Monday, August 31, 2015

Lots To Say To Each Other

I was out of town for the weekend and didn't actually see either of Saturday's or Sunday's games, so basically all I know is what I was able to dig up on my phone, which was easier said than done because I was in a location where phone service was, at best, iffy.

So, here's what I think I figured out. On Saturday, Jacob deGrom pitched well enough to win, except that he had one bad inning where Boston touched him up a little bit, while on the other side the Mets could do nothing against Joe Kelly or his goggles because Kelly was a Cardinals prospect and the Mets just have no luck against Cardinals prospects Past or Present. The Mets drop a 3-1 decision in front of what I can assume was a crowd similar to the one I was privy to on Friday.

Sunday, Noah Syndergaard gamely battles into the 7th inning before David Ortiz reaches him for an 800 foot Home Run that ties a game where the Mets had to really scuffle to get the 4 runs they'd managed up to that point, but the Mets once again get back to scuffling and when Michael Cuddyer singled in the last of the 7th inning, Daniel Murphy scuffled home with the lead run and the Mets ultimately survived to win 5-4, in spite of the fact that Jeurys Familia had what I might describe as a John Franco 9th inning. Yes, Familia got himself into and out of trouble but for whatever reason after the game most of the Red Sox buried their heads up his ass. It's always nice to draw praise from your opponents, but it seems like maybe Boston was a little over the top. Who knows. David Ortiz seemed to have a lot to say all weekend. Lord only knows what he and Daniel Murphy had to say to each other here. I'm sure it was a regular laugh riot. A Republican and a Dominican walk into a bar...

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Overextended

After a couple of weeks in which the Mets basically laid waste to everyone that deigned to get in their way, the Mets came home and sort of muddled their way through Friday night's game against the Boston Red Sox. This was, of course, another one of those randomly placed Interleague series, and one that had a bit of panache to it, since it was in fact the first time the Red Sox had played a regular season series at Citi Field, and also the first time the Mets and Red Sox had met in Queens altogether since 2001. Though the Red Sox are in last place and boast a record to rival the teams that the Mets had basically steamrolled over the weekend, they came into Citi Field looking somewhere awkwardly in between a team playing out the string and a team looking to get in the way of a contender. They did both rather well. In spite of running through 8 pitchers and handing the Mets 12 walks, they bunched several hits together in key moments and managed to burn the Mets 6-4 in a 10-inning sweat-fest.

This game did have all the makings of a Mets romp, particularly early. I was on hand with my better half for this Free Shirt Friday (and those loyal readers who know my wife's disdain for Free Shirt Friday will no doubt be pleased to know that she deemed this shirt unwearable and asked if I would be selling it on eBay approximately 30 seconds after receiving it), as were a whole host of Red Sox fans who unfortunately turned out to be as annoying as I feared they would be in spite of our particular solidarity. Though I will always hold a soft spot in my heart for the Red Sox for what they did 11 years ago, their run of World Series Championships has turned their fans from a more New England Literary BS version of Mets fans into a bunch of chest-puffers. They've become so popular and their fans seem to travel so well that it seems unsurprising that this weekend is very close to being sold out if it's not already. Easily the largest crowd in a game I'd attended this season since Opening Day was on hand as a well-rested Matt Harvey was on the mound. The skipped start heard round the world turned out to be a non-issue as Harvey cruised his way through 6 innings and although he was less than economical, he was still effective. The offense got him two runs off of Henry Owens, who should not be confused with the Henry Owens of lesser acclaim that surfaced with the Mets in another era. It could have been more. It probably should have been more.

By the time the 7th inning rolled around, we all wished it were more, because Logan Verrett, after looking so good against the Phillies on Thursday, came in the game and was immediately greeted by David Ortiz hitting a laser beam of a Home Run into the seats in Left Center. Verrett then got the next two batters and it seemed like an isolated instance, but then he gave up a single to Blake Swihart and was a pitch away from getting the 8 hitter, Jackie Bradley, Jr, but then Bradley hit a ball rather similar to Ortiz that found its way to the seats as well, and just like that, the lead was gone, Harvey's win was gone, and Red Sox fans were whooping it up. 

The Mets, however, battled back in the last of the 7th, thanks mostly to Alexi Ogando and his general inability to find the plate. Ogando's outing was basically the baseball version of a triple-decker sandwich, as he walked a guy, got a guy out, gave up a hit, walked a guy, got a guy out and then walked Travis d'Arnaud to force in a run and tie the game back up. Ogando was then removed for fat-faced former Giant Jean Machi, and of course Machi stopped the Mets cold, and then Tommy Layne worked out of trouble in the 9th, and it was off to Extra Innings, which was about the last thing the Mets needed after what happened on Thursday night.

By this point, the Mets had gone through single innings from Verrett, who wasn't good, and then Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia, who were good, and now Terry Collins tried to squeeze a little more magic out of Carlos Torres, but this didn't work. Swihart led off the 10th with a screamer that at first looked like it might be run down by Juan Lagares, except that it kept sailing and it appeared to me to be a Home Run outright, but it caromed off the wall and about halfway back to the infield. Nobody made a signal, and so Swihart just kept on running while Lagares and Tejada then had to chase down the ball, and by time anyone was able to make a play on it, Swihart had basically circled the bases for the Inside-The-Park Home Run that probably wasn't an Inside-The-Park Home Run. But it was and that's how it stands. Torres then proceeded to allow two more runs on top of that, turning a bad situation into a completely untenable one, as not only were the Mets down 6-3 in the 10th inning, but Red Sox fans were now dancing in the aisles and weeping over their good fortune. 

It probably would have been easier if the Mets had just gone down in order against Junichi Tazawa, who has mysteriously become the Red Sox closer for reasons I forget, and after Tazawa gave up a hit to Flores and a Double Play to d'Arnaud, it seemed like we'd get out of here quick. But instead, Tazawa decided to prolong things and walk 4 guys in a row, which served no greater purpose than to fill us all with false hope while Red Sox fans buried their heads in their hands. Still, with the bases loaded and now a run home, all it would take was Yoenis Cespedes to just knock a single and the game would be tied, and a long hit could potentially win the game. Boston, having had enough of Tazawa's Follies, opted to bring in another pitcher, except that the only pitcher they had left was Left handed Yale graduate Craig Breslow, hardly the matchup they wanted but of course the only matchup they could make. Certainly things looked hopeful at this point but Cespedes just missed a pitch and ended up flying out.

This was a rather meek and anticlimactic ending to this game, which seemed to drag on forever and wound up an excessively sweaty 3 hours and 59 minutes, which should tell you that the Red Sox were the once who dictated the pace of the game, and should also tell you that they really can't pitch very well. The Mets had 20 men on base in the game and could only muster 4 runs, which means their situational hitting decided it was June again and didn't do anything helpful. Say what you will about Collins' use of the bullpen but the fact is the bullpen probably shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place. When a team hands you 12 walks, you probably should score more than 4 runs. But then again, after a 9-game, 12-day road trip that finished with a 13-inning slog, maybe the Mets needed a nap more than anything else.

Friday, August 28, 2015

By Any Means Necessary

It took a long but ultimately gratifying 13 innings for the Mets to finish out their 9-5 win over the Phillies, and by doing so the Mets earned themselves a sweep of their friends 117 miles to their south. To take it a step further, the Mets finished off a road trip to remember, as they won 8 of the 9 games they played, including the last 7.

This finale had just about everything you could ask for in a Baseball game, except for, perhaps, brevity, but that seems to be something that goes out the window when the Mets and Phillies play. I don't recall how long these games went, but I believe the first three games ended close to 10:30, and this last game completed somewhere after 11.

It didn't look particularly encouraging early on. Once again I was a late arrival to the TV, and by that point Jon Niese had already had his Jon Niese inning, where he came unglued and allowed a 2-run single, a run-scoring fielder's choice and finally, with two outs of course, a 2-run Home Run to Darin Ruf. This left Niese glowering at the world and the Mets in a 5-0 hole, and quite honestly, you probably couldn't blame the Mets for putting up a stinker now after everything they've done lately.

On the other hand, the way the Mets have been going lately, a comeback wasn't out of the question either.

Given their standing, the Mets clearly felt it more important to go for the latter and set out to try their abilities against Aaron Harang. This did not take them very long to accomplish, as two innings and three Home Runs later, the game was tied. Travis d'Arnaud, Yoenis Cespedes and Kelly Johnson did the honors in this instance, pulling the Mets even before Philly knew what had hit them.

The game then dragged on further into the night. Harang and Niese both departed after 6 innings and it was then up to the bullpens to decide things. The Mets, of course, have had their relief issues lately and Philly, well, they've had trouble ever since they decided to go to a relief core consisting entirely of guys named Jake. They no longer have Jakes but things still aren't great. Still, they stood toe-to-toe with the Mets. Jeanmar Gomez and newly-anointed closer Ken Giles (who looks like the kind of guy who will light the Mets on fire) got things through the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th, while Logan Verrett, Hansel Robles and Sean Gilmartin did the same for the Mets. Carlos Torres entered the game for the Mets with 2 out in the 10th and, with Jeff Francoeur at the plate, conspired with Daniel Murphy for the play everyone's talking about or, perhaps, the Greatest Example of a Daniel Murphy play I've ever seen. We know what happened, Francoeur hit a pitch off of Torres' heel, the ball carroming to Murphy who dove, knocked the ball down, bobbled the ball, and somehow made a behind the back shovel to Torres who recovered well enough to cover 1st and beat Francoeur to the base. As I've said, Murphy in the field is always an adventure and because of this, for every time Murphy has one of his yips, he also sometimes will accidentally make a play like this. And, of course, Murphy hopped off the field in his usual awkward representation of glee.

However, this simply extended the game further into the night. Elvis Araujo came in for the 11th, pitched to one batter, and then left with a groin injury. Luis Garcia followed and probably tried to be a hero and pitch before he was warm, and the result was he walked two and nearly walked a 3rd except that Murphy helped him out by swinging at a sucker pitch and hitting into a DP.

It wasn't until the 13th that the Mets finally broke through, and of course it was started off by Carlos Torres who singled to lead off the inning and after Granderson singled as well, Daniel Murphy came up and drove them both in with a double to Left Field, moved to 3rd on the throw home and hopped around and screamed some more because, let's face it, this was probably the greatest day of his career. The Mets, however, weren't done against Hector NeriS, who subsequently heaved a throw into the seats and allowed a hit to Conforto that scored two more runs and basically sealed the fate of the game.

This is how it's been going for the Mets lately. They fall behind and come back. They make absurd defensive plays. Players who were the supposed weak links are all of a sudden coming through. The month of August is winding down now and I'm not sure I can remember the Mets having a month quite like this in years.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Late Arrival

I have, all week this week, been late in getting home and putting on the game. It may be less a matter of getting home late and more a matter of me getting home and wanting to fall asleep than me actually getting home late, but at least on Wednesday, my excuse was that I was legitimately home late. Although the way things have been going lately, it doesn't matter what time I get home or what time I start watching the game, the Mets win it anyway.

By time I'd turned the game on, the Mets were already ahead 3-0, having jumped on another in what seems to be an endless line of Rookie Philly Pitchers, Jerad Eickhoff, in the 1st inning. Mets were getting hits and flying around bases and scoring runs once again. The beneficiary of this particular windfall was Bartolo Colon, who, after a pair of games where the Mets bullpen was called upon early and often, needed to give a good effort and he did. Colon continued his good start/bad start pattern with a fine outing, throwing 7 shutout innings at a Phillies team that looked ill equipped to take on Colon.

The Mets stretched their lead to 4-0 against Eickhoff in the 6th when Juan Uribe singled home a run, and in the 8th inning, Michael Cuddyer belted a 2-run Home Run to extend the lead to 6-0. Cuddyer, who's now found himself in mostly a platoon role, has taken to this quite nicely and after spending the first 4 months of the season looking rather Jason Bay-like, he's actually started to get his act together. Although let's face it, for the first 4 months of the season, most of the Mets team was looking rather Jason Bay-like. I'm sure nobody misses the days when John Mayberry Jr or Darrell Ceciliani were hitting 4th and 5th in this lineup.

Then the Mets bullpen got involved and nearly threw the whole thing down the toilet. Of course it was Eric O'Flaherty who started this. O'Flaherty, who's just not proving himself capable of making a meaningful contribution right now, got the right handers out and gave up ringing hits to all the left handers, which would be fine if he wasn't supposed to be a lefty specialist. Carlos Torres followed, faced one batter, gave up a 2-run double that turned a 6-1 game into a 6-3 game, and then was removed, because when Carlos Torres gives up a ringing double to the first guy he faces, you know he doesn't have it and needs to be removed immediately. Tyler Clippard then had to be summoned to rescue the Mets from this mess, and even he gave up an RBI hit before getting the out he needed to finish the inning.

With a 6-0 lead now a 6-4 squeaker and visions of 2007 horror shows flashing through our minds, the Mets took their at bats in the 9th inning with a particular purpose, which was to stomp on the Phillies throats before they got any hot ideas about continuing their comeback. They accomplished their mission by scoring 3 runs off a trio of terrible Philly relievers. By doing so, the Mets avoided having to use Jeurys Familia, got Clippard a Save and reeled off their 6th win in a row and thanks to Washington losing opened up a 6 1/2 game lead in the division. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Fighting Back

The takeaway from Tuesday night's game in Philadelphia is probably going to be more about the fisticuffs-that-weren't-fisticuffs in the 7th inning and less about how the Mets once again got up off the mat, fought back and won a game late, but they're both worth discussing, so here we go.

YES, the Mets won, which in the big picture is the most important thing here. Their 6-5 victory on Tuesday was their 5th in a row, their 6th on this road trip and their 10th over the Phillies in 11 tries this season. The Mets jumped out to an early lead thanks to another Home Run, although Yoenis Cespedes' 1st inning bomb was the only one they would hit in the game, in stark contrast to the 8 they hit on Monday night. But as this road trip has proven, whether they hit 1 Home Run or 8 Home Runs, and whether they score 6 runs or 16 runs, they still come up with ways to beat you. Noah Syndergaard pitched reasonably well, but was still victimized by one bad inning, in this case the 3rd, which nearly did him in. In this particular inning, Syndergaard allowed a rather jarring 2-out Home Run to Freddy Galvis, and after Kelly Johnson booted what should have been an inning-ending ground out, he allowed another Home Run to Ryan Howard. Giving up a Home Run to Ryan Howard is, at this point, merely a rite of passage since he's hit about 870 of them against the Mets, and even though he's about the farthest thing from resembling 58 Home Run MVP Ryan Howard, he can still hit a ball out of the ballpark. And in this case it gave the Phillies a 4-3 lead.

Gamely, Jerome Williams held this lead into the 6th inning until he ultimately ran out of steam, or remembered that he was Jerome Williams, and when he departed, the Mets had 2 men on base and 1 out. Jeanmar Gomez, who I believe used to pitch for the other Pennsylvania team, entered the game and got an out but then totally unraveled, walking Michael Conforto to load the bases, then walking Travis d'Arnaud to force home the lead run (and how deep does the Mets lineup look now that d'Arnaud is batting 8th), and finally giving up a 2-run single to the suddenly rejuvenated Michael Cuddyer that put the Mets ahead 6-4.

This lead would hold up in spite of Eric O'Flaherty inflicting his general O'Flahertyness on the affairs and creating a mess that required Hansel Robles to come in and clean up, which he managed to do but still allowed a run to score to cut the Mets lead to 6-5.

And then there was the 7th inning and the ensuing chaos, for which I'll say this: Yes, Robles was probably a little bush for throwing a quick-pitch when Darin Ruf wasn't really looking at him, and had the pitch gotten away from him it might have been ugly, but on the other hand, I believe Robles threw a change-up. And sure, it's kind of a blow to the pride of the Phillies to have gotten their asses handed to them repeatedly by the Mets this season, so I get how this indignity might set Larry Bowa and Jeff Francoeur off a little bit. On the other hand, Fuck the Phillies. The Phillies have been the embodiment of everything and everyone that has stomped on the Mets over the past 8 years. They're the team that stuck it to us twice in '07 and again in '08 and won a World Series Championship and seemed more interested in taking cheap shots at the Mets. This is a team whose fans would take over our stadium, pick fights and walk around screaming Harry Kalas impersonations in everyone's faces. And now, their short-sightedness has led to them crashing back to Earth in spectacular fashion and they're back to being the league's doormat once again. So you know what Phillies? You get no sympathy from me. You had your fun. Now shut up and take your medicine.

Robles ensured this happened by striking out Ruf and glaring into the Philly dugout as he walked off. For a rookie, give him some credit for not getting rattled after all that. Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia, who are not rookies and are similarly unflappable, finished things out from there. Another win and another day maintaining this division lead.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Riding The Wave

In Late August of 2007, the Mets kicked off a crucial 10-game road trip in Philadelphia, against a hard-charging, up and coming Phillies team that was out for blood. The Phillies exploited every Met weakness, got every key hit and got every break over those 4 games, swept the series and rode that wave to a Division Title. Since then, well, we know what's happened.

Now 8 years later, the shoe is somewhat on the other foot. Those up-and-coming Phillies are now a shell of the team they once were, with yet another piece of their glory years, Chase Utley, jettisoned to the Dodgers, who may as well call themselves West Phillies since they've picked up half the Phils' infield. Meanwhile, the Mets are the hard-charging, up-and-coming team that's out for blood. Since the calendar flipped to August, the switch has come on for the Mets and after 4 months of not really being able to get out of their own way, now, they're just steamrolling the lesser opponents that get in their way. The Phillies are one of those now-lesser opponents, and while the Mets had done a good job of handling them to this point, on Monday they took handling a lesser opponent to a whole other level.

It makes sense that the Mets would go into Colorado, face a team that can't pitch at altitude and score 33 runs in 3 games. But the Mets outdid themselves on Monday, setting a pair of club records with 15 Extra Base hits and a mind-boggling 8 Home Runs in a 16-7 thrashing of the Phillies. Needless to say, the game was at Steroid Field, where the jet stream was obviously blowing in the Mets' favor. This happens sometimes, though it feels like a lifetime ago that the Mets hit 7 Home Runs in a game at this same locale. The Mets also scored 16 on that night, but in that season, there was no buildup to this kind of game. There was no struggle, no trade and no resurgence, and also no sense of urgency, because that game was in the middle of April. Monday's was in the thick of a Pennant Race that continues to tilt ever so gradually in the Mets favor.

It's also worth mentioning that in the midst of this offensive barrage, the Mets overcame a 7-2 deficit in the process.

The story of this game after 3 innings was more that Jacob deGrom just didn't have anything. He gave up a pair of 3-run Home Runs to Ryan Howard's carcass and Domonic Brown and generally looked out of sorts. In what was easily his worst start of the season, deGrom was gone before he could get out of the 3rd inning. On the road, against an opponent they should be handling, and they end up getting thrashed.

But oh, they were just getting warmed up.

By this point, the Mets had already hit two Home Runs, the first off the bat of David Wright, who returned to the lineup and promptly smoked a pitch into the Upper Deck in his first AB. Juan Lagares also hit one in the top of the 3rd inning. In the 4th, Wright singled, and then Wilmer Flores and Travis d'Arnaud belted back-to-back Home Runs; d'Arnaud's being hit so far out to Center Field that it disrupted the line at the Cheesesteak factory. This got the Mets to 7-5. In the 5th, Flores attacked again, hitting his 2nd Home Run of the game, a 3-run moonshot tucked just inside the Left Field foul pole that put the Mets ahead. Two batters later, Michael Cuddyer joined the party with another Home Run. One inning later, Daniel Murphy chimed in with the record-tying 7th Home Run, a ball hit so well that Murphy did his own unique style of hot dogging.

After that, the Mets resorted to more conventional ways of scoring runs. d'Arnaud drove home the Mets 12th and 13th runs with a double, and Juan Lagares singled home a run in the 7th. It took until the 9th for the Mets to reach the seats again, although you kind of had a sense it was coming, with Adam Loewen, the Pitcher-turned-Outfielder-turned-Pitcher on the mound just trying to throw strikes and end this Philly nightmare. But Yoenis Cespedes seemed bound and determined to get in on the action. After all, if the Mets were going to set a club record for Home Runs, wouldn't something be a bit afoul if Cespedes was kept off the board? But he wasn't. His drive clanged off the front of the 2nd deck in Left Field and the Mets had their record setting Home Run.

A lot was made after the game about the Mets turning it on like this coincidentally falling on the night David Wright returned to the lineup. While it's nice to have Wright back, at least from a leadership standpoint, I don't see how Wright got everyone so juiced up that they started hitting Home Runs all over the place. They've been doing this for the past few weeks already, while Wright was beating up on A-ball pitching. Wright's presence makes an already good lineup a little deeper, but clearly the addition of Cespedes, combined with the midseason resurgence of players like Flores and the return of d'Arnaud that have really given the Mets lineup some teeth. People are now starting to notice just how good Flores in particular has played since the no-trade and that maybe there's more to him than just a sentimental cult hero who cried on the field. It's the lesser guys stepping up and playing better that's making the difference. Earlier in the season, Flores was shoved into a power hitting/run producing role that he really wasn't mentally equipped for and the performance showed. Given the opportunity to be more of a wheel-turner and he has absolutely shined.

The other unsung hero of this game, who'll get no ink at all is Sean Gilmartin, who came into a completely untenable situation after deGrom left, and all he did was pitch 3.1 shutout innings, keeping the Phillies off the board while his team came back. And he even chipped in with a single and scored on Murphy's Home Run.

Washington, of course, was off tonight and so the Mets now lead by 5 1/2 games, their largest 1st place lead of the season and the first time they've been this far ahead since the Clinton Administration, or at least it feels that way.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Bizarro Scenario

The Mets have had a long and storied history of losing excruciating, high scoring, stupid games in Colorado going back to the very first game at Coors Field and a night we'd love to forget. The Mets go to Colorado once a year (some years it may be twice, whether planned or not) and usually what happens is they get the rug pulled out from under them. You can count on one, sometimes two games in a series in which the Mets run out to a big lead and then the Colorados come back against the bullpen and someone makes an error or someone walks in the winning run, or someone hits a Home Run clear out to Colorado Springs.

But that didn't happen this past weekend. For the first time in the 21-year mostly miserable existence of Coors Field, the Mets actually swept a series. Friday and Saturday, the Mets played typical Colorado games. They ran out to enormous leads and then had to cringe as the Colorados chipped away and hoped that the inevitable stupid play didn't happen. And Dammit, the stupid play never happened. The Mets won both games 14-9 which ought to tell you the kind of game it was.

That set up Sunday and the game that everyone who's still hung up on how stupid the Mets are were screaming about all week. This, of course, was the game where Matt Harvey's turn in the rotation came up, but Harvey wasn't scheduled to pitch. Instead, Logan Verrett was summoned to the mound and I'm sure everyone who was ripping the move was waiting for the Colorados to eat Verrett alive and score 13 runs in 2.2 innings.

But that didn't happen. Verrett instead gave everyone a giant shitburger by throwing 8 brilliant innings at the Colorados and allowing just 1 run as the Mets offense, in what I guess is now an off day for them, plated 5 of their own in assorted varieties, as the Mets wiped out the Colorados for the second time in 3 weeks. The 5-1 victory was not only Verrett's first in the Majors, but it gave the Mets a 7-0 sweep of the season series over the Colorados (in stark contrast to their performances against the Cubs and Pittsburghe).

Verrett obviously isn't replacing Harvey by any stretch of the imagination. But he was given an opportunity to show what he's got and he ran with it. True, the Colorados are a mess right now. They've been playing an especially stupid brand of baseball all weekend, with myriad mental mistakes and guys getting thrown out on the bases and what have you. The kind of stuff you expect from a last place team. But they still have a fairly potent lineup and outside of a 4th inning Home Run by Carlos Gonzalez, who, again, can hit Home Runs off anybody, Verrett basically stopped the Colorados cold. Sort of like Harvey did last week. Anyone paying attention would have been happy if Verrett could have worked his way through 6 innings. But he went beyond that and gave the Mets 8, allowing 1 run and 4 hits while striking out 8. So not only did he pitch well, but he preserved the Mets bullpen, which was needless to say taxed after a pair of absurdist shit shows.

The Colorados were, of course, all too happy to help the Mets out. David Hale, a Barves castoff that had the poor fortune of landing in Denver, basically handed the Mets two runs when he and Dustin Garneau (not d'Arnaud) decided, I suppose, to just wing it and the result was a pair of really Wild Pitches that plated a pair of runs. Later, in the 6th, the Colorados had Verrett on the ropes after he hit Charlie Blackmon to start the inning. With 2 out, Nolan Arenado lined a single to right. Nothing out of the ordinary, except McCharlieman decided to be a hero and take 3rd base, where he was promptly thrown out to end the inning. This killed the Colorados in this game, but it seems that this sort of fundamental abandonment has been going on for a while. Again, the trademark of a bad team. Contrariwise, it's the sign of a good team that they can beat you 14-9 or 5-1, and right now that's what the Mets are.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Many Ways To Win

For the second night in a row, the Mets won a game over the Colorados by the score of 14-9. Both nights, the Mets raced out to large leads and then had to weather a Colorado comeback, but would ultimately hang on. On Friday, the Mets won by virtue of bombing the Colorados into submission, blasting 5 Home Runs and knocking their starting pitcher out of the game in the 3rd inning. Saturday, the Mets did things a little differently. This time, the Mets only hit one Home Run, this one coming from Juan Uribe, but balanced that by hitting 9 doubles as part of a 21-hit attack. Nonetheless, this was another one of those games that sort of typified Coors Field baseball. Not a good night if you were a pitcher, but if you were a hitter you had a wonderful time of things.

Once again, the Mets jumped out to an early lead, scoring 3 runs in the 2nd off of Chris Rusin, as Travis d'Arnaud, Ruben Tejada and Juan Lagares each hit RBI doubles. But Jon Niese handed the runs back when Kyle Parker reached him for a 3-run triple.

And then came the 3rd inning.

Uribe led off the 3rd with a Home Run, which might have been the most innocuous hit of the inning. Uribe would bat again later in the inning, which should tell you right there what went on, and his double play served to give the Colorados their first two outs of the inning. In between, well, everyone hit. The 8 hitters subsequent to Uribe's Home Run either singled, doubled or in the case of Tejada, walked, 7 runs crossed the plate, and Rusin was chased from the game after basically being forced to absorb a rather merciless beating that took the game from 3-3 to 11-3. Rusin's successor, Justin Miller, fared little better, as he survived the 4th but was then reached for 3 more runs in the 5th before departing in favor of obscure pitcher Scott Oberg. By this point the score was 14-3 and you started to wonder if the Mets club record of 23 runs in a game was in jeopardy. That didn't happen, as Oberg and other Colorados Pitchers held the Mets scoreless the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, Jon Niese struggled, probably due to trying to throw strikes while pitching with a big lead combined with Colorado. Niese gave up a run in the 5th and 3 more in the 6th courtesy of a Charlie Blackmon Home Run before departing himself, leaving what was now a 14-7 game. Eric O'Flaherty entered and immediately gave up a Home Run to Jose Reyes to make it 14-8. And once again, you got those bad Dante Bichette flashbacks because it's still Colorado, and no matter how bad the Colorados seem to be, they still have to strike a little fear into your heart because stupid things happen in this ballpark.

Terry Collins had to manage the remainder of the game with this in mind, and while under normal circumstances a 5 or 6 run lead wouldn't have necessitated the use of Tyler Clippard or Jeurys Familia, well, who wants to fuck around? Carlos Torres allowed the Colorados a 9th run in the 7th and by that point I think we'd all had enough, and Clippard and Familia finished the game out.

This, much like Friday, was another Baseball Farce. Again, you do have to go up there and hit the ball, but when the hell did the Mets turn into a team that could score 28 runs in 2 days? For that matter, how the hell did the Mets allow 18 runs in 2 days and come away with wins both times? Somehow, they've done it and while Washington has won their games, again, by simply winning and maintaining their lead in the division, they are making time evaporate. Each time the Mets win, that's one fewer game for Washington to come back. Not that they've displayed much of an indication that they plan to do so of late, but I don't think anybody is falling asleep on them right now.

Then again, nobody should be falling asleep on the Mets either.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Something In The Air

I'd mentioned a few days ago that a trip to Colorado wasn't going to do anything to help the pitching. This was the case on Friday night. The Mets won anyway, though, because the Mets offense kept up their end of the bargain and took advantage of the rarefied air in Denver. Yoenis Cespedes had one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of games, smoking 3 Home Runs and driving in 7. Behind Cespedes, Travis d'Arnaud and Michael Conforto also wend deep as the Mets overwhelmed and then survived the opening game of their series against the Colorados, winning by the rather uncomfortable score of 14-9.

The score alone should tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the game: It was at best a total shit show where all pitching was abandoned and basically anyone who held a bat in their hand had a pretty good chance of doing something meaningful. For the Mets, this was to the tune of running out to a 7-1 lead in the 2nd inning, which was led by Cespedes, who doubled and scored in the first, and then clanged a Grand Slam in the 2nd, both hits coming off hapless Jon Gray, the Rookie who looked so impressive when the Colorados were in New York, and looked anything but impressive on Friday night. Gray failed to survive the 2nd inning and a loss on his ledger appeared imminent.

But it being Coors Field and it being a night where general Baseball logic was thrown out the window, the Colorados rallied to get themselves back into the game. Bartolo Colon, who you figured was in for a rough night to begin with, had his general issues compounded when he got drilled by a pitch on the wrist while attempting to bunt in the 2nd. Colon was reached for 3 Home Runs and by time Nolan Arenado's 3-run shot left the yard in the 4th inning, the Mets 6-run lead had shrunk to 1-run, and then the Colorados tied the game in the 5th against Sean Gilmartin when Nick Hundley of all people drilled an RBI triple. This, then, was what you figured would happen in this game, because this usually seems to happen to the Mets in Colorado. They race out to a lead, their pitchers can't hold it and then something particularly stupid happens. All they needed was Dante Bichette to somehow materialize at home plate and you figured the whole blessed mess was going to go down the crapper. But instead of Bichette, the Colorados could only send up Kyle Parker, and though Parker did hit a fly ball that appeared long enough to be a Sacrifice Fly, Curtis Granderson unleashed the best throw he could possibly make and managed to get Hundley at home, or at least that's what the umpires determined. It looked to me like Hundley's trick slide beat d'Arnaud's tag, but it didn't.

From there, the Mets steadied their hand and took the game back over. Cespedes' 3rd Home Run gave the Mets the lead back in the 6th, d'Arnaud and Conforto went back-to-back in the 7th, and Flores doubled home another run in the 8th while Hansel Robles, Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia combined to not let the Colorados back into things and the Mets managed to escape with a bit of a hair-raising victory.

This again was not a game to revel in, given that the Colorados banged Colon around but good and were a fortuitous call at Home plate away from turning this game into something considerably different. But the Mets have shown a healthy amount of fortitude in these kinds of games and where a month or two ago we probably would be looking at another head-shaking loss, instead the Mets have been able to hit their way out of difficult situations. Yes, it's Colorado and it kind of excuses the bad pitching, but the Mets still had to hit the ball and they did that many times over.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bird Slap

The Mets will have games like tonight a few times over the course of every season. That doesn't make it any less annoying and when you combine that with the Mets and the fact that the Mets bullpen has been kind of questionable lately and, well, it feels a little more frustrating than it probably actually is.

The Mets kind of had a handle on things early. Daniel Murphy hit a 1st inning Home Run off of Ubaldo Jimenez, Noah Syndergaard was weaving in and out of some jams and the Mets were off and running. The Mets rallied for a second run in the 4th courtesy of a Wilmer Flores RBI but only then did the Orioles start to reach Syndergaard, first in the last of the 4th when they got a few runners on base and Steve Clevenger drove in a run, and then after the Mets got that run back, Syndergaard allowed a 2-run Home Run to Jonathan Schoop, who atoned after a rather embarrassing night on Tuesday, to tie up the game.

So, the Mets would have to win it late, and when Flores led off the 7th with a Home Run they were back in position to do so, except that Hansel Robles handed the run back by allowing a Home Run to Adam Jones in the last of the 7th. This again underscores the concern of the fans; though Jones hits a lot of Home Runs and giving one up to him isn't anything out of the ordinary, giving it up in that spot is problematic because Robles, who can at times look great, will also do things like that sometimes, and that sometimes happens enough to make you not want to trust him in a spot like that. This means that the Mets might have to turn to someone else in the 7th inning, and there are only so many relief pitchers that the Mets have that can be effective enough to be trusted in that spot. And you also can't bank on your starters to go 7 innings all the time.

And, of course, this Home Run plays havoc with the remainder of the game. Again tied, Tyler Clippard held the line in the 8th and perhaps Jeurys Familia should have been summoned into the game in the 9th, tie or no tie, or perhaps Clippard should have gone a second inning. None of these scenarios took place. Instead, Carlos Torres came in for the bottom of the 9th, and as I've said, usually when a Torres appears in a game it usually doesn't end well, and that's even when Carlos performs well. Like Robles, Torres is inconsistent, but unlike Robles, Torres' issue is simply ability whereas Robles' struggles could be chalked up to "Well, he's a Rookie." Point is, Torres gave up a Home Run to the first batter he faced, Henry Urrutia, and the Mets lost the game 5-4.

This is now 4 losses in 5 games for the Mets and in each of these 4 losses the bullpen has been the cause. Again, Bullpens are inherently a crapshoot because that's Baseball and if relief pitchers were any good they'd be starters. Bullpens struggle because there's just a general dearth of talent in them. When a bullpen does well, it's simply because they all catch lightning in a bottle at once and it becomes contagious. However, the Mets fan is still battle-scarred from the horror of Bullpens Past and so when the Mets bullpen has a problem everyone falls into a mad panic. Also, I wouldn't expect the bullpen to fare any better over the next several days because the Mets now have 3 games in Colorado where nothing ever goes well, and then 4 more games in Philadelphia and we know how Steroid Field plays.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Awesome And Uninspiring

An appreciable number of Mets fans turned up in Baltimore this evening, enough so that Jacob deGrom might have felt very much at home in Camden Yards. Although, given how well deGrom has pitched lately, he might have felt at home pitching in Luzhniki Stadium. deGrom got an early lead thanks to a pair of Curtis Granderson Home Runs and basically did the rest himself as the Mets rode his pitching into the 8th inning and then survived a 9th inning scare to beat the Orioles 5-3.

The game started late, though it didn't much matter to me as I'd come home and come perilously close to falling asleep altogether. There was apparently some rain in the Baltimore area that delayed the game by something in the neighborhood of 42 minutes. I glossed over this completely and I could be wrong on the time but what difference does it make? Unlike when the rain fell on Sunday, it didn't turn the Mets into meatballs, probably because it was before the game started. Or because deGrom just wouldn't let his teammates fall down the same rabbit hole they did two days prior.

Whatever it was, this was basically another typical game for deGrom. He tied the Orioles up and stuck them in his back pocket, allowing all of one run, a Gerardo Parra Home Run that was more flukish than anything else, 5 hits and 6 strikeouts before he departed with 2 outs in the 8th and 100 pitches. Perhaps, much like Harvey against the Colorados last week, deGrom could have finished the deal, but there was no need to push him. At that point the Mets had a 3-1 lead and when they stretched it to 5-1 in the top of the 9th, it seemed there was little reason for concern.

Except that Tyler Clippard didn't have it in the 9th, and Jeurys Familia barely had it either. Clippard had gotten one out, but then allowed a walk and an annoying dying quail of a hit to Matt Wieters before departing in favor of Jeurys Familia. Familia got the 2nd out and then appeared to get Steve Clevenger to hit a game-ending ground out. Except that Lucas Duda basically pulled a Daniel Murphy and tried to field the ball, then realized he couldn't field the ball, and then tried to make it back to 1st base to receive the throw from Kelly Johnson. Had Duda just stayed at home, he probably would have saved a lot of headache but instead he received the throw while not standing particularly close to 1st Base. So the bases were then loaded, and at that point Familia essentially had an attack of Benitez because he inexplicably walked the next two batters to force in two runs, send the tying run to 2nd base, put the winning run on 1st and put half the Mets fan base in the latrines. Manny Machado was next and Machado's got the potential to put one in the seats and seal an absolute disaster of a game, but instead Familia pulled himself together and got Machado to ground to 3rd, far away enough from Duda that he had no choice but to stay planted to 1st base and the game was over.

So, that was a lousy ending to what was otherwise a rather fine win for the Mets, and it once again underscores the Bullpen as just vulnerable enough to cause concern, except that this is the Mets and when you bring up bullpen problems people start to have Vietnam flashbacks. Combine that with the fact that the fan base has basically forgotten what a pennant race is like and you have a real hot time.

Monday, August 17, 2015

That Black Cloud

In the bottom of the 6th inning on Sunday, a rogue downpour formed over Citi Field. Quite literally, because it didn't appear to be raining anyplace else in the city except around Citi Field. At the time, the Mets had battled the Pirates to a 1-1 standstill, thanks mainly to Matt Harvey and his ability to grit his way through 6 innings in spite of not having his best stuff. Though he pitched in and out of jams all afternoon, the Pirates only reached him in the 2nd inning when Pedro Alvarez mashed a Home Run. Travis d'Arnaud matched Alvarez with a Home Run of his own and up until the rain came, this game appeared headed down the same track as the two games prior: a late (and perhaps later than late) decision.

The Pirates sort of seemed like they were treating this game as a house money affair; their best player, Andrew McCutchen was out of the lineup with a case of sore Harveys for a routine day off. The Mets, of course, tried to do everything they could to salvage one game in this series, particularly when they had their best pitcher on the mound. But then the rain hit and after a 50 or so minute delay, the game resumed and it seemed like this delay had just taken the Mets completely out of the game.

Bobby Parnell, whom I'd already expressed some concern about, entered the game for the 7th inning and immediately walked Pedro Florimon, and you've heard plenty about this because Parnell was ahead in the count and walked a guy hitting .200. So basically he'd made his own bed right then and there. Then, of course, came the ill-fated Mike Morse comebacker, a ball that seemed ticketed for a double play until Parnell chucked the ball into Center Field. This seemed to be some kind of cosmic mindfuck that involved everything that's gone wrong with the Mets crammed into one play, which happens sometimes. It involved Parnell, who's struggled, actually make a pitch and put himself in a position to get two outs. It involved Daniel Murphy, who for years has been the Shleprock of the Mets, essentially cowering in terror as if he couldn't believe a baseball was being thrown in his direction. And it involved Ruben Tejada, whose career arc could be best described as a tractor stuck in neutral. The play was Tejada's, at least in the sense that he was the one heading for 2nd base, except that when the throw arrived at 2nd base—and the throw did arrive at 2nd base, Parnell couldn't have walked it over there any better—€”the ball had already sailed into Center Field, because Murphy, as I mentioned, was too busy avoiding the fallout instead of trying to back up the play.

Basically, from this point forward, you could put a fork in the Mets, because they were done. Parnell then Wild Pitched a run home, gave up another 4 hits and 4 runs, got booed off the mound and replaced by Eric O'Flaherty who wasn't any better, and essentially the entire game went down the shitter as what was shaping up to be another close game turned into an 8-1 debacle.

You could, I suppose, say that the Mets were due for a real stinker like this, and the rain delay basically killed the entire team's energy. This isn't a good excuse, but it's the only reason I can think of for everything to break down as completely as it did in the 7th inning. Perhaps after battling the Pirates tooth and nail for 30 innings over the past 48 hours had something to do with it, and the day off they'll have today is probably a good thing because they can sleep this game off like the bad hangover it probably was.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Hard Night's Night

Friday night, the Mets battled the Pirates to a standstill before they finally cracked in the 10th inning. Last night, the Mets and Pirates waged a similar war of attrition, this one deadlocked through 13 innings before the Mets ultimately imploded in the 14th. Much like Friday, this was an annoying loss that could have come down to one break not going the Mets way, but once again, the Mets could neither create nor capitalize on the few opportunities they had, and once again the Pirates did, and the end result was yet another extra inning loss that you can only just scratch your head about.

This game sort of had the stench of last night on it from the beginning. Jon Niese, who's done a rather good job of late of being less Jon Niese had an attack of himself in the 1st inning. After retiring the first two batters with relative ease, he had a tough battle against Andrew McCutchen, which isn't out of the ordinary considering McCutchen is one of the best players on the planet right now. Niese missed on a real borderline 2-2 pitch, a testament to the inconsistencies of Bob Davidson's strike zone that managed to piss off everyone all night long. Niese then walked McCutchen and basically set the following pitch on a tee for Aramis Ramirez to hit it out into the seats. This was sort of the hallmark of Niese when something got his panties in a bunch, and I thought he'd moved beyond that, but it seems he hasn't. He gave up another hit and nearly annihilated himself altogether but eventually he got out of the inning. In the 3rd, Gregory Polanco, who came to New York hacking out of his shoes, whacked one off the foul pole for another Home Run to put the Pirates up 3-0.

Much like last night, the Mets had a hard time figuring out the Pirates' starter. This time, it was Charlie Morton, who used to be a ninny until they decided to Roy Halladay him. Now he's less of a ninny and he proved this by throwing shutout ball into the 7th. But then he tired, and Juan Uribe mashed a Home Run, and following an Aramis Ramirez error, Michael Conforto hit a Home Run of his own and in a blink the game was tied. This again sort of underscores Conforto's abilities in a big spot. In his small sample size, Conforto has looked like a Rookie more often than not, but there have been moments where we get a glimpse of why he's got so much hype attached to him. He did it last week in Tampa, and he did it again here, coming up with a big hit in an opportunity spot and tying the game.

And so, the game stayed tied, partially thanks to both Bullpens, who pitched lights out once again, and partially thanks to Yoenis Cespedes who came up with the throw of the year in the 9th inning. Michael Morse Clone Sean Rodriguez laced a hit up the gap in Left Center that took an odd bounce off the wall, away from Cespedes, and Rodriguez got a little too happy and attempted to stretch a double into a triple, except that Cespedes fielded the ball and rifled a throw to 3rd that not only got Rodriguez, but got him with ease. Juan Lagares has made a habit of making throws like that, at least when he was going good, but I'm not sure even he could have made a play like that.

So, further into the night we went, as Carlos Torres, Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia were matched by Joakim Soria, Tony Watson, Arquimedes Caminero (I could type that name forever) and the resurfaced Joe Blanton. Hansel Robles, in particular, delivered three clutch innings in this endeavor that was clearly going to hinge on another odd break. And unfortunately, much like last night, it was the Pirates that took the break in the 14th inning against Sean Gilmartin.

Gilmartin, who's been mostly underutilized of late, was thrown into this game in the 13th inning. I know that as a Rule 5 guy, the Mets have tried to spot Gilmartin in low pressure spots but he's pitched well enough and he's been forced to pitch in some ridiculously extended games that maybe he should get a little more burn. Whatever it is, a little rust can't be unexpected out of him. This bit him in the ass in the 14th inning when he allowed a leadoff double to Francisco Cervelli, who was annoying when he was on that other New York team and continues to be annoying with Pittsburgh. Starling Marte followed and you didn't need to be a genius to know he was trying to move the runner over. He seemed primed to accomplish that by hitting a chopper to the right side, which probably would have been an easy out at 1st, except that Daniel Murphy had yet another attack of Daniel Murphyism and decided he'd be better off taking a flying leap across the infield and attempting to throw out the lead runner at 3rd Base. Now, I've watched a lot of Baseball in my lifetime and I've seen some pretty good first basemen make some pretty tough plays. A play like this, on the kind of chopper Marte hit was difficult enough of a play that I'm pretty certain the only 1st Basemen that could pull that off are Keith Hernandez and maybe 2 other people. Daniel Murphy was not one of those people. Never mind that he's lucky Uribe bailed his ass out and caught the throw because it was ticketed for the 3rd row. Murphy's play was so ill-advised I can't even get over it because instead of taking the sure out, now the Pirates had 2 on, none out and the entire inning was fucked. Chris Stewart's RBI single was inevitable and the insurance run was as well, and instead of just having to make up one run, they had to make up two and against Melancon that was too much to ask.

So, yeah. Two games against the Pirates that they could have won, but didn't, and while it's nice to say that they can hang with these guys, they still haven't beaten them and that's now 0-12 against Pittsburgh and Chicago for the season, which I find severely troubling when you consider that these are both teams that are probably going to the Playoffs and if the Mets are lucky enough to get that far (and as Washington continues to sleepwalk through games this becomes increasingly likely), chances are they'll see one of these teams again.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Toe To Toe

This weekend's series against the Pirates shapes up to be somewhat of a telling series. The Pirates, who currently are firmly entrenched in the top Wildcard spot in the National League, seem fairly certain to be playing as the calendar flips to October. The Mets, of course, still only aspire to get there. Neither team, of course, is assured of anything at this point, but you go from what you see. What I've seen out of the Pirates, aside from a team that's already made the playoffs each of the past two years, is that they're a really good, really deep team that can find a lot of ways to beat you. For the Mets, who've struggled against these NL Central Playoff contenders, this was another chance to just see how they might stack up. They looked lousy against the Cardinals, in spite of only playing 3-4 against them they really got their asses kicked in the 4 losses. Against the Cubs they were patently awful, going 0-7. But, in both these instances, the Mets were playing with essentially half a deck. Now that the Mets have actual players in their lineup, they seem to have a bit more teeth to them and they've been playing as such. Going back to that Friday Night game against Washington, the Mets have won 11 of 13 games.

The Mets were game to the challenge of the Pirates on Friday. Bartolo Colon, allowed an early Home Run to Neil Walker but then gave up nothing over the remainder of his 7 innings to keep the game close. But the Mets offense wasn't able to figure out much against J.A. Happ, who has resurfaced in the NL after several seasons bouncing around the American League, but remains as Muppet-faced as he was back when he was a wiry rookie with the Phillies. The Mets had enjoyed some success against Happ in the past, but not on this night. Only when Yoenis Cespesdes reached out and knocked a Home Run in the 6th inning were the Mets able to break through, but otherwise, this was a game that belonged to the pitchers.

I still felt optimistic when the game turned over to the bullpens, but that was primarily because I wasn't sure who was pitching out of the Pirates' pen and I knew that the Mets could bring in Clippard and Familia and bridge their way from there. Problem was, the Pirates bullpen turned out to be good and on this night turned out to be better than the Mets in the end. Jared Hughes, Antonio Bastardo and Arquimedes Caminero matched the Mets arms and the game somewhat fittingly ended up going extra innings. So, if you wanted to see how the Mets stacked up against the Pirates, well, they held up at least through 9 innings.

Then Bobby Parnell entered the game in the 10th and everything went haywire.

Parnell, who early after his return to the Mets looked like maybe he'd learned how to pitch after surgery and a subsequent loss in velocity, but after a while teams started catching up to him. After his ill-fated outing in Washington a few weeks ago, Parnell has quickly pitched himself out of favor, at least with me, to the point where it's not unrealistic to think he might need to be replaced once Erik Goeddel returns or Logan Verrett re-ascends. Last night sort of underscored this need because Parnell really didn't have much and the Pirates took advantage, banging out three straight hits and plating a run before he was finally removed, but by that point the damage had been done. Still, the Mets proved game and attempted to rally back against Mark Melancon, the Pirates closer who looks hittable except that nothing really falls in against him. Certainly, Lagares battled him and had Granderson caught his pitch a little more square, the game might have been tied. But instead his drive found Marte and the Mets couldn't do anything further of consequence and fell to the Pirates 3-2 in a game that could have gone either way.

Certainly, this was a frustrating loss and I suppose at this point every loss is frustrating. But Washington also lost their game in San Francisco so in the grand scheme of things it still doesn't hurt the Mets. But you'd rather they show they can hang with the Big Boys a little more than they've displayed. Still two more chances to do that.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Pole Positioning

Thursday's series finale against the Colorados was, of course, a 12:10pm game which meant that the game started without me realizing it. Only after the Colorados reached Noah Syndergaard for a pair of solo Home Runs in the top of the 1st inning and a friend texted me to let me know did I become aware that the game had begun. This isn't to say that I forgot there was a game. I knew the game was happening in the afternoon, I just lost track of what time it was. With the Mets in prime position to step on the throat of a clearly overmatched Colorado team, this wasn't an encouraging start; Syndergaard was having the kind of inning he'd been prone to on the road, not so much at home.

Then the rest of the game happened and things went back to normal. The Mets bombarded hapless Colorado rookie Eddie Butler for 6 runs in 4 innings and went on to plate runs in 6 of 8 innings. Curtis Granderson homered, Kelly Johnson homered, even Juan Lagares came off the bench and joined the Home Run fun and the Mets finished off their 4 game sweep with a resounding 12-3 victory to further prove that ney don't stink anymore.

I didn't see the game, of course, since I was at work, and as such my ability to follow along was kind of limited but what I do know, aside from what I already discussed, was that Syndergaard settled down after his early issues and managed to push himself through 7 innings on only 94 pitches after early on it looked as though 5 innings would have been tough to pull off. But part of what's made Syndergaard look as good as he's been hyped up to be is the fact that like Harvey and deGrom he's taught himself how to pitch and how to adjust on the fly when something might not be working for him. Syndergaard only managed 5 strikeouts for the game, which is telling when you know he's capable of ringing up 10 or more any time he takes the mound. But Harvey did this on Tuesday, to some extent deGrom did it and on Thursday Syndergaard dialed himself back a bit and sacrificed lighting up the radar gun and blowing everyone away in favor of making the batters hit the ball, thereby resulting in his throwing fewer pitches and keeping himself in the game longer. For a power pitcher to be able to pull this off with some regularity is impressive. The Mets now have 3 guys who can do this basically on a whim and this is important as innings limits are pushed and games become heavier and sweatier and of greater importance.

Meanwhile, as the Mets keep winning games, Washington continues to lose games (and at press time their game in San Francisco is not quite done but seems to be headed towards a favorable result), which underscores just how important it is for the Mets to continue to beat these bad teams. While Washington has had a hard time out West, the Mets are done with the California teams for one, and for two they've managed to open up a now 4-game lead. I still think Washington's got one good hot streak left in them, and case history scares the shit out of every Mets fan right now, but this is as good as it's been in a long time and the more the Mets can open up a lead and keep the pressure on Washington, the more this groundswell can continue to snowball down the stretch.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Supporting Roles

The latest Mets win, and jeez there's been many of them recently, was capped off by a blast from the most publicized Mets acquisition, Yoenis Cespedes. Cespedes, who may or may not have been spurred on by a bright yellow bird that had been flapping around Citi Field most of the game, capped off a 3-0 Mets victory by slamming his first Mets Home Run in the 8th inning. Before that, though, it was the exploits of one of their lesser acquisitions that was having himself a fine evening.

Juan Uribe, who looks nothing like what you would consider to be a ballplayer, found himself in the thick of several key moments in Wednesday's game. His 4th inning double over everyone's head plated Juan Lagares with the game's first run, and when Michael Cuddyer subsequently singled, Uribe pushed the envelope, in spite of the fact that he moves with the grace of a Semi, attempted to score and forced a lousy throw from Charlie McCharlieman that bounced off the mound allowing Uribe to score. An inning later, with Jacob deGrom in a rare jam, Jorge De La Rosa hit for the Colorados with men on 1st and 3rd and 1 out, and attempted to lay down a bunt and maybe bring home a run in the process. D.J. LeMahieu, the runner on 3rd, essentially followed Uribe down the 3rd base line as he attempted to field the ball, but Uribe then pulled some bizarre looky-loo act, managed to fake LeMahieu out of his cleats, and by time he then wheeled and threw to 1st to get the sure out, LaNosehair had basically decided to give up and go back to 3rd when he probably could have walked home. How many 3rd Basemen have the wherewithal to do that? Uribe didn't do anything particularly noteworthy here but somehow his body language totally rooked LeMahieu out of a run and essentially ran the Colorados out of their best scoring chance of the night. And to top it all off, Uribe had Citi Field bouncing off the walls, singing along to his anthemic Marc Anthony at-bat music.

This has sort of been Juan Uribe's career. He's not a Hall of Famer. He's at best a role player at this late point in his career and even when he was younger, he sort of looked old and fat. But he wins. And he keeps on winning. Everywhere he stops, he wins. He's landed on two World Series Champions already (and played enormously important roles on those teams) and found himself in the thick of the action on other playoff teams as well. He was never a star, but he just seems to be one of those wily veteran players that bounces around to a lot of teams and manages to make everyone around him better. All he's done since he landed in New York has come up with a bunch of key hits, make some good defensive plays and aid the Mets to a bunch of victories as they've moved into 1st place and last night only underscored that some more.

It's good to talk about Uribe in that sense because in reality, if you watched the game, Uribe was a sideshow and the real story was Jacob deGrom, who basically had what's become the normal deGrom outing: 7 innings, no runs, 3 hits and 10 strikeouts, except that he walked 4 so apparently he didn't have anything working for him. How terrible. Guess meat needs to go back to the Minors for some more seasoning. But at any rate, how much more can be written about deGrom that hasn't already been said? He's been doing this for months now and for what it's worth, he actually hasn't had his best stuff in his last few outings, but this seems to matter very little to him.

And if this embarrassment of riches didn't seem like enough, the Mets can now go for the kill this afternoon with Syndergaard on the mound and maybe put some more distance between themselves and the Nationals.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sanctuary

After everything that's gone on for me personally over the past couple of weeks, I really needed a Mets game. I'd missed my last game for the most sorrowful of reasons. But I knew my next scheduled game was last night and to say I absolutely needed to be there probably goes without saying. I needed to be there and I needed to see a Mets win, and I really liked my chances of that happening when I saw that Matt Harvey was scheduled to pitch.

There are certain games, in the now 378 that I've attended, that hold a particularly warm place for me for sentimental reasons, not necessarily because they were great games or part of a great season, but just because that particular game was one that I remember fondly, and last night's game certainly has to be counted among them. It was, of course, the first game I'd been to since my Father passed away and although as I'd mentioned Baseball was not a connector between us, what it represents to me is often a temporary escape from the mishigas of life. I've needed that escape quite a bit and the Mets have been kind enough to respond by going on a real good hot streak, but there's always something much more personal about being at a game as opposed to watching it on TV.

So that was the stage that was set for me on Tuesday night, with Matt Harvey on the mound, whom I always seem to miss by a day or two, but not tonight, which was good because Harvey had one of those nights where he basically treated his opponent as a minor annoyance. He didn't win by blowing the Colorados out of the box with heat; in fact by my watch his velocity seemed a tick low, but instead he just placed his pitches exactly where he wanted, which happened to be in spots where Colorado hitters would make just enough contact to hit a slow ground ball or a lazy fly ball of no particular consequence. Rinse, repeat and for 8 innings Harvey made a reasonably good Colorado lineup look silly. For his efforts, he allowed no runs, walked no batters, only struck out 4 and allowed 4 hits, although I'd hesitate to call 3 of those 4 hits since they were little more than well-placed ground balls. One was a ball that Juan Uribe double-clutched on and threw too late. The second was overturned on replay. The 3rd was bobbled by Uribe outright and was only charitably scored a hit. Only in the 7th did the Colorados get a legitimate hit, a ringing double by Mr. Moustache Ben Paulsen (whose publicity photo belies his true mutant facial hair), but Paulsen promptly atoned for this particular malfeasance by getting himself doubled off when Pete LaNosehair lined out to second.

Harvey was so dominant that it wasn't too concerning that the Mets were having no luck scoring against Chris Rusin. It wasn't for lack of effort; they'd managed to get men on base, but not a key hit until the 6th inning when Michael Cuddyer singled and Travis d'Arnaud reached on an infield hit, and with 2 outs, Ruben Tejada, who somehow continues to back into good fortune, inside outed a pitch to right field to score Cuddyer.

That right there was probably enough for Harvey, and with his pitch count at merely 97, the sentimental sap in me, which was out in full force last night, was hoping the Mets would go down quickly and give Harvey the opportunity to finish out the CGShO. There was no good reason to think he wouldn't do so, although given that 2 of the Colorados best hitters were due up on the 9th, Collins couldn't be blamed for not wanting to push it. Still, if the Mets had managed to score an insurance run before Harvey's spot in the lineup came around, maybe he would have stayed in. But that didn't happen. John Axford only succeeded in loading the bases and then departed for Boone Logan when Curtis Granderson was announced as a Pinch Hitter. Logan and Granderson squared off in the same situation they'd found themselves in on Monday and the result was basically the same. This time, Logan walked Granderson to force home an insurance run and then allowed a 2-run double to Juan Lagares that had me bouncing off the walls and tilting the game squarely in the Mets favor, so much so that Jeurys Familia sat down altogether in favor of Eric O'Flaherty. O'Flaherty allowed a double to Jose Reyes (5 years ago that's a triple for Jose without question) but that was about it.

I know most Mets fans of my ilk (and there aren't an overwhelming number of us) know what I'm talking about when I talk about the idea of games that are sentimental favorites. We all have our share, I'm sure. On a night when I really needed to be at a Mets game, and on a night when I really needed to see a Mets win, just to lift my spirits a little bit, Matt Harvey went out and delivered that for me. This wasn't anyone's definition of a memorable game in the Baseball sense and Harvey himself probably wouldn't think of this game beyond "I pitched well and should have finished the job," and he'd probably never see this but I hope he knows that this particular game and his performance will stick with me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In Better Times

The Colorados make their annual visit to Citi Field this week, and once again it's some weird 4-day weekday series and of course I have a ticket to one of the games (Tuesday). But for whatever reason, and at least now I can laugh about it because the Mets are doing well, every time the Colorados come in to town I have to think about the time they came in in August of 2012, with a record of 46-73, when their entire team was on the DL and they literally were running relief pitchers out to start games and pitch 3 innings, and they somehow swept the Mets 4 games because the Mets forgot that they were an actual Major League Baseball team and they should play as such. It was such an overwhelming debacle that I deemed the game I attended "Turd Sandwich Night," but more noteworthy, it inspired perhaps the most epic Mike Francesa meltdown of all time, where he came on the air after the final game and literally screamed his head off for 10 minutes, punctuating his tirade with a phrase that has stuck with me ever since: "NNNNNNNEY STINK!" At the time, yes, he was right. Ney did stink.

Fortunately, now, ney do not stink and the Colorados are in a rebuilding mode so the Mets, if they know what's good for them, ought to fare well in this series. Although if you look up and down the Colorados lineup they do have some legitimate talent, particularly since Carlos Gonzalez has stayed healthy and Nolan Arenado's bat has caught up with his glove. Also, guys like D.J. LeMahieu and Nick Hundley have managed to find themselves flirting with .300 but perhaps it's the rarefied air.

Regardless, none of them fared especially well against Jon Niese, who once again had a fine outing, allowing only a 2-run Home Run to Gonzalez in the 4th inning, which I'll give him a pass on even if it's a lefty/lefty spot because Gonzalez has been destroying everything lately. This particular inning then nearly unraveled into a Jon Niese Inning because these things happen, and perhaps back in 2012 when ney stank it would have, but Niese instead decided he'd better stone up and fix his own issues, and he did.

However the Mets could manage nothing against Jon Gray, the rookie pitcher who undoubtedly has an uphill climb as a member of the Colorados and may be ruined by altitude but nonetheless was drafted but one slot after Baseball Jesus so he can't be all bad. But the Colorados are protective of their young investment and thus he was finished for the game after 6 innings and 75 pitches in spite of the fact that the only hit he'd allowed was a Travis d'Arnaud Home Run.

Gray was replaced by Justin Miller, who succeeded only in allowing the Mets to load the bases, and when Walt Weiss then relieved Miller with Boone Logan, Logan made things worse by hitting Curtis Granderson to bring home the tying run, and then giving up a 2-run single to Daniel Murphy to bring home the lead runs. The bullpen then brought it home from there and the Mets got themselves back on track with a 4-2 win to open the series.

This was, certainly, the kind of game the Mets wouldn't have won when ney stank. Terry Collins said as much. Were it back then, Granderson, or whoever Granderson's 2012 equivalent would be, maybe Andres Torres or worse, Jordany Valdespin probably would have jumped out of their shoes to swing at a slider 4 feet off the plate and either popped out or struck out and the Mets wouldn't have gotten a hit the rest of the game. It's nice when ney don't stink.