Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Regular Eye-Coverer

I was expecting a night much like last night this evening, where I was out living my "other life" hanging around a Theater and I would get home much too late to see any of the Mets game. But it seems that the Mets and Phillies decided that I'd been a bit too deprived these past few days and extended their game much longer than necessary so that I arrived home in time to catch the last few lousy innings.

I got home just in time to see Hansel Robles whiz a pitch up around Cameron Rupp's eardrum, which was followed by Rupp pulling his "Big Man" act and yelling at Robles, and the benches emptying and people milling around the infield and Phillies trying to look tough and Mets trying to peacekeep and eventually everyone walked off. Robles was ejected, Collins was ejected and then I was filled in on what I'd missed.

I'd heard some unsettling rumblings about Yoenis Cespedes taking a Justin DeFratus pitch off his knuckles early in the game and being sent for X-Rays, which fortunately came back negative and saved us from a total fan base meltdown, and later Kirk Nieuwenhuis was hit by a pitch as well. Logan Verrett hit Odubel Herrera at some point, although when I think of retribution, Verrett isn't quite my first choice to deliver it. Nonetheless, it seems I'd missed a heated affair.

I'd also missed a sloppy affair, as the Mets roared out to a 5-0 lead and slowly but surely let the Phillies pull a 2008 on them and come back; it was 5-3 when I got home and by time that shit show of an inning ended the Phillies were ahead 6-5. This was because after Robles got ejected, the succession of Bobby Parnell, Dario Alvarez and Carlos Torres managed to allow 3 runs and get two outs.

Still the Mets had a chance to come back and when the Phillies brought that Dalier Hinojosa fellow in the game I thought their chances were good, based on my theory of "guys who wear #94," but that didn't happen. Instead of winning and keeping the pedal to the metal, the Mets lost their second game in a row in Philadelphia 7-5.

I mean, I guess I can't get too worked up because the Mets can't lose their Division title after having clinched it, but the last two nights they certainly aren't earning themselves any style points. This game ended up being close to 4 hours and the score was only 7-5, which ought to tell you what was going on. The Mets had, at loose guess 43 men on base in this game and most of them ended up stranded, and their pitching staff handed the Phillies an astronomical 24 walks, and when you have that happen, the resulting shit stew isn't very good. The Mets now have to regroup and come back in about 12 hours to play a game that's been unceremoniously moved up to a noon start time because of impending weather. So not only will they be playing on short rest, they'll also probably be playing in front of about a dozen people because they gave people about 18 hours' notice about the time change. I also don't think the Mets know who's starting this game either, since this is the now-vacated Matz slot in the rotation. Maybe at this point they've just decided to wing it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Pantheon Year

I didn't watch the Mets game earlier tonight. They lost to the Phillies and for the first time in quite a while the Mets lost a game and I really don't care. It doesn't matter right now. The Mets won the NL East last weekend and quite honestly I need to keep talking about it.

I have to think back to how I felt coming in to the season. I know I talked a lot around here about the Mets making a run at the Wildcard and even went so far as to pick them to go as far as the NLCS. But that certainly wasn't a prevailing thought among Mets fans. Among "experts," the Mets were a total afterthought. Nobody wanted to take them seriously. So, basically, the Mets job was to go out and make people take them seriously.

That's not to say that this was a pleasure ride. Sure, the Mets broke from the gate like a house afire and rode the wave of an early winning streak for as long as they could. But after losing pieces like David Wright and Travis d'Arnaud, well, you could see what happened. The Mets could pitch, that was never in doubt. But more often than not the great pitching was wasted behind a bunch of Quad-A bats and Daniel Murphy. Lucas Duda found himself an island unto himself and pressed into a number of bad habits as his strong finish of 2014 looked like a generation ago. Granderson ran hot and cold. Murphy kept being Murphy.

And nobody seemed to embody the struggles of the team like Wilmer Flores. I was, of course, all-in on Flores last winter, when everyone seemed ready to jump ship on him before he'd ever really had a chance to prove himself. And sure, maybe Tulowitzki would have been a difference maker but at the time the deal didn't make sense because we needed to see what the Mets had. This wasn't quite the right time to make a reactionary move and for years that's been Sandy Alderson's strength (and was Omar Minaya's downfall). At no point was a trade made simply for the sake of making a trade. Trades were made with a particular purpose. So Flores got the Shortstop job after being first told he couldn't play Shortstop and at times he played like he couldn't play Shortstop. But he also hit and in many instances came up with some key hits, and Game-winning hits, and a bit of pop too. However, as the offense stagnated, so did Flores and he eventually became about as boring as everyone else, and as the Trade deadline loomed and the Mets were starting to make some moves to try to go for it, Flores was deemed expendable.

We, of course, all know what happened from there. My Father passed away on July 28th, Tuesday, and totally flipped my life upside down. I was already having a pretty miserable week. On July 29th, Wednesday, Baseball was probably the farthest thing from my mind and I only clicked on the game to try to give myself a little bit of a distraction and I ended up walking into the eerie chaos of a lost game and a brewing saga. I had no idea a trade had even gone down until I heard Gary and whoever was doing the game with him talking about it and while the thought of getting Carlos Gomez was certainly exciting, I wasn't thrilled with giving up on Flores, or Zack Wheeler, who'd proved himself soft-spoken but emotional in his own right. Only later did I see Flores on the field, in tears over having his life, in the Baseball sense, flipped upside down. But the trade didn't happen. And when a trade did ultimately happen, Flores wasn't involved. And all of a sudden, Wilmer Flores turned into the Mets #1 Cult Hero. Here was a guy who worked his ass off to try to make the Mets a better team, and a guy who only wanted to be here. Not in the Majors. HERE. After years of being nothing, and players running away from here, now we had a guy who wanted to be here so badly he cried on the damn field. For the first time in a few days, I crawled out of my self-imposed cave and put on that Friday night game. And after getting standing ovations all night, there was Wilmer Flores coming up in the 12th inning and coming through with yet another game-winning hit, just like he'd been doing all season. And there I was jumping up off the couch and pumping my fist. Not to belabor the point that Flores' Home Run was the biggest hit of the season for the Mets, but that brought the Mets back and it brought me back. And from that point the Mets haven't looked back.

So, the crest of that wave from the Flores Home Run has brought the Mets here, to the 6th Division Championship in team history. It's kind of snuck up on everyone, probably because it all came together so quickly. Prior to that week, there was no particular indication that the 2015 Mets would come anywhere close to living up to the expectations I'd laid out for them way back in Spring Training. Even last week, it seemed like everyone was just waiting for something horrible to happen because after 8 straight seasons where basically everything that happened was horrible, we were basically conditioned to expect nothing less. But nothing horrible happened. The Mets kept correcting themselves, avoided long losing streaks and took advantage of the team behind them, the team they were supposed to be chasing, having a total, unadulterated meltdown. For once, the Mets were the team that came out of nowhere. Maybe for once, the Mets are The Hot Team. We'll find that out next week. But I said it two days ago and I'll say it again here: as strange as it may seem, we can't avoid the truth. 2015 is in the Mets Pantheon.

Monday, September 28, 2015

OK, Now What?

So, it's Monday and the Mets are still NL East Champions.

They also finished off a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday by winning 8-1 in spite of starting basically their "D" lineup. We've gone through plenty of "B" and "C" lineups this season, littered with names like Darrell Ceciliani and Danny Muno, but of course once things turned those days were over. You knew that sort of lineup wouldn't be seen again until the Mets were either eliminated or eliminated everyone else. Fortuitously, they eliminated everyone else, and so a lineup with Kevin Plawecki hitting cleanup, Anthony Recker playing 1st base and Eric Campbell playing period was met with more joy than anything else. Plawecki helped his cause with a Home Run, Dilson Herrera hit one too and the Mets stomped their way to an 8-1 victory.

Jacob deGrom made his return to the mound for the first time since his debacle of an outing against the Marlins close to 2 weeks ago and much like Syndergaard, the extra rest seemed to do him well. Granted, the Reds are mostly playing out the string, but they still have a lineup with 4 really good hitters and guys who don't quit and deGrom basically just cut through them, looking very much like the pitcher we saw over most of the season as he struck out 9 and gave up 1 run in his 6 innings of work.

But overall, this was a very ho-hum sort of game, and after several weeks of the Mets having won games and built up a lead for themselves in the division, these games were exciting. It was real easy to get locked in, even if the Mets were losing. Perhaps it's because nobody could really believe this was actually happening after the Mets just looked so inept for 4 months of the season. But then they made their trades and started winning games and shot passed Washington, and now here they are as Division Champions and with a week to spare, no less. I don't think it's a matter of the fact that the Mets haven't made the playoffs in 9 years and haven't been good in 7 years but more that it happened this year. I'm not sure anyone knows what to do.

Come October 9th, I think we'll have it figured out.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Break On Through

So, we can finally say it. The Mets are Champions of the National League East for 2015. It actually happened. I saw it. And I probably watched it about 44 times afterward. You know, just to make sure.

The clinching game was won on Saturday afternoon very much in the same spirit the team has played with all season, and that's been a full team effort. No one player stands out above anyone else. Yes, there are players with more flair and some lesser pieces but for the most part it's been the formula of a different hero each game. And then go from there. And even before the team turned it around in August, that's how it's been. After Friday's efforts by Noah Syndergaard and Lucas Duda, Saturday it was Duda, with help from Matt Harvey and an exclamation point by David Wright. And fittingly, it was Jeurys Familia on the mound at the end, striking out Jay Bruce and sealing the Mets first Division title since 2006.

A lot, of course, has happened since then, and this Blog has been around for basically all of it, since we first laid down our shingle in 2007. At the time you wouldn't have thought it would take 9 years for the Mets to get back to the Playoffs (and we can now use the "P" word) but it did. It was 9 years of a lot of bad, fandom-testing things. Collapses. More Collapses. Humiliating moments. Indignities. Being regarded as a laughingstock. Injuries. More injuries. Oliver Perez. Luis Castillo. NNNNEEY STINK!

The List could go on forever. History can't be erased, unfortunately, and these are still things that we as Mets fans will continue to live with. But without struggle there lacks ultimate joy in success and that's why this Division Title means more than most, probably. Yes, every Division Title in Mets history has come on the heels of some years of struggle. I can't speak to '69 and '73 since I wasn't alive but '86 had been brewing for a few years and '88 came right on the heels of that. '99 and '00, beloved as they were, were a total departure from the bad years leading up to it. And '06 was just a team of assassins built in similar fashion.

This 2015 team is different. It's mostly built from within, but it's taken a long time to come together. This is a team that's young enough to not know any better, but also veteran enough to have bridged eras. There's still 4 players on the roster that go back to the last game at Shea Stadium, and 3 of them haven't even come close to sniffing a Postseason. And sure, I've derided Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell plenty over the years but in reality they've been solid, devoted Mets the entire time and they deserve the spoils of victory just as much as anyone. And, of course, David Wright, the only player left from that last era in 2006; a baby in those days and now of course the guy driving the bus from an emotional standpoint.

Now, it's players like Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz who are like the Wright and Reyes of that former era, and it's these 4 that stand central as the key to this team's success. The Mets went through this season being able to throw a pitcher who could potentially dominate the opposition just about every night and that went a long way in not only winning games, but helping to bring the winning attitude that this team had been lacking for so many years. Not that it was smooth sailing every night but how long has it been since the Mets had pitchers that they sent to the mound and you always felt confident you were going to get a strong outing out of them? Even in those most "recent" playoff years, the Mets never had pitching quite like this. It makes all the difference in the world.

This, of course, is just one step towards the Ultimate Prize and the Mets will have a tough road ahead of them to get to that point. The Dodgers are likely the first team to get in the way, but the NLDS won't begin for them until October 9th, which may as well be 6 months away. But until that time, the Mets and most especially their fans will be basking in the afterglow of this Division Title, I can guarantee that. It's been a long time in coming and it's required an awful lot of patience, and an awful lot of trust. But we believed in Sandy Alderson and we believed in Terry Collins (and maybe the Backman people will finally shut up because there's no way he would have done the job with this team) and finally, the pieces came into place and finally, the Mets are once again a winning team. Whatever happens from here, 2015 is now a Pantheon Year, up there with 1969, 1973, 1986, 1988, 1999, 2000 and 2006 in Mets Lore.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Respite And Recovery

The Mets once again took advantage of the porous Reds pitching on Friday night, storming out to a 12-0 lead on the strength of three 3-run Home Runs, two of which were off the bat of Lucas Duda. While Duda seems to be picking the right time to start getting back to his old self again, the offensive fireworks took a back seat on Friday night to the pitching of Noah Syndergaard.

Syndergaard's season has gone more or less like most Rookie Pitchers. He's been somewhat inconsistent at times, he's been victimized by one or two bad pitches other times, and of course he's had moments where he's looked really, really good.

Last night was one such night where he looked really good, and like Duda this happens to be coming at the right time. I know that the business of skipping starts and moving people around in the rotation is under some criticism but it seems to have benefited nobody better than Noah Syndergaard. After skipping a start a few weeks ago, Syndergaard came back and dominated Atlanta, lost to the Yankees based on two pitches in bad spots and some other bad luck, and now this game against Cincinnati, where he basically beat them singlehandedly.*

Syndergaard's stuff has never been in doubt, because when he's on his game his stuff can take care of everything. But it's a matter of learning stamina and durability and consistency more than anything else. It's not so much a game-to-game thing because he can throw 8 innings and 110+ pitches without much difficulty. It's stretching that out to a season's worth of games (and maybe more than that) that is the concern. Come August, Syndergaard began to fizzle out with a number of lesser efforts where he was throwing too many pitches too early in games and teams were starting to hit him. But maybe he's now beginning to get back to where he was too. Certainly, he's proven himself worthy of being in a rotation in October; if he can keep this little string going and avoid those bad luck pitches then everything should be just delightful.

Meanwhile, yes, he still had to get through this game, and he helped his own cause with an RBI single in the 2nd before the Dudaworks went off, and as the Mets built their lead, Syndergaard got tougher, retiring 16 Reds in a row before allowing a 2-out Home Run to Brennan Boesch in the 8th inning. Then of course, we had to sit through the awful part of the Mets bullpen that needed 4 pitchers to get the last 4 outs of the game and extended things more than they needed to be extended. These pitchers don't need the further humiliation of having their names bandied about on snarky, second-rate blogs so I won't discuss them further.

So instead of a 12-0 whitewashing the Mets had to settle for a 12-5 whitewashing and that, combined with the Nationals continuing to trip over their own feet literally and figuratively, the Mets Magic Number is now 1 and even if the unthinkable happens and they lose their remaining 8 games, the worst thing that could happen is they end up in a tie. I have a feeling this probably won't happen, not so much because I think the Mets won't lose 8 in a row, but because I'm quite certain Washington can't win 9 in a row. Regardless, the Mets are now one thin game away from winning their Division, which is certainly more than I'd predicted for them this season. After everything the Mets and their fans have had to endure over the last 9 seasons, it's going to be quite a party.

*I say Singlehandedly because that's basically what he did. The Mets didn't need to score 12 runs in support of him. 2 would have sufficed. With a 1-2 run lead he certainly pitches differently to Boesch in the 8th inning and with a 1-2 run lead even if Boesch does hit a Home Run anyway, Collins probably brings in Clippard and Familia for the remainder of the game instead of the dregs of the bullpen.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Up Off The Matz

I'd surmised yesterday that maybe more than anything else, the Mets needed to go on the road and get the hell away from all the people and the talking and the distractions and just get back to business. Being at home can sometimes be the worst thing for a team, particularly if they're not playing well, because of media distractions, and fan displeasure and for the Mets it's been particularly magnified as they try to erase some of the ghosts of pennant races' past. Look at what being at home has done to Washington. The Nationals have played 6 road games this month and the rest at home and they can't get out of their own way right now.

The Nationals poor fortune, of course, has been the Mets gain as they managed to weather their poor play without losing much, or really any of their lead. And now they've gone on the road, knowing Washington had already lost to the Orioles, and they came away with a much-needed win over the Cincinnati Reds to knock another two digits off that ol' Magic Number, making it now lower than the Mets have been able to make it since 2006.

Though I was out most of the evening and didn't actually see any of the game until around the 9th inning, I was apprised on what was going on by a few outlets, including text messages. I knew that Steven Matz, in his first opportunity to face a team for the second time, didn't hold the Reds down quite as well as he did the first time around, but nonetheless held the line. He had his usual 1st inning problems when his nemesis Brandon Phillips drove home an early run, but after that he settled down. The Mets got him a lead in the 3rd inning thanks to key hits from Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda against Josh Smith, who oddly also opposed Matz in that first game. But Matz tired in the middle innings and the Reds started to hit him around a little bit, so that by time he'd departed the game after 5.2 innings, he had allowed 10 hits and the game was tied 3-3.

But once again this seemed to matter little to the Mets. Facing Manny Parra in the 7th inning, the Mets bounced back and scored another quick 3 runs, with the same cast of characters writing the script. Daniel Murphy, who after so many seasons of playing on losing teams combined with the fact that he's Daniel Murphy looks like he's about to jump out of his skin every time he gets a hit, drove home the lead run with a triple. Yoenis Cespedes, who seems to be coming back to life, singled him home. Later, Lucas Duda, who also seems to be coming back to life, doubled home Cespedes. 3-3 then very quickly became 6-3. Although Hansel Robles had a bit of a Jay Bruce problem in the 8th inning and a fellow by the name of Jumbo Diaz struck out the side in the 9th inning, Jeurys Familia notched his 42nd Save with a clean 9th inning, the Mets won the game 6-4, and coupled with the Nationals again being unable to solve their own problems, everything was once again right with the world.

In 2007, I did a Magic Number count here and stopped after 7 because things were getting out of hand and I felt I needed to do something to try to reverse the karma. That didn't work. This year, I and I think most Mets fans have been too nervous about jinxing something. I haven't counted down anything, I think I've barely said the "P" word and the one phrase that I think Mets fans have been saying almost on autopilot has been "I don't want to get ahead of myself..." But, at this point, it may be too late to turn back now. The Mets have 9 games left and need to win 3 of them in order to wrap this up, or, some permutation of wins and Washington losses that totals 3. Odds are this is going to happen now. But I'm still not too comfortable with admitting that just yet.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ill-Timed Blues

Were the Mets in a more precarious position, and were the team that's in pursuit of them possessive of more intestinal fortitude, maybe I might get more worked up about this homestand that's now mercifully ended. After playing dominant baseball at Citi Field for the first half of the season, the Mets have slowed their roll at home, and this has culminated in what was by far and away their worst homestand of the season, where they won 3 of 9 games, and yes, three of them were the stupid Subway Series games, but the other 6 were against teams they really should have handled, and they didn't.

I still can't realistically slip into panic mode here, if only because while the Mets have had issues over the past week, Washington has shown no signs of breaking through the door the Mets have ever-so-slightly left open for them. While the Mets were slogging through their game against Atlanta, the Nationals were trying to ride Max Scherzer to the death against Baltimore and ultimately Scherzer bit the dust first, allowing a backbreaking Home Run to Manny Machado on his 122nd pitch of the night. Thus, for the second night in a row, while the Mets looked really lousy against a really lousy team, their poor play was of no consequence as they lost no ground, and knocked two more digits off their magic number.

That being said, it's still not so great to see the Mets playing so poorly at this time of year. Yes, teams will run hot and cold and quite honestly, the Mets were on an unsustainable hot streak. Much like at the beginning of the season, when they ran off 11 wins in a row and looked like the best team in Baseball, they eventually fell back to Earth and regressed to the mean. When they played half asleep for two months, they also weren't quite as bad as they looked. The truth lies somewhere in between. No team is immune; the Cardinals and Royals have looked pretty bad over the last week or two as well and they're both cruising into the Postseason.

Still, you'd rather see the Mets play better at home against a dead team, and it's kind of annoying when their best player, who granted has killed the Mets a thousand times (as opposed to the ten thousand times Larry stuck it to us), comes off the bench and basically singlehandedly beats the Mets. I've had no shortage of unkind things to say about Freddie Freeman (although for what it's worth everything I've read is that he's a lovely person) you can't say he's thrown in the towel. But what he did last night was truly absurd and really shouldn't have been allowed to happen. But it did.

So, the Mets now go on the road for their final road trip of the season, and actually this is probably a good thing for the Mets right now. For whatever reason they have this weird thing at home sometimes (and even with that thing this is their most successful season at Citi Field to date) and going on the road seems to help them clear their heads and band together. Who knows.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Idiot Time Revisited

As the Mets were in the midst of causing me to have a nervous breakdown in September of 2008, I deemed the final two weeks of the season "Idiot Time." Idiot time is what happens when the Mets lose a game to a team they should be stomping and then the Manager and the players give interviews after the game where they're making uncomfortable jokes and trying to act as though everything's great. They play like idiots and then they act like idiots. Idiots idiots idiots.

For as much as I thought the Mets were beyond this sort of stuff now, because it's a new regime and a totally different roster, they did a really good job of making it seem like it was 2008 on Tuesday night. Logan Verrett got bombed out of the building, the hitters couldn't solve Matt Wisler, the Mets lost and Terry Collins gave a jovial postgame conference where he did everything short of referring to himself as Charlie the Tuna.

I'm trying to not let these things bother me too much because this is a different era, and the team that's in pursuit of them still has a hard time getting out of their own way and is running out of time to catch up, but the Mets aren't doing a particularly good job of putting this thing away. Nor are they doing a good job of inspiring confidence if and when they do wrap this up.

Right now, Tyler Clippard is taking a lot of heat because he gave up two key runs in the 9th inning, but I don't think this is really about Clippard. Clippard shouldn't have been in the game altogether. Clippard still needs to be resting that "sore back" or "sore neck" that he has for another week or so and let the other guys negotiate this stretch. But he's a very convenient scapegoat here. Really, the issue is that the Mets offense, which was carrying the team for weeks, stopped hitting. Granted, they were generating runs at an unsustainable pace and they were guaranteed to come back to Earth, but it doesn't help that basically everyone has gone cold at once. It can make a team look rather pedestrian when that happens.

I wouldn't go so far as to say the Mets are playing tight because for the most part they don't look tight. They're making the same dopey mistakes they usually make; it only causes more concern because, as I said, it's idiot time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

That's Much Better

In the 1st inning on Monday night, the Mets loaded the bases with nobody out. Perhaps two weeks ago an extended rally was certain, particularly with the team facing the completely moribund Braves. Now that the air has seemingly been let out of the Mets, it didn't seem like such a guaranteed proposition. Lucas Duda popped out for the first out. Travis d'Arnaud followed by hitting what looked like a sure Double Play ball right to Adonis Garcia at 3rd. I groaned, because at least that's what I figured would be the case. But Yoenis Cespedes slid hard into 2nd and took Daniel Castro out of the play, allowing d'Arnaud to reach and Curtis Granderson to score.

Lost in this play was Daniel Murphy, who had been running from 2nd to 3rd on the play and pulled up to try to avoid getting tagged out. However, Murphy then apparently decided he'd had enough of this and turned towards second to watch the play, as opposed to doing his job and continuing to run to 3rd. By time it dawned on him that he probably should have done that, it was unfortunately too late as Garcia threw back to Overratedton Simmons and Murphy was tagged out to end the inning, a rather odd but perfectly Murphian 5-4-6 Double Play.

In the 3rd inning, Jon Niese, who by this point had retired the first 8 Braves to face him, all on ground balls, walked Shelby Miller, the opposing pitcher. This was bad enough, but Shelby Miller, hitting .059 on the season is clearly a lousy hitter even for a pitcher. Michael Bourn followed by hitting a clean single through the right side. Castro followed by grounding to short, but Wilmer Flores' throw was a little wide and pulled Lucas Duda off the base at 1st and Castro was aboard on the error. By now, you probably had a good sense of where this was heading. Niese has made a career out of letting these minor irritants snowball into full-blown bloodbaths. This season, it's probably happened to him every other time he's taken the mound. Freddie Freeman, who was due for a good Met-killing moment, was coming to the plate. Everything was once again about to go haywire.

But it didn't. Freeman hit a rope to center that kind of knuckled a little bit, but Cespedes caught the ball and the Braves were turned away.

The Mets, in addition to their ill-gotten 1st inning run, had every opportunity to run Shelby Miller out of the building. Michael Conforto hit a Home Run in the 2nd inning, another opposite-field shot, as his power display continues to impress. Miller then came about as close to completely unraveling as you can, but the Mets ultimately let him off the hook. He walked Niese, walked Granderson and was honing in on 60 pitches in the 2nd inning. For Miller, a good pitcher, this season must be so demoralizing. He hasn't won a game in what, 22 straight starts? Somehow, he sucked it up and got through 6 innings, which is a credit to him.

So, Niese survived his attack of himself and managed to make it through 6 innings, although I think he may have been pre-emptively removed as he'd only thrown 87 pitches. Then again, with Niese, you try not to press your luck. Addison Reed threw a clean 7th inning. The Mets doubled their lead when Murphy double home 2 runs and remembered to keep running until he reached his intended base. Tyler Clippard returned to the mound with a mostly uneventful 8th inning (if you consider a hit and two Wild Pitches uneventful) and Jeurys Familia, though not in a Save situation, closed out a sanity-saving 4-0 victory.

This was my 20th game of the season at Citi Field, a lofty number that I haven't reached since 1999, and for those 20 games, this is the 13th the Mets have won. There becomes less and less to say about these games as the days wind down because basically, either the Mets win or the game stunk. Fortunately, the Mets won. The crowd seemed partially into things, which was OK. Last Monday, the game I was at was basically amateur hour because I found myself sitting around people that weren't paying attention to the game altogether. There were also about 12,000 fans there and this was a relevant team playing a relevant game. Of course, last week, the Mets were playing the irrelevant Marlins. Last night, the crowd was a bit heartier, even though they were playing the equally irrelevant Braves. I wonder if the fans are finally starting to develop a bit of a sense of urgency here. Lord knows the Mets could use the extra energy.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Feeling Surly

Given everything that's been going on and going haywire for the Mets lately, you'd think that the team had either just blown a 7-game lead or, worse, playing out the string on another 74-88 season. It's enough of a distraction when you're focusing on a pennant race and you have your ace pitcher's meddlesome agent cocking up the team's mellow. Add The Biggest Game In The Galaxy against that other team from the same town and, well, it seems like a recipe for disaster.

For 5 innings, on Sunday night, everything was going wonderfully. Matt Harvey was pitching great and looked like he could have stopped the Yankees cold for another dozen innings if he needed to. His location wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, not that anyone really noticed, but all things considered, he looked great. But, of course, we all knew that turd in the punchbowl was going to come up, and when Dan Sveum interviewed Terry Collins in the 4th inning, Collins pulled no punches in saying that Harvey was done after the 5th.

And, of course, everything went to shit from there.

Collins, I'm sure, had a set lineup of how he wanted to get through the remainder of the game and maintain his lead, which was slim at 1-0 and probably should have been more since C.C. Sabathia was ripe for the taking all night. Hansel Robles got the first call, and his first batter, Jacoby Ellsbury, hit a ground ball behind second base that Daniel Murphy picked and probably should have put in his pocket. But, of course, this was the perfect Daniel Murphy storm, because with the whole world watching, Murphy tried to be a hero and bare hand the ball and throw in one motion. And, of course, the result was that Ellsbury ended up on 2nd. Fire Hydrant Head followed and his bunt was fielded by Hansel Robles, and what ensued was basically the exact moment I knew the Mets were screwed. Robles fielded the bunt cleanly, but much like Murphy, Robles decided HE needed to be a hero and instead of taking the sure out at 1st base, he wheeled and threw to 3rd base. This play probably works about 1 in 50 tries, and that's when it's a force play at 3rd. When it's a tag play, well, you do the math. Either way, you know what happened, and from that point forward everything was one long nightmare.

I've sort of tried to avoid reading anything beyond a recap of the game, but even that seems to take a dig at basically everyone involved in this Harvey mess. I'm tired of hearing about it but it's one of those stories that just isn't going to go away, particularly as the season has dwindled down to its final 13 games and nobody knows what will happen from there. The fault lies with Scott Boras. He's the one who made this whole thing public and I'm sure he wanted it that way. Now he and Harvey get all the attention and the Mets look like schmucks.

Well, everyone on the Mets did a fine job of looking like a schmuck tonight, probably everyone except for Harvey since he did his job, but nobody else did theirs. The best part, of course, was that this was in front of a National TV audience so everyone got treated to one more episode of "The Mets Look Like Schmucks" in eye-popping HD.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

You're All Pains In The Ass

After a nice, solid win over the Yankees on Friday night, the Mets fell back to earth on Saturday as the Yankees reared their ugly heads and took advantage of ostensibly the two bad pitches Noah Syndergaard made all afternoon in pulling off a Subway Series-evening 5-0 victory on Saturday afternoon.

The game had all the makings of disaster, and not simply because it was a Subway Series game in an instance where the Mets had to be riding high. First of all, you knew it was trouble when you had to put on FOX to watch the game. FOX, over the years, has abandoned any sort of substance in their Baseball coverage in favor of glamour, which is why the Mets have only been on FOX twice this season. You know, because they're not sexy enough for FOX. They would have preferred to pretend they didn't exist at the All Star game except that Jacob deGrom forced them to acknowledge the team. Otherwise, they get noticed because they're playing a "Marquee" team, not because of their own exploits. Even though they're a 1st Place team. Even though FOX may end up eating their words when the calendar flips to October.

But I digress. Unfortunately, the Mets have this annoying habit of looking like asses in front of National audiences and that sort of happened to them today. A look deeper within the game reveals that they were simply a little unlucky, but if you're Joey Bagodonuts sitting on your couch with your Bud Light and Dorito crumbs on your shirt, with your two kids with oversized Mike Trout/Bryce Harper/Baseball Jesus jerseys covered in chocolate ice cream stains, you watched this game and thought "DERP DERP DERP METS SUCK HA HA." That, as far as I can tell, is the typical FOX audience.

The Mets were unlucky in this game. They were unlucky from the first batter, when Jacoby Ellsbury got jammed by Noah Syndergaard and floated a little dunker over 2nd base that fell in for a hit. Brett Gardner, who the more I see him the more I think he's just a taller Shane Victorini and he needs to be hit in the ribs repeatedly, did the exact same thing. Jam shot over 2nd for a hit. Syndergaard was making his pitches and he got ahead of Carlos Beltran 0-2 but then he just missed his location with a fastball, and it caught too much plate, and Beltran golfed it into the seats. Just listening to that happy-talking schmuck Matt Vasgersian's call, "And it's 3-0 YANKEEEEES!!!" put me in a foul mood. Why not just put on an entire Yankee uniform and make sure they show you in it in the booth before the game if you're going to pull crap like that. John Smoltz, who at least is sort of respectable, looked like he wanted no part of having to sit next to that clown but he had to suck it up, I guess, because we all gots to get paid somehow (fortunately, bow-tied jackass Ken Rosenthal wasn't at the game, I suspect if he was he would have spent the entire afternoon talking about how "the Mets haven't beat a team with a winning record since 2008" or something similarly inane).

So, yeah, that took me out of the game. Then, the Mets singled Michael Pineda to death but couldn't drag themselves back into things, and in the 6th, Syndergaard again missed on a pitch to Mr. Morality that resulted in another Home Run, and things were pretty much toast from there. Sure, the Mets loaded the bases in the 6th and loaded the bases in the 9th, but since the Yankees were bringing in Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton, Goose Gossage, John Wetteland and The Great Rivera from their bullpen, the game was already over. Or at least that's what we were told by FOX.

Perhaps I take these things a little too personally, because this sort of game kind of wrecked what was otherwise a peaceful Saturday for me, but then again, I'm kind of tired of the Mets being treated like Baseball's armpit. Have I mentioned that this is a 1st place team? Nobody seems to want to give them any kind of credit and, honestly, I've had enough. If I were a player on the team, I'd have had enough too. The best way to stop it, however, is to go out and stick it in their ears. The Mets didn't do that today, but they'll have more chances.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Hyperbolic Chamber

I've dropped several barbs here and there about just how much it bothers me that the Mets have to play the Yankees now, at this time in the season when these teams should be worrying about their own business and not worrying about making some sort of weird statement and trying to "take back the city." The Subway Series is a charming little diversion in the midst of a long season that should be held in June or July, when it's really hot out and nobody cares.

But, the schedule gods decided to throw everyone a little shitburger here in mid-September and scheduled the second half of the Subway Series here. In the grand scheme of things, no, it doesn't matter very much because at this point the Mets just need to pull the Baseball equivalent of running out the clock and just win enough to offset whatever Washington does until eventually they run out of games to make up their deficit. Still, having to play the Yankees while doing this isn't helpful, because the Subway Series games are always played under this weird microscope where more pressure is placed on the players than normally occurs and the fans become especially stupid.

Nonetheless, as much as I dislike it, the games must go on. And in an instance where the Mets just have to shut up and win games, they shut up and won the game on Friday 5-1, behind a solid effort in the pressure cooker from Steven Matz. Matz once again had a hard 1st inning, when the Yankees scored their lone run, but eventually he settled down and gutted his way through 6 innings, giving up 7 hits and striking out 4. Lucas Duda tied the game with a 2nd inning Home Run off of Maa Tanaka, Daniel Murphy gave the Mets the lead in the 6th with another Home Run, and in the 7th, Juan Uribe did what he usually does and come up with a big hit, this time with a pinch hit Home Run to extend the lead.

These were all quite nice but perhaps most useful were the bridge innings put in by Hansel Robles, who's really come on strong down the stretch as a serviceable arm, and Addison Reed, who pitched the 8th inning as Tyler Clippard was out with a "sore back (or the need for about 4-5 days of rest and not pitching)." Jeurys Familia had a rather scary 9th inning, as the Yankees loaded the bases on about 40 feet worth of hits and a walk but he eventually finished the deal, getting annoying Brett Gardner to fly out and Franch Headley to strike out to end the game.

All in all, this actually wasn't a particularly exciting game, start to finish. 5-1 games usually aren't. Obviously, because it's the Mets and Yankees and the Subway Series Hype Machine was well in play, things get blown up to be a little more than they are. Steven Matz pitched a good game and was the winning pitcher. Since it's the Subway Series, Steven Matz is now a Big Game Pitcher who comes through with a clutch performance. Lucas Duda lights it up when the lights are brightest. Juan Uribe gets...well,  Juan Uribe gets big hits whenever he wants, it seems, Subway Series or not. But that's the point. As much as we want these to be "just another game," it never will be. When something big happens in one of these games, it's remembered forever whether we want to remember it or not. And that's why I don't like that the Mets have to play these games now, at this time of the year. It's a distraction, and right now the Mets don't need an unnecessary distraction. If that wasn't bad enough, Saturday's game is the FOX game of the week, which means we're going to be treated to an afternoon of Stepford Baseball, and then, of course, Sunday's game will be The Biggest Game In The Galaxy on ESPN. Trust me, I know the Mets to a man could care less, and maybe it's good preparation for what's coming up, but Mets and Mets fans need to worry about the Mets winning, and not the Mets beating the Yankees in mid-September.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Equal Opportunity Annoyance

It's no secret that the Marlins raison d'etre has always been to be a pain in the ass. They've been doing it for years indiscriminately. Didn't matter whether the Mets were good or not, they were always being dogged by the Marlins. And now, the Mets are good, and guess what?! More Marlins. The Mets have lost 5 games so far in September. 4 of the 5 have been against the Marlins. The Mets won Monday, fortunately, because I was at the game and lord knows the sort of venom I'd be spewing if I'd gone to another Mets/Marlins game in September where the Marlins did something stupid and won. But the Marlins came back and beat the Mets badly on Tuesday, and then just as badly on Wednesday.

Whereas Tuesday's loss was an outright bombing, last night was sort of a slow, sinking death for the Mets. Bartolo Colon started and pitched reasonably well, only giving up a pair of solo Home Runs to Martin Prado and J.T. Realmuto, because, well, J.T. Realmuto is basically a more irksome version of Wilson Ramos, and Prado kills the Mets no matter what team he's on. In the 6th, Dee Gordon, who continues to bat .973 against the Mets this season, doubled, moved to 3rd on a Marlins' Special by Prado and then scored when Justin Bour, just back from the Kid Rock concert, hit a Sacrifice fly. Colon was done after that and the game didn't improve. Adam Corbett or Adam Conley or whoever he was shut the Mets down, which bothered me for two reasons: 1) Because he was a Marlin, and 2) because I don't like it when the Mets get beat by a pitcher who looks like he should be on his way to 3rd period Algebra.

Well, whatever. The Mets still hold a sizable lead over Washington, and more importantly, the Mets don't have to play any more games against the Marlins this season. That's probably the best news of the night, all things considered. The Marlins, in fact, now go to Washington for 4 games. I'd like to think that the Marlins will continue to be their usual annoying selves and screw things up for the Nationals just like they've screwed things up for the Mets. Unfortunately, the Mets will go from playing one annoying team to playing another annoying team this weekend as well, but their next opponent is a whole other kind of annoying than the Marlins are.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Marlin Thing To Do

In the first inning of last night's game, Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler petulantly threw at Yoenis Cespedes. You really didn't have to read between the lines too much. I'm sure the Marlins were all in a snit because Cespedes hit a ball into orbit on Monday night and then took his sweet time rounding the bases. And, well, getting their panties in a bunch is a very Marlins thing to do. They've been acting this way for years and I guess it's sort of tolerated, because when you're a joke of a franchise owned by a second-rate con artist who sniffs his own underwear, well, you can't be taken too seriously.

On the flip side of all this, the Marlins are in fact really good at one thing: Being an incredible pain in the ass when seasons come down to crunch time. In reality, the Mets should have fed Koehler his lunch last night, but Koehler kept getting out of jams. Jacob deGrom started out good but he fizzled out once again in the middle innings, and the Marlins ended up Marlining him to death. Dee Gordon was involved, because Gordon's only hitting about .924 against the Mets this season, and that oaf Justin Bour came back from the Nickelback concert to drive in some runs, and everything pretty much fell apart from there. Again, a very Marlins thing to do, because it involved everyone hitting singles and then just when you think it's over, someone hits a double. This happened in the 4th and again in the 5th, and each time the Marlins scored 3 runs and all of a sudden this game was a bloodbath. Even though the Mets have come from behind in what seems like 40 straight games, this one was probably a little too much for them.

Just to underscore how lousy a night this was for the Mets, Erik Goeddel came in to relieve deGrom in the 6th, and pitched into the 7th. When Koehler came to bat, Goeddel attempted to hit him in retribution for Cespedes, but Goeddel instead pulled a Shawn Estes and fired the pitch behind his back. By that point it wouldn't have done much good, the game was already out of reach, but if nothing else it's nice to see that someone did something and they didn't just let them slide. My personal preference would have been to throw at everyone, particularly Dietrich and Realmuto (I would have said Bour but he might try to run you over with his Hyundai in the parking lot after the game), but I'm sure someone would have thrown a temper tantrum—again, a Marlin thing to do.

Still, in the grand scheme of things, while the Marlins may have won the game, they're still the Marlins and they're still going to lose 90 games, while the Mets have bigger fish to fry, both literally and figuratively. After tonight, the Mets don't have to worry about these clowns again until next year.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Drawing Ever Closer

The Mets hacked another number off their magic number on Monday night by hacking the Miami Marlins with a trio of longballs, all of which left the field of play, two of them on the fly. These three swings produced the runs necessary to pull off yet another, albeit much less dramatic, comeback win as the Mets won 4-3.

It was kind of a mild crowd at Citi Field, where I was out for my 19th game of the season, and my first that didn't involve one of the "conventional" Mets starters. On the season, I've managed to spread my pitchers out pretty evenly, Harvey has been on the mound 5 times, Colon 4, Syndergaard and deGrom 3, Niese 2 and Matz 1, and now I can add Logan Verrett to this bunch since he took the ball in the Harvey location. Granted, Verrett possesses neither the repertiore nor the élan of Harvey, and perhaps this sort of put the crowd, at my estimate a good 20, maybe 22,000 strong, in a rather lethargic mood. Not that it was a bad night for a game, it just wasn't a very lively game.

The crowd probably wasn't helped by the fact that both Verrett and his Marlin counterpart Justin Nicolino worked at a Trachsel-like pace in the early going. The Mets got a 1st inning double from David Wright that went nowhere, and had two men on in the 2nd, but came away with nothing. In the 3rd, Juan Lagares led off with an infield hit, but when David Wright followed with a fly ball to center, he had the ill-advised idea to tag up and take off for 2nd, challenging the arm of Christian Yelich who threw him out by a good 10 feet. Lagares would have been wise to stay put, particularly after Yoenis Cespedes hit the next pitch to the Whitestone Bridge. Cespedes has deserved all the superlatives laid upon him since he's arrived here in New York; I don't think he's actually going to win MVP but considering that the Mets have gone from dead to not dead rather dramatically, well, there's something to be said for that. At this point Cespedes is so hot it's comical. This particular Home Run had the height to reach the upper deck in Left Field but didn't quite have the legs to get there but then again it left the field in about 2.6 seconds. It then took Cespedes a good 45 seconds to round the bases, because, clearly, he don't give a fuck.

This, then, was the offense in the game, at least until the 5th when Verrett ran out of steam and the Marlins Marlined him to death, getting two singles from Derek Dietrich (aka Cody Ross 2.0) and J.T. Realmuto (second coming of John Baker) and then a run scoring ground out. Sean Gilmartin entered the game in the 6th and was promptly greeted by Dee Gordon bunting on him and only by some good fortune did he not go further after Gilmartin heaved the ball into Right Field. Nonetheless, this wasn't a good start and after the Marlins did their usual Stupid Marlin Tricks they scored two runs. Guess who drove them in. Dietrich and Realmuto.

So, now it's 3-1 Marlins and this crowd that already kind of seemed bored was about to fall asleep. Nicolino had been hittable but the Mets were falling into their old habit of not getting that finishing hit. But, they did when they needed to. After Nicolino got the first two men out in the last of the 6th, Juan Uribe did a very Juan Uribe thing and doubled to left. Travis d'Arnaud followed and fouled off a bunch of pitches before finally locking in on something and blasting it out over the Center Field fence to tie the game. Woo hoo!

In the 7th inning, Kyle Barraclough (Bearoclaw?) came in and immediately made his own life difficult by walking Wilmer Flores, and then walking Curtis Granderson, but he'd managed to get himself two outs and David Wright up, but Wright got the better of him, hitting a long drive over Yelich's head in Center Field that one-hopped over the wall. This, of course, proved to be one of Baseball's annoying little wrinkles because Granderson on one leg would have scored on this hit, but of course he ended up getting sent back to 3rd. I believe that there's some rule that says an umpire can send the trail runner home if he deems that said runner could have scored on a ground-rule double. If such a rule does exist, this would have been the place to invoke it. But that didn't happen and so the score remained 4-3.

Addison Reed took the ball in the 8th inning rather than Tyler Clippard, which was a good thing because as I'd mentioned over the weekend, Clippard could use a few days' rest. Reed did what was necessary and in the 9th inning Jeurys Familia also did what was necessary and the Mets as a team did what was necessary to win the game, shave another day off the clock and maintain their lead in the division. So, all in all a good night. Perhaps not the most exciting night, but at this point I'll take a win no matter how it's achieved. I think anyone will.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Won In The Sun

The Mets, after 6 consecutive wins, again probably could have been excused for the way they played on Sunday. On getaway day, the Mets rested Yoenis Cespedes, David Wright, Wilmer Flores, Travis d'Arnaud, Tyler Clippard, Jeurys Familia and the remaining group played a rather sloppy game on a painfully bright Sunday at Turner Field. We've seen games like this. That Atlanta sun is just beating down on everyone, giving the game a very overexposed, washed-out sort of look to it. Balls get misplayed or lost in the sun, and by the end of the game, as the shadows creep in, that bright sunshine becomes even more pronounced. The Mets have never done well in games like this, far as I can remember.

This game held to form for the most part. The Mets took an early lead against Braves Rookie Ryan Weber (who cannot be a relation—any relative of mine would be disowned for putting on a Barves uniform). Michael Conforto hit a Home Run and after Jon Niese had a mini-Niese Inning (fortunately, he departed before things could completely snowball), the Mets were down 3-2. They came back in the 7th inning and regained the lead thanks to a Curtis Granderson hit. But, then, the dark side of the Bullpen came in and things went south from there.

Tim Stauffer, whose name was bandied about as a potential spot starter down the stretch (because, you know, September scrap-heap spot starters always turn out so well), came in for the 7th and blew the lead. He remained in the game into the 8th inning long enough to allow a leadoff single, and then he departed for Dario Alvarez. Alvarez, one of those young pitchers who probably needs a little more work than he's getting, was victimized here, hitting Nick Swishkakis and giving up a run-scoring hit to Castro. Bobby Parnell followed and allowed two of Alvarez's runs to score when Adonis Garcia's parachute hit was lost in that blinding sunlight by Granderson and Atlanta now found themselves ahead 7-4 and the game seemed to be firmly in their hand.

But, these intrepid Mets seem to have little regard of an opponent's lead or how many outs they may have left. Peter Moylan came in for Atlanta in the 9th inning, got two quick outs, and then Juan Lagares hit a line drive out to Right-Center that Cameron Maybin couldn't quite catch. Lagares found his way to 2nd and Moylan found his way to the dugout. Ryan Kelly was next for Atlanta, and he walked Granderson and almost like clockwork, Daniel Murphy hit a 3-run Home Run to tie the game.

It's sort of amazing (amazing amazing amazing) how it's now the Mets making these comebacks instead of them happening against them. It seems like it happens almost every night now. Just this week, the Mets have been behind or tied late in 5 of the 7 games they played. And each time they figured out a way to come back and win. And Sunday, they did it again. Bobby Parnell, who departed the game on September 1st and we figured we wouldn't see him again all season, pitched a scoreless Bottom of the 9th and in the 10th, the Mets again had nobody on, 2 outs and managed to rally for 3 runs when Edwin Jackson melted down and the Braves defense abandoned them. Danny Burawa had to try to rescue Jackson and walked home a 3rd run in the process and in the span of mere minutes, a sloppy but excusable 7-4 loss turned into a 10-7 win, giving the Mets their second consecutive road series sweep, their 7th win in a row, and one more day 9 1/2 games ahead of Washington.

Now, the Mets come back home for 9 games with a pretty clear objective. They have 6 games against Atlanta and Miami, and then those three weekend games that I'd rather do without. Basically, they just need to hold the line here. I still don't expect them to win every game, especially over the weekend when things are basically guaranteed to get stupid, but if they hold the line and Washington continues to get in their own way, maybe this thing can be wrapped up before they hit the road again.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Other Side Of Paradise

It's usually around this time of year that I gear up for Football season and the return to action of the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers, however, have had what's basically been the offseason from hell. It started about 15 minutes after their season finale in 2014, after a year in which they'd already regressed and coach Jim Harbaugh was basically pushed out the door by their non-entity legacy owner Jed York.

Since that time, well, the roster has been gutted. Gone are names that had been such huge parts of the team's success over the past few seasons, like Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati and others. In their place, well, I'm not quite sure. There's a new coach, Jim Tomsula, an organization guy who's been around for years and whom the players love. Colin Kaepernick is still Quarterback. Navorro Bowman returns from his knee injury. Other than that, well, I'm not quite sure what to expect, and given that the teams around them in their own division have probably improved, I have a bad feeling that the 49ers are probably not going to have a very good season.

There's one reason to get excited and that's the presence of Australian Rugby import Jarryd Hayne, who emerged out of nowhere as a Running Back, Punt Returner and all-around ass-kicker type who defied odds and made the roster, albeit in a reserve role. But maybe he'll surprise some people. I don't know. The Hayne Plane makes for an interesting story. Unfortunately, the 49ers don't have many of those. Though they probably won't be completely 2-14 level horrible, I also don't think they'll be especially good and as far as their chances of playing in The Big Game in their home stadium, well, I think the window for that closed before last season had finished. This means they're probably stuck in that 7-9/8-8 gray area which means they're not good, they're not bad, they're just blah.

There's really no juice for me this season for Football in general. A lot of it stems from everything that's happened to the 49ers over the past several months. Some of it has to do with the culture that's been perpetuated by Roger Goodell, who seems to have let the power of the Commissionership corrupt him to the point where he's turned fans, players and even some owners against him. Another reason might be this idiot, yo-bro attitude that this new generation of Football fans seems to have perpetuated. I don't know.

But maybe the biggest reason I don't really feel into the start of Football season is the fact that for the first time in years, the Mets are actually playing relevant Baseball in September and their season may well extend into October. I usually have made it a point to devote a blog to that week's 49ers game throughout Football season, but it was easy to do that when it was that against a meaningless string-killing baseball game. Now, the Baseball games have meaning. And, in reality, this is a Mets blog first and foremost. The Mets come first.

Sorry, 49ers. For now, you'll have to take a back seat. I'll watch when I can.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Too Close For Comfort

Things have been going along swimmingly for the Mets over the last week, perhaps a little too much so. Their trip to Atlanta had basically been a clinic in stomping on a team you should be stomping on, at least until the 8th inning on Saturday night when, for a brief moment, the Braves fought back and reminded the Mets that yes, they are still in Atlanta, and no, things are not that easy.

After 7 innings of being thoroughly dominated by a well-rested and clearly re-energized Noah Syndergaard, the Braves took advantage of an overused Tyler Clippard, stringing a couple of hits together and then getting a lightning-like 3-run Home run from Punch Hitter Adonis Garcia to erase a 4-1 deficit and tie the game.

This was problematic for a few reasons, none of which are too terrible, but annoying nonetheless. Clippard, at this point, was in a game when the Mets had a 3-run lead. Clippard had pitched the night before, and in 4 of the Mets last 5 games altogether, and before that a 2-inning effort in Miami where he was knocked around but good. Clippard right now is probably as much in need of a "skip" as any of these young starters. It's the curse of his effectiveness, I suppose, because Terry Collins feels inclined to go to him in any 8th inning where he's got a lead, but in reality, Clippard needs 2, maybe 3 days off in a row, and really, at this point, he should be used when it's totally necessary and not when it's sort of necessary. I understand why he was used; as was the case Friday night, Washington had lost their game and Collins wanted to step on the Barves while he had the chance, but instead of gassing Clippard, maybe an inning for Sean Gilmartin, or Dario Alvarez, or Erik Goeddel would have worked. Again, the Mets had a 3-run lead so there was no need to act like there was a 1-run lead.

This particular mis-step cost Noah Syndergaard a win in his return to action. Unlike Harvey, who was sort of inconsistent following his pass (and will now take another pass), Syndergaard clearly benefited from the time off, coming back and looking as dominant as he did back in June. I suspect Syndergaard might get passed again before things are said and done but if he responds to some extra rest like this, well, hey, all the better.

So, OK. Syndergaard great, Clippard overused. Tie game in the 9th inning and instead of capitulating, the Mets went right back and attacked Arodys Vizcaino before he had any idea what had hit him. Travis d'Arnaud led off the 9th inning with a double that sailed over the head of Nick Swishkakis. Kelly Johnson, who was in the middle of pretty much everything in this game, followed by smoking a hit to right field to score the Pinch Runner Eric Young Jr and the Mets had the lead right back. Later, Yoenis Cespedes, who earlier hit his daily Home Run, drove home an insurance run with a Fielder's Choice that Overratedton Simmons couldn't pull out of his hat, and the Mets took what could have been a disaster and turned it back into the win it was supposed to be.

This win was the Mets 81st of the season. So they've already surpassed their win total from 2014 and now have reached their highest win total since 2008, when they won 89 games. However, with Washington now completely reeling and continuing to embarrass themselves both on and off the field, this season stands to have a much different ending than 2008 did. But, as I keep saying every day, we're not there yet.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ho Hum, Another Win

I really hate to sound like I'm poo-pooing this run of success the Mets have been on, but sometimes the Mets play a game and win and I really don't have a hell of a lot to say about it. Tonight's game in Atlanta is one such game.

I was at work slightly late than usual (for no particular reason other than I just wanted to get some extra work done—I know, how diligent of me) and my hot plans for Friday night involved going home, putting the Mets game on the radio and probably falling asleep to the dulcet tones of Howie Rose.

Well, that's exactly what happened. The game had barely begun by time I got home, but on went the radio. I've mentioned that I will often take a game on the radio over a game on TV, for a variety of reasons but one particular one is that it allows me to not invest myself quite so much as I do watching a game on TV (this, by the way, is about 25% of the amount I invest myself when I'm at the game). I can sort of let Howie and, on this night Wayne Randazzo, paint the picture for me. Or I can just sort of drift and let the voices in the background dictate when I should pay attention. Howie is quite good at this. Wayne Randazzo needs some work, but then again this isn't really his gig.

Regardless, the game was 1-0 Mets in the 3rd, and then I took a little nap, and when I woke up, the Mets led 2-1 in the 6th. By this point Steven Matz had departed; a little too many pitches and too much hard work early in the game had contributed to his quick departure, but it seems as though he was fine otherwise, a Daniel Castro Home Run was the only blemish on his record.

The rest of the game, then, was a demonstration on bullpen management. The Mets bullpen has been at times a bit scary but it seems as though the trustworthy pieces have now made themselves known. With a 1-run lead, Erik Goeddel came in and retired the Braves in the 6th. Addison Reed, who was Thursday's closer, found himself Friday's 7th inning man and retired the Braves as well. In the 8th, the Mets got an insurance run thanks to Christian Bethancourt's defensive issues and, when word arrived that Washington had lost to Miami (amazing to see the Mickey Mouse Marlins actually do something helpful for once), Terry Collins went for the kill and used Tyler Clippard in the 8th and, in spite of Yoenis Cespedes launching a 2-run Home Run to remove the Save situation, Jeurys Familia to finish the game in the 9th. Mets win, Division lead now 8 1/2.

The more this continues, with the Mets finding ways to cobble wins together combined with the Nationals doing the exact opposite, the more it seems like there may be more of these ho hum games as the regular season winds down. How long it's been since we could say something like that. But we're not there quite yet.

No Such Letdown

The circumstances for the Mets on Thursday night screamed out for a letdown game. After going through a hard-fought and highly emotional series against Washington, the Mets now had to continue their road trip by traveling to Atlanta and everyone's favorite stadium, Turner Field. You know, that place where the Mets have gone something like 33-471 during its existence (and will fortunately close next year and hopefully be burnt to the ground immediately thereafter). Further, the Mets were greeted upon arrival in Atlanty by torrential rain that turned the field into a lake and delayed the start of the game by about 2 and a half hours. This has happened to the Mets before, usually with disastrous results.

However, these given circumstances seem to mean very little to the Mets nowadays. In a situation where a loss probably would have been perfectly acceptable, the Mets instead won 7-2 behind Bartolo Colon, who continues to defy age, logic and physics by performing the way he does. Colon hurled shutout ball into the 7th inning, chipped in with an RBI single and the Mets took advantage of an Atlanty team that looks about as bad as a Major League team can look.

The Mets didn't exactly have an easy matchup, as Shelby Miller has proven himself to be one of the NL's better pitchers, but at the same time, being stuck on a Braves team that's won 14 of their last 56 games, he's also been one of the most luckless pitchers in the NL. Coming into the game, Miller had won none of his previous 20 starts, and after the Mets jumped on him for 3 runs in the 4th inning, they ensured that his streak would reach 21 straight starts. The Mets extended their lead and even though Colon would ultimately tire in the 7th and the Braves would end his scoreless inning streak at 31, the game was never in much doubt. Even without the services of Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia (both of whom could benefit from a few days off). Dario Alvarez did a fine job finishing the 7th and getting through the 8th, and Addison Reed served the role of Closer du Jour even though he didn't enter a Save situation.

So, unlike the other times the Mets have sat through extended pre-game rain delays in Atlanty, this game was worth staying up for, although my complaint—if one could have a complaint about a game like this—€”is that it didn't end until after 12:30 and even though it was on Friday, it was still a school night and I would have preferred not to be up quite so late. The Mets had been doing so well with playing quick games. I'm not sure what happened.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Right Answer

At the outset of the season, or maybe even before, I talked about how I believed the Mets were flying under everyone's radar and not being taken seriously, but they shouldn't be slept on because they're a much better team than anyone wants to give them credit for. Everyone was talking about teams like Washington, and even Miami ahead of the Mets. Not sexy. Not experienced enough. Too many questions.

Funny how things can change.

The Mets have been flipping the script on Washington all season and on Wednesday night they did it once again. For 7 innings, Stephen Strasburg had them on the ropes, looking like his vintage self and gassing the Mets. Jacob deGrom, in what was his best outing in several trips, held his ground just fine but nonetheless departed the game with a 2-1 deficit. But the way this series has gone, with the Mets coming back from deficits on a regular basis, you had to think the Mets had one good rally in them.

The Mets got those runs back and then some, although it wasn't so much a rally as much as it was a pair of lightning strikes that left Washington stunned and without an answer. Kelly Johnson led off the 8th pinch hitting for Wilmer Flores and belted a Home Run to tie the game. Undaunted, Strasburg remained in and picked up a strikeout on Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but then gave up a single to Curtis Granderson and his night was done. Matt Williams' choice to replace Strasburg, puzzlingly, was Drew Storen. Støren, as you may recall, was central in Washington's 7th inning meltdown on Tuesday and has been patently awful for a month, as opposed to being barely passable at other times. Støren had the task of having to get out Yoenis Cespedes, who's been the hottest hitter on the planet lately. You sort of knew where this was going. It took all of 2 pitches before Cespedes took a fastball and launched it out of sight for a 2-run Home Run to put the Mets ahead for good.

Though Tyler Clippard allowed a Home Run to Bryce Harper, Washington got no closer. The Mets tacked on an insurance run in the 9th—a little thing that might get overlooked in the grand scheme of things—and Jeurys Familia sealed the deal in the 9th to finish off the game and finish off a sweep.

There are still 23 games left in the season and we've seen all sorts of weird, horrible things happen as things go down to the wire. But it feels different right now. The Mets lead Washington by 7 games now, and they just swept them and kind of embarrassed them in the process. Every time Washington took a shot—and it was probably their best shot—€”the Mets answered. Terry Collins made every move work and on the other side Matt Williams was grasping at straws for a solution. Washington had a lead in all three of these games and each time they couldn't seal the deal. For a team that had set up their rotation and clearly had everything riding on this series emotionally, getting swept like this has to be completely demoralizing. For the first time now, and as usual I really hesitate saying this because it's way too cocky, but I'm really not sure they have it in them to go on the run that everyone thinks they're going to go on. They wiped out Atlanta last weekend to get them close but couldn't build on that momentum. Now, the Mets have their shot at them while Washington goes to Florida to take on the Mickey Mouse Marlins who can be a real pain in the ass. If you didn't feel good about the Mets chances before this week, you have to be feeling supremely confident right now.

Maybe everyone shouldn't have slept on the Mets.