Thursday, July 31, 2014

Daily Rewind

The Mets stomped the Phillies on Wednesday afternoon 11-2 in an afternoon affair that was, as usual, at a rumor level for me since I was at work while it was happening. The 12pm start time for games is odd enough to begin with. I can't imagine what it must be like to be at one. On the one hand, it can't be much different from the classic 1:10pm game, but those are the kinds of games you can get used to. Plus, the only time I really ever go to a 1:10pm game is on Opening Day, or the rare afternoon on a weekend where I have nothing particularly better to do with myself. 12:10pm seems too close to to being prior to noon, and therefore being a morning start time. That only works if you're in Boston and it's Patriots' Day.

Fortunately, SNY does a wonderful thing and replays pretty much every afternoon game at around 7 or 7:30pm and sometimes truncates it so that I'm able to have some idea of what happened during the game. It also confounds Mrs. Mets2Moon quite a bit; she just assumes that I'm watching the game until it gets to be late and she wonders why the sun is still out in Queens. Lately, she has wised up and started asking me "Is it live?" when she gets home just to make sure.

This afternoon's affair, which I saw in the evening, consisted of Zack Wheeler continuing his string of fine outings, a happily recycled comment. Wheeler worked himself into the 7th in spite of not necessarily having his best stuff, and only allowed two runs. Fortunately, Wheeler was the beneficiary of an opposite field 3-run Home Run by Daniel Murphy in the 5th inning, which served to give the Mets the lead and more or less break the game open in one of those moments that could end up being replayed forever depending on how things break out. If nothing else, it's certainly a moment that makes a season in review program on SNY when you talk about key hits by Daniel Murphy.

Murphy's Home Run off of Kyle Kendrick—pitching against the Mets for the 237th time in his illustrious career—set the stage for more fireworks later in the game, among them a merry-go-round 7th inning rally that produced five runs on five separate RBI hits, the last one produced by Jeurys Familia of all people, who doesn't appear at bat often but apparently has acquitted himself well enough since he's now 2 for 3 lifetime with an RBI—better than a large number of regulars in Mets history—and one inning later the scoring was capped by a monster Home Run by Lucas Duda in the 8th inning, which much to everyone's delight has become a near-daily occurrence.

The win gave the Mets a series win over the Phillies, which is something they should be doing these days. The Phillies are old, creaky and primed to gut their team even further as the trade deadline is set to hit around 4pm this afternoon. The Mets might do something too, although I don't really have the sense that they're going to. They sit in a bit of a grey area right now, not quite contenders, not totally out of it, but not in a position to make a deal for the sake of making a deal or appeasing the fans. This has been a strength of Sandy Alderson, not being reactionary, and so I'd be kind of surprised if anything impactful was done by the Mets, at least for today. The Waiver trade deadline is still a month away so anything can happen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Get The Clippers

A better bad start for the still-bearded Dillon Gee got much worse after he left the game, but by that point, it seemed unlikely that the Mets were going to figure out a way to win this game anyway. Gee departed in favor of Josh Edgin, who's generally been patently awful against the Phillies no matter who the batter is, and Edgin continued to perform on the level, giving up a truly monstrous Grand Slam to Chase Utley that officially put the game out of reach. Gee's line ended up looking uglier than he probably pitched, but on the other hand, he's performed about as well as Edgin has against the Phillies over the course of his career too. One night after the Mets outclassed the Phillies, the Phillies returned the favor with a quick and forgettable 6-0 victory.

The Mets had no answer for Cole Hamels, which on the one hand is still kind of galling because it's Cole Hamels and he's a jerk, but on the other hand, he's still a quality pitcher and once in a while he's bound to get his act together against the Mets. Tuesday night, he did to the tune of 8 shutout innings, picking up a victory against a Mets team that he's performed about as well against over the course of his career as Dillon Gee or Josh Edgin has against his Phillies.

Not much redeeming to say about this game, other than I'll have to revisit the topic I brought up last time Gee started and got pasted in Milwaukee, which is that he's still sporting some stubble on his face. Gee's career arc seems to dictate that he's performed markedly better when clean shaven. I don't know about how he's fared against the Phillies, but I'd like to see some research into Gee's numbers vs. the Phillies when he's been bearded as opposed to when he's been clean shaven. I'd venture the guess that it holds to the form of Gee pitching better with a clean shave. What this means is that Justin Turner or Jon Niese or whoever's been handing out the shaving cream pies this season needs to go after Dillon Gee before he next takes the mound and get him with a pie, and then get some backup with a razor to chop off that moss and give Gee his mojo back. Just a suggestion.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Games and Names

Life in general, plus the All Star Break and some lengthy road trips had conspired to prevent me from going to Citi Field for over a month; my most recent game coming all the way back on June 24th when Oakland was in town. That night, Bartolo Colon pitched wonderfully, Travis d'Arnaud hit a 3-run Home Run and good feelings were abound as the Mets cruised to a lopsided victory, a game that I didn't realize until today was my 200th Mets victory.

Last night, my first trip to Citi Field since that night in June produced many of the same results, among them a wonderful outing from Bartolo Colon, who stifled the Phillies into the 8th inning, allowing a plethora of hits that didn't result in runs, a 3-run Home Run from Travis d'Arnaud, whose blast in the 5th inning was a thing of beauty, truly smoked out into the Left Field seats, and a 7-1 Mets victory over the Phillies that felt like a much larger margin of victory than the final score implied.

The game, my 12th of the season and—of some surprise to me—my 4th win in a row, got off to a flying start. I attended the game with a colleague from my former job, whom I've attended several games with in the past. However, many of the games he and I attended together were of the freezing/raining variety early in the past few seasons. The most pleasant weather—80˚ at game time—was in stark contrast to those nights. The Mets offense attacking A.J. Burnett for 4 1st inning runs was also in stark contrast to those nights. Both of these things were most welcome developments, particularly the runs. Curtis Granderson led off with a walk, Daniel Murphy followed by hitting an RBI double, and it was pretty much off to the races from there. Lucas Duda flared a single over the Phillies overshift, and a few batters later Juan Lagares finshed things off with panache, lining a 2-run Double down the right field line to put the Mets out in front 4-0.

The game pretty much flew from there; although Colon gave up 10 hits in his 7.2 innings of work, they were scattered about and mostly inconsequential. The Phillies right now look like a team that's old and tired, and their roster of cagey veterans slowly drifting out of their prime is indicative of that. Ryan Howard, once ferocious, lumbers around the field like late-model Cliff Floyd and somehow the artist formerly known as Grady Sizemore resurfaced with the Phillies, much to my shock.

The interest, then, turned to the people sitting around me, among them Greg from Faith and Fear in Flushing, whom I have read and corresponded with for years, but never actually met within the confines of Citi Field, and's Mark Simon, who provided my friend and I with multiple thought-provoking trivia questions (Most entertaining: The Houston Astros career leader in Batting Average is a former Met. Name him. This resulted in such answers as Jeff McKnight, Mike Hampton, Jeff Kent, Kevin Bass and Jose Cruz before the answer was finally revealed to be Moises Alou. I mused that a good hint would be that the answer holds a Mets club record of some note, but nobody remembers because of other things going on at the time. This produced an answer of Richard Hidalgo later in the evening, who does hold a club record, but not what I was thinking of).

The conversation shared over the course of the game ran the gamut of all things Mets, covering the sort of names and games I often feel like I'm the only one who remembers. It's always good to remember that there's others out there that have devoured the rich history of the Mets—whether it's been memorably good or embarrassingly bad—just as much as I have. One such topic involved a pair of Mets/Phillies games from back in 1990. As the Phillies mounted a 9th inning rally that went nowhere last night, some mention was made of Mario Diaz, whose most noteworthy Met moment was squeezing the final out when the Mets "Won the damn thing [sic]." This prompted me to note another Mets/Phillies game from that season, mostly noted for the bloody Dwight Gooden/Pat Combs brawl and the scandalous appearance of Kelvin Torve in #24, but also for the Phillies, 5-4 losers that night, outhitting the Mets 16-7. With the Phillies outhitting the Mets 13-9 and creaking their way into a 9th inning rally, both these games seemed apropos at the time, but then Vic Black emerged from the bullpen, struck out Ryan Howard to end the proceedings, and a happy, drama-free recap was enjoyed.

It is often the company you share and the stream-of-consciousness Mets Memories that can be discovered that make a game memorable. This game will be memorable for me for that reason.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Corner Turned

One of the more pleasant surprises that's come about for the Mets in recent weeks is the fact that Lucas Duda has finally woken up, started getting a little aggressive at the plate and begun to get some real big-time clutch hits. Friday night was easily the most obvious example of this; his 2-run Home Run in the 9th inning flipped the game completely. With the Mets having put forth a mostly lifeless effort for 8 innings against Yovani Gallardo and the Brewers, the Mets went out against old friend Francisco Rodriguez and lit into him with a ferocity they haven't displayed much of of late. In the span of 3 batters and 8 pitches, the Mets turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead that eventually turned into a 3-2 win that you can more or less say they stole from the Brewers, because they had absolutely no life whatsoever going into the top of the 9th.

The game had, up until the 9th inning, shaped up like another of those games where I'd have to sum up by talking about how well the Mets starter—in this case, Zack Wheeler—pitched, and how he did yeoman's work keeping the Mets in the game, but ultimately it was an effort made in hopeless circumstances. Wheeler continued on his recent hot streak, throwing shutout ball into the 6th, only breaking a sweat when Daniel Murphy made one of his patented spastic fit errors, yakking on a ground ball and then chasing it into the Outfield and making an ill-advised throw to 1st. In the 6th, Murphy gagged once again, letting a Ryan Braun grounder go through his legs completely, and in this particular instance, it ended up costing Wheeler the first run of the game. One inning later, Carlos Gomez took one of his 8-mile swings and hit a Home Run to make the score 2-0, and at that point, Wheeler was done for the night; his 6.2 inning effort was at times dazzling, but to that point not good enough to earn himself or the Mets a win. And that wasn't because of anything he did wrong, it was because his teammates couldn't get a hit off Gallardo and because Murphy had a fit of himself at an inopportune moment.

But then came the 9th, and in came dear old K-Rod, excommunicated from the Mets, shoved into a setup role with the Brewers, traded to the Orioles and then returning to the Brewers and falling into the closer's role by accident when Jim Henderson came down with a case of Being-A-Major-League-Closer-Itis. Somehow, this seemed like one of those nights when the Mets had a rally in them, and I'm not quite sure why I felt that way, and it seems I wasn't the only one who felt that way, and, quite fortunately, the first three batters in the 9th inning for the Mets seemed to feel that way as well. Enough was enough, let's get up there and get some hits, and that's what they did. First, it was Daniel Murphy, who hit an opposite field double to get things started. David Wright followed with the key at bat in the sequence, an at bat where he seemed to have a handle on whatever K-Rod was throwing him, like all those years being his teammate might have worked to his advantage. Whatever it was, it worked, Wright eventually got enough of a pitch to flair it out into Right center to score Murphy, and set the stage for the suddenly clutch bat of Lucas Duda, who perhaps a month or two ago might have taken two strikes before flailing at a slider 10 feet off the plate, but on this night was up there hacking at a first pitch fastball and slamming it out into the Mets bullpen for a lightning-like Home Run that gave the Mets the lead.

If I were Daniel Murphy, I would be taking Lucas Duda out to dinner for the remainder of the road trip, and perhaps for the first couple of nights of next week's homestand for bailing my ass out like that. But more than that, how about the fact that somehow, Lucas Duda has become a trusted power bat in the middle of the lineup? When the hell did that happen. He's more than proved that Alderson was justified in keeping him and dealing Ike Davis, and he's making me look rather foolish for flogging him for as long as I did, but I'll happily admit that I was wrong, particularly if he keeps this up. Very quietly, Duda now has a club-leading 17 Home Runs and 53 RBI, which isn't an eye-popping number, but considering how sparingly the Mets score, it's not a bad number, and a 25-90 season would be a delight. Moreover, the fact that he's now consistently hitting for some power is a much-welcome sight on a team where nobody seemed to step up and take on that role. Imagine how he'd do if he had a little protection around him in the lineup. Hint hint...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Clean Shaven

A lot has been made over the last couple of seasons about Dillon Gee's pitching results when he's bearded as opposed to clean shaven. His performances in general are better when he's shaved before the game. Early in the season, Gee sported a babyface and was off to a fine start until the dreaded lat injury shelved him. When he returned, he had one good start but since then, last night included, he's pitched rather badly and it seems that part of the problem is that Gee's still pitching with a little bit of moss on his face. This clearly doesn't work for him. He got lit up by a poor-hitting Padres team last weekend, and last night, the Brewers knocked him around but good, running out to a 6-0 lead after 3 innings and rendering the game completely unwatchable from there.

You kind of had a bad feeling about this game from the outset. The Mets did win 2 of 3 in Seattle, but they didn't exactly light up the scoreboard. They've gone about a week now without topping 3 runs in a game, only managing to win on the days where their starting pitching has been particularly great. However, this isn't exactly a recipe for extended success. Gee gave up an early Home Run to Jonathan Lucroy and then a series of long hits to Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, and Jean Segura, who's basically Carlos Gomez Lite, and before you looked up, the game was out of reach. The Mets had no particular answer for Matt Garza, who continues to be one of the more mercurial pitchers in the Majors, looking like a top-dollar pitcher on one night and a bearded Dillon Gee on other nights, but that's scarcely the concern here.

The Mets, as comprised right now, putting up 3 runs a night, aren't going to draw much excitement. Unlike most years, however, the farm system is currently rife with decent prospects at some key positions, which has created something the Mets haven't had in several years: Tradeable depth. For years, the Mets probably would never dream of doing something like dealing Daniel Murphy, who's proven himself to be the best Daniel Murphy he can be, sometimes making rather annoying hiccups but generally hitting modestly well at a premium position. But with no decent replacement on the horizon, what benefit was there for the Mets to deal him? Now, the Mets have players like Dilson Herrera, pilfered from the Pirates in the Marlon Byrd trade last season to push Murphy and, perhaps, make him tradeable for some sort of commodity that might provide more immediate help. That's not to say that Murphy should be dealt now, but that he can be dealt and the Mets seem to have a plan in place to replace him. It's just some food for thought.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hard To Imagine

In spite of the fact that yesterday's 3:whatever pm start time precluded me from seeing any of the game live, it did, in fact, allow me to see more of the replay of the game last night than I did of any of the other two games the Mets played in Seattle this week combined. I made it up until the 8th inning of the game before other activities took precedence; by that point I'd seen the story of the game, which was Bartolo Colon rather quietly and effortlessly setting down the first 20 Mariners that came to the plate, finally surrendering a hit to the 21st man, Robinson Cano.

It was mentioned that this was only the 5th time in Mets history that a starting pitcher had retired the first 20 batters that had faced him in a game. One such effort came just last season, when Matt Harvey had perhaps the single best game of his career to this point against the White Sox, a game I was fortunate enough to witness in person. Tom Seaver did it during his "Imperfect" game in 1969. Then, there were the two times in June of 1998 that Rick Reed accomplished this feat, both of which happened to be nights I was in attendance at Shea Stadium. Colon was the first Mets pitcher to carry a Perfect Game into the 7th inning on the road, and this, combined with the bizarre start time, may have served to ensure that this game is kind of lost in the shuffle when it comes to great Mets Pitching Performances. It also doesn't help that Colon unraveled slightly in the 8th, and eventually had to be rescued by the suddenly stellar Bullpen tandem of Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia in order to close out a tenuous 3-2 win over the Mariners. That's not to take anything away from Colon. When you retire the first 20 batters that face you in a game, no matter when it happens or whom your opponent is, it's still an accomplishment.

Colon's effort was backed by a minimal offensive output. The Mets scored a run early off of Taijuan Walker courtesy of Daniel Murphy and at some point other runs were scored but I can't say I remember how they happened. Somehow, the Mets ended up with 3 of them, which was enough to win the game. It would have been a bit of a burn if, after Colon had pretty much stuck the bats in the Mariners' ears all afternoon, they came back and stole the game. But that didn't happen, and thusly, almost 10 years after their first trip out to the great Pacific Northwest, the Mets came away with a series victory in Seattle, evening up their record on the West Coast to 3-3. That's fine and dandy for a West Coast trip, and certainly beats them doing something disastrous like going 1-5 and completely falling off the cliff, but if they're going to prove that they have some life in them for the remainder of the season, 3-3 against teams like the Padres and Mariners isn't necessarily going to cut it. Particularly since they're now leaving the land of Pearl Jam in favor of Jaegermeister and Bratwurst in Milwaukee. We'll see how this goes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Even Flow

For the second straight night, I failed to make it to the end of the late-night Mets/Mariners tilt way out in Seattle. Unlike Monday, when I got through one inning, last night I made it to the end of the 5th, which is a marked improvement, but still not enough to prevent me falling asleep without knowing who won the game. Only when I woke up and checked my phone did I see that the Mets had emerged victorious, their 3-1 victory marking the first time they've ever won a game in Seattle—granted, it's only the 5th game they played there, but still. Worth at least making a note of.

Jacob deGrom was the beneficiary of this particular win, and deservedly so. After fizzling out with a series of losses and no-decisions in games where he's pitched well, he's now started to turn those efforts into some W's, and all of a sudden he's starting to be a little less under-the-radar. After stifling the Mariners for 7 innings last night, allowing all of 1 run and 5 hits, winning his 3rd consecutive start, he now sits with a 4-5 record and a rather shiny-looking 3.01 ERA, numbers that could conceivably throw him into an NL Rookie of the Year crop that lacks a particular standout. And the more you think about it, you have to ask yourself, well, why not deGrom? Even at his worst, he hasn't pitched particularly poorly more than 2 or 3 times he's took the mound, and as he's gotten his sea legs under him, he's been brilliant. For the month of July, his numbers could rival pretty much anyone in the league that isn't named "Kershaw;" in 4 starts, he's posted a 3-1 record, a 1.73 ERA and struck out 34 in 26 innings pitched against 5 walks. For a guy who was sort of regarded as talented trade bait for the past couple of years, buried behind the big names, this is a pretty damn good statement that he belongs in the Mets rotation for this year and beyond.

deGrom did most of the job himself, only allowing a run on a Dustin Ackley double that nearly got really ugly when Daniel Murphy's cutoff throw landed in the disease-covered Puget Sound. On the offensive side, the Mets didn't exactly generate much in the way of fireworks off of non-entity Erasmo Ramirez (non-entity in the sense that he was called up from the minors to start one game and then promptly get sent back to the minors for today's starter Taijuan Walker). Travis d'Arnaud had the big hand in things when his line drive to Center did kind of a knuckle and sailed past James Jones, who made an ill-advised slide and saw d'Arnaud's hit sail past him and all the way to the wall for an RBI triple. Jones probably should have just pulled up and played it on a hop, or dove for the ball rather than slide, but I suppose when you play to the immediate left of Endy Chavez, you feel you need to try to be as flashy as possible—Jones got burned on this one and it cost the Mariners 2 runs, the one that d'Arnaud drove in and then d'Arnaud himself when Ruben Tejada singled one batter later. Lucas Duda hit a non-Lucas-Duda in the 8th inning—that is to say that his moonshot of a Home Run off of Tom Wilhelmsen was actually useful because it provided an insurance run as opposed to padding a safe lead. Jenrry Mejia finished the job in the 9th inning while I was snoozing away.

The Mets have but a few more of these late-night, West coast games this season. I know there's a trip to Oakland and Los Angeles looming next month, but for now, they're done with 10pm games. Today, a 3:45pm start which once again means I won't be able to see the game—not because I'll be sleeping, but because I'll be at work—but I'll be home to catch the replay so maybe I'll get to see more than 4-5 innings of today's affair. Hopefully, it'll be worth staying awake for.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sleeping In Seattle

I lack the general fortitude I had in my younger, sprier days, and as such a 10pm start time on a weeknight has become a bit of a dicey proposition for me, at least from the standpoint of my ability to make it through the duration of the game awake. Last night's game in Seattle was an extreme example of just how dicey these late starts are for me. As I'm still shaking off the effects of some jet lag, I managed to make it through the first inning of the ever-elusive Mets vs. Mariners game before dozing off. By time I woke up, the game was more or less over.

It seems, based on what I've read on the proceedings, that the Mets were about as awake as I was during last night's game. Though the Mets banged out 9 hits off of Roenis Elias (their second consecutive tilt with a crafty Cuban), one in each of the 9 innings of the game, but as usual, none of them were key, and their best chance at a key one—Travis d'Arnaud's deep drive in the 6th inning—was snuffed out by Dustin Ackley, who clearly has benefitted from having dear friend Endy Chavez as his teammate; his leaping grab was reminiscent of any one of Endy's greatest grabs during his Mets tenure. The net of all this was that the Mets marked the much-covered DavidWrightiversary with one of the more painfully boring efforts that seem to have pockmarked much of Wright's recent history with the team. It's not necessarily David Wright's fault; he's been whatever the Mets have wanted him to be, but without a decent supporting cast around him, Wright sort of sticks out like an island among the Lucas Dudas around him.

On the other side, there are the Mariners, a team that's suffered through their own particular wilderness, not having made a Playoff appearance since their 116-win 2001 season. They've had a rather Met-like arc over their recent run of forgettable seasons, but only now does it seem as though they've turned a bit of a corner. The Robinson Cano signing sort of brought them a bit of attention, but really, it's guys like Kyle Seager and Mike Zunino that seem to do a bit of their lifting on offense. Seager, who's one of these Jeff Cirillo-types that hits better than he looks, drove home a pair of runs and Zunino, a lunch-pail Catcher, hit a Home Run off of Jon Niese, who had a forgettable return from the DL in this eminently forgettable 5-2 loss. Something tells me that if I hadn't fallen asleep on my own, this game likely would have bored me to sleep.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Score Remains The Same

Sunday's Mets game in San Diego was the first game I'd had the opportunity to watch since returning from my European Vacation. I already had kind of an ominous feeling about this particular game, for several obvious reasons. The Mets had swept the Marlins going into the All Star Break, which finished off an 8-2 homestand and kind of got people feeling a little optimistic about the team. Coming out of the break, the schedule gods got cute and socked the Mets with a 10-game road trip to a few places they rarely fare well, among them San Diego, Seattle and finally Milwaukee, where they have won games once in a while, but have also had moments where they look like a bunch of horse's asses. Seattle, the Mets only go to once every 6 years or so (or at least it seems that way, a closer look reveals the Mets and Mariners haven't met at all since 2008 and only visited Seattle once, in 2005, where they were promptly swept). Then, there's Petco Park in San Diego, where the Mets usually lose every game 2-1.

Fittingly, the Mets nearly got themselves no-hit by the latest crafty Cuban Odrisamer Despaigne, got up off the mat and tied the game after Zack Wheeler pitched his ass off, and ultimately lost the game, shockingly, 2-1, on a Seth Smith single that went about 45 feet and somehow ended up winning the game because Josh Edgin fell off the mound and couldn't recover in time to make a play. The kind of ending that generally leaves most Mets fans either shaking their head or smacking their head in general disgust.

Despaigne pretty much tied the Mets up in knots for a majority of the day, to the point where I was actually beginning to think he was going to finish the job and throw the first no hitter in Padres history. But Daniel Murphy took care of that by doubling with 2 outs in the 8th, and David Wright, who very quietly has had a very un-David-Wright-like Season, snuck a single through the middle to tie the game. This got Zack Wheeler off the hook in the game after another fine outing in which he made one bad pitch, the Home Run that Yasmani Grandal lofted out, and his team gave him nothing in the way of run support. Those more optimistic among us might have believed that this rally would have spurred the Mets on to a win and a series victory to get the second half off on the right foot, but sadly that was not the case. Instead, it just set the stage for the Padres to win another 2-1 game at the hands of the Mets in typical annoying fashion, taking 2 of 3 from the Mets and putting that sinking fear back in the hearts of all Mets fans.

So, the Mets now leave the beautiful town of 2-1sville in favor of Pearl Jam, Starbucks and canned crowd noise...oh, wait. They're playing the Mariners, not the Seahawks. My bad.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Across The Pond

Wish me a hearty Bon Voyage, as the new Mrs. Mets2Moon and I will be off on our Honeymoon across the pond in Europe for the next week. We will be in a trio of non-Baseball cities, as we journey from Copenhagen to Stockholm to Paris.

This weekend's Mets games with the Marlins will be at a rumor level for me. With a 6-hour time difference, a 7:10pm start time takes place at 1:10am the following day in the cities I'll be visiting. Next Friday's second half opener in San Diego will hit at a crisp 4:10am Paris time. Needless to say, I won't have much to write about until I return. Therefore, I wish you all Adjö and Börk as I head off to the land of Köttbullar.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The 4001st Odyssey

After getting to the 4000th win in franchise History by winning the first two games in their series against the Braves, the Mets did themselves one better, winning the third game of the series for the 4001st victory in team history, their 4th win in a row, and the 3rd game in a row that they knocked off the Beautiful Braves by basically letting their pitching do the talking, backed by a bit of timely hitting.

Wednesday marked the return of Dillon Gee to the rotation after a 2-month absence. Gee's disappearance onto the Disabled list back in May was mysterious enough, since he kind of just happened into his lat injury, and then happened to re-injure it while rehabbing, and all of a sudden a 2-week stay on the DL turned into 2 months, and Gee's entire season, one which was off to a rather promising start, was kind of short circuited. No bother, though. Gee returned from the DL and looked like he'd been around all along, throwing into the 8th inning and allowing all of 1 run and 6 hits to the Braves en route to his 4th win of the season. Imagine if he'd been around this entire time. He'd probably be 6-6 right now because half the time he pitched, he'd have a game like this, but he'd get no run support and lose 3-0 after someone like Kyle Farnsworth gave up 2 runs in the 9th inning. Or maybe he'd be a 10-game winner already. It's not worth getting worked up over too much, but at least he's back and he's pitching well in spite of the fact that he missed a significant amount of time.

Part of the reason Gee was able to come away with a win was because a pair of guys who weren't hitting for a majority of the early part of the season are now hitting and making their hits count. For one, Lucas Duda, who's been perhaps The Ballclub's Official Flog for a few years now, has actually begun to show signs of life and get hits with men on base and men in scoring position. He did it a number of times over the past few weeks, and again last night, driving home the first run of the game with—perish the thought—a 2-out RBI single. Odd as it may seem, Duda is starting to round a bit into form as far as his hitting is concerned. He's not hitting for a ton of power, but he's starting to become much less feast or famine, which is nice to see. See, even I'm willing to admit that Duda's playing well, so he must be doing something right.

The other piece to this puzzle was Travis d'Arnaud, who's also been hitting at a steady clip since he returned from AAA, and he punctuated the scoring in the 7th inning with a 2-run Home Run that stretched the Met lead to 4-1, and really served as the game's turning point. d'Arnaud looks like he's finally found his swing in the Majors, and the results have been pretty obvious. He drove home the winning run last Friday against Texas, he's been driving the ball with authority and he's hit a few no-doubt Home Runs, last night's among them.

So, the Mets now have a chance to get the revenge sweep on the Braves if they can win tonight, behind Bartolo Colon. Oddly, you have to actually feel kind of optimistic about the Mets chances right now. They're not hitting a ton, but they're getting hits when they need to, and the pitching continues to carry the day more often than not. Still, it's a long way before they start sneaking up on anyone, particularly once they start to catch teams that aren't quite as kittenish as the Barves.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

In Your Ear

One night after ostensibly stealing a victory from the Braves, the Mets picked up on Tuesday night with a full-scale bombardment of the Barves and their hotshot pitcher Julio Teheran, ringing out 18 hits—11 off Teheran—and scoring in 6 of their 8 times at bat for the game to back Jacob deGrom's 2nd Major League win and the Mets 4,000th Major League win, a resounding 8-1 victory.

Whereas on Monday night, the Mets really had to show their insides in order to win the game, on Tuesday, they came out firing, stepped on the Braves throats and didn't let go until the game was well in control. Curtis Granderson set the tone by hitting Teheran's second pitch of the game off the facing of the Pepsi Porch, and one inning later, a barrage of 2-out hits started out by deGrom and punctuated by a pair of ringing RBI hits from Daniel Murphy and David Wright  had Teheran not only dazed, but indignant, as though the Mets had clearly gotten in his head. It didn't improve for him; 9th place hitter Eric Young Jr drove home yet another run in the 3rd, and after allowing hits to every Met starter, Teheran was gone in the 4th, a rare early night for Atlanta's de facto ace (you know, since God's gift to pitching Kris Medlen is out for the season).

Meanwhile, deGrom set out very neatly shoving the bats up the Barves' asses over his 7 sterling innings of work. deGrom hasn't pitched as badly as his record—1-5 coming into the night—and finally he proved it against a team that everyone loves to brown-nose. Throwing his won-loss record out the window, deGrom has pitched pretty damn well for a Rookie that's made all of 11 Major League starts. Though he doesn't have the hype of Zack Wheeler or the dashing good looks of Matt Harvey, it's been the muppet-like deGrom that's emerged as one of those "real deal" type-guys, sort of a modern-day Dillon Gee, who isn't going to get a ton of ink, and he isn't going to be the first name that rolls off your tongue, but he's going to be the guy that seems to pitch effectively and get the job done every time he needs to do so. That's basically what he's demonstrated so far in his Major League career, even if the results haven't always indicated as such. It's not his fault that the 8 runs he was backed with tonight were more or less the sum total of the runs scored for him in his first 10 starts combined. If you pitch well, you'll eventually win games and the more games you win, the more you'll get noticed. It may not happen for deGrom right away, but once he starts working up those Ws, people will begin to appreciate what he brings to the table.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


The Mets won last night in a game that really had all the trappings of a classic Mets loss. Think about it for a second. The Mets played a game in which Daisuke Matsuzaka weaseled his way in and out of continuous trouble through 7 innings against a Braves lineup that tends to look their best against the Mets (but in reality is kind of middling) only to have the entire game implode in the span of about 10 minutes in a disastrous top of the 8th inning where the Braves basically made the Mets look like Mets. A tenuous 2-0 lead that had been nursed into the late innings was gone, and now the Mets were staring yet another 1-run loss in the face.

But somehow, the Mets didn't lose the game. Instead of folding against Luis Avilan and the specter of Chokemaster Kimbrel in the 9th inning, the Mets, or more appropriately, Curtis Granderson stoned up and belted a tying Home Run that kind of came out of nowhere in the last of the 8th.

Still this seemed like more setup for disaster. Instead of simply blowing the lead, they were just going to tie the game only to extend things into extra innings so they could lose. The Mets had a golden opportunity to finish things off in the 9th after a controversial Instant Replay ruling resulted in Andrelton Simmons getting exposed for being too nonchalant and resulted in a) the Mets having 2 men on and none out in the 9th inning and b) Fredi Gonzalez doing his best Charlie Manuel "Indignant Fat Manager" argument routine until he was ejected. But instead of bunting in a situation that screamed for it, Terry Collins instead sent up Lucas Duda, which is tantamount to screaming that the bunt is off. Duda hit into a Fielder's choice, forcing the lead runner at 3rd and pretty much screwing up the entire inning so that the Mets didn't score and the game was headed into extra innings, where disaster generally seems imminent for the Mets.

But, again, there was no disaster, Carlos Torres came in and pitched just splendidly for two innings, while the Mets went down quietly against Shae Simmons (not Shea, more appropriate in these parts) in the 10th, but eventually rallied in the 11th, thanks to a Juan Lagares double and a 2-out RBI single from Ruben Tejada to win the game and send Tejada scampering across the Outfield while his towel-waving teammates chased him around. Yes, for all his foibles, Ruben Tejada now has authored the last two Mets walkoff wins with 2-out, Extra inning RBI hits. In both cases, Tejada ended up being the crowning hero in a game where the Mets were right on the verge of losing. In this particular instance, it's a big hit because the Mets were playing a team that swept them and really made them look silly last week, and now the Mets have the opportunity to punch back a little bit. I've said it before, but the Barves aren't exactly a team of world-beaters. The Mets just have had a bit of poor fortune to play some of their idiot games against them. But for a team that's in 1st place, they're eminently beatable. It's just a matter of time before they get exposed. That the Mets beat them Monday night isn't going to salvage the season for the Mets, but if nothing else, it shows that they have a pulse and aren't just going to continue to bow down to a bunch of paper tigers.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

For One Pitch

The Blah Blah Blahness of this game started early, after Jacob deGrom came perilously close to getting out of a bases loaded, none out jam in the 1st inning, only to have it all come crashing down on one errant pitch to Chris Johnson that resulted in a 3-run double and another sunken evening for the Mets. Once again, they failed to hit in any particular fashion as Julio Teheran finished off a particularly lifeless sweep in Atlanta as the Mets lost 3-1.

It wasn't so much that deGrom was victimized by his own bad pitching. He really only had one bad inning—the 1st, in which he threw 37 pitches and really got dinged to death by Braves batters—but the fact that he was this close to getting out of the inning unscathed before Chris Johnson just barely snuck one that eluded Eric Campbell (whose range lacks in Wrightness) and eluded Eric Young Jr as well so that not only did two runs score on what looked like a measly single, but a 3rd run scored and Johnson goes down as bashing a 3-run double that was the key hit in the game. Also, the Mets didn't hit, but, hey, that's nothing new.

None of this is anything new, I'm afraid. The Mets lost for basically the 473rd time in Turner Field, they got swept by a team that's only marginally better than they are on paper, and the gulf that seems to separate the Mets from anything resembling respectable seems to only be getting wider and wider. Now, they come home (home again home again jiggety jig) where they'll get a nice crowd for Fireworks Night on Friday and probably about 10 people the rest of the weekend. That's about what they deserve, I think.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Joyless In Mudville

The Mets hit two two-run Home Runs last night, one by Curtis Granderson and the other by Daniel Murphy. Rare indeed that the Mets would hit two Home Runs in a game, let alone a pair that generated all of 4 runs. Unfortunately, that was all the offense they generated in a game where Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up 5 runs to the Atlanta Braves, and therefore the Mets once again were hung with a loss in a stadium where they generally never win anyway.

The game was basically another one of those "same old story" efforts, where the Mets fell behind and never really got up off the mat enough to answer the Barves. If it wasn't Freddie Freeman doing damage, it was Overratedton Simmons or Tommy LaPizza or Mike Minor or someone else similarly annoying, and basically Daisuke Matsuzaka was kind of pinged to death over his 5 innings, and by time Daniel Murphy decided to stone up and do something, the game was ostensibly out of reach; his Home Run cosmetically turned a 5-2 loss into a 5-4 loss.

It's getting to the point right now where there's not much more you can say about the team that hasn't been said already, and writing blogs like this seem more or less like I could copy and paste whatever I wrote the day before and post the same thing over and over again. The Mets don't seem to want to make much of an effort to write a different story, so why should I? Perhaps it's just my sense of civic responsibility. Plus my scathing social commentary on the Mets often seems far too sardonic.

Another game tonight. That's about all you can say. They're guaranteed to play about 75 more of them, right?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Make It Awful

On the day of the passing of Frank Cashen, the architect that took the Mets from trash and made them golden, the Mets seemed to play a game reminiscent of the kind of play that typified the team Cashen took over back in 1980.

Zack Wheeler, who generally pitches well when returning to his home state, had another particularly strong outing against the Braves, allowing only 1 run over his 6.1 innings, but 5 walks ran up his pitch count and forced him from the game. Nonetheless, the Mets managed to scrape across a few runs for him; Curtis Granderson led off the game with a Home Run off of Alex Wood, and the Mets added on single runs in the second and 3rd innings, and with a 3-1 lead being turned over into the hands of a bullpen that's been pitching well of late, it seemed like the Mets might get their series in Atlanta off to a good start.

But the Braves, who remain in first place in spite of the fact that they're not an especially good team, rose up and did what a first-place team generally does and took advantage of the mistakes of their opponent. In what can only be described as a defensive meltdown of epic proportions, the Mets defense completely collapsed in the bottom of the 8th inning. Jeurys Familia keyed his own undoing by first allowing a pair of singles to start the inning, and then when luck happened and Chris Johnson hit a comebacker that seemed primed for a 1-6-3 Double Play, Familia alligator-armed a throw not especially close to 2nd base and everyone was safe. Tommy LaStella followed with a single to center that tied the game when Juan Lagares, normally so sure handed, overran the ball, allowing 2 runs to score instead of one. The nightmare continued 3 batters later, just as Familia seemed primed to limit the damage that had already been done, when Eric Campbell, filling in for an injured David Wright, gagged on an Andrelton Simmons ground ball, allowing the lead run to score and leading to more ass-kissing of Simmons' amazing abilities. Familia was removed in favor of mysterious Dana Eveland, who completed this debacle of an inning by walking Freddie Freeman to force home a run, although whether he'd walked or hit a Grand Slam, the Mets were clearly toast in this game.

This was the kind of game that's really typified the shit show that the Mets have been of late. We already know they can't hit, or at least they can't hit in situations of consequence, and they can't tack on to leads and prevent the opposition from coming back. This seems like the kind of thing I've been yelling about for years, but it just never seems to change. And the 2014 season continues to fade out into another year of oblivion, no different than the 5 seasons before it. And that's why its easy to look at a game like this in contrast to years like 1979 and 1980—the Black Hole of the Mets—particularly on the day of the passing of Frank Cashen. No figure was perhaps more key in leading the Mets out of that miserable era than Cashen, starting with drafting players like Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, but also making great, forward-thinking trades to acquire guys like Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, Gary Carter, Bob Ojeda and so many others that would eventually make the Mets a dominant force in the late 1980s. But poor Frank is gone, and he can't save the Mets anymore.

Sandy Alderson could be that same guy. But I often wonder where his head is as his scheme continues to produce underwhelming results.