Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is There A Game?

I have, for many years, kept a Mets pocket schedule pinned above my desk at work. I did it at my old job and now I have done it at my new job, just so I always know if and when there's a game on any given day.

I was dubious all morning, given the absurd amount of rain falling in New York (likely the same rain that had come up from Philadelphia), that the Mets and Phillies would even play today...or was it tonight...I wasn't quite sure. I sort of took for granted that it was a night game, but with this being a 2-game series and the whole getaway day and cross-country trip to Colorado, one can never be too sure. I suppose I could have solved all that by just looking at the schedule pinned above my desk, but I didn't bother to do so. Then, at some point early in the afternoon, I got a buzz on my phone from ESPN's ScoreCenter announcing in block letters "THIS GAME HAS BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER ETC ETC ETC..." I figured, since the alert came at around 1pm, that it must have been a day game. I figured I was wrong about the time of the game. Only at this point did I bother to look at my schedule to see that it was, in fact, a night game, and the good people of Philadelphia actually wised up and decided to head things off at the pass and spare people from having to show up to Mike Schmidt's Moustache Stadium Citizens Bank Park for no reason. If it were the Mets, who seem to have a very odd way of showing how much they care for their fan base, they probably would have stood around shrugging their shoulders and opened the gates at 4:30 just so they could sell a few Shackburgers before calling the game around 8pm, because everybody loves making the trek out to Flushing for no apparent reason.

Bottom line is, the game was at night, but it was apparent all day that there was no way in hell they were playing baseball tonight in Philadelphia, or New York, or basically anywhere on the East Coast, so the will-they-or-won't-they drama was basically spared very early in the day. Of course, these rained out games must be rescheduled, and generally they're done so as the ever popular Day-Night Doubleheader that you all know I love so much. I was expecting that this is what the Phillies would do, on some random Saturday in July, but they surprised me by scheduling the game on a random Monday afternoon in June when both teams were off. Last season, these mutual off-days were sucked up by a spate of early season rain/snow/horrible-outs, meaning the Mets had to do things like fly from San Diego to New York by way of Minneapolis. At least Philadelphia is closer to home. And at least the Mets aren't making a trip out to Colorado until May 1st, although the weather in Denver has been known for being unpredictable. So, hopefully this 4-game trip will be the only time they have to go there this season. These random 1-game trips are the sort of thing you really want to avoid piling up.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tough Mudders

For about 6 consecutive seasons, whenever the Mets would go into Philadelphia, no matter what time of year or what miserable weather, you could expect that Steroid Field II Citizens Bank Park would be filled to the gills with obnoxious, mustachioed fans that liked to drink a lot and pass all kinds of judgements on your parents and life preferences if you didn't root for their team. Didn't matter if the Phillies won or lost. But those days have passed and the Phillies Dynasty has come to a crashing end, reduced to a roster decimated by aging stars with huge contracts choking the team's payroll, combined with a general dearth of young talent due to years of poor/failed draft picks and a win-now attitude. The result is a night like tonight, where, after a 90-minute rain delay and a few trips down Mets Memory Lane, the Phillies finally took the field for their first game of the season against their hated front of a mild audience that made Citi Field on a late September night look like a sellout crowd.

The Mets didn't come out and bombard Cole Hamels like they've been known to do on occasion, tonight, they really just kind of pecked him to death. They started slow, with some single hits in the early innings. Then, they started to string together some hits, punctuated by an RBI single from Daniel Murphy in the 3rd. In the 4th, Hamels continued to struggle, allowing two more runs on a long hit from Josh Satin and the always-galling bases-loaded-walk-to-the-opposing-pitcher. Still, Ryne Sandberg stuck with his ace, whom the Mets have generally handled fairly well ever since he opened his trap several years ago (further proof that this rivalry hasn't died). Hamels rewarded him by allowing 3 more runs in a 5th inning that he failed to finish, punctuated by a 2-run single by, of all people, Ruben Tejada. It was here that Hamels walked off the mound with his trademark puss on his face in favor of Fausto Carmona Roberto Hernandez Roberto Hernández.

But by then the damage was done and the only thing really left to chance was whether or not the Mets could get the game through 5 innings before the Heavens opened again. Though it certainly looked quite unpleasant at times, they somehow managed to play through the worst of the rain and ended up getting through 5 and then some. Jon Niese had a big hand in this; he continued the string of solid Mets starting pitching performances with a 7-inning effort that saw him give up 4 hits and 1 run in pretty dire conditions—though dire conditions don't seem to bother Niese. He punctuated his outing by striking out the side in the 7th inning, before giving way to Daisuke Matsuzaka, who did not take the mound in his ski cap, and Jose Valverde, who gave up several fly balls that fortuitously did not leave the slight confines of Citizens Bank Park.

All this being said, the Mets came away with a 6-1 victory that put them 4 games above .500 for the first time since 2012. And, of course, they got a lesson that they are not the only team that plays in a stadium with a severe wind tunnel that can increase the wind chill factor by a good 10˚. It must have been really cold, particularly if the players were making a thing about the frigid conditions on the postgame show. But maybe this bodes well for the Mets. If they're used to playing in football weather to begin with, why would it make a difference if they run across that weather on the road, where they play well anyway?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Starting Point

Dillon Gee punctuated the finale of the Mets' longest homestand of the season with what's probably the best singular outing a Mets starting pitcher has had all season, throwing 8 shutout innings at the Marlins en route to a 4-0 Mets victory. The win gave the Mets a series win and also a winning homestand overall, something that has inexplicably been hard for the Mets to come by over the past few seasons.

Gee's outing was the latest in what's been a string of particularly solid outings by Mets starters, joining Zack Wheeler on Friday, Bartolo Colon on Thursday and Jon Niese on Wednesday, and, well, hey, Jenrry Mejia was due for a stinker on Saturday after a string of great starts. What it adds up to is that the Mets stand at a tick over .500 in spite of the fact that they're striking out at a record pace and most nights seem to peck and scrape and scrap for runs, as evidenced by the fact that they won 3 of 4 over the Cardinals despite scoring 9 runs for the series, and the night they scored a homestand-high 6 runs, they lost.

Gee's performance on Sunday followed a solid performance on Tuesday, where he gave up 2 runs in 6 innings and ended up losing because the Mets couldn't score him any runs. Hell, he's been good all season long, continuing a streak of general dependability that stretches back to the middle of last season, right around the time he went out and had a 10-strikeout game against that other team that plays in our town. The momentum from that game carried him through the remainder of 2013, and he's started more or less where he left off. He's sort of taken on the role that Rick Reed used to have way back when, as the mid-rotation guy who just knew what he was doing and had a good game plan every time he took the mound. He wasn't going to blow anybody away, but he was going to give you a solid outing and by time he was done, he was leaving the game with the Mets in a good position to win, or, if nothing else, in a situation where they weren't facing an insurmountable deficit. That's what Dillon Gee has been to the Mets these past few seasons. Flashier, harder-throwing guys will get all the ink, but when someone's needed to deliver a quality outing in a key spot, Dillon Gee has generally been the guy.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

There's Always A Way

I was feeling rather annoyed as the game moved into the 9th inning last night. The Mets had, for the most part, played well enough to beat the Mickey Mouse Marlins, behind a 10-strikeout performance by Zack Wheeler. The pitching, for 7 and 2/3s innings was great, and made the fact that the offense had only managed two runs stand up. But Gonzalez Germen didn't get an inning-ending 3rd strike call on Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and the ensuing pitches that followed produced a pair of solo Home Runs that now put the Mets in a position to lose, miserably, on another frigid night at Citi Field that felt about as frigid as my affections towards the Marlins.

Perhaps that was what made me more annoyed than usual about this game. That for all the talk and bluster about an improved roster and a better team and better results, they still couldn't figure out a way to beat the Goddamned Marlins. And for whatever reason, that really pissed me off. I don't think I've ever really gotten over the way the Marlins and their 4 fans treated the Mets in '07 and '08, and while none of the players that were actually on the Marlins in those years are still on the team, once you get a stink for a franchise, that stink lasts forever.

The game actually started out well enough. The keynote for the evening was sounded by what is for me a rare Citi Field beer with George, and continued with my first-ever meal in the Promenade Club. Most loyal readers, I'm sure, have probably been in the Promenade Club at one time in the now 6 years of Citi Field's existence. I only recently (read: Last year) discovered that thanks to my having a ticket plan, I actually have access to the Promenade Club and have taken advantage of it—but only because it's indoors and just about all of the games I've been to this season have been excessively cold. I've never actually eaten something from the little Food Bar they have there, mostly because I was either unsure or not in the mood for whatever's on the menu. It's not exactly a diverse selection; you can choose between the wing bar (pick your own sauce and they'll throw the whole blessed mess in a jug for you), and a menu consisting of a Cheesesteak (not the Pat LaFreida kind), a Burger/Fries combo, a Burrito, and some other things that I can't remember. I went for the Cheesesteak. George had the Burrito. It's charming. You order and then they give you a little number on a stand and then they bring the food out to your table, kind of like Steak 'n Shake or some similar joint. The food is fine, but I'm of the opinion that if you're going to have a restricted-access thing here, why not have a few more interesting options on the menu? Then again, I guess that's what the Caesar's Club is for.

Having made it through a meal, we then sat down for the game, which consisted mostly of Zack Wheeler pitching particularly well. Although he threw too many pitches and worked too many deep counts, he worked exceptionally well at keeping his composure, minimizing damage and making big pitches when he needed to make them. In the 1st inning, he survived a 2-base error by David Wright and struck out Saltalamacchia with runners on 1st and 3rd. In the 3rd, he struck out the side. In the 6th, he punctuated his evening by getting out of another 1st and 3rd jam with 1 out and the game on the line, striking out Derek Dietrich and Adeiny Hechaverria to finish off his 110-pitch effort with a flourish. Wheeler continues to demonstrate a good rapport with Travis d'Arnaud; this started last season when the two teamed together in AAA and continued when they both reached the majors. I expect it will continue throughout this season, d'Arnaud has done a good job of coaxing Wheeler through some jams in a few different instances and the one in the 6th was no different. Wheeler looked as though he was fading and about to unravel into one of those 3-run bloodbaths that ended with him walking off dejectedly in the middle of an inning, but he made a few outstanding pitches to Hechaverria when his gas tank was clearly just about empty.

And as the game drew on, you figured Wheeler's strong outing would be the story of the game. Gonzalez Germen came in for the 7th, got the Marlins in order, and came back for the 8th, because why not? The only question really left to chance was who would come in as closer in the 9th? We could see a variety of pitchers warming up, ranging from Scott Rice to Jose Valverde, to Kyle Farnsworth, whom George had actually forgotten was on the team...

...Oh. Then Saltalamacchia homered. Tie Game. No more worrying about who's closing right now. Garrett Jones followed and hit a real tracer down the right field line. One of those drives that was moving at such speed that while you hoped it would curl foul, it probably wasn't going to, and it didn't, clanging off the foul pole for another homer that put the Marlins ahead 3-2 and damn near wrecked the entire night. I was cold, I was about to see the Mets lose another game this season to throw my record down to an ugly 2-4 for the season (and a miserable 1-3 on the current homestand) and worst of all it was all happening at the hands of the Marlins, who should be getting pounded by every team in the league repeatedly, if for no other reason than their presence continues to make a mockery of the sport while more deserving cities (that shall remain nameless) go without.

Ultimately, though, it all ended up being a setup for a sublime finish in a 9th inning rally that included some unlikely names and some odd moves, but whatever it was, it all ended up working out in the end. Steve Cishek, the slop-throwing Marlin closer that was apparently on one of those consecutive save streaks that only the most overrated closers embark on came in and immediately gave up a parachute single to Lucas Duda on his first pitch, a ball placed just well enough to not be caught and give the Mets a good start on the inning. d'Arnaud followed and I was a bit shocked to see him bunting. Though d'Arnaud hasn't hit a ton this season, he's certainly hit better of late (now off the interstate) and his approach gives me the impression that he will only continue to get better from here, to the point where he might not be asked to bunt in a similar situation in the future. However, here, he was bunting, and he did manage to lay down a successful sacrifice, setting the stage for the ageless Bobby Abreu to pinch hit. For Abreu, who mysteriously resurfaced with the team earlier this week, this was his shot to prove that there was still some life left in that bat of his, and although he did get enough of a pitch to shoot it out into Left Field, and it appeared destined to fall in, Fielding Mellish had the ball played perfectly and picked it off for the second out.

This left it all up to Omar Quintanilla, which wasn't exactly an inspiring presence, but for all his foibles, Quintanilla is, if nothing else, someone who can come off the bench and whack a hit every so often when it's needed. And after being down to his last strike, Quintanilla managed to find a pitch he could handle and hit it in a similar spot to where Abreu's ball was hit, except it fell in, and when Mellish slipped and fell while attempting a throw home, Duda was able to score the tying run. Duda had a decent chance to score even if Mellish hadn't fell, although had he been able to get a clean throw off, the play would have been closer. Nonetheless, the Mets had managed to get off the mat and tie the game. Now, the key was could they find a way to win it in under 14 innings, because it was still cold and after a full week of work, neither George and I were relishing the thought of extra innings. Kirk Nieuwenhuis followed, hitting for Eric Young, and he delivered a gapper that could have won the game outright had Marcell Ozuna not cut the ball off before it went through to the wall, or had someone faster than Omar Quintanilla been running. Still, it did put the winning run in scoring position, provided Curtis Granderson could come through with one more hit. Given that Granderson had been 0-for-4 on the night and just hasn't managed to get himself on track to this point, it didn't seem likely, but then again, many of the contributing characters to this rally didn't seem likely. So, then, it stood to reason that Granderson would hit a screaming line drive directly at Garrett Jones...that would somehow find its way past him and into Right Field for the Game-Winning hit and the celebratory walk-off pie-in-the-face.

This ended up being a gratifying win, not simply for the obvious reason of who got the winning hit or who they beat in the game (it's always nice to throw a walk-off celebration in the face of a team that whooped it up a little too much at your expense), but because the Mets right now have been coming up with different ways to win just about every game of late, and when you can generate a string of games like that, it can begin to breed confidence and take off from there. I realize it's happened to the Mets before and then falls apart just as quickly, but, hey, it's gotta work one of these years, right? Right?!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Random Solutions

Admittedly, I had already made a crack yesterday about the Mets basically running out a "Closer du Jour," basically because the closer for the Mets is whoever in the bullpen happens to be the most reliable. Since Bobby Parnell is lost for the season with the Big Boy Surgery, everyone else in the bullpen has been on the hot seat to find some consistency. But finding the most consistent relief pitcher is a slippery slope. It's probably Kyle Farnsworth at the moment, after a few weeks of it being Jose Valverde. But Valverde melted down in Anaheim and hasn't quite come back from that trip, so the role was handed over to Farnsworth, whom you might have seen starting for the Chicago Cubs in an oft-aired Mets Classic game from 2000 (you know, the game in Japan where Benny Agbayani hit his legendary grand slam). But Farnsworth is older now and can't pitch as often as Terry Collins might like him to. So, other options are bandied about. Gonzalez Germen might be the most likely candidate to close, but then you have games like last Friday when he comes in a 1-0 game and leaves a 5-0 game. Yesterday, Collins decided to throw Daisuke Matsuzaka out there to finish things out, and why not? Matsuzaka responded by retiring the wonderful Cardinals in order to finish off a 4-1 win and a resounding 3-1 series victory.

Matsuzaka makes sense as closer for a few reasons. For one, he throws strikes, for the most part. In Sunday's game, he came in in the 11th inning and managed to strike out 5 in his 3 innings of work. He's slow on the mound, but he at least comes after the hitter instead of pussyfooting around. He's managed to make the adjustment from being a starter to being a reliever admirably well. So, why not? He's as good as anyone else out there to take the role. I know that it will probably take Farnsworth yakking up a couple of Save opportunities for Collins to pull the trigger, and perhaps he'll try someone else like Scott Rice or Carlos Torres first, but perhaps the best solution to this revolving door is right under his nose. 

Of course, once he's exhausted his options, then the Mets can try the innovative Cardinals method of closers and bring up guys like Rafael Montero or Jacob deGrom, starters who likely can't crack the rotation right now. Particularly when you have games like yesterday afternoon's, when Bartolo Colon goes out and throws 7 innings of 1-run baseball, to follow up the other solid outings the starting rotation has put up of late. It's not quite as surprising to see Colon do well, since his career has had a renaissance over the past few years. What I guess is so surprising to everyone is that he continues to perform well in spite of the fact that he looks completely ill-suited to be a Major League pitcher. But this seems to work for him.

It seems somewhat haphazard that these are the kind of players that have been doing it for the Mets in the early going this season. But sometimes, that's what a team needs in order to stay afloat.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Still Out

The first three games of this Mets/Cardinals series has been a showcase of real National League Baseball. In the three games, a grand total of 10 runs have scored, 5 on each side, and the defensive play and starting pitching on both sides has been generally dominant. These have been the kind of games that, were the Mets in better straits and the weather of better quality, you'd probably have close to 40,000 fans each night on the edge of their seats, replete with the potential of a Bill Clinton cameo appearance.

After shutouts on Monday and Tuesday night, last night's game at least featured some runs on both sides, sparing as they may have been. With absurdly strong winds whipping throughout Citi Field (the kind of weather that usually occurs when I am in attendance), a crowd of what looked to be a few souls short of 10,000 bundled up to see the Mets try their luck against yet another budding Cardinal great in Michael Wacha, last year's Playoff Sensation. Jon Niese went out for the Mets, and after Ruben Tejada blew a rundown play on Matt Carpenter with 2 out in the 1st, and Ratso Molina followed with an RBI double that probably could have spelled instant doom for the Mets if Wacha pitched at all the way Adam Wainwright did the previous night.

Wacha certainly started out just as good as Wainwright, recording his first 9 outs via strikeout, which is of note because it doesn't happen very often. The downside, however, is that 9 strikeouts in the first three innings of a game can serve to drive up your pitch count, and the result, of course, is that Wacha became so badly unglued in the 4th inning that he ended up walking in two runs and damn near walked Niese to force in a 3rd, before finally departing the game after throwing 93 pitches in said 4 innings of work. Wacha was replaced by Seth Maness, who put his stamp on the game by giving up a bullet of a Home Run to Lucas Duda and then getting blown off the pitcher's mound for a balk in a rather nightmarish 6th inning that served to put the Mets ahead 3-1.

Niese departed with 2 outs in the 7th and it seemed like the Mets were going to make it through the remainder of the game unscathed. Kyle Farnsworth, the Mets Closer du Jour, came in for the 9th inning and had what we've come to know and love as the "Typical Outing for a Mets Closer." With one out, he gave up a pair of singles to Jon Jay and Matt Carpenter, bringing up Daniel DeScalso as the potential go-ahead run. Farnsworth would have been wise to get a ground ball, but instead DeScalso roped one off the Left Field wall, a drive primed to tie the game. But Kirk Nieuwenhuis played the carom off the wall well and threw the ball in to Ruben Tejada. When there appeared to be no shot that he'd be able to throw out Carpenter at home, Tejada did just that, firing a strike in to Travis d'Arnaud, who somehow managed to keep Carpenter off the plate and swipe a tag on him in one fell swoop. One of those "How the hell did they do that?!" plays. I'm not sure whether Mike Matheny actually thought d'Arnaud missed the tag or if he was grasping at straws, but his replay challenge was rather quickly proven to be merely an exercise in prolonging the inevitable, because for as unlikely as it seemed, the tag was made. Still, Farnsworth had to get out Matt Holliday and he did, barely, as Curtis Granderson ran down his wind-blown fly ball just as it appeared headed for disasterville and the Mets escaped with a 3-2 victory that was, twice, inches away from being a tie game and, perhaps, another one of those ridiculously extended extra inning games.

So, the Mets can now do no worse than split this 4-game series with the Beautiful Cardinals, which considering the troubles they've had scoring runs and/or pitching well at times in the early going this season is a pretty decent accomplishment. The starting pitching continues to be admirably good and the bullpen after a miserable start has gotten it together a little bit. If only they could hit...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Free Shirt Tuesday!

Strange as it may sound, lots of good things happened at Citi Field last night.

First of all, last night was the first time in my now 5 games at Citi Field this season where the weather was actually pleasant. I'm aware that it did rain in fits and starts, but I'll tell you why that didn't bother me. See, my seats are up in the Promenade, uncovered, so generally I'm exposed to the elements. When it rains, and it often does, I'm forced to run up for cover under the paltry little overhang, or, duck into the Promenade Club, where I'm among the privileged with access. But, last night, while I was on my way up to my seat, I was approached by a Stadium cop. He asked me where my seat was, and then pulled out an excessively large stack of tickets. He wanted to know if I was going to use it for club access, or if I was going to sit in the seat. I told him I was going to sit in the seat. So he handed me a ticket in the Excelsior level, out in Right Field. Who am I to forgo a completely unannounced seat upgrade? So I never made it to Section 512, never made it to the food court, just walked to the nearest staircase and down one level, to Section 306, well covered by the Promenade overhang. Rain fell, but you wouldn't have known it from where I was sitting.

The seat upgrades were probably being handed out so liberally because there just weren't that many people out at the game. It seemed like the cop that gave me my seat probably just canvassed the Promenade level to fill things out. The Promenade was mostly empty even when I got up there before the game, and a glance over at the Pepsi Porch revealed a crowd that you could count on your hands. The ploy, I suppose, was to concentrate enough of a crowd in one part of the stadium so that they could have a camera crew along with Kevin or Brandon or whatever the name of the guy that's on all those in-game contests and TV commercials is camp out there throughout the game. In the 3rd inning, he was on my left, giving out Beatles CDs. In the 5th, he was hanging out with the T-Shirt launch crew. In the 7th, he was behind me trying to pump everybody up for the Dance Cam (he had to offer a $100 prize for Fan of the Game to get people excited—fortunately he was standing behind me so I wasn't in any danger of actually having to be seen attempting to dance).

I mentioned that the T-Shirt launch crew, or at least a T-Shirt thrower was hanging out with Kev-Brand in the aisles. Sometimes, these folks go up to the Promenade and throw shirts to those areas where the T-Shirt cannon won't reach, but most nights they seem to not bother with the Proletariat. So, it was one of those rare moments where I was actually within shouting distance of getting one of those dopey shirts. It didn't seem like it was going to happen (I am generally a repellant of these kinds of things), until the gal tossed one in the general direction of a group two rows behind me. In what can only be described as a brilliant stroke of luck, the shirt somehow managed to get juggled and bounced off the hands of 4 separate people before finally landing directly under the seat behind me. With nobody in that row, and nobody sitting on either side of me, I managed to have a free shot at a free shirt. Miracle of Miracles! After being around for a pair of Free Shirt Fridays, I now found myself present for the elusive Free Shirt Tuesday.

See, plenty of good things went on at Citi Field. The only problem is that none of it happened on the field, where the Mets were completely mastered by Adam Wainwright, who would have thrown a shutout if not for a 7th inning injury. Dillon Gee did his best, and he certainly needed to do his best to prevent an ugly 4th inning from getting completely out of hand. Still, the 2 runs that the Cardinals did score were more than enough for Wainwright and the tack-on run they added in the 9th inning was just salt on a wound. The Mets cosmetically made it interesting by drawing a pair of walks in the last of the 9th, but Tyler Rosenthal snuck a couple of borderline strikes by David Wright, and then got Murphy to ground out, capping off a mostly forgettable game. But, in keeping with the theme of the night, at least it was over before 10pm.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Next Step

It's pretty easy to have overlooked Jenrry Mejia at the beginning of the season. Over his career, he's gone from a miscast and underutilized reliever to a failed spot starter to reconstructive elbow surgery to minor league inconsistency to generally being a forgotten man among the flashier names on the Mets pitching staff. That's not so much a knock on him as much as it's just the hand he'd been dealt. Since he debuted in 2010 as a 20-year old, he'd made all of 11 starts in the Major Leagues, the proud owner of 2 Major League victories.

Those of us in the know, however, know that Mejia always had the stuff to succeed in the Major Leagues. Jerry Manuel's asinine experiment to use him as a relief pitcher in his rookie season ultimately set him back 3 seasons, because one year was wasted with him working out of the bullpen and not developing his secondary pitches, a second year was wasted because of the Tommy John surgery he ended up receiving, probably as a result of his misuse, and then a third year recovering and getting himself back into form. It wasn't until he resurfaced in the middle of last season that we got a glimpse of his potential.

Still, there seemed to be a general reluctance to give Mejia the credit he was due; throughout Spring Training, he was stuck in a 3-way battle for the 5th spot in the rotation that he probably shouldn't have been in at all, considering his competition consisted of John Lannan and Daisuke Matsuzaka, both pitchers he was clearly better than, in spite of his lack of experience. The Dog and Pony show that was this battle somehow wasn't decided until the weekend before the season opened. Perhaps, this was by design, a ruse cooked up by Terry Collins and company to motivate his young pitcher.

Whatever it was, something was done right, because in case you haven't noticed, Jenrry Mejia has been the best pitcher the Mets have thrown out there so far this season. He pitched admirably well in his opening start against Cincinnati in spite of bad weather that affected his control. Though he regressed slightly in Atlanta, he's followed that up with a pair of outstanding efforts against Arizona last week, and another last night against the nauseating St. Louis Cardinals and their "professionals." If you were going to discount Mejia's start against Arizona because he left with a blister issue after 5 innings, you have to give him credit for keeping the Cardinals off balance and off the scoreboard into the 7th inning on Monday night, because it was truly a thing of beauty. After relying primarily on his fastball in his last couple of starts, Mejia mixed it up a bit more last night, baffling Cardinal hitters with a mixture of curveballs and change-ups that resulted in little more than 4 hits and 7 strikeouts. Though the offense didn't provide him much backing—just two runs courtesy of David Wright and Travis d'Arnaud RBIs and a ballsy steal of 3rd Base by Daniel Murphy—the 2 runs was enough to net Mejia his 3rd win of the season, or, more appropriately, one more than he had in his entire career going into this season.

Jenrry Mejia still may not get too much credit, even after his strong outing against the defending NL Champions. And who knows what this will lead to, but I'm of the belief that before too long, people are going to start taking notice of Mejia. He's not a flashy superstar-type like Matt Harvey and he's not a phenom like Zack Wheeler, and he's not a towering monstrosity like Noah Syndergaard. What he is is one of those little Pedro Martinez-type guys who get overlooked and fly under the radar until out of nowhere, they're blowing up. That's what I think Jenrry Mejia has in store. Whenever this fabled Mets resurgence comes to pass, Mejia is going to be a key player in it. You can take that to wherever you take such bold predictions.

Monday, April 21, 2014

One More Inning

Sunday Afternoon's game at Citi Field was my 4th game of the season in which the weather was intolerably cold, and my first with my other half, whom I have mentioned is somewhat less-enthused by a day at Citi Field than I am. Particularly on a day when the temperature up in the Promenade level felt a good 10 degrees colder than the 54˚ that was laughably displayed on the scoreboard throughout the proceedings. How cold was it? It was so cold that we willingly spent innings 6 through 9 sitting in the warmth of the Promenade club—obscured view of Home Plate be damned—and not once did I feel I was missing out by not sitting in my seat.

It figured, then, that on a day like this, the Mets and Braves would engage in a 14-inning battle of wills. We did not make it to the end of the game; had I been by myself or with someone a bit heartier, I might have been more likely to stick around. But my other half was cold, and for that matter, I was pretty cold too, and, perhaps fearful of a game like this breaking out, we took our leave after the 11th inning. I was somewhat torn, there was a general feeling of guilt associated with coming or staying, but after so many years of going to games, I've sort of drawn 11 innings as the point where an extra inning game goes from being quaint to a little excessive. And having actually sat through 14-inning games 4 times previously, I know that by time that 14th inning comes around, I've begun rooting for ANYONE to score, not just the Mets. For my other half, any sort of extra inning is met with an assortment of gripes, and usually a discussion about the longest games ever. Being reasonable, at the end of the 10th inning, I asked if she wanted to leave. She said it was up to me. I said I would use a facility and think about it. When I came back, to assorted glowering, I said to her, "One more inning."

The inning came and went, and nobody scored, and with a 12th inning going on, we took our leave. What we ended up missing was, as I followed the game on my phone, two and a half innings of nothing, followed by the Mets winning in the last of the 14th.

Getting to that point was, to be kind, sloppy. Of the 6 runs that were scored over the first 13 1/2 innings of the game, 4 of them were directly due to a variety of errors, 3 of which were committed by the Braves. Eric Young Jr reached 2nd in the 1st inning thanks to Ratso Upton gagging on a lazy fly ball to Left. Young eventually scored on an RBI Groundout by David Wright (who by game's end would have nailed out 4 hits—but not a key one). One inning later, Zack Wheeler hit with the bases loaded and swung at the first pitch, producing a hard grounder in the hole between 1st and 2nd. A run was sure to score, but Dan Uggla, always known for his sure hands, ended up inexplicably dropping the ball while in the process of throwing to 1st, and thus a second run was plated. The Mets had a nice opportunity to open up a lead at this point, but both Young and Curtis Granderson failed to do anything useful.

A Granderson error played key in the 5th inning, which ended up being the only inning in which the Braves scored at all. Ironjaw Heyward slashed a double down the Right Field line that would have put runners at second and third with one out. But Granderson decided, rather than throwing to a cutoff man, to throw the ball in the general direction of the Braves dugout, managing to land the ball perfectly down the dugout steps. This would be 2 points in Curling, but unfortunately they weren't playing curling, and so a run scored and the stage was set for Atlanta to plate two more and grab a temporary 3-2 lead. The Mets, however, took advantage of more vintage Uggla defense in the last of the 6th, when he booted a sure Double Play ball off the bat of Lucas Duda, which allowed Wright to score and tie the game 3-3.

The game then settled into a battle of bullpens, both of which either pitched exceptionally well or just took advantage of some complete offensive ineptitude. In the 7th, the Braves had a golden opportunity to strike, getting a pair of runners on with one out, but with "Baseball's Hottest Hitter" Freddie Freeman coming up, Scott Rice came in and got the sorely-needed Double Play on his first (and only pitch), keeping the game tied. Carlos Torres, Kyle Farnsworth and Daisuke Matsuzaka followed, and in the 6 innings they covered, allowed 1 hit, 2 walks and 8 strikeouts. Matsuzaka's effort was most impressive, covering 3 innings and 5 strikeouts worth of work and generally keeping things in check. Atlanta's bullpen had a similar amount of success, behind 5 relievers covering close to 7 innings and allowing the Mets all of 3 hits of no consequence and a hit batsman, Lucas Duda, that led to one of those bewildering moments that only seems to happen in a game like this, seeing the line "L. Duda stole second base" pop up on ESPN's Game feed in the 13th inning.

Then, there was the 14th, which happened while we were somewhere between Woodside and Court Square. Jose Valverde, deposed as Closer, entered the game in kind of an Oliver Perez "There's nobody else left out here" role. Expecting the worst, Valverde allowed a 1-out single to Gus Schlosser, the Barves' long reliever, but followed that up by getting Meathead Gattis to hit into a DP. In the bottom of the inning, the Mets managed to scrape across a run by doing the absolute minimum necessary. Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off with a walk. Ruben Tejada followed by sacrificing him to 2nd. Eric Young Jr. was then walked intentionally, to get to Curtis Granderson. Granderson, to this point in the game had gone 0-for-6, including a ground out with the bases loaded, a strikeout, a horrible error and boos that had begun to reach Jason Bay-level. But Schlosser basically dropped the game in Granderson's lap when he wild-pitched the runners up a base on the first pitch, and then Granderson hit a fly ball out to Ratso Upton in left that was just deep enough to get Nieuwenhuis home with the winning run. It seemed fitting that it would be Granderson getting the winning run home after the lousy day he'd had, but at the same time, it typified the lousy start he's had that he could only managed to get the run home when it was basically served to him on a silver platter. Sometimes these things can be tide-turning, but I guess that remains to be seen.

The 14 innings, despite the fact that I wasn't there for the last three of them, ties my personal record for longest game by innings. As I mentioned, this was the 5th such time that I've been subjected to such a long game. Fortunately, of the 5, the Mets have won 4 of them. At 4 hours, 37 minutes, it was far from the longest game I've ever been to. That honor was met just last season, in a 13-inning game against Arizona that lasted 5 hours, 13 minutes, and believe me, when you're at games that extend that long, you feel every bit of it afterwards. Even if you leave before the game's actually over.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Can't Go Home

I'm 3-for-3 at Citi Field in the early going this season.

Yes, I've been to Citi Field three times in 2014 and each time, I have successfully managed to freeze my ass off while watching a Baseball game.

Between the weather and the performance I was subjected to, this evening's game will certainly go down as one of my least favorite games. I'd drawn some odd looks for wearing my winter coat on a 50˚ day, but I know better. 50˚ in the daytime can turn to low 40˚s at night, and whatever the air temperature is, it's generally a good 5-10˚ colder in the seating bowl at Citi Field. You may as well dress for an Arctic expedition when you go to one of these April night games, and yet stupid me, I still keep getting tickets for them (generally because the bulk of the "Super Value" nights, when tickets are cheapest, are in April and September. Also, I had to find some way to fill 20 games).

But the weather ended up being only slightly more pleasant than the game itself, where I had the high pleasure of sitting down and watching the Mets very nearly get No-Hit by Aaron Harang and his band of merry men. This was one of these things that was really slow in developing. Aaron Harang, who was a Met-for-a-Minute late last season, was hardly what you'd call "dominant." He was mixing pitches well and had the benefit of facing the Mets at Citi Field, where they seem to immediately forget that they're Major League quality hitters. The Mets hit balls well, but in every instance they were directly at people. They were also drawing walks, so they had men on base, but every time they had men on base, someone struck out and ended any reasonable shot at a good rally. Jon Niese pitched admirably well in a situation that was shaping up to be rather hopeless; in his 6 innings, he only allowed 1 run, which kept a decent amount of drama in the game until Gonzalez Germen became the Met Reliever du jour to crap the bed and send most of the audience to the exits after a 4-run 8th inning. With the Braves ahead 5-0 instead of 1-0, many of the lesser fans in attendance began actively rooting for Atlanta to finish off the No Hitter, even with Harang out of the game. Fortunately, David Wright saved us all from any further indignities by singling with 2 outs in the 8th inning. By that point, however, the damage had been done and between the cold and the general lack of hope, I was very close to departing early. I did ultimately stick it out until the end, but admittedly, I walked downstairs to the Field Level and watched Dainty Jordan Walden retire the Mets in order in the 9th inning, and then sped off for the Subway.

The game itself was a bit secondary to the news of the Ike Davis trade to Pittsburgh. I'm reluctantly OK with it, as I, along with most Mets fans, probably have this haunting suspicion that as soon as Ike Davis gets traded he's going to turn into Chris Davis and start running off 40+ Home Run seasons. He may well do that, but in the majority of the past 3 seasons, he's shown little to make us think something like that's a given. Still, I'd always liked Ike; he seemed to have the right kind of personality for New York, and fans generally took to him pretty much from his Major League debut back in 2010. Even when he didn't hit, he seemed to carry himself with the attitude of someone who still felt he was worthy of a Major League role. And he did manage to turn a disastrous start in 2012 into a respectable season. It all comes back to the fact that the organization just didn't like him, for whatever reason, and once that happened, he was done here. They would keep smearing him and burying him until they got rid of him, and now they've finally gotten rid of him, so I hope they're happy. For all we know, the second half of 2012 could have been the anomaly. Or maybe the change of scenery will spur him on to better things. Either way, there was only so long that this tenuous Duda/Davis sideshow could continue before one of them had to go. Lucas Duda, who as loyal readers will know is hardly one of my favorites, has actually played reasonably well by his standards since being named the full-time starter, so he stays. That being said, he'd better get his shit together and fast. He's The Guy now, and the team has in no uncertain terms told him that by dumping Davis. For now, he'll platoon with Josh Satin, but he's going to get the majority of playing time and he's going to have to prove he's earned it. No more standing around watching strikes and no more plopping on the infield in an attempt to field a Ground Ball. He's got to look the part in order to play the part. Davis had the look, but he's no longer our problem. Duda's now got to prove that the Mets made the right choice.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Change Of Frequency

Loyal readers of this blog will know that I've been know, on certain days, to keep a portable radio in my office and listen to those occasional weekday afternoon games on the Radio. They may also know that I have, over time, become an avid streamer of WFAN programming in general. It's not necessarily because I have some great and deep affinity for Joe Benigno, Evan Roberts or Mike Francesa, it's more because I find the background noise somewhat soothing while I work. It was easy to get away with; for one, I had my own office space at my job, and in general, certain things, like the ubiquitous 1-877-KARS-4-KIDS commercials, would tend to ward off the riff-raff.

Still, it is, as I said, background noise. Even when I would have to pull out the portable radio for game broadcasts. Work is work, and it's got to be done, and more often than not, I'd end up tuning out those lazy afternoon games altogether, only paying attention when the intonations in the voices of Howie Rose or Josh Lewin distracted me (Ed Coleman was also good at knowing when to draw focus. Other fill-in announcers like Jim Duquette were useless non-entities). If things didn't go well, it stood to reason that an entire Mets game could happen and I'd have no idea what went on until I heard Howie Rose talk about being back with a recap in some desultory tone of voice.

I knew that there would be wholesale changes coming in 2014. For one, the Mets weren't going to be on WFAN anymore, after a breakdown in negotiations. I wasn't thrilled about this; although it meant very little as far as the Mets presence on the radio, since they'd just move to another station, I preferred keeping my radio on one station, so I could listen to the dulcet tones of the insane New York sports fans and hear the Mets without touching the dial. The Mets didn't move far, only from 660 to 710 on the AM dial, but a change is still a change. I also didn't particularly like that the Mets were replaced by this other team and their games were now pre-empting the afternoon voices with their voices, which I find highly unpleasant to listen to.

But it's all now a moot point. For one, the portable radio that I had in my office died an untimely death, as most cheaply-made electronic devices are wont to do. I could have anted up for a streaming audio subscription, but I couldn't really justify paying for something that I could listen to for free, and in reality, I only listen to so many games on the radio a season. To date, though the Mets have had multiple weekday afternoon games this season, I've gone without listening. But an even greater change happened when I got a new job, and moved to a new office, where, rather than an office space, I now have a cubicle (the tradeoff is worth it for a multitude of reasons not worth discussing). Unfortunately, this means no more radio games, though when you think about it, without a radio in my old office, I was kind of in the same situation anyway. Considering I have yet to hear a Mets broadcast on WOR (a station whose "Radio 7-10, W-OHH-RRRR!" jingle was one of those sounds of my youth), maybe it's not that much of an adjustment.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Can We Stay Here?

Maybe the Mets should just stay in Arizona.

It was a quick turnaround, after flipping the mostly lifeless D'Backs and inflicting a rare beating on usual Met-Nemesis Bronson Arroyo on Tuesday night, the Mets came out on Wednesday afternoon and won again behind Dillon Gee to sweep Arizona, go over .500 for the first time this season and finish what looked like a hellacious road trip with a 6-3 record.

It helps that, as I mentioned yesterday, the Mets were going up against a pitching staff that basically had its guts cut out before the season started and a team that just generally looked more and more befuddled as each game drew on. After letting up a single run in the 8th inning on Monday night, Met pitchers allowed the D'Backs offense nothing until Jose Valverde served up a pair of Home Runs in the 9th inning this afternoon, a fine accomplishment in its own right, but one made somewhat easier by the fact that the Met offense scored plenty of runs for the pitchers to work with.

Tuesday night, with the entire roster clad in the symbolic 42 jersey in honor of Jackie Robinson (but, of course, with every bit of respect to Mr. Robinson, I still can't look past a Mets player wearing 42 and not think of Butch Huskey—which I suppose is OK considering Huskey wore 42 in deference to Robinson), the Mets cruised. Jenrry Mejia basically got to coast through his outing after the Mets ran out to a 9-0 lead after 4 innings. Things started with Eric Young, Jr. reaching base to start the game, which kicked off a sequence in which the Mets jumped on Arroyo with a ferocity, mostly swinging at first pitch fastballs and ringing hits all over the ballpark. This generally isn't how the Mets have fared against Arroyo, but on this night, the hits kept falling, 12 in all. Young had 3 of those hits, and 3 more were had by, of all people, Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Nieuwenhuis had basically become a forgotten man in the Mets system. He was shoved out of consideration by flashier or more consistent players and left to languish in the Minor Leagues after barely batting his weight last season (his only noteworthy moment for 2013 being when he caused the downfall of Western Civilization). But after the Outfield Massacre on Monday night, it was Nieuwenhuis, and not the ancient Bobby Abreu, who got the call, and given the opportunity, Nieuwenhuis took it and ran with it, driving home a run with a 1st inning hit and following up with a 4th inning Home Run that keyed a 6-run rally, sent Arroyo to the showers, Kirk Gibson to the latrine and the game mostly to bed. Mejia left after 5 innings with a blister issue (fairly benign as compared to Monday's drama) and Gonalez Germen played the Carlos Torres role from there, closing out the game with relative ease.

Wednesday, Dillon Gee did most of the heavy lifting, throwing shutout ball for 7 innings and departing well before he could get himself into any particular trouble. By that point, the Mets had scraped out three of their five runs for the game, the first coming courtesy Anthony Recker's second Home Run of the road trip in the 2nd inning. Recker, who continues to play better than a backup Catcher, joined Lucas Duda as the only Met players with more than 1 Home Run. This, combined with his 13th inning lightning over the weekend and the fact that most of his Home Runs have come in similar key circumstances have led to some talk that maybe he ought to get some more playing time, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Anthony Recker's a great backup catcher, but give him 400 At Bats and he'll look like Omar Quintanilla. Nonetheless, he got the Mets started and chipped in with another rally-extending hit later on in the afternoon, and the Mets put the game away in the 9th when the D'Backs decided they'd had enough of trying to field the ball. Jose Valverde came in after not appearing since his Saturday night debacle and did his best to make things unnecessarily hairy, but the best he could do in that endeavor was to turn a 5-0 game into a 5-2 game.

So, now the Mets return home and have the high pleasure of getting to play America's Sweethearts, the Braves and the Cardinals, before Miami comes in, and they haven't exactly been a picnic for the Mets either. Last season, the Mets had this bizarre thing about winning on the road and looking stupid at home. I really hope this season doesn't hold more of the same. Especially since I have tickets to 4 games on this 10-game homestand.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Good And Less Good

One good way to shake off the general malaise caused by too many long extra inning games and a blowout on the West Coast can be to take the field against a team that's probably in worse shape than you are. Fortunately, the Mets found themselves in such a position last night when they went out and beat the Diamondbacks 7-3.

The Diamondbacks were, by some reports, a potential dark horse surprise candidate in the NL West. But multiple injuries to their pitching staff (including Patrick Corbin, who was expected to be their ace), combined with the hangover of their overseas trip to Australia have spelled instant doom, and Arizona has sprung from the gate with a whimper, pitching poorly and hitting equally as poor, and the result is more or less just what the Mets needed at this particular point in time.

The Mets, who have a history of rolling into Arizona and performing well (their 13-game win streak in 2004-2007 is the stuff of legends) came in this time reeling a little bit after too much Anaheim Angels. Fortunately, the Mets got to go up against Josh Collmenter, who wasn't supposed to be in the starting rotation for Arizona until things went haywire. The Mets jumped on Collmenter early and often and got some runs on the board in support of Zack Wheeler.

No one particular player stood out for the Mets offensively; everyone seemed to benefit from a trip to Arizona. Lucas Duda had 4 hits, Daniel Murphy and Eric Young, Jr. had two each, and the Mets had 13 overall, a far cry from the strikeout brigade we'd been witness to over the first couple of weeks of the season. Wheeler was the lucky recipient of this offensive explosion, and I'm sure it helped him relax, since he had his best outing of the young season, allowing 2 runs and pitching into the 7th inning en route to his first win of the season. Carlos Torres, who's been surprisingly reliable of late, picked up for Wheeler and carried the rest of the game home, a tidy enough effort to net himself a rare Save.

But, of course, since this is the Mets, there's always got to be some kind of downer to offset what was generally a good, positive night for the team, since 2/3rds of the starting Outfield managed to get hurt, leaving the Mets stuck having to trot Lucas Duda out to Left Field for a cameo appearance late in the night. Curtis Granderson crashed into the chain-link Outfield fence early in the game and banged himself up pretty good. He managed to stay in the game for a spell before the bruises caught up with him and he departed. Given his slow start, a day off or two to clear his head might not be the worst thing in the world. Of more pressing concern, however, is the injury to Juan Lagares, who's been the best thing going on the Mets to this point. Lagares came up with the dreaded hamstring pull running out a Fielder's choice in the latter innings. It didn't, at first glance, appear bad, but as we all know, these are the kind of injuries that you can fake your way through and then you end up with what happened to David Wright last season and you're out 6 weeks. So it's of no surprise that Lagares departed immediately, in spite of the fact that he tried to be slick and grab his hamstring while nobody was looking, like it was some kind of natural motion for him to make, but nobody was fooled. Annoyingly, he's probably headed to the DL (Late note: He is, indeed, on the DL, replaced by (trumpets) Kirk Nieuwenhuis).

It seems almost fitting that two Outfielders would go down the same night, particularly considering Chris Young is set to come off the DL on Friday, and also considering I'd laid out some particular thoughts as to whom should emerge in the Mets crowded Outfield situation the other day. The Mets, in one night, went from too many Outfielders to too few, and the replacements, which range from the recalled Nieuwenhuis to habitually creaky Bobby Abreu, are hardly palatable. A typically Metsian problem to have.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bad And Less Bad

Given that the Mets had flown cross-country after a Thursday night game in Atlanta and then managed to play two extra inning games on the West Coast, I suppose you couldn't blame the Mets too much for getting absolutely blasted on Sunday afternoon. The 14-2 pasting they received was, more or less, just one of those games that happens to a team that's gassed, although all the fearmongers are probably having a field day with it. The fact is, they were due for a true, first-rate stinker after walking a tightrope for a couple of games. Bartolo Colon got wrecked thanks to back-to-back-to-back Home Runs and everything pretty much went downhill from there. It's only my good fortune that I was out for a chunk of the afternoon and by time I arrived at home, the score was 9-2; the majority of the damage already done.

Long forgotten, then, was the fact that the Mets pulled their own asses out of the fire mere hours before, in a Saturday night affair that dragged well into Sunday morning on the East Coast. Their 13-inning, 7-6 win was more a stroke of good fortune rather than a great team victory. It would have simply been a good team victory had the game been closed out without any particular drama. The Mets got a Home Run from Lucas Duda, and a pair of key hits from Anthony Recker and, of all people, Omar Quintanilla, guys who seem to shine in Super Sub roles, and went into the bottom of the 9th with a 6-3 lead. Then, of course, Jose Valverde ran across his old nemesis Raul Ibanez, the game ended up tied, and an easy night turned into an endless, angst-y slog. But, against all odds, Scott Rice, Gonzalez Germen and John Lannan navigated their way through 4 perfect innings, long enough for Recker to finally run into a Matt Shoemaker fastball and hit it into the Orange County night for the game-winning Home Run.

The Saturday win was nice, and kind of helped take the sting away from the fact that they spit up the game on Friday. But, 24 innings in 2 games for an East Coast team playing night games on the West Coast isn't exactly a recipe for success, so as unwelcome as Sunday's debacle may have been, it can't really be considered a surprise. The best thing the Mets can do right now is to just pretend it didn't happen, shake it off and come out tonight in Arizona ready to go. A Major League team is probably much better-equipped to shake off games like this than we as fans are.

Then again, the Mets and D'Backs seem to have their own recent case history of absurdly-extended games, so maybe a trip to Arizona doesn't bode quite so well...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I've Seen This Before

A few times each season, the Mets have games like this: They get off to a nice start, score a couple of early runs and maybe tack a couple more on in the middle innings, in support of one of their starters, who's pitching a nice game. Maybe he's given up a run or two, but mostly it's been smooth sailing, and the Mets go into the back end of the game with a lead, somewhere between 2- and 4- runs.

Then, things start to go haywire. The starter generally runs out of steam without much warning, and before a reliever can get ready to come in, the tying runs have either been put on base or already allowed to score. So now, the Mets are stuck in a tie game, and in a desperate situation to keep the game even. What ensues is that there's a rapid parade of relievers that are brought into the game to pitch to specific batters and specific situations, just to try to keep the game tied. Usually, the relievers alternate between good and bad, and you can expect at least two relievers will be used simply to pitch to one batter. This is all combined with the hope that the Mets bats will get off the mat and score a couple more runs, but generally what happens is they've already gone in the tank. They will get a man on base, move him along and maybe even get him to 3rd, but usually there's a key strikeout involved and a pop fly.

The game almost always ends up going into Extra Innings, which puts the Mets at a competitive disadvantage, because by this point, they've burned through the useful part of their bullpen, leaving them forced to use one of their back-end relief pitchers for longer than they'd like. This works for an inning or two, as the pitcher walks a tightrope and weaves in and out of trouble, but eventually, the opposing team gets to him, he gets too deep into the stew and ultimately loses the game in some excruciating fashion, like a wild pitch, or a walk-off grand slam, or hitting a batter with the bases loaded.

Last night was one of those games. Things started off great, Dillon Gee was cruising along, Travis d'Arnaud hit a Home Run and the Mets seemed on their way to a nice win. Then Gee hit a wall in the 6th, J.B. Shuck tied the game with a Home Run before anybody could react to what was going on, the Mets exhausted their useful relievers just to extend the game into Extra Innings, and finally ended up with Jeurys Familia hanging out to dry, working in and out of all sorts of peril in the 9th and 10th innings before finally losing in the 11th when, of course, he wild-pitched the winning run into scoring position, ended up having to intentionally walk the bases loaded, and then managed to hit Hank Conger with a pitch to lose the game 5-4.

I know there's more to say about this game than to simply boil it down to 1 paragraph concluding with Familia did a bad job. For one, Familia did do a good job for the first two innings he was in the game, although he's beginning to strike me as more Thrower than Pitcher, which doesn't bode well. There were other things, like Gee's durability issues and the bewildering Curtis Granderson fan incident, but I fail to see how the intrigue to the game would have affected the outcome. Once the proceedings went past 1am and into Extra Innings, I knew things weren't going to end well. Especially when they were returning to Anaheim for the first time since this happened.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Winning Time

Generally, a lot needs to go right for the Mets to win a series in Atlanta, and fortunately, a lot went right for the Mets in the past three games. Even in the one game they lost, last night, they got off the mat and got some hits off "Mr. Unhittable" and made a lost game interesting at the end. Tonight, they played a game that they could have easily lost, but thanks to a pair of clutch performances from Juan Lagares and Eric Young Jr., and an amazing 4 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, they won a back-and-forth affair, 6-4.

I was out a majority of the night and missed the hot action, but some helpful text messages from a friend kept me abreast of what was going on, until I arrived home just in time to see Jose Valverde close things out with a surprisingly dominant 9th inning.

What I missed was a standout performance from Young, who managed to interject himself into the Outfield conversation after three rather good games in Atlanta. He peaked tonight, with 3 hits and 3 stolen bases, capping off a fine series where he stole 5 bases and managed to raise his batting average above the Mendoza line.

Young, lest we forget, did have a reasonably respectable season last year and did lead the league in Stolen Bases (though a third of his season was spent with the Colorados), and lest we forget, he has some position versatility, since he can play any Outfield spot (or at least I assume he can play any Outfield spot) as well as 2nd Base. It's worth bringing up because at some point Chris Young is going to come back from the DL and one can assume that he and his $7,000,000 contract will get every reasonable shot to play, and who knows, maybe he'll play well. Having 3 quality players for two positions (Lagares being the 3rd) is a reasonably good problem to have, and perhaps it's been pushing Lagares and now Young to play well in the early going this season. Or at least this week—can't really discount the fact that Young started out 0-for-16—these guys are playing for jobs.

Lagares, on the other hand, has played well from day 1 this season, and I'd have to think he's the decided favorite to take the CF job full time. The drawback to this is that should Collins name Lagares the full time starter, it leaves them shorthanded at the leadoff position. Young, despite his sabermetrically-challenged numbers, is the closest the Mets have right now. Lagares has hit like he means it, at least to this point, and although there's no guarantee that he'll keep it up, this start at least proves that he's capable of going on a good hot streak. Lagares also has either Young beat defensively, where he only had 15 assists last year and routinely makes highlight reel catches. This might be better known as the "Rey Ordoñez Corollary," wherein one particular player is so spectacular on defense that it takes away from his complete offensive ineptitude. Lagares isn't quite as putrid as Ordoñez was with the bat, but you get my drift.

The other wildcard here is actually Curtis Granderson. Granderson, who is, of course, the established, high-priced veteran, who to this point is barely batting his weight. You'd have to assume he'll heat up at some point, and it's also only been 11 games, but if this holds, not only will mass panic ensue from those of us still suffering from PJBSD (Post-Jason-Bay-Stress-Disorder), but would it force Collins to consider throwing Granderson into this Outfield revolving door, thus creating a 4-men for 3-spot rotation? It remains to be seen but I would have to imagine we all hope it doesn't come to that.