Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ass Out Of Fire

Tuesday brought with it my 7th game of the year at Citi Field, and the 3rd of those 7 against the Phillies. Though it was my 7th game of the year, it was the first in many respects. It was the first time this season that I saw the Mets bullpen melt down and blow a lead. It was also the first time I was at a game that went into Extra Innings, a feat I feel as though I've specialized in over the past few seasons. Most importantly, however, it was my first Walk-off victory of the season, as the Mets, thanks primarily to Wilmer Flores, dragged themselves out of the fire and won the game 5-4 in 10 innings, in spite of the fact that the proceedings took about an hour and one inning longer than it needed to.

For a majority of the game, things were humming right along without even a sniff of drama. Jacob deGrom really was the story of the night, because after wheedling into and then out of trouble in the 1st inning, he settled in and basically shoved the bats up the Phillies' asses most of the night. Granted, the Phillies lineup isn't exactly daunting to navigate through, but you still need to get the job done and deGrom accomplished that. George and I weren't especially surprised by this development. Early on, we were discussing the Phillies' team concept and how there didn't seem to be one. Think about this: The Phillies starting pitcher was Jerome Williams. Jerome Williams pitched for 3 teams last year, which is impressive because I think 90% of Baseball observers probably assumed he was out of the league. Going further, Williams is best known by Mets fans for surrendering Mike Piazza's record-setting Home Run, all the way back in May of 2004. My interpretation of the Phillies team concept was that they were comprised of one Prospect (Maikel Franco), one Rule 5 guy who was in the Majors 2 years too soon (Odubel Herrera) and 7 carcasses. I was amazed when they trotted out Grady Sizemore on Opening Day as their starting Right Fielder. It's two months later and he's still playing Right Field. Ryan Howard, who was rumored to have come back to life, looked simply befuddled by deGrom, striking out 3 times, and for good measure added a 4th later in the game. That being said, I shed no tears for the Phillies. That should come as no surprise. Their management hung on to their golden era for a few too many years, and now they're paying the price.

This, then, was the Mets gain, with deGrom cruising, and the Mets plating 3 runs in the 4th inning thanks to key hits from Lucas Duda and Michael Cuddyer. They didn't get many other opportunities, but then they didn't really need them.

Then, of course, the 8th inning happened, and all hell broke loose. deGrom, who was hovering around 100 pitches, gave up two singles with one out, and when Terry Collins came out to remove him from the game, I wasn't pleased, but I also wasn't surprised. I also wasn't surprised when he called for Hansel Robles, who's pitched rather well lately. But Robles was, to put it kindly, not good, and after he departed the game after having faced two batters, the game was shockingly tied. Alex Torres entered the game and made things worse by giving up a hit to Chase Utley, because Torres was in the game specifically to get Utley out. He did manage to get Howard, but then there was Collins again, for his 3rd pitching change of the inning (needless to say, by this point the game had slowed to a crawl), calling for the other Torres, who might have been better off as the first choice in the inning. Carlos Torres also gave up a hit to a guy he was in the game to get out, Maikel Franco, and suddenly, the Phillies were in the lead and everything good about this game had gone down the toilet.

Fortunately, however, the Mets came back in the last of the 8th, in spite of their best efforts to squander a golden opportunity. Ken Giles, one of those dark horse-types, walked Duda and then gave up a double to Daniel Murphy. Cuddyer simply had to hit the ball somewhere in order to get the tying run home, but instead he struck out, which didn't help anyone and, I feared, totally fucked the inning. But Wilmer Flores came through with the Sacrifice Fly to re-tie the game.

Jeurys Familia entered the game in the 9th. By this point, I felt that Collins should have just said "screw it" in the 8th and just had him get the 5-out Save. Though he walked Herrera to lead off the inning (and send the surprisingly hearty contingent of Phillies fans into a tizzy), Kevin Plawecki easily threw him out attempting to steal on the first pitch to Carlos Ruiz. This was fortunate, because Ruiz got a hit as well, but Jeff Francoeur, who is no longer being cheered by Mets fans, helped out everyone by hitting into a Double Play. Unfortunately, the Mets did nothing of consequence in their half, and it was off to extra innings, and for George, who had an early meeting and a longer trip than myself, it was off to the exit. For me, it was off to a lower seat, since most people were in the same boat as George and didn't feel like sticking around for a game that was beginning to reek of 14-inning hell.

The Phillies did nothing against Familia in the 10th, further cementing my 5-out Save theory. The Mets, however, strung together a little rally in their half. Juan Lagares led off with a single against Jeanmar Gomez, and immediately prompted a pitching change, as the lefty Elvis Araujo (you know, the great Elivis Araujo) came in the game. He walked Duda right off the bat and the Mets seemed primed to go in for the kill until Daniel Murphy summoned up his inner Daniel Murphy and hit into a Double Play, the 3rd such play the Mets had managed in the game. There went that rally, I'd figured, unless someone could just reach out and flick a ball over the Shortstop's head. Michael Cuddyer seemed a likely candidate, but Araujo walked him. Wilmer Flores, who already came up with a clutch hit (even if it wasn't a hit) earlier, did what was needed, flicking a pitch over Galvis's head and into the Outfield, scoring Lagares with the winning run, earning himself a bath of water, sunflower seeds and other such detritus and sending me off to the exits with that winning spring in my step, as the frustration over the blown lead and the extra innings and the late hour sort of melted away. Funny how winning always makes you feel better.

With this win, my record for the season now jumps to 5-2. For a few minutes there, I had this dread of being 4-3. That's also 5-2, and 3-0 against the Phillies, who have yet to win a game at Citi Field all season. So, now, the Mets can wash the stink of the Pirates series off completely if they can win after the quick turnaround this afternoon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cure For The Common Mets

Well, in a game where Bartolo Colon manages to get a hit, advance on a sacrifice fly and leave with a lead, the Mets ought to win the game. Lately, that hasn't necessarily been the case, but when the Mets are playing a team even more moribund than they've looked at times, some liberties can be taken. In yet another game that's a mystery to me because I was out of the house all day, the Mets rode Colon's offense and a troika of Home Runs to a 6-3 victory over the Phillies to right the ship after being ambushed in Ye Pittsburghe over the weekend.

After a pair of patently lousy outings over the last two weeks, Colon rebounded with a cleaner outing on Monday afternoon in front of a festive Holiday crowd. He still walked two batters—including his mound opponent Severino Gonzalez—and gave up a pair of run-scoring hits to his age counterparts Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, but his 6 innings were generally clean, and included 6 strikeouts mixed in with 6 hits and 3 runs. Not a great outing, but good enough that he gave the Mets a chance to win.

The Mets managed two Home Runs off of Gonzalez early in the game, one from Lucas Duda and one from Michael Cuddyer, who feels like he hasn't hit one out in about a month (Duda, on the other hand, just hits everything on a regular basis now—who saw that coming?). But the Mets didn't grab the lead for good until the bottom of the 6th, when Wilmer Flores sailed a pitch from Elvis Araujo into the seats for his 7th of the year, a 3-run shot.

Flores, who's obviously drawn a great deal of criticism lately for his defensive deficiencies, has still hit respectably in spite of that, and at this point it's actually beginning to seem like it doesn't matter what he does with the bat, people are just going to focus on his defense and think he needs to be traded for Troy Tulowitzki. I contend that these are the same people who continue to scream that Wally Backman needs to be the Manager (people are amazingly still carrying this torch), Daniel Murphy is still that loveable kid who needs time to figure it out and the Wilpons will sell the team to a consortium of schmucks that bought a billboard. But I digress. Flores sucks, but currently, he leads the Mets with his 7 Home Runs, most of which have come at Citi Field, and to make matters worse, Flores actually leads all Major League Shortstops in Home Runs. He also hasn't made an error in about a week and a half, for what it's worth. But what the hell do I know.

This upcoming stretch of games the Mets have against some bottom feeders now comes at an opportune time, because maybe the Mets can start to get a little healthy while picking up some cheap Ws in the process and get themselves back above water a little more. The past few weeks have been ugly. If they get their acts together, the next few weeks should hopefully be less so.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Horribly Terrible

The above photo of Erik Goeddel basically sums up the weekend, doesn't it.

In the recurring theme of "I didn't see the game," I watched none of the Mets/Pirates series in total and I think I'm probably better for it because the way things turned out, I can see I probably didn't want to see any of this. In their three-game obliteration of the Mets, the Pirates scored 21 runs to the Mets 4, they handed Matt Harvey the worst beating of his career and they underscored just how troubled and in need of a boost this Mets offense is.

The Mets have sort of been dancing and jabbing at their opponents for the past few weeks, ducking their underlying issues and surviving because, let's face it, their pitching is really really good. But this can only get so far, and this weekend, the Pirates delivered a haymaker. This is now getting to the point where good pitching isn't good enough, because for as good as the Mets pitchers can be and often times are, they can't outpitch their own offense and if by some chance they don't have it, you may as well throw the entire game down the shitter.

The Mets starters didn't pitch well this weekend in Pittsburgh, but even if they had, would it have made a difference? I know injuries are a problem but I'm not sure that the injured guys would be making much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. To this point, I'm comfortable with the offense I've seen from Lucas Duda...and that's about it. Curtis Granderson, perhaps, if only because he's certainly provided a good spark in the leadoff spot. Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores have provided some nice moments, too, if you're willing to look past Flores' defensive foibles (and unfortunately it seems like most Mets fans are not).

That leaves half a lineup of dreck. Eric Campbell has fallen victim to the Endy Chavez Corollary (overexposure), and probably shouldn't be playing at all. Kevin Plawecki plays like a 22-year old that's been in the Major Leagues for a month, and this is acceptable only because that's what he is. Michael Cuddyer has scuffled, and Daniel Murphy I'm convinced is just a total lost cause. The other problem is that the depth behind these guys hasn't materialized. John Mayberry Jr has done nothing, Kirk Nieuwenhuis did even less than that before getting shipped out of town, and the rest of the mob of Johnny Monell-types seem to be mostly adept at hitting into Double Plays more than anything else.

The solutions aren't much of a solution because right now, they're all hurt. Dilson Herrera, who I believe is the future of the team at 2nd Base is hurt, Travis d'Arnaud, who was off to a great start is still a week off, and who even knows when we're going to see David Wright again what with this whole spinal stenosis business. Thing is, none of these three guys by themselves will make that much of a difference, I don't believe. Nobody is going to come back and immediately start carrying the Mets offense to more victories. David Wright, as much as we'd like to think he's The Guy, just isn't that kind of player. His best seasons, which now seem further and further away than we care to remember, came when he was surrounded in the lineup by Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, and anyone can look good when they're surrounded by that kind of talent. And if Wright's going to be out indefinitely, prognosis undcertain, well, then the Mets need to make some kind of move, don't they?

I don't know who the hell is available right now, but if Sandy Alderson is conscious, he might want to think about trading Daniel Murphy, and for that matter he can trade Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, too. Murphy seems to have a nice career ahead of him as a Designated Hitter somewhere, so he ought to be useful to some well-meaning AL GM. If people aren't too convinced that Jon Niese is just White Oliver Perez, he might have some value too. I mean, management usually will trip over themselves for Left handed pitchers. Dillon Gee hasn't done anything wrong per se other than not be Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard or any other exciting young pitcher the Mets have. You'd think this kind of a market exists, because what the Mets are putting on the field right now isn't sustainable for success. Nobody's buying the charade.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thursday's Lunch Special

Amazingly, after winning the finale of their 4-game series with the Cardinals, the Mets earned an even split in the series. This is an impressive feat in and of itself since it kind of felt like the Cardinals swept the Mets out of their own ballpark. Giving up 19 runs in 2 games will do that, but the fact that the Mets allowed the Cardinals a combined 1 run over the other two games smoothed things over. This particular game was headlined by a pair of players that had breakout seasons last year, and have continued to build on the groundwork they've set. It's nice to see, particularly given the injuries, the inconsistency, and the general Danielmurphyness the Mets have displayed of late.

After Harvey's brilliant performance on Monday, Jacob deGrom provided a similarly outstanding effort on Thursday afternoon (surprise surprise, I didn't see the game, but I know what happened). In a pretty dire situation, deGrom delivered what would have to be, to this point, the best performance of his young career, stepping on the Cardinals' necks to the tune of 1 hit, no walks and 11 strikeouts over 8 shutout innings of work. He ensured that he didn't need much in the way of offense in this game, although after causing the fate that befell Harvey on Monday night, the Mets offense was kind enough to score 5 runs in support of deGrom.

4 of said 5 runs were provided by Lucas Duda, who continues to hit everything for the most part. Duda continued on what's been a fine start to his season by belting a pair of Home Runs, a solo shot in the 6th, and a 3-run Jibber-jabber in the 8th. Duda's had multi-Home Run games before, so this is nothing new. More impressive about his feat yesterday afternoon was the fact that his Home Runs came off of Jaime Garcia, a lefty, and Randy Choate, another lefty.

So, amazingly, after the bad comedy that was Monday night, the turd sandwich that was Tuesday and the complete and utter shit show that was Wednesday, the Mets managed a series split. This has to be considered a moral victory if nothing else, because if the Mets can manage to split a series where they gave up 20 runs and scored only 9, well, anything's possible, isn't it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Pleasant Diversion

Rather than make myself and everyone else nauseous by writing about the complete and utter debacle of a ballgame that I had to sit through Wednesday night at Citi Field, that got so out of hand so quickly that I spent the latter half of the game aimlessly milling around the stadium questioning my existence (as I am sometimes wont to do), I'll instead post this video of Lucas Duda stacking cups during one of the dopey between-inning bits. I think we'll all enjoy this much more, and maybe it will help us to forget what happened and move forward.