Saturday, July 4, 2015

Stolen Win

The Mets did win that game in Los Angeles last night, didn't they?

Somehow, the Mets managed to survive going across the country on Thursday after a miserable series against the Cubs. This, of course was a trip where they lost 3 hours, and then had to come back out and play the next night when the clock read 7pm and their bodies read 10pm. They had to go up against the Dodgers, who are supposed to be turning everyone in their path into pasta, against Clayton Kershaw who's won 10 of the last 11 Cy Young Awards and a troika of MVPs, and win a game. But somehow, they did it. Somehow, they outlasted Kershaw, they got a brilliant outing from Noah Syndergaard, and then they rallied to scrape across a run in the 9th inning and quite literally steal a victory in Los Angeles.

It's been no secret that the Mets have had a series of issues in Los Angeles and last night's game certainly appeared headed down that path. Noah Syndergaard allowed a 2nd inning Home Run to Adrian Gonzalez, and given that the Mets offense is what it is, what chance did they have to equal that against the mighty Kershaw? Well, somehow the Mets eked out a run in the 4th inning to tie the game, courtesy of a well-placed Wilmer Flores hit, but you figured it was just a matter of time before the Dodgers imposed their will and went ahead. Syndergaard did his admirable best, but after 6 innings, with his pitch count over 100, he was done for the night. The game, then was at best a tossup from that point forward. Still, it was hard to overlook the work Syndergaard had done; for someone who's been markedly better at home than on the road through his first handful of Major League games, tonight was really a big step forward. Against a Dodgers lineup that featured a galaxy of stars, Syndergaard allowed but that one Home Run and one other hit, a double to old friend Justin Turner, and struck out 6.

But, Hansel Robles came in and pitched just as well as Syndergaard, allowing the Dodgers one hit and striking out 3 over two crucial innings of work to keep the game even. This kept the game tied moving into the 9th inning, although it still seemed as though it would take some kind of strange break for the Mets to be able to grab a lead, particularly against the Dodgers' closer, Kenley Jansen, one of those young hotshot closers that everyone seems to fawn over.

Lucas Duda led off the 9th against Jansen, with the infield and Outfield swung over somewhere in Orange County, and Duda did basically exactly what was needed in that particular spot: he blooped a ball down the Left Field line that nobody was able to catch up to, and the ball bounced fair and Duda reached 2nd. Wilmer Flores followed and worked the count until he finally got a pitch he could handle. Unfortunately, he lined it directly back at Jansen. Fortunately, Jansen couldn't handle the ball, it bounced away and everyone was safe. Kevin Plawecki followed, and all Plawecki needed to do was not strike out, and not hit the ball at someone in the infield. Lo and behold, he did neither, flying out deep to Joc Pederson in Center Field, Duda scored and the Mets amazingly had a lead. Jeurys Familia entered the game in the last of the 9th and did exactly what Jansen couldn't and retired the Dodgers in order, and, well, somehow the Mets came away with a win when every bit of logic said they wouldn't.

These games happen from time to time; the Mets stealing a win in a game where you figure the situation ripe for them to go down in flames. Still, the Mets won this game because they did the absolute minimum necessary on offense for them to do so and their pitching was, as usual, great. You'd like to think that they could build off a game like this and get themselves back together, but I'm dubious that this will actually happen. Mostly, I think the Mets need to just put this win in their pockets and hope they can find some similar magic today, so long as they remember to take their hats off and stay out of the aisles.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Well Wishes!

By now I'm sure we're all aware that the Mets flight to Los Angeles last night had to make an emergency landing due to Howie Rose falling ill. What exactly occurred I'm not sure, but of course Howie Rose is as much of a Mets Lifer as anyone, and one of those key voices of my childhood right alongside Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner. I'm told that as of now, he's made it back home and is resting comfortably, which is good news, and I and I'm sure everyone else hope he stays that way. We send along all our best wishes for a speedy recovery!

0-for-Chicago

The Mets completed perhaps one of the worst home series in recent memory yesterday afternoon by losing to the Cubs, 6-1. Against this spunky team that's sort of built in a similar mold to what they're trying to do, the Cubs, who actually have a lineup, didn't blow the doors off the Mets but they still managed to win all 3 games. This was primarily because the Mets, who pitched wonderfully for the most part, put forth an offensive performance so disgustingly inept that they managed all of 1 run for the 29 innings they played in this series. This after a string of games where they've scored something like 13 runs in their last 27 games (or at least it feels that way) and the only game in which they were able to score more than 2 runs happened to be a day where their starting pitcher drove in 4.

But no, we're not panicking. I'd think by now Mets fans must be shocked when the team scores a run. They did that on Thursday and it was probably cause for celebration. Of course, their pitcher was involved; Jacob deGrom doubled and scored on a subsequent Curtis Granderson double. But deGrom was reached for 3 runs by the Cubs and when he left the game in the 6th inning, he was clearly so disgusted he beat up a water cooler, which is fine, although as Crash Davis would tell him, he shouldn't have gone after the cooler with his pitching hand.

Terry Collins after the game remarked that the team isn't having any fun right now, and can you blame them? I can't imagine what the attitude of the starting pitchers must be. Basically every night, one of them goes out and breaks their ass, and pitches brilliantly and then gives up 1 run or 2 runs and ends up with a no-decision or a loss because the stupid offense can't get a hit to save their lives. That's probably why deGrom went after the cooler. He gave up a few runs and knew the game was over, and I suppose it was probably more diplomatic of him to punch out the cooler than to punch out Daniel Murphy, or Eric Campbell, or Ruben Tejada.

It has to wear on the pitchers, and the hitters certainly have to feel like they're letting the team down, or at least they should. The Mets played the Cubs 7 times this season and the Cubs won all 7, and in most of those cases the Mets lost the game because their offense had no recourse to respond to a Cubs rally. That might not have happened in Chicago but that was the story of the series here in New York. Tuesday, Jon Niese gave up 1 run and lost because the Mets got 3 hits and no runners past 2nd base. Wednesday, it took the Cubs 11 innings to scratch out a run and that only happened because the Mets hitters found new and creative ways to screw up every time they had a chance to score a run. And Thursday, the game was basically over when Jonathan Herrera hit a 6th inning Home Run to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead or a 4-1 lead, I forget which, but it may as well have been 10-1.

So, of course the Mets have the high pleasure of going out to the West coast for a week where they'll play the good teams in the NL West, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and in the first two games in LA, they get to face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke . That should go wonderfully.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Disorganized Confusion

Last night at Citi Field was my 12th game of the season (or, my 13th if you feel I should count the 7 innings of Saturday's suspended game that I sat through—I haven't decided yet). Of those 12 games, I have seen the Mets get shut out and No Hit, and yet the utter shit show of a game I sat through last night could very well have been the absolute worst Mets display I've witnessed in a few years.

This particular game, one of my plan games, happened to be the first time I'd attended a Mets/Cubs game since 2010, the longest current duration of time I'd gone without seeing a National League team (that onus now falls to the San Diego Padres, whom I have not seen since the first week of the 2013 season—although I do have tickets for when they come to town in late July). Neither of these teams were very good the last time I saw them, and they don't look great now, although they both seem to have some sort of aspirations. The Cubs, who have become the darlings of ESPN thanks to Anthony Rizzo and the Baseball Jesus Kris Bryant, along with a host of other prospects, happen to be one of those teams with a fan base that I really dislike. This started way back in 2008 with an incident involving a Cubs fan that happened to me on the 7 train, followed by my attendance at a Mets/Cubs game at Shea Stadium where Cubs fans were all over the place walking around with their chests puffed out like they'd won 3 championships in 5 seasons. That year, they got bounced in the 1st round of the playoffs and I really enjoyed watching them lose. Since then, my exposure to Cubs fans has been minimal, because I'd only attended two Mets/Cubs games in April of 2010 and while there were Cubs fans there, they didn't seem to make much of an impression on me. My guess is they were annoying and since the Mets won both games I wasn't bothered so much.

Now, it's 5 years later and the Cubs have all these prospects and all this promise, and the Mets have all these prospects and all this promise. But while the Mets fan seems to approach this with wariness, the Cubs fans seem to be a little ahead of themselves. I knew I'd see some Cubs fans at the game last night, but certainly I wouldn't get a repeat of 2008. Well GODDAMN IT, IT HAPPENED AGAIN, BEFORE I EVEN GOT TO THE DAMN STADIUM! Standing on the platform of the 7 train, minding my own business, when some Jackass of Asian descent wearing a Cubs hat and a Cubs shirt comes up to me and says "Sorry, but the Cubs are winning tonight."

Seriously?

You guys are that cocky?

Maybe win something this Century before you start talking shit, guys.

That put me in a mood. Even the Cardinals fans, who really think their shit doesn't stink and bring selfie sticks to games don't act like that. Philly fans might, but only when their team was winning. Now that they stink again, their fans have crawled back into their caves. This shit from a team that's not any better than the Mets and sits 11 games out of 1st place, and they're going to disrespect us in our own building? That put me in such a mood that I wanted the Mets to beat the Cubs so badly last night. I wanted Bartolo Colon to throw a shutout and hit a Home Run to boot. I wanted to see the Mets stick it to the Cubs so bad that their fans would flee the building by the 7th inning stretch.

But that didn't happen. Of course it didn't.

Because this is the Mets, and the Mets can't hit to save their own lives.

I mean, sure, I got part of what I wanted. Bartolo Colon was simply brilliant for his 7 innings of work, allowing the Cubs nothing of consequence other than 3 hits, he struck out Baseball Jesus twice and put the Cubs in their place. Unfortunately, the Mets played like a bunch of assholes and not only did they not hit, they also did an outstanding job of screwing up the meager opportunities they had to score runs and ultimately were done in when their fielding abilities abandoned them in extra innings.

The Mets managed to load the bases against Jon Lester in the 2nd inning, but they didn't score. Problem was Bartolo Colon had to hit and while he did put his bat on the ball, he only flew out, not deep enough to score a run, and Curtis Granderson followed by flying out as well. There were other instances where opportunities arose; Juan Lagares had a leadoff double one inning and at some point there were other leadoff hits, but nothing that would come close to getting a run.

In the 8th inning, the Mets finally had a decent opportunity to score against Pedro Strop. Ruben Tejada reached on an infield error and then Daniel Murphy doubled into the corner. Perhaps Tim Teufel was being overly cautious by holding Tejada at 3rd base, but it seemed to me that if he tried to score, he would have been out by a good 15 feet. Then again, the way the rest of the inning played out, maybe they should have just tried it. Darrell Ceciliani followed, and certainly he ought to have been able to lift a fly ball somewhere, but instead, Terry Collins had the brilliant idea of trying the ol' Suicide Squeeze. And then when that didn't work, Tejada and Murphy both found themselves standing on 3rd base with their jocks in their hands while Starlin Castro tagged everyone. Joe Maddon then thought he might sell the umpires on getting both runners called out, but he wasn't quite that slick, although it would have been fitting for this game if he did. Nonetheless, he didn't need to; Ceciliani struck out anyway, as Cubs fans waved their glo-sticks and Strop celebrated like he'd just closed out a Championship Series.

After that, I figured it was only a matter of time before the Mets screwed themselves out of this game. The Mets fans were getting irritable and defeated. The Cubs fans were squealing and bopping and putting me in an even fouler mood than I already was in. It probably should have happened in the 9th inning. Jeurys Familia came in and gave up a ringing double to Anthony Rizzo that nearly sailed out of the park, or at least the Cubs fans thought it was out. But Familia muscled up to strike out Baseball Jesus. He then walked Denorfia, which set the stage for a double steal attempt where Kevin Plawecki threw a perfect strike down to Daniel Murphy at 3rd, except that Murphy had one of his spastic fits and fell for Rizzo's trick slide. Had Murphy done what he was supposed to do, keep his glove down and slap the tag, Ratso would have been out. Instead, Murphy did some stupid "Olé" tag, and when Rizzo slid, stopped and then stuck his feet into the base, Murphy was somewhere in la la land. And, of course, in a moment that typified the evening for the Mets, Collins challenged the call just to be certain that he was wrong. At that point, I wouldn't have blamed Familia if he'd just grooved one to Castro out of frustration, but instead he sawed Castro off and his looper to Center wasn't deep enough to get the run home. Familia then got Mike Baxter and somehow had gotten himself out of the inning.

Still, the Mets had to do something they hadn't done since Sunday and score a run in order to win this game and shut up the Chicago Pizza Party. But they couldn't. A succession of relievers, Hector Rondon, then Jason Motte, did the same thing every other Cubs pitcher did to the Mets and retire the side with a minimum amount of effort.

In the 11th, the Cubs again rallied. Carlos Torres walked Dexter Fowler to start the inning, which is basically asking for trouble. But he got Ratso to bounce one to Tejada, which should have been a Double Play, except that Flores' throw was bad and Duda's scoop was also bad and the whole thing didn't work and Rizzo was safe. So then Baseball Jesus, who'd struck out 3 times already, singled, and then Chris Coghlan singled, but Rizzo was held at 3rd. And fortuitously, Baseball Jesus didn't realize this and steamed through 2nd base, and was promptly tagged out in the sort of break the Mets needed at that particular point of time. Instead of the bases loaded with 1 out, instead they had 2 outs, and Torres just had to get Castro...

But he didn't. Of course he didn't.

Maybe if Collins still had his challenge, he could have gotten that call at 1st overturned, I don't know from where I was sitting but it looked close enough to give it a shot if he had a shot.

The one run was enough, at that point everyone knew the Mets weren't going to score, but just to be certain Miguel Montero singled home another run to make it 2-0 and about 90% of the Mets fans abandoned ship, leaving me to sit and stew among a smattering of Cubs fans slapping each other with bratwurst. True to form, the Mets managed to make some stupid cosmetic rally in the last of the 11th, bringing Kevin Plawecki to the plate with a chance to win the game if he could somehow get a hold of a pitch from Mother Grimm, but you knew that wasn't going to happen. Grimm could barely get a pitch over to Flores, but he got it up for Plawecki and that put this debacle to a merciful close, and at 10:50 I couldn't have moved fast enough to get out of that ballpark.

I mean, I like a good pitcher's duel and I like a good, close game, but what does it mean when the Mets can't get out of their own way? The Cubs didn't do anything particularly good to win this game. The Mets handed it to them, except that they didn't do it by making a bunch of errors and pitching badly, they did it by either not hitting or screwing up every single opportunity they had to score a run. The Mets offense has reached a level of comic absurdity because every single game, their pitching has given them a chance to stay in the game and give them a chance to win and they just can't do anything about it. If this were another era, the pitchers would all band together and make the hitters clean the latrines after a game like this. In fact, I wouldn't put it past them to try something like this now. It probably wouldn't fix anything, but maybe it would give the hitters a wake-up call that maybe they ought to try and get their act together.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blacked Out

In the top of the 7th inning of tonight's Mets/Cubs debacle, SNY went black. I changed channels, reset my cable box, but nothing worked. It popped back on for the duration of a commercial break between the top and bottom of the 7th innings, but that was it. After about 10 minutes, I gave up, turned off the TV and turned on the radio. Time Warner Cable screwed me out of seeing the last 3rd of tonight's game.

Or, perhaps, they did me a favor.

Without SNY, I was unable to see the Mets offense go right back in the tank that Steven Matz pulled them out of on Sunday. Daniel Murphy returned and looked just like the same old Daniel Murphy. 4 At Bats, 1 Hit. And that 1 hit represented 33% of the Mets offensive output against Kyle Hendricks and a troika of Cubs relievers. No Met reached 3rd base against this vaunted Chicago pitching staff.

Jon Niese, on the other side, did his admirable best to try to outpitch his own non-existent offense, but this was unfortunately an impossible, unwinnable undertaking. While Niese only allowed the Cubs 4 hits, unfortunately two of them came in the top of the 6th inning, and happened to be a single to Baseball Jesus Kris Bryant, followed by a double from David Eckstein-like Matt Szczur, which eluded Michael Cuddyer and allowed Bryant to score the first and only run of the game.

There have been years where the Mets offense just can't do anything with any sort of consistency. In fact, a majority of the team's history has been predicated on such a thing. Sometimes, they've managed to win in spite of this (ie 1969, 1973). But most years, for as good as their pitching can be, the season simply boils down to them not being able to hit enough and their pitchers simply not always being able to throw shutouts. And so you get years like, say, every year for the last 5 years, where the Mets can get great pitching most nights, but lose 4-2 or 3-2 because they just can't hit enough.

But this year they seem to be turning this into an art form. True, the lineup has suffered without d'Arnaud and Wright and Murphy, although Murphy came back tonight and it didn't make a damn bit of difference. It's the guys that are still there that aren't helping. Michael Cuddyer might not be Jason Bay-bad just yet but he's pushing the limits of Carlos Baerga-ness (and of course departed tonight's game hurt). Lucas Duda has crashed back to earth, not so much because he turned back into the lummox he was prior to 2014, but because without any protection in the lineup, he's pressing, and trying to do too much and as a result swinging at bad pitches and getting away from what made him successful in the first place. Curtis Granderson was hot for a second there but now he seems to be on the downswing again. Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares have run hot and cold and lately it's been more cold than hot, and Ruben Tejada is just a complete disaster. And there's no depth to speak of, anyone else the Mets have on the roster right now is at best worse than anyone who's starting right now, and that's a truly frightening prospect. This past weekend, the Mets swept the Cincinnati Reds, and on one night they won because they managed to score 2 runs on 3 hits. The next day it took them 13 innings over two days to score 2 runs, and the second run basically scored by accident. Sunday, they scored 7 runs, but the pitcher happened to drive in 4 of them so that doesn't excuse anyone else. Is the solution here really to teach Steven Matz to play Left Field? I don't think so. At this point it's not Collins's fault because he can only make do with what he's given, so if you need a scapegoat, right now Sandy Alderson looks like your guy.

That is, unless you feel its easier to blame a majority of these players for not hitting better.