Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Real Matz

So after the in-game misery and post-game muckery involving Harvey last night, the Mets really needed to come out on Wednesday afternoon and have a solid game. So, Steven Matz gave the Mets a solid game. Think of it as the Anti-Harvey. Instead of starting fast and imploding in the middle of the game, Matz got dinged for a few hits early in the game and then basically said, "Enough," and went into total lockdown mode and retired 16 Nationals in a row between the 4th and 8th innings. Yes, you heard me, 8th inning.

Whatever elbow issue that was bothering Matz two weeks ago in Los Angeles seems to be a distant memory now. If it's caused him to throw his slider less often, that doesn't seem to be a hinderance to his performance. He might be throwing it less, or perhaps he's modified it, but in the two starts since said elbow scare, he's allowed 2 runs and 7 hits over 15 innings and it's not outlandish to say that those two starts have been the best he's looked from start to finish all season.

And it's in a key spot, too. Against Washington in another rubber game, a day after Harvey was torched and the Mets went down in flames, and after the Mets had to go deep into their bullpen, Matz was his own bridge, throwing 8 innings--as I'd mentioned before--and allowed the Nationals for all intents and purposes nothing. In fact, perhaps the only hairy moment came in said 8th inning, as the pitch count crept upward and the Nationals started throwing Pinch Hitters at him. Clint Robinson was first, and the lefty got my favorite kind of hit, the 87-hop single up the middle. This brought the tying run to the plate (because the Mets put forth a mighty two runs in support of Matz), and of course Dusty Baker sent up Bryce Harper as the pinch hitter. Harper, it's rumored, could hit one into the Anacostia and tie the game. But he didn't. After falling behind 2-0, Matz then got him to swing at the proverbial sucker pitch and ground out meekly to end the inning. Jeurys Familia survived a 2-hit 9th inning and the Mets won the game 2-0, and now exit Washington having won the series and evening the season series.

That first game against the Marlinfeathers seems like another lifetime now. I guess it was just an anomaly.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hang Down Your Head

Other engagements caused me to miss Tuesday night's affair in Washington. I arrived home probably just as the game was about to end. I hadn't much looked at my phone to see what was going on, but clearly, it was just as well.

What's going on with Matt Harvey this season has gone from troubling, to concerning, but now I think it's safe to say it sits at sickening for most Mets fans right now. The fact that nobody's got an answer for these struggles is probably what makes it most frustrating. I know the general inclination is to just let him try to work through it and figure out what the problem is, but this is now two outings in a row where the team that the Mets are going to be hitting the shit with all season just lit him on fire. And I mean lit on fire in a way that we're not used to seeing.

I'm not going to try to go in Harvey's head here. I mean, what's to be said? I know he's a competitor, I know this probably kills him and he's probably frustrated as fuck and sick of being asked dopey questions about what the problem is. That's probably why he pulled an Amish Act after the game, although that never works because now, instead of getting subjected to another 5 days of hearing about why he sucks, and how it's because he's too fat, or he's too thin, or his ego is too big, or he's too insecure, or because he pitched to 2 batters in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the World Series, instead we have to hear about how he's an inaccountable schmuck, and really, none of it is anything more than mental masturbation. Talk is cheap. And talking about how Harvey's a jerk is even cheaper. When he was going good, all of this was endearing.

One of the larger problems of this is the societal aspect of Baseball these days. Fans think they're bigger than the game itself and as such deserve to have some inside access. This might be a bit hypocritical of me to say as a Blogger, but as a Blogger I'm just here to call it the way I see it and give some half-baked opinion on what goes on just in case I'm seeing things a different way than the next guy. I don't, however, feel that the players owe me something. I've said it before: I really don't care what Matt Harvey does or doesn't do, or says or doesn't say after a game. It's easy to look at the way Harvey carries himself and pick on some piece of his lifestyle and say, "SEE? SEE? THAT'S WHAT'S FUCKING HIM UP!" as though changing something he does off the field would affect what happens when he's on the mound. Again, unless he's snorting coke or shooting smack, that's probably not where the answer lies.

Like any slumping hitter, you work your way through these things and get yourself back together. It's magnified as a Pitcher because you only get your chance to right the wrongs once every 5 days, and of course it's even more magnified because Harvey carries himself like an ace. It's not as though he wants to perform badly, but somewhere, he hit a wall and now he's got to do the work to get through it. I'm not going to throw my hands and give up because he got torched a few times. If he'd pitched like this his whole career, well, first of all he'd be Jeremy Hefner and wouldn't be here right now, but if he'd pitched like this in 2013 and started in with the whole "Dark Knight" business, we'd have all laughed at him. Right now, picking on him and laughing at him isn't going to do anybody any good. We just have to let him figure this out for himself.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Going Depth

One of the hallmarks of the past couple of seasons for the Mets, and perhaps one of the primary reasons they've become so enjoyable to watch is the fact that there's a depth to this lineup that hasn't existed in a very long time. I realize that the Mets are, more or less, a station-to-station team that lives by Home Runs and while there's something un-National League about this, think about how many different guys the Mets have in their lineup that can beat you with the Home Run, Then, think back to 2013 or 2014 and ask yourself the same question.

Preferred, no, not especially, but it's working. When the Mets grind out runs, it's somewhat painful, but it gets the job done most of the time. When you add a few Home Runs into the mix, you get what happened in Washington on Monday night, which is a thorough pounding of a pitcher that really handled them last week.

But so getting back to my initial point of depth, I bring this up because of the whole Lucas Duda thing, and how he's out for some indeterminate length of time with a broken back. A few years ago, this would have been an unmitigated catastrophe that would have led to Eric Campbell getting 400 At Bats or something similarly terrible. But now, the question isn't so much What do we do?, now it's Who here can do it? The Mets have several options to fill this gap for the next however long it is that Duda's on the shelf, and it can be from within, whether it's Wilmer Flores, or Kevin Plawecki, or Michael Conforto if he can handle the job, or even David Wright who offered his name as an option... Point is, the Mets have the luxury of trying a few different options out here instead of just making some reactionary panic move to try to cover their asses.

And if none of that works, Ike Davis is still kicking around the Texas Rangers' Minor League system!

The other nice thing about depth and a deep lineup is that even without Duda, who hadn't exactly been performing up to snuff anyway, the Mets don't lose much on the offensive side. After Bartolo Colon spotted Washington an annoying 1-0 lead in the 1st inning thanks to an 87-hop Daniel Murphy single and a Ryan Zimmerman flair that fell in, the Mets got off the mat in the 3rd inning against Gonzalez. And of course after being mostly flat offensively for the past week plus, they all decided to wake up at once, beginning with David Wright, whose 3-run Home Run put the Mets ahead and started the roller coaster moving. The Mets followed Wright's Home Run with a string of hits that led to two more runs, giving them what felt like their largest lead in weeks. In the 5th, Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker each hit Home Runs of their own to extend the lead to 7-1, which is where it stayed as Bartolo Colon righted his own ship and pitched 7 rather efficient, Colon-like innings where he didn't walk anyone, made hitters hit balls right at his fielders, and then walked off the mound and gave everyone chewing gum.

Then, there's the depth in the starting lineup itself, which starts and ends with Cespedes. Cespedes, to this point, has proven himself worth whatever it is the Mets are paying him and could potentially be on the hook to pay him beyond this season. Or maybe they can somehow cajole him into resigning the same contract year after year so every season is his walk year. I don't know. Whatever it is, the Mets haven't had a power hitter like Cespedes probably since Darryl Strawberry—I don't even think Mike Piazza had his kind of power—and when you talk about the Mets hitting a lot of Home Runs, Cespedes is probably the ringleader. His 15 HRs lead the Majors right now—when the hell was the last time a Met led the Majors in Home Runs, Dave Kingman?—and you want to talk about a guy making the lineup deeper simply by stepping to the plate, well, that's what Cespedes has done from the second he showed up here last August. I know he's going to probably hit the skids at some point but even a slumping Cespedes is still a presence because you never know when he's going to flip the switch and hit 17 Home Runs in 44 games again.

Now, we hold our breath for Tuesday and see what happens when Harvey goes to the mound. Anyone got any ideas? I don't. No depth for that.

Monday, May 23, 2016

This Guy's Good

...and then, y'know, on Sunday, they throw Syndergaard at you and your day's basically over...

That's pretty much the case these days when the Mets send Noah Syndergaard to the mound, or at least it's the case more often than not. Fresh off his demolition of the Nationals, the Brewers were more or less minor irritants for Syndergaard, who allowed an unearned run in the 1st inning and nothing thereafter, as his teammates once again gave him minimum support in a 3-1 victory.

There's not too much you can say about Syndergaard at this point that everybody else hasn't already said several times over but as I mentioned before the season, I had a feeling he was going to step up and become the real Ace here and that's basically what happened. I know I'd harped on Harvey a lot and I still do to some degree but that's because as far as stature and tenure goes, it's still Harvey that started this ball rolling. He's not as good as Syndergaard right now. In a year and a week Thor just blew right by him for internal supremacy.

So, yeah, the Brewers basically scored by accident thanks to a 1st inning Error by David Wright that led to an RBI hit from Jonathan Lucroy, but the Mets fired right back, as Michael Conforto smoked a long Home Run off of Chase Anderson to even the score. There things stayed until the 4th inning, when Asdrubal Cabrera singled home the two runs that would be the difference in the game. This is particularly gratifying considering Cabrera was sort of brought in here as an afterthought. The move came in the shadows of the Niese/Walker trade and so nobody really noticed it but Cabrera's been an absolute gem so far. Solid defense, key hits, rarely needs rest, and accomplishes everything within relative obscurity. Sort of like another Mets Middle Infielder who wore #13 a generation ago.

OK. The Mets basically needed to sweep the Brewers and they swept the Brewers. It wasn't at all pretty, but they did it. Sometimes all you need is a few wins in a row to just get things going because the schedule doesn't ease up at all for the next few weeks. First, it's back to Washington, where the Mets can try to undo some of the mess they created for themselves this past week. Essentially, these are rematch games, beginning tonight with Bartolo Colon against Gio Gonzalez. Hopefully this one goes better than the last one.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Old Reliable

The saga of David Wright's mostly lost season hasn't been an especially pleasant story. But, for one shining moment, we got a little glimpse of the David Wright we once knew so well as he took a calculated gamble on a 3-0 pitch, swung, and drove home the winning run in the bottom of the 9th of the Mets 5-4 victory this afternoon.

Wright's dealings with spinal stenosis have been well-documented, but this has been building for a few seasons. Wright, without the lineup protection he had in his younger days, and with now 14 Major League seasons on his odometer isn't what he used to be. Last October, when he was reveling in the spoils of finally making it to a World Series, I noted that Wright looked old. Heck, Wright's been looking old in the Baseball sense for a few years now, but, you know, most of us look the other way because it's David Wright and he's the Mets Guy. At least one person I know feels differently. His stance is that Wright was really good early in his career, but never as good as the Mets wanted us to think he was. He'd been spoonfed to us as the Face of the Franchise for so many seasons that we just accepted it, sort of in that John Franco vein except that Wright isn't a complete ass like Franco. He also didn't like the fact that Wright was boring and a bad interview, although I personally wouldn't damn him for that. It is to the point that, when I attend games with him and Wright comes to the plate, he immediately starts screaming "RETIRE!!!"

Harsh, yes. Illogical, not so much. But with 4 years left on that contract, I'm not sure if that's actually going to happen.

Regardless, there are still little glimpses of that young fellow, and one of them happened to be this afternoon. This, after a game where the Mets appeared to literally be sleepwalking, like last night's game ended, they went home and just forgot to show up. Jacob deGrom again weaved his way through another uneven outing, this time only managing to parse his way through 5 innings while the Brewers hen-pecked him for 4 runs. Two of those runs came when Ramon Flores took him out in the 2nd inning. Another two came in the 4th, one of those irritating innings where you could see deGrom just trying to throw whatever he could past a Brewer hitter to get through the inning only to see another dunk hit fall in. Combine deGrom's issues with Harvey's issues, and you can see why a Mets fan might be apoplectic right now.

Fortunately, the Mets got off the mat and came back from this 4-1 deficit. They'd already plated a run off of Zach Davies, the Brewers' 15-year old starter, when Curtis Granderson hit a leadoff Home Run in the 1st. Asdrubal Cabrera did what he seems to do just about every day now and drove home a run with a 4th inning single. Finally, Yoenis Cespedes dragged the Mets back into the game kicking and screaming by essentially one-arming a Davies Changeup over the Left Field wall for a 2-run Home Run that tied the game at 4.

Then, of course, the rain came and I had visions of extra innings and suspended games dancing through my head, probably because that's what usually happens in instances like this. The crowd, from what I could gather on TV, seemed sparse to begin with, probably because of an ominous forecast, and thus had forsaken the allure of the pristine, eBay condition Bucket Hat to the point where I have a feeling there might have been some Bucket Hats left over at game time. And once the rain started falling that number appeared to dwindle. Sometimes, in games like this, the rain starts and the bullpens take over and the bats just decide to stop. That's basically what happened. Hansel Robles, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia stopped the Brewers--although stopping the Brewers isn't a terribly tall order--and the Mets did nothing against Carlos Torres and others of lesser acclaim, except that the fact that they can't hit Carlos Torres is galling to me.

But then, Michael Blazek came in for the 9th and the Mets awoke, as Eric Campbell hit, and Kevin Plawecki got on with a walk, and there was a sacrifice and then an intentional walk to get to David Wright. In prior years, intentionally walking the guy in front of Wright led to imminent disaster. Now, I would have been happy if Wright managed to not hit into a DP. But Blazek couldn't find the plate and it appeared was all to happy to make this easy for Wright by nearly wild-pitching the winning run home. Nonetheless, at 3-0, you figured Wright would take, so of course he swung and lined a single to Right Field to bring home Campbell and all of a sudden it was like 2006 again, when Wright would do things like this on a regular basis. And there were no rain delays or suspended games necessary.