabled list.  Presumably, Familia, Syndergaard, and Wright are done for the season.    The team features two everyday players who are fighting to get and stay atop the Mendoza Line, and the entire pitching staff has underperformed.  And despite all of these problems, and many more which have not been mentioned, there are very real reasons to be optimistic about the Mets as we head into the summer months:

1.  The Starting Pitching Is Improving

In case, you haven’t noticed the Mets are no longer have the worst ERA in all of baseball.  A huge reason for that is the starting pitching is not only improving, but they are also pitching deeper into games.  That has started with the re-emergence of Jacob deGrom.  Before last night’s debacle, in his last two starts, deGrom pitched 15.1 innings allowing just one earned run.  He threw down the gauntlet, and the other starting pitchers have responded.

The Mets are now starting to put together quality starts with some regularity.  Matt Harvey and Robert Gsellman are coming off their best starts in over a month.  Zack Wheeler continues to pregress well in his first season in over two years.  Matz and Seth Lugo will soon join the rotation.  As we have seen time and again, this team goes as its pitching goes, and the pitching is trending in the right direction.

2.  The Bullpen Is Settling Down

With the starters failing to go deep into games and Familia essentially being a non-factor this season, the bullpen has struggled.  The struggles stem from both overwork and trying to slot guys into different roles than had previously been anticipated.  With the starters going deeper, the bullpen is starting to get some rest, and the bullpen is starting to look better.

Another factor is the emergence of Paul Sewald.  A player the Mets were willing to risk losing in the Rule 5 Draft has now become the Mets most important reliever.  He has been used for multiple innings and to nail down the eighth inning.  He has shown his success in Vegas was no fluke pitching to a 2.21 ERA in 20.1 innings.  His emergence has allowed Terry Collins to ease up on some of his other relievers.Salas has responded by lowering his ERA by almost two runs in the month of May, has not blown one lead,  and he has not allowed an earned run in 11 of his last 14 appearances.  A rejuvenated Salas is good for the Mets.

Another key factor is the composition of the bullpen.  Rafael Montero is gone. Neil Ramirez is on his way out as well.  He should be gone once Hansel Robles figures things out in Vegas and/or Gsellman is moved to the bullpen with the return of Matz and Lugo from the disabled list.  Certainly, the composition of arms is going to be much better down there, and with the starters going deeper, they will be better rested.

3.  Help Is On The Way

As noted, Matz and Lugo will soon rejoin the rotation.  Behind them, we may also see Robles return to the majors prompting the Mets to send down one of the more ineffective arms in Ramirez and/or Josh Smoker.  But it’s not just on the pitching side that the Mets will improve, it’s also on the offensive side.

According to various reports, Cespedes is about 7-1o days away.  When he returns, the Mets will be adding an MVP caliber player to play alongside Michael Conforto in the outfield, who is having an MVP caliber season himself.  Cespedes not only lengthens the lineup, but he also adds a right-handed power threat which the lineup is sorely lacking right now.  While the offense isn’t the issue so far, a team that is fighting to not only get back to .500, but also to get back to the postseason needs to upgrade everywhere it can.

It’s more than Cespedes.  At some point, the moving target that is the Super Two deadline is going to comfortably pass clearing yet another hurdle for the Mets to call-up Amed Rosario.  If Rosario does get called-up, it would significantly improve the Mets infield defense, and it could also improve the lineup.  Through his first 50 games, Rosario is hitting .354/.393/.519 with 13 doubles, three triples, five homers, and 37 RBI.

With all that, there is legitimate reason for hope the Mets will be a better team over the final four months of the season.  That team could catch the Nationals in the standings especially when you consider the two teams have 13 games against one another remaining.  That is enough games to make-up the 9.5 game gap between the teams in the standings.  That goes double when you consider the Nationals have bullpen issues of their own, and they are just 15-12 since losing Adam Eaton for the season.

If the Mets play as well as they can play, this is going to be an exciting summer at Citi Field.  If the Mets play the way they are capable, this will soon become a pennant race.