Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Happy Harvey Conforto Day!

I was back at Citi Field on Tuesday, though I have to say I did so with some reticence. I knew I'd be going to at least one of the Padres games this week, but I was trying to pick my matchups. For as much as I'd like to see Matt Harvey do well, I at this point felt he'd had too much to overcome and too far to go to get his act together to comfortably assume it safe to attend one of his starts. That left me to choose between Wednesday and Thursday, and initially, I'd been leaning toward Wednesday as deGrom was scheduled. But some factors precluded me from going ahead with the switch. First, when I checked on Monday, I saw that Gsellman, not deGrom, was scheduled for Wednesday. Then, I attempted to go ahead and change my tickets online, only to be blocked from doing so because I forgot that I could only exchange tickets up to 48 hours prior to the game. So, I had to suck it up, go on Tuesday and hope for the best.

I did get someone's best on Tuesday. It wasn't Matt Harvey's best. This was just as well. It was actually Michael Conforto's best. While Harvey pitched 5 innings worth of ugly, Conforto pretty much stole the game from his first At Bat. Leading off against Jhoulys Chacin, Conforto got behind in the count and then started whacking everything Chacin threw him foul. Some gentlemen sitting behind me in Section 418 were yelling at him to "Lay the bunt down! Show some strategy and get a bunt down!" but Conforto seemed to be having none of that. It took him until the 10th pitch of the At Bat before he finally got something he could handle and drove it out into the Mets Bullpen. Having thrown Conforto basically everything he had, Chacin summarily turned to mush from there and the Mets just clobbered him to death. Jose Reyes got a hit, as did Bruce and Walker, Wilmer Flores drove in a run, Lucas Duda doubled home two, Rene Rivera singled, and all of a sudden there was Conforto up again and driving in two more runs with a single to Left, making the score 7-0 and ending Chacin's night before he could negotiate through the 1st inning.

Handed this bounty, Matt Harvey went out in the 2nd inning against a completely punchless Padres lineup and walked the first batter, Ryan Schimpf. He then gave up a double to Hunter Renfroe, and then back-to-back run-scoring ground outs. The rest of Harvey's evening was similarly laborious. He walked two more batters, including Craig Stammen, who relieved Chacin, in the 3rd. In the 4th, he walked Austin Hedges with 2 outs and was fortunate that no further damage was done because although Erick Aybar hit a shot, the ball hit Hedges and resulted in an inning-ending out (haven't seen that happen in a while). In the 5th, he did not walk anyone, but he did allow a single, and in fact also struck out the side. But by that point Harvey was up over 100 pitches, and even in the 400 level I could tell that he didn't look especially comfortable through most of them. He was dragging. Watching him was a drag. It was a good thing that the Mets had run out to such a large lead.

It was 7-2 when Conforto came up for the 3rd time in the 4rd inning and hit his 2nd Home Run of the night, a shot way out into the high-130s seats in Left-center. Conforto had basically taken over the storyline for the night. Afforded two more opportunities to hit a 3rd Home Run, he grounded out in the 6th and was hit by a pitch in the 8th, which drew plenty of jeers in spite of the fact that he took a curveball off his back. Irregardless, when I remember this particular 9-3 Mets victory, I'll remember two things: I'll remember the loud group of Long Islanders that were sitting a row in front of me and kept getting up, getting drunk, taking selfies and generally interfering with my view of the game, and I'll remember how Michael Conforto stole the show because Harvey couldn't get out of his own way. Although, right now, I think Conforto stands a pretty good chance of stealing the show most nights. He's proven this quite emphatically.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Quick Out

You could almost feel a game like Sunday's brewing for the Mets, just based on the way Saturday night's game ended. After nearly blowing a large lead but hanging on to win Saturday, the Mets got their doors blown off before most of the crowd had even settled into their seats on Sunday. Tommy Milone was the victim on this particular day, as the Angels lit him up like the Crash Davis proverbial Christmas Tree early and often and then tacked on some more runs late against Hansel Robles to win the final game of this series, 12-5.

I know no Mets fan was probably expecting great things from Milone, but if nothing else, I'd like to think he's capable of more than the basically non-competitive effort he threw out there yesterday afternoon. He'd already done himself no favors by loading the bases with no outs, and then walking .154 hitting cleanup batter Jefry Marte to force in a run. Then, of course, he laid a meatball out there for C.J. Cron to whack in the seats for a Grand Slam and that basically was the game right there. I know that Terry Collins would have preferred to let Milone at least eat a few innings in a lost cause, but he allowed two more Home Runs in the 2nd, one of which was to Mike Trout, and I suppose if there was ever a good time to give up one to Trout, it was when the Mets were already behind by 5. Mercifully, Milone was pulled at 8-0, although one would have thought Rafael Montero wasn't exactly a marked improvement.

The Mets did make some kind of thinly-veiled effort to make the game respectable against Jesse Chavez, who I thought was some up-and-coming hotshot prospect for Oakland before he got traded 3 times and I realized he's actually 33 and has been in the Majors since 2008. The Mets did reach him for 3 Home Runs and cut a 9-0 deficit to 9-5 by the 6th inning, but then Hansel Robles came in for the 7th and set the record straight by puking up another 3 runs, thanks to an Andrelton Simmons Home Run. And for whatever reason, probably because I've had my fill of Robles, this bothered me more than Milone's stink bomb. With Milone, there are no expectations, and as such when he gets battered around the ballpark, you can't be too surprised and he probably won't be here much longer. With Robles, there is no excuse. He's been here 3 years and he still can't get his shit together and learn how to pitch, and even Keith Hernandez has started calling him out on that. The Mets used to have a pitcher named Manny Acosta,—Remember him? I'd rather not but I'm forced to invoke him here—and Acosta was one of those pitchers who kept hanging around and hanging around in spite of the fact that he was totally useless. We kept getting spoonfed tales about how he had "great stuff," and yet every time he came in a game, you could literally see him blindly rearing back and heaving the ball as hard as he possibly could in the general direction of Home Plate, and the results were generally disastrous. And it seems to me that Robles is basically doing the same thing. He's just heaving it up there as hard as he can without any particular regard for strategy or situation. I can't trust him in a key spot. Would you? I know I'm nitpicking and the Mets probably weren't going to win this game anyway, but you want to have the starch totally taken out of your sales? Try trimming 9-0 to 9-5 with 3 more at bats against an awful bullpen and have your own guy give up another 3 runs to negate the work you've done.

Bleh. Enough railing on Robles. Who has the energy? Just wipe this one off and come back Tuesday ready to start clean.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Baseball Hell

Last night's Mets game somehow ended up being scheduled on FOX, which as we know always goes wonderfully for the Mets. Generally, when the Mets are on National TV like that, they get sloughed off on the lesser announcers, so I feared that I'd be stuck spending my evening listening to Matt Vasgersian screeching, although at some point I'd remembered that Kevin Burkhart is still doing games for them, and it would have been nice to have him announcing the game. Much to my dismay, the game was being called by Joe Buck. I didn't know Joe Buck still absconded to doing regular season games. If that wasn't bad enough, he was joined in the booth by Alex Rodriguez.

Seriously? Joe Buck and Alex Rodriguez? I feel like if I were sentenced to an eternity in hell, every Baseball game would be broadcast by Joe Buck and Alex Rodriguez. There was no game. It was just Joe Buck and Alex Rodriguez doing their own little show. Did you know Alex Rodriguez was wearing a Tom Ford suit? Joe Buck made sure you knew. Did you know Alex Rodriguez grew up as a Mets fan and idolized Keith Hernandez? Joe Buck mentioned that about 40 times, just in case you might not have heard him. Oh, that chuckleheaded doofus Ken Rosenthal was there, too. Joe Buck made sure you knew he spent 90 minutes tying his bow tie. But did you know that Terry Collins became the longest-tenured Mets manager? Joe mentioned that too, but in such a offhanded manner that if you coughed, you missed it.

There was a game going on behind all this, if you could pay attention beyond the white noise coming from the booth, and the Mets did play a solid game for the most part. Zack Wheeler pitched well for 5 innings before running out of steam in the 6th—the same problem he usually has where he throws too many pitches too early in the game. Michael Conforto walked 3 times, Jose Reyes had 3 hits, including the 2,000th of his career, and generally the Mets seemed to be having an easy time of things against Alex Meyer, who by the way is really tall and it's uncomfortable hitting against a pitcher who's so tall. Joe Buck told me that a few times.

At some point I kind of tuned out altogether, because the Mets were ahead and I couldn't deal with it anymore. By that point, I know that Robert Gsellman had come in and had two pretty good reclamation innings, and probably should have finished the game altogether, except that he'd been hit for, and so Neil Ramirez entered the game and immediately showed us all why he was floating around the waiver wire by allowing a walk and 2 hits, and then Addison Reed was brought into a messy inning and he was having a hard time too, walking in a run and giving up a hit, and suddenly Mike Trout was up with the bases loaded, and he swung, and I think when he made contact every Mets fan had a heart attack, but Reed must have thrown him a sucker pitch because he didn't hit it well and it only wound up being a sacrifice fly. Nonetheless, 7-2 had turned into a tenuous 7-5, and Reed managed to walk another batter to re-load the bases before he finally struck out Danny Espinosa to end the game—and we've already seen enough of Danny Espinosa with the bases loaded.

Phew. That was wholly unnecessary as far as drama was concerned, and it was on top of a wholly unnecessary night spent listening to the dulcet tones of Joe Buck and Alex Rodriguez, while Ken Rosenthal intermittently chortled and told us how awful the Mets are. Fortunately, it's back to our usual gang on Sunday, and yes, I know we're unnecessarily spoiled by getting to listen to Gary, Keith and Ron every night, but sometimes you need to listen to the lesser guys to remember just how good we have it. That would be the exact opposite of Baseball Hell.

Friday, May 19, 2017

I Fixed It

Last Tuesday, I went to the Mets/Giants game and the Mets won.
Tonight, I went to the Mets/Angels game and the Mets won.

In between then and now, the Mets did not win, so perhaps I righted some cosmic force that had sucked the Mets into its vortex.

Friday night was but my 5th game of the season, when often I can be up to 8 or 9 games in mid-May, but that's simply how things work out. This wasn't even one of my regularly scheduled games; I'd swapped into the date from another night I couldn't attend. I was there with an old friend who hadn't yet been to a game at Citi Field, mostly due to the fact that he lives on the other side of the country, and whom I hadn't been to a Mets game with altogether in no less than 15 years. So that was good, and of course I have a wealth of experience introducing friends to Citi Field.

The game itself of course was one of those "Rarity" matchups, since the Angels of whatever municipality they're from only come to Citi Field but once every few years. I've caught them in town previously, in 2005 and again in 2011, although neither of those games ended particularly well. Given that the Mets were limping home, hot, out of humor and teetering on the edge of laughingstockdom once again (Thanks, Ratso Wilpon), one could not be blamed for fearing a similar result to those prior affairs. But I had a good pregame omen when I picked up a Free Shirt Friday leftover for winning Pete McCarthy's pre-game trivia at the WOR tent outside the stadium (Q: Name a Met who'd hit for the cycle. My A: Alex Ochoa). What that was a good omen for, I'm not quite certain, but any time you can snag a bonus shirt, I guess you have to take that as something positive.

So then it was inside for the game. The Angels, well, I don't know much about them other than they seem to be a popular landing spot for former Met Foils. Their lineup was littered with names such as Andrelton Simmons, Danny Espinosa, Cameron Maybin and hell, they were even starting Ricky Nolasco, who I believe pitched against the Mets 247 times during his Marlins tenure. This, of course, was the backup for Mike Trout, the best player on the planet right now and one of those rare visiting players who earns applause on the road out of respect. This was what was facing Jacob deGrom, who, much like everyone else on the team, just needed a good outing to right his ship. His strikeout numbers were great, but he'd been fizzling out with a number of walks and high pitch counts, and short outings, and ultimately no decisions.

So, what does he do? He walks Maybin on 4 pitches to start the game. Because of course he did. But Maybin did a fine job of handing it back by deciding it wasn't worth his time to wait for deGrom to throw another pitch and just taking off for 2nd, where he was thrown out with ease. Following that, deGrom reverted back to his old self, allowing a meaningless single to Trout and little beyond that. The Mets managed to reach Nolasco for a run in the last of the 1st thanks more to the Angels defense short circuiting. Conforto led off with a sinking line drive that Maybin apparently tried to catch with his face, and Reyes followed by laying down a bunt and would have been thrown out had C.J. Cron bothered to step on 1st base. Curtis Granderson delivered the payoff with a 2-out double that may or may not have bounced into the tarp roller but apparently gave Maybin enough of a problem to wave his hands and get a ground rule double called. Things calmed down from there until the 6th, when Rene Rivera delivered a 2-out single to score Neil Walker.

This was plenty for deGrom for the most part, who pretty much coasted from the 1st through to the 6th, in the process striking out Trout in the 4th to everyone's delight. But he ran into trouble in the 7th, first allowing a double to Simmons, because what's a game without Simmons being annoying? Then, there was a mysterious visit from Terry Collins and Ray Ramirez, which is always a good sign, but apparently deGrom talked his way out of it before Ratso Wilpon could press his "panic button." This initially didn't go well, as the blister or callous issue that deGrom had got the better of him. He walked Cron and then hit Martin Maldonado to load the bases. That brought up Espinosa, who I believe has 4 career Grand Slams and all of them were against the Mets. But with imminent disaster staring him in the face, deGrom struck out Espinosa. Ben Revere followed, and, well, what would this game be without another guy who played for every other NL East team? Revere flared a little dunker over 2nd base that appeared ticketed for game-tying-single-dom but for Jose Reyes pulling a little fountain of youth act and just tipping the ball enough with his glove to bat it in the air so he could re-catch it altogether for the 2nd out. Maybin spared any further drama by flying out on the 1st pitch, ending the inning, ending the threat, and ending deGrom's night with a clean ledger, no runs and 9 strikeouts for his 7 innings of work.

After all that, Michael Conforto did what the Angels hitters couldn't and drove one into the Left Field seats on the first pitch from Jose Alvarez. To Left off a Lefty. Is this discussion still necessary?

The remainder of the proceedings were pleasantly uneventful, as Jerry Blevins allowed another meaningless single to Trout before turning things over to Paul Sewald in the 8th, and Addison Reed had a 1-2-3 inning in the 9th. And, so, this long, strange, aggravating 7-game losing streak was over on the backs of this 3-0 victory. Was it the presence of long-overdue company? The rarity of the matchup? The bonus free shirt? Whatever it was, perhaps I'd sucked some karmic energy from the Mets the last time I was there and brought it back with me on Friday night. However, I hope I've left it at Citi Field so that the Mets can continue to win games.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Gets Late Early

I know last week I didn't see and barely followed the midweek afternoon game against the Giants and my conclusion was that it was just as well since the Mets spit up a lead and lost the game. I think the same could basically be said of yesterday afternoon's game in Arizona. The only difference being that as it was on the West Coast, or as West as Arizona can be as they float between time zones for reasons I am not meant to understand, the game started at the bizarre time of 3:40 and ended up dragging out long enough that it ended as I was getting home at around 7.

What did I miss? From the end result, another 5-4 Mets loss that took 11 innings to negotiate, I would assume not much. I've mentioned innumerable times that I follow, often halfheartedly, the game on MLB Gamecast so I knew that Michael Conforto hit an early Home Run—which seems to be an almost regular occurrence—and Matt Harvey summarily tried to hand it back rather quickly. I'm not quite certain whether this outing is going to be spun as a "building block" game for Harvey or whether we just have to temper our expectations for him that this is just going to be the norm and he's turned into another Marcum. I of course hope that it's the former but every time he seems to take a step forward, he short-circuits himself. He gave up a run in the 1st, a 2-run Home Run to Jake Lamb in the 3rd, and yet was in a position to win when he left in the 6th, because Juan Lagares hit a rare  Home Run in the 4th and spurred a rally.

But, Arizona tied the game against Robert Gsellman, who mysteriously appeared in relief when I was expecting to see him start back at home on Friday, and maybe that's a bit of a relief as well since I wasn't exactly relishing the thought of his mixed bag. And then I left work and as the game was tied I wasn't quite certain what to expect other than at some point I figured I'd get a final score buzz. Eventually, I did, and it was the eye-rolling result of F/11 ARZ 5 NYM 4. That was all I really needed to know, but the backstory of course was that Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed pitched well, and then as the game moved into extra innings Rafael Montero got the call and when Montero gets the call, well...you know. He was at least courteous enough to allow the walkoff Home Run to his first batter, Chris Herrmann, but it still took him 7 pitches to get there, so I guess he can't even blow the game right.

Ugh. Is there anything else that can be said? I thought the Mets might have been able to wash the stink off in Arizona but they've instead just managed to make it worse. At some point I'm going to have to stop kidding myself into thinking they'll snap out of it. Unless they actually snap out of it.