Saturday, April 30, 2016

Turnabout's Fair Play

I mentioned this to George, and basically everyone who would listen to me after Friday night's Mets bombarding of the San Francisco Giants: Last season, I went to a Mets/Giants game and watched the Mets get No Hit by Chris Heston. I watched the 9th inning of that game stewing in silence as the true horror unfolded.

Last night was the exact opposite of that. Rather than not hitting, the Mets hit, and hit, and hit some more in a 3rd inning that just kept on steamrolling until the Mets had plated 12 runs, something they had never before accomplished in team history.

These games usually begin innocuously, as most games tend to do. It was, of course, Friday, which means I got a Free Shirt and as I was coming off the train before going inside I passed the WOR tent, where they were giving out free shirts for answering trivia questions. I'd planned not to stop, except that I knew the answer to the question that was asked, so essentially, I shouted it out as I passed by and got a second free shirt, which appears to be a leftover from last season. Inside, it was crowded, as you'd expect on a Friday night against a contending team like the Giants and a team with a fan base that travels well like the Giants. I expected to see large swaths of Black and Orange and I certainly did, and the Finnerty's crowd was in full force out in Left Field. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary.

Steven Matz was on the mound for the Mets, against Jake Peavy for the Giants. The discussion that spurred involved things like George not knowing that Peavy was still in the league, twice confusing him with Brad Penny by assuming he'd pitched for the Marlins and the Dodgers, and neither of us being able to remember which teams he'd actually pitched for outside of the Padres and Red Sox. It was raining at the start of the game, kind of lightly, intermittently, but then somewhere around the 2nd inning, it started raining a little harder. My scorecard was getting wet and I had to pause and put it away as several people ran for cover outright. Someone several rows down from me put up an umbrella and blocked my view of home plate, which was just lovely. It was turning into one of those nights.

In other words, nobody knew what was about to ensue.

The Giants had been dinging Matz around over the first few innings, picking up 5 hits, but nothing of consequence. Peavy didn't allow the Mets much over the first two innings. That, of course changed rather quickly.

Peavy's control hadn't been great to begin with and of course when he walked Curtis Granderson and David Wright to start the 3rd inning, he was asking for trouble. Michael Conforto followed, and generally Conforto with men on base has been a winning proposition for the Mets. So it wasn't surprising that Conforo smashed a double to the left-center field gap to score Granderson with the first run of the game. Yoenis Cespedes followed with a single that scored both Wright and Conforto and got the Mets out 3-0.

At this point, George and I were discussing clich├ęs to describe Peavy's situation. At this point, we felt he needed to minimize the damage and let the game come back to him, but instead he only made things worse by walking Lucas Duda and giving up a long double into the Right Field corner to Neil Walker to score Cespedes. At this point, Bruce Bochy had had enough of this and removed Peavy from the game, I suppose in an effort to stop the madness, but his choice of pitcher, Mike Broadway, only managed to make things worse.

Broadway was greeted by Asdrubal Cabrera drilling another double up the alley in Left Center, the Mets 3rd double of the inning, that plated Duda and Walker to make the score 6-0 and officially close the book on Peavy's forgettable evening. Kevin Plawecki walked. Matz followed and at this point, with 6 runs home, George and I were wondering whether or not he should be bunting, or what the protocol for proper sportsmanship was in this place. Surely, Matz has proven himself capable of swinging the bat, but it seems bunting isn't quite his bailiwick and he struck out on 3 attempts.

That's the first out of the inning, after 9 batters, if you're keeping score.

Here's where the inning began to get completely out of hand. Granderson followed by smoking a Broadway offering deep to Right Field, into the dopey alcove where nobody can hit Home Runs. It looked for a brief moment like it might land in the Pepsi Coca-Cola Porch, but it didn't, and Hunter Pence I guess was distracted by whatever signs were prepared for him because he got a glove on it but didn't hold on, and instead the ball fell, Cabrera scored and Granderson was aboard on what was charitably called a very long single. At this point, any sort of wheels that remained on the Giants had come off, and the Mets were either just going to keep on hitting forever. The inning was by this point well over half an hour long and the Mets had tied my personal best inning with 7 runs. So I just wanted to see how much further they could take this. Wright dunked a single in to load the bases. Conforto did his part by lining a single to right to score Plawecki and make it 8-0, and then Cespedes followed, and basically the thought in everyone's mind at this point was that he was either going to swing like he was trying to hit a grand slam, or that he was actually going to hit a grand slam, and really, that was the only result of that at bat. And, of course, he launched the 1st pitch into the seats in the Left Field corner for said grand slam and capped off the first 12-run inning in Mets History.

So at this point, everyone was bouncing off the walls with joy, George and I are both dumbstruck by what we've just witnessed and, of course, there's still a whole rest of a game to be played with the score 12-0. And there was still only one out in the inning. But as these things tend to do, Cespedes' grand slam killed the momentum and the next two batters grounded out. That didn't take anything away from the 13 batters that came to the plate before that and the crowd responded with a standing ovation.

But as I said, there was still 6 innings left to play, and by this point, after an inning that took close to 45 minutes and an unheard of 67 pitches, 30 from Peavy and 37 from Broadway, the clock was nearing 9pm...and the game started at 7:10. Also, Matz had to sit around through that long inning. But for the most part, both teams played like they wanted to get out of there quick. Matz didn't help himself by coming out a bit wild in the middle innings, probably because it's not especially easy to

pitch with a big lead like that, and he kept walking guys and giving up hits, but again, the Giants didn't cash in, Matz finished out his 6 innings, and Jerry Blevins, Logan Verrett and Antonio Bastardo each pitched sloppy innings to finish out the night. I could expound on how messy the Mets were on the pitching side of things, but that really isn't the story of this game.

The 3rd inning of this game is of course what everyone will remember, because never mind that the Mets have never done it, but you just don't see 12-run innings very often altogether. It takes a rare combination of contact and momentum steamrolling out of control, combined with a pitcher who has the poor fortune of just having to suck it all up, which is the case of Mike Broadway, who aside from being subjected to a litany of Broadway Musical jokes had to just do his best to navigate his way through a completely hopeless situation. I'll remember it because after Matz came to the plate, I turned to George and said "The Mets have officially broken the scorecard," as you'll see here. It's not often I have to run an inning across two columns and then shove each subsequent inning down the list, but that's what happened here.

The Giants and I are now even, I believe. This sort of a game seems proper retribution for what they made me witness last season. I suppose watching Matz throw a No Hitter might have been nice, but History is History and all the better that I was there to witness it.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Easier Than It Looks

After several days of Met-Deprivation, I was back in my rightful place on Wednesday night watching a game as it happened, live from my regular perch in Section 513 at Citi Field for my 3rd game of the season.

It was on the chilly side, as most April games tend to be, not nearly as Arctic as my last game but nonetheless far from pleasant. My other half had rejected an invitation to join me ("I'll wait until it's warmer out," she says) so I was there by myself, dashing out after work and trying to navigate the incessant security lines that are now the norm at Citi Field—a prescient reminder of what happens when you have a winning team and the chance to see a marquee pitcher most every night.

But Matt Harvey, though slowly improving, still isn't quite there yet. I hadn't yet reached my seat when Zack Cozart hit his 3rd pitch of the game into the Left Field seats, which spurred all sorts of catcalls and Harvey-bashing. Ivan DeJesus Jr followed by lining a pitch off of Harvey's ass—and quite squarely off his ass—for a single and at that point, Harvey was clearly steaming because he went into "enough of this fuckery" mode and struck out the next 5 batters he faced. That was the Harvey we were used to, but it didn't last long. The Reds, still boasting a Scheblerrific lineup featuring Joey Votto and his band of lesser men, kind of dinged Harvey to death. They loaded the bases in the 3rd inning, and only by some clever gamesmanship by Michael Conforto did they not score outright (One would think Billy Hamilton should have easily scored on Votto's floater, but it seems as though Conforto faked Hamilton into thinking he had a play on the ball and thus Hamilton could go no further than 3rd). They did score in the 5th, in a rather irritating sequence where several bloopers fell in, and Eugenio Suarez, their mighty cleanup hitter, drove home the run on what can only be described as a really well-placed flare. In the end, Harvey managed to make it through 6 innings and struck out 7, but when he had to battle, he really had to battle. It's still a work in progress, this fellow's season.

And yet, the game was never in that much doubt. Although the Mets were down early, they struck back quickly against Jon Moscot. Alejandro De Aza led off the 1st with a single and scored when Scott Schebler Scheblered on a Lucas Duda fly ball for an Error, and then Neil Walker drove home Duda. In the 3rd, Walker Daniel Murphy'd on a ground ball in the top of the inning which made things difficult for Harvey, so like a good teammate, Walker made up for this by hitting a Home Run in the bottom of the 3rd, which was my inaugural Mets Home Run for the 2016 season. After the Reds closed to 3-2, the Mets got two men on in the 6th against Brad Blake Wood. Rather than trying to play matchups, which I think Bryan Price intended to do on Tuesday night, he instead relieved Wood with another righty, Drew Hayes, to face Michael Conforto, and of course Conforto responded with his almost-daily extra-base hit, a double to the wall in Left-Center that scored both runs, put the Mets ahead 5-2, and made the rest of the game totally academic. The Mets seemed to have this game under control even when they fell behind early, and even Familia got the night off, as Collins went to Addison Reed in the 9th to finish off the game and give the Mets their 6th win in a row.

So, things now are really clicking for the Mets and they look like the genuine threat we knew they were capable of being. It's easy to be high on them when they're beating up on some lousy teams like Atlanta and Cincinnati, and it's not really to make light of them because everyone's trying to win, but really, all the Mets are doing right now is beating the teams that they're supposed to be beating, and that's what's most important here. A team that's got legitimate Championship aspirations shouldn't go 11-8 against the awful Braves or 4-3 against the Reds. They should be 15-4 and 6-1 against these teams. Let them go 11-8 against Washington, I'd take that. This was a really easy win against a team that they should have easy wins against.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Good Time Guys

So it's officially a streak. For the 5th day in a row, I saw none of the game, followed things partially on the internet, and the Mets won.

This particular game seemed to require a bit more work than the 4 victories preceding it. The Mets were down early to the Reds, a team they swept the season series from last year and really ought to do the same thing to again. But the Reds got to Bartolo Colon in the middle innings and ran out to a 3-0 lead. In other years, when the Reds lineup featured names like Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier, this might not be much of a surprise, but those players are either injured or on other teams, and so when you're getting beaten by guys named Tyler Holt and Scott Schebler, and the cleanup hitter is Eugenio Suarez, well, it's as bad as it looks.

It didn't help that the Mets were stymied by Brandon Finnegan, whom the Reds acquired in the Cueto deal last Summer. Finnegan's had a bit of a crucible in spite of his young age and paucity of experience, having been a part of KC's run to the 2014 World Series, so him showing poise isn't a great surprise, but still, the Mets ought to have been able to solve him.

It took until the 7th inning for them to actually do so, when with 1 out, Finnegan walked Juan Lagares and Kevin Plawecki singled. At that point, with over 100 pitches under his belt, Bryan Price was probably well within his right to pull Finnegan there and let him leave with a job well done and some good vibes. But after some cat-and-mouse act and a lengthy mound conference, Finnegan remained in to face Yoenis Cespedes as a Pinch Hitter and, well, that didn't go well for Finnegan. For Cespedes and the Mets, it was great, since Cespedes drilled the first pitch he saw for a 3-run Home Run to tie the game, one of those frozen moment shots that we'll probably see all season long.

Then, of course, Price removed Finnegan from the game.

Two batters later, the Mets had the lead thanks to a Curtis Granderson triple and a David Wright single, and by that point, the Reds were probably both stunned and demoralized and did fairly little for the remainder of the night.

But, lest that be a lesson. The Mets can, in fact, do that to you now. Even if it seems like they've been mostly sleepwalking through a game. I guess this is what happens when you're playing the also-ran instead of being the also-ran.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Walker Strikes Again

So, for the 4th day in a row, I saw none of the Mets game and only sort of caught some of the action online, and the Mets won. Maybe there's something to this?

For once, on a night when Noah Syndergaard pitched for the Mets, he wasn't the story of the game. That's not to say Syndergaard pitched badly, in fact from what I understand he pitched just fine. But when you're used to such a high bar—and in this early part of the season Syndergaard's set an especially high bar—an outing where the scoreboard isn't lit on fire seems kind of pedestrian.

The Reds, another one of these downsizing teams,  didn't really generate much against Syndergaard. They just made well-placed contact when they had to. Syndergaard allowed 7 hits in his 6.2 innings, but 6 of them didn't leave the infield, and when he departed, following a 9-strikeout effort, he was in position to come away with a win as the Mets held a precarious 3-2 lead. But Antonio Bastardo couldn't get out Joey Votto, another instance where the "lefty specialist" doesn't get the lefty out, and the game was tied.

Then, the game was untied, because Neil Walker struck again.

I know that the guy that used to play 2nd base for the Mets is off in Washington hitting .400 and loving Jesus, but we all knew that was going to happen. Just wait until he starts getting overeager and spends the next 3 months grounding out to 2nd base. I know I keep saying that but I feel like I need to remind everyone because we all know it's coming. I'm looking forward to May 17th at Citi Field when he tries to score from 1st on a single or throw a runner out at home while running into the Outfield. The Mets now have Walker, whose career is marked with less of the severe mental mistakes his predecesor used to make, and more consistency. Walker's warmed to New York well, and his 7th inning Home Run, his 8th of the year, put the Mets ahead for good. It's nice to get hits, but Walker's been making his count. I don't know how long this power surge will last for him, but I feel more inclined to think that once he regresses to his mean, he'll still do useful things and not try too hard and make absurd, head-scratching mistakes.

Jeurys Familia closed out the win with what was probably his best inning to this point this season, so maybe he's rounding into his regular form. Over the previous road trip, it seems like most of the team has kicked themselves into gear, and now the pitching staff is starting to get going too. Granted, the Mets aren't playing the stiffest of competition, but you should beat teams like this and now the Mets have been doing that. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Stop the Presses.

Yes, if you can believe it, the Mets actually swept a series in Atlanta, finishing off their weekend with a 3-2 victory on one of those painfully sunny Atlanta afternoons when the Mets almost never win because I guess that Atlanta sun bakes everyone to the point that the equilibrium just tilts in Atlanta's favor. It almost happened again on Sunday, as Jeurys Familia had to survive a bit of a hair-raising 9th inning, but in the end the Mets ended up victorious.

This was a completely lost weekend for me Baseball-wise. I watched none of the games, and in fact I didn't even watch part of any of the games. Like Saturday evening, I was stuck in front of a computer again for the proceedings and even then, I didn't get going with that until the 8th inning. By that point, Jacob deGrom had finished out his work for the day, a regroup outing for him after missing two weeks for personal matters, but if nothing else it seems like his fastball was in a bit better shape. The Braves dinged him for 8 hits, but just like against Matz on Saturday, it seemed to be of little consequence as he only allowed 1 run in 5.2 innings. He also only struck out 3 batters, a low number for him, but if deGrom can still throw a quality outing out there with less than his best stuff, that's OK with me. There will be better days and hopefully those will happen against better opponents.

So the Mets now return home after a 7-2 road trip, and considering the teams they were playing, 7-2 was about the minimum I would have expected. Really, they could have easily swept all three series they played, but for a momentary lapse in Cleveland and a night when nothing worked in Philadelphia. Now, let's see if this can carry back home, where they'll see a couple of lesser teams in Cincinnati and Atlanta sandwiched around the Giants over the weekend, which ought to be an interesting matchup.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Even Smaller Screen

Like Friday, I wasn't in front of a TV for Saturday night's game either. Unlike Friday, I was in front of a computer screen for at least part of the evening, so I was able to follow, in some vague sense of the word, what was going on.

This is, of course, inexact, because if I'm relegated to following a game on the computer, I'm probably someplace doing something that would require me to not be staring at a computer for 3 hours straight, or at least not tracking a game for 3 hours straight. This leaves some gaps in my knowledge of what happened.

I know the important things, though. Steven Matz pitched well against the Braves mostly overmatched lineup. The Braves did hit Matz a little bit, but it was mostly strings of singles, and although he allowed 9 hits in his 6.1 innings, he only allowed 2 runs and struck out 8 to sort of lessen the sting of this sort of buzzardly outing.

The Mets had already staked Matz to a lead when he departed, thanks to run-scoring hits by David Wright and Asdrubal Cabrera, and they led 5-2 going to the 9th, which I figured was sort of academic. And at that point I needed to go do some things away from my desk, so I did, and then I came back about 10 or so minutes later. A colleague, who, unbeknownst to me also roots for the Mets, was looking at my screen. "Looks like our boys are doing well," he said to me.

I looked at the screen and saw an 8-2 final score.

"Jeez," I said to him. "When I got up, it was 5-2. What happened?"

Well, it seems I missed Neil Walker hit a Home Run, and Cabrera hit a Home Run, and then Juan Lagares hit an RBI triple off of Ryan Weber (no relation--no family member of mine would play for the Barves) to put the game essentially out of reach and give the Mets their second win in as many tries in Atlanta, if you can believe it.

The Mets can now go for the sweep tomorrow with deGrom returning to the mound, which would be a nice way to finish off this road trip. It's featured a lot of offense and mostly unextraordinary games,  which at this point of the season and against this kind of opponent is just fine with me and most everyone else. Save the excitement for the more-hyped competition.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

That Old Hell Hole

Something that will be oft-repeated around here this season is the fact that this is the last season for Turner Field in Atlanta, and I can't wait for that stadium to be burned to the ground and never spoken of again.

It's sort of asinine that this is happening, but I'm not here to pass judgement on the hot-button civic issues in Atlanta. All that you need to know is that the stadium lasted 20 years before its useful life was deemed finished and the Braves will move to a suburban palace beginning next season.

Left behind, of course, is a stadium where just about nothing has gone right for the Mets. In 20 seasons of playing games in this toilet bowl of a stadium, the Mets have had all matter of breaks go against them and if I'm not mistaken, their record is something like 21-145. Or at least it feels that way. I think the Mets have gone into Atlanta and gotten swept at least once in every season, no matter how good they are, or how bad the Braves are, and over most of this era the Braves have been pretty good. Seasons have died in this ballpark in all manner of cruelty. Yes, there have been many stadia over the league where the Mets have not fared well. No place has been worse to the Mets than Atlanta.

I will, I'm quite certain, have many other barbs to sling at Turner Field over the final 10 games the Mets will play there, so I'll stop for now and get to Friday night's affair, which I didn't actually see because of Passover, but I got word of the happenings from a few sources. It's somewhat fortunate that the Barves of 2016 have basically Houston Astro-ed their roster, stripping themselves down to basically the barest of necessary talent in order to assemble a Major League roster. Thus, they were a good foil for Matt Harvey on this night, since he was able to grit his way through an excruciating 5 inning effort that didn't especially inspire a ton of confidence, but if nothing else was enough to get him and his team a victory. This mostly thanks to Curtis Granderson, who hit a pair of Home Runs, one of them of the Grand Slam variety, off of hapless starter Bud Norris to put the Mets comfortably ahead.

The bullpen covered the rest of the game, and the unit seemed sufficiently recovered from Wednesday night's debacle. Aside from a difficult inning from Antonio Bastardo, the other 4 relievers the Mets charged out there, Jim Henderson, Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia, all pitched well, sandwiching outings around a mysterious 8th inning Rain Delay that dragged the proceedings much later into the evening than necessary. Not that it mattered. If you've been to any Passover Seder, you know that it's all about dragging things much later into the evening than necessary. So I wouldn't have seen anything anyway.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Oh Dammit

The problem that happens every year the Mets have any sort of tangible expectations is that there's this horrible, sinking feeling of anxiety that accompanies every game, particularly games that the Mets don't win handily over second division teams. Last night's game was one such affair; the game seemed to be playing out in the sort of fashion that would dictate that the Mets should have won, but the bullpen blew a late lead, the Mets couldn't capitalize in Extra Innings, and ultimately they lost in the 11th inning on, basically, a Wild Pitch and an Infield Single.

Really, if you consider the way the game played out, the Mets probably should have won this game. They had a 3-run Home Run by Asdrubal Cabrera overturned in the 2nd inning, and a 3-run inning turned into a 2-run inning and that second run sort of scored by dumb luck, courtesy of a Jeremy Hellickson Wild Pitch. The Phillies eventually forged ahead against Bartolo Colon, but in the 5th inning, Cespedes homered and then Duda homered and everything seemed to be full steam ahead. But the Phillies tied the game in the 7th when the normally reliable Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed faltered. On Monday, the Mets responded to this adversity by beating on Philly's bullpen, but that strategy didn't materialize last night. Over the course of 6 innings, Hector Neris, Dalier Hinojosa and Jeanmar Gomez, all pitchers that the Mets have raked over the coals at one time or another, allowed the Mets 2 baserunners and racked up 33 strikeouts, or at least it seemed that way, and in a spot where minimal offense would have netted a victory, instead the Mets found themselves in an Extra Inning game for the first time this season.

Still, Antonio Bastardo and Jim Henderson got through scoreless innings in the 8th, 9th and 10th, but Hansel Robles hiccuped in the 11th. It was the perfect storm of weird circumstances. Freddy Galvis doubled and then there was a walk, and then a Wild Pitch, and then an intentional walk to Emmanuel Burriss was called off after an intentional ball, and then Robles got Burriss and appeared primed to get out of the inning, but after getting 2 strikes on light-hitting, Peter Bourjos, Robles instead nibbled and Bourjos managed to place a ground ball in just the right spot for it to be impossible for David Wright to get him at 1st and the winning run scored.

I can tell that the low-level grumbling is already beginning. The Mets are hitting Home Runs at a pace that would destroy team records, the starting pitching for the most part has been as good as advertised and the bullpen has been reasonably solid. Yet they sit at a puzzling 7-7 and already 3.5 games behind Washington. I know it's still a little too early to get too worked up, but it's kind of concerning. The performance isn't translating to wins, for whatever reason. The fellows I e-mail with are already apoplectic. One person blamed Terry Collins for not putting Jeurys Familia in the game. Another likened this start to 2007. Both could be good points, but it's not as though the Mets were throwing junkballers out there. Bastardo, Henderson and Robles have pitched well to this point, as have Reed and Blevins. But on this night, three of these guys were had. And if anything, this start isn't like 2007. In 2007, the Mets roared out of the gate and were the best team in Baseball through the first two months of the season before complacency set in. This reminds me of 2001, when the Mets started slow, muddled around for 4 months without any real direction and by time they got their act together, it was too late.

Teams can run hot and cold, and lucky and unlucky just as much. Last season, the Mets were both hot and lucky in many key moments. So far, they've been hot, but not necessarily lucky just yet. With a little more luck, perhaps 7-7 is 10-4 and everything is wonderful. But that's not the case just yet.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Forget The Old Guy

Citizen's Bank Park, or as I've called it, Steroid Field II, due to that weird jet stream that was built into the stadium that causes baseballs to fly out of it, has played host to some memorable Home Run performances by the Mets, most recently last season, when they hit 8 in one absurd August game. Last night, the Mets only hit a paltry 6 longballs, but the result was still the same: they won in a rout.

Two of their Home Runs came from Neil Walker, who's now got 6 in the early going and has, at least for now, made everyone forget about the dude he replaced at 2nd Base. This isn't much of a surprise to me; for as much as the Postseason explosion Daniel Murphy experienced last season was an amazing thing, that wasn't his career. Home Runs aren't necessarily Walker's thing either, but if anyone was skeptical over replacing Murphy with Walker, well, maybe they should think differently. The Mets aren't really losing anything by not having Murphy around anymore; if anything Walker's been a better, albeit less flashy player over the past several seasons. Of course, by less flashy, I mean Walker tends to not be the kind of player who's going to field a ground ball and immediately turn and take a flying leap to try and throw a runner out at 3rd, and he's not going to try to score from 2nd base on an infield single. Mostly, he'll make smart plays that don't leave you scratching your head. At least that's what we've seen so far.

Let's see. Other Home Runs came from Michael Conforto, whose 1st inning shot basically let the air out of Vince Velasquez's sails. Yoenis Cespedes got the rout in order with a 3-run shot in the 3rd. Lucas Duda hit his 2nd in as many days. Curtis Granderson joined the fun in the 8th inning. All this in support of Logan Verrett, who threw his second consecutive 6-shutout-inning-start, once again underscoring the embarrassment of riches this Mets pitching is. Verrett will be rewarded by going back to the bullpen as deGrom is set to return on Sunday with a happy and healthy heart, but he can also take heart in knowing that his spot was kept warm by Verrett's solid work.

This Home Run thing that the Mets are on, what is it, 17 in the last 5 games, is nice, but it's not always my favorite thing. Yes, the Mets can blast you off the field on their best nights, and sometimes it's good to remind people of that. But what would be nice is a little more balance, more innings where they score 2-3 runs and bang out 5 hits. They have this in them, I know. I guess when you're at Steroid Field II it's sort of hard to resist swinging for the downs. Especially when you're up by a wide margin and finally did some damage against these annoying Philly starters.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Destroyer

OK. Now it feels like the Mets are finally in business. Now that they're back in the National League, playing teams in their own division, they're finally starting to stick feet in opponent's asses.

The Mets 5-2 win on Monday night started and ended with a pair of most-welcome Home Runs from David Wright, but really, the story of the game was Noah Syndergaard, because when he pitches, he's almost always the story of the game.

Prior to the game, a wonderful article by Mark Simon was making the rounds in the group of Mets fans I have a constant e-mail string with. The crux of the article wasn't so much that Syndergaard has been really good, but what's making him just be so dominant in the early going. Others have touched on it as well but it's more than just his stuff, it's the cognitive understanding he has of his talent, and the understanding he has of his role on the team. Back in 2013, when Harvey was off to his beastly start, it seemed shocking if he got touched up for 3 runs. I think when Syndergaard has an off day—and the law of averages dictates that he'll have to at some point—it's probably going to be monumentally jarring. Like the planets will have to align for this to happen. Or at least it seems that way.

Syndergaard's clinical demolition of the Phillies, 7 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 8 strikeouts, seems to be the norm. I was late tuning in and so I didn't see just how the Phillies scored their one run, but I'd have to imagine it happened in some weird, flukish kind of way, like there were a few floaters that were well-placed and fell in. That's what happened to him against Miami last week. When he does find himself in a jam, generally he just reaches back and blows the next batter out of the box. This has happened a few times too.

Unlike last week, the Mets were able to back Syndergaard with the necessary offense to win the game. After Wright's 1st inning Home Run—which should come as a surprise to no one since Wright tends to behave in Philly as graciously as Ryan Howard does in New York—they were mostly handcuffed by Jerad Eickhoff, who relied on a vicious curveball to counter Syndergaard's heat. Again, it's these Philly pitchers that you have to watch out for. Only in the 6th when Lucas Duda drove in Cespedes did the Mets regain the lead against Eickhoff, but then in the 8th and 9th, they started banging out more Home Runs off the Phillies' awful bullpen to put the game out of reach. Duda chimed in with his 1st of the year, Neil Walker hit one, and Wright hit his second in the 9th, because Philadelphia.

Still, Syndergaard remains the story. At 3 starts in, he's run off 29 strikeouts and an 0.90 ERA and, well, it sort of seems like he's just getting warmed up. There's always the general anxiety that comes from watching a pitcher be this good with his sort of stuff but for now, I think we just have to enjoy the ride.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Sometimes Sunny in Cleveland

So, OK. One pitcher bad, everyone complains, next pitcher good, everyone's happy again.

After getting his ass lit on fire on Monday, Steven Matz came back on Sunday in Cleveland and basically did the exact opposite. Being staked to a 3-run lead before he hit the mound I'm sure helped, but mostly Matz did the job himself, striking out 9 over 7 shutout innings as the Mets left Cleveland victorious, 6-0.

It was one of those painfully sunny days in Cleveland, the sort of sunshine that might be reserved for a Sunday in Atlanta. But here it was in Cleveland in April, and I can tell you that although it's not often Sunny in Cleveland, when it does get sunny, it gets really sunny. My lone experience at Jacobs Field was on a sunny day and I can tell you I basically cooked out there down the 1st base line, that's how glaringly bright it can get. Though the stadium is situated in downtown Cleveland, there's no real tall buildings around to speak of and I guess the field is actually built below ground level, so the top tiers of the seating bowl aren't quite as high as, say, Citi Field, and so when the sun is out, that can create some tough conditions for an Outfielder.

That being said, I'm merely stating this as fact, I'm not really coming to the defense of Rajai Davis. Davis, of course had a rather embarrassing 2nd inning meltdown that led to 3 Met runs and put the game essentially out of reach. Corey Kluber had already dug himself a hole in the 1st inning thanks to Michael Conforto, who has risen to the occasion of being the #3 hitter rather nicely, and Lucas Duda, who drove home the first 3 runs. But it was that second inning that really took the cake, because with 2 out and nobody on, Curtis Granderson hit a drive out to left-center that appeared catchable. Slightly difficult, but catchable, and when Davis went back toward the wall, it seemed like he had it lined up until he didn't and the ball landed not particularly close to him. Granderson being Granderson ended up on 3rd Base. The Mets capitalized on this immediately as Asdrubal Cabrera laid down a beauty of a bunt and caught everyone napping, particularly Kluber, who fielded the ball and hurled it into Right Field for an error. Conforto did what seems to be the norm for him and smoked another double down the right field line, and then Yoenis Cespedes capped the inning by hitting a routine fly ball to Center, and right off the bat you could see it was trouble because Davis looked just as uncomfortable as he did on Granderson's fly. This time, Davis crumpled completely before the ball landed not especially close to him as Conforto scored.

Mercifully, that was the end of Davis' sun escapades and the scoring for the game. Regardless, the damage was done and in particular I'm mystified as to how an Outfielder can have so much trouble with the sun in his home ballpark. The Mets, on the other hand, looked rather comfortable all day, probably because Matz had the Indians on a sleeperhold through his 7 innings of work, looking rather in rhythm in spite of Keith Hernandez yelling about him tipping his pitches. Tipping your pitches isn't great, but sometimes you're in such a good groove that you could let the batter know what pitch is coming and they still won't hit it (I believe Sandy Koufax made his living that way).

So the Mets are now done with American League parks until August, and can now worry about taking care of teams in their own division. They're hitting, the pitching is rounding into form, now keep it going.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What's Eating Matt Harvey?

Sometimes, when a team's biggest star is struggling, it can set off alarm bells all over the place. Matt Harvey might not necessarily be the Mets biggest star, but he's certainly up there and given the lofty expectations that people have for him (to say nothing of the bar he sets for himself), his poor start to the season has to be of some cause for concern. Saturday in Cleveland was just another example of Harvey coming apart when in prior years he'd be kicking into another gear. Harvey started off his day by striking out the side in the 1st inning, and usually when he does things like that, it's clear that it's one of those days when he's pitching with smoke coming out of his ears. Though he only struck out one after that, he was mowing down Cleveland batters with ease and had retired the first 13 batters to face him as the game moved to the 5th inning.

Then, of course, he walked Carlos Santana and totally unraveled from there.

This happened in his first two starts as well. Strong start and then an inability to maintain as the game moved on. So, now that it's happened three times, everyone and their brother is leading off their Mets talk with the same question: What's wrong with Harvey?

We at The Ballclub have gone through this before and so if we're going to go into what's going on with Harvey, it requires a bit more thought than the simple boilerplate answers of arm slots and innings counts and World Series hangovers. All this talk about what's wrong with Harvey seems to me all too reminiscent of when Dwight Gooden used to have a slow start to his season and everyone would be throwing up their hands and yelling "What's Up with Gooden?!" Now, I'm not saying that Harvey is using cocaine, these are different times. But what could be bothering Matt Harvey?

We all know Harvey purports himself as a real Ladies' man. This is nothing new. Before having been in the major leagues for a full year, he'd had some very frank discussions about how Beautiful Derek was his dating role model and he found himself in a very public relationship with a lovely Russian supermodel. But that public relationship went publicly south, and since then, Harvey hasn't purportedly been attached to anyone, at least as far as I know. Again, this is simply Harvey's personality, and as a young, handsome dude in the big city he likes the attention. But not all the attention seems to be very good. I know most people, whether they're Mets fans or not, are pretty convinced that the whole "Bladder infection" story was some weird smokescreen to cover up the fact that he has a venereal disease. This crossed the line with him, though, and probably rightfully so, but in New York, getting pissed off doesn't stop the whispers. Clearly, what Harvey needs is a change in reputation and maybe instead going out and being photographed with women, he should go out and be photographed throwing Baseballs outside of the Ed Sullivan Theatre like David Wright used to do.

On the other hand, maybe it's all a smokescreen. Perhaps Harvey is more of a wallflower and the talk and the photographs are bravado, and what Harvey really wants is a nice girl to settle down with. Harvey's best season to date, back in 2013, was accomplished when he was dating Anne V. (who sounds like some weird Bond Villainess with that name), and since then, all he's done is blow out his elbow, rehab, come back and have a season not as tantalizingly great as 2013. Hell, he didn't even make an All Star Game. So, clearly, whatever the problem is, it's that Harvey is lacking consistency in his life outside the lines and the random women he's seen with aren't really wetting the whistle enough to satiate him. What he needs is someone steady who will keep him grounded and keep his head in the game. Who that woman is, I don't know and I'm not going to make any suggestions. I'm no Dr. Ruth. But if it worked for David Wright, well, it should work for him.

It was of note when Harvey made the choice to live in the East Village in Manhattan. Harvey in fact resides around the corner from a former office of mine, and although I never saw him around there I can tell you that the location is right in the thick of everything that people seem to like about the East Village. But the East Village, for as hip as it may be from a Real Estate Standpoint, is a disaster of a neighborhood if you ever need to avoid people and just want some peace and quiet, and perhaps Harvey's point of view is changing. There is a bar on a sidestreet next to the Harvey residence. I heard, from a colleague who frequents said bar, that there had been some noise complaints from the building about the bar, and the scuttlebutt was that Harvey himself had made the complaints. So maybe, just maybe, this high-fallutin' East Village lifestyle is starting to wear on Harvey, and at the ripe old age of 26 he's ready for a more peaceful and quiet neighborhood. Like Gramercy. You know, where David Wright used to live!

Matt Harvey has always been a big dude, ever since he arrived in the Majors. He slimmed down slightly at the beginning of 2013 but bulked up as the course of the season went on. After missing 2014, he came back to camp in 2015 looking a little more filled out and bulky, which is fine. So long as it doesn't affect his pitching, he can weigh as much as he sees fit. It worked for guys like David Wells and Sabathia. But this season, Harvey looks like half the man he was when we saw him last October. It's kind of strange. I know he probably worked out like a demon in the offseason and Spring Training to get in that kind of shape but maybe not having the bulk behind him has caused him to lose something on the ol' rising stink. Maybe he should go back to the diet he used to have of sushi and Sunday brunch. I'm not saying he needs to eat himself into Bartolo Colon territory, but hey, success is success and when your body is your temple, don't mess around too much. I'm sure David Wright could recommend a good dietician.

So, these are my thoughts on Harvey. What does everyone else think?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Is Anyone Really Surprised?

So, the Mets go on the road and in their first game hit 4 Home Runs en route to a win over the Cleveland Indians. Surprise, surprise.

It's not often that the Mets find themselves in Cleveland, a city that bears the reputation of bad weather and poor luck, but is also the home of several relatives (which I feel obligated to mention every time the Mets go to Cleveland), and is also the home of Progressive (nee Jacobs) field, one of the few out-of-town ballparks I have actually been to.

Friday's game seemed to be full of some incongruities for the Mets, never mind the show of strength that had eluded them over the season's first 8 games. First of all, I wasn't watching, which can happen on a Friday. After a long work week, I have been known to get home and immediately fall asleep with the radio on, thereby omitting any attention I could be paying to the first several innings of the game. Also, everyone was wearing 42, in honor of Jackie Robinson, a nice symbolic gesture that nonetheless makes every Met remind me of Butch Huskey (some other fans are reminded of other 42s, but this is where my mind goes). Then, there was the whole American League park thing. For one, the Mets start their road season this season playing 5 games in AL parks before ever playing in an NL park, which means everyone's favorite, the DH. And, finally, there was a lineup shuffling that resulted in, among other things, Michael Conforto landing in the #3 spot in the lineup, which I think is where he'll eventually end up on a permanent basis should he continue his current career arc.

Conforto warmed to this particular change rather quickly, blasting his 1st Home Run of the season in his first AB, staking the Mets to an early lead. Bartolo Colon, returning to the stadium where his career began 19 years prior, gave up the tying run in the bottom of the 1st but settled in from there and had his usual Bartolo Colon outing. This was, of course, a much different Colon from the sleek, young fireballer that initially appeared for the Indians way back in 1997, and in wearing #42 Colon was one of the rare Major Leaguers who actually got to wear his age on this day, but results are results and Colon continues to get them no matter what shape he's in.

The game remained tied at 1 until the Mets exploded in the 5th for a trio of Home Runs, which, if you're counting, gave them 4 for the game and increased the team's total for the season by 300%. Alejandro De Aza, who was given a rare start, started the inning with a Home Run, and both Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker followed with 2-run Homers and suddenly the Mets had broken open the game with this sudden, road-trip induced avalanche of offense.

It was 6-2 by time I turned in, and all-time Yankee Great Joba Chamberlain was on the mound for Cleveland without a swarm of bugs sticking to him. The Mets had ample opportunities to tack on runs, but didn't do so and it seemed to matter little. Or at least it mattered little until the 9th inning, when Addison Reed, in trying to will his way through a 2nd inning, tired and allowed a 2-out, 2-run Home Run to Carlos Santana to make a 6-2 game a 6-4 game. This, again, shouldn't have mattered; with 1 out to go, Reed probably could have ground out one more batter. But in this era of by-the-book relief pitching, Terry Collins HAD to go to Jeurys Familia for that 1-out Save, in spite of the fact that Familia had a) already worked in every game of the Florida series, including a hairy 5-out Save on Wednesday, and b) was sick. This was pretty stupid and it almost bit Collins in the ass when he gave up a hit to Yan Gomes (Yan Can Hit!) before falling into a vortex of old friends. With Marlon Byrd at the plate, Familia wild pitched Gomes to 2nd before allowing an RBI single to Byrd. Byrd was then pinch-run for by Collin Cowgill. Juan Uribe (who by the way had a 3-hit revenge game) followed and drew a 4-pitch walk. I half-expected someone like Scott Hairston or  Anthony Recker to emerge next as a pinch hitter (and only later did I discover Recker apparently is an Indian now), but instead it was Jose Ramirez, and Familia did manage to get Ramirez to fly out and end the game, which unnecessarily ended with a 6-5 score and a bit of a buzzkill for the good feelings that were flying around most of the night.

Ultimately, a win is a win and since it was the offense that supplied it on this night that's an even better thing to see. Conforto seems to like that #3 spot in the lineup, or at least I like seeing him there and maybe this will stick for a while. Cespedes looks like he's about to go on one of his raging hot streaks, which is even better to see. Mostly, it's just good to see the Mets actually playing like they mean it, which we knew would happen eventually.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Just Standing Around

The Mets finally had one of these 2-1 games against the Mickey Mouse Marlins go in their favor on Wednesday afternoon, which was about damn time because I have the feeling that if they had another one of these games where the pitchers gave up 1 or 2 runs and lost they might have revolted and staged a hostile takeover of the lineup (Syndergaard in CF?).

Actually, if the Mets had managed to lose and get swept, there might have been a fan revolt altogether. It's become a bit of a divisive thing among fans; I understand why some people might feel a need to panic, this not-hitting thing can become epidemic real fast, plus look, even though it's not possible, and even though the Mets are inevitably going to lose at least 70 or so times this season, you still want them to go out and win every game. This sort of knee-jerk panic doesn't really sit well with the hard-liners, though. I consider myself in this faction of fans, based on tenure and the fact that I've seen this sort of thing go on so many times. Still, it worries me that the Mets have broken from the gate kind of slow; it sort of gives you the slow, sinking sensation that this season could dissolve into 2001 or 2007.

But the Mets continue to get wonderful pitching, which sort of stems that panic from really taking hold. Logan Verrett, getting the start in the Jacob deGrom spot, did a fine job, as has been his wont over the past couple of years. Verrett did what Syndergaard accomplished on Tuesday, which is keep the Marlins at bay for 6 innings, while everyone else just sort of stood around and waited for someone to do something on offense. They didn't mange much off of Adam Conley, whom I believe threw a similarly strong game against the Mets last season and has all the makings of one of those Randy Tomlin-types whose career is defined by several middling seasons on bad teams, but just eats the Mets for lunch every time out. The fact that the Mets had their weekday afternoon lineup didn't help either; I was shocked that David Wright was playing at all, after slogging it out on a frigid night on Tuesday, but there he was, with Wilmer Flores at 1st, and Juan Lagares in Center.

It wasn't until the 7th inning of a scoreless game that I finally had a moment at work to pull up MLB Gamecast at my station, and when you pull up a game mid-stream, you sort of have that moment of trepidation because you hope you're not going to land on a page that says MIA 6, NYM 1, top 7. But it was 0-0, which I was relieved by, because although the Mets weren't hitting, they also weren't losing. By this point Verrett had left, replaced by Jim Henderson, who was clearly reeling from his unsuccessful performance on Tuesday (and clearly isn't quite yet fit for heavy work on back-to-back days), and whose poor performance yesterday required Hansel Robles and Jerry Blevins to bail him out. Which, fortunately, they did.

Finally, the Mets broke through in the last of the 7th in a rather excruciating 2-run rally that took forever to develop and took a hit from Kevin Plawecki for the Mets to cash in, and even then Plawecki got thrown out trying to steal an extra base on the play. Regardless, it gave the Mets the lead and by that point you figured that would be it for them. Blevins got part of the way through the 8th before Collins went to Jeurys Familia for a 5-out Save after using him in each of the previous two games. So already that was playing with fire a little bit, and Familia gave up a couple of hits and an RBI single to Nickleback but managed to survive that and the 9th, and the Mets managed to salvage a win to close out a less-than-impressive homestand.

So, now the Mets go on the road for the next several days, to Cleveland, Philadelphia and Atlanta. This should be a good thing for them. The Mets have a long and storied history of going gangbusters on the road whenever they struggle at home, and sometimes it seems like whatever camaraderie develops on a road trip seems to carry them through games. It might wake up the offense. Who knows.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Waste Not, Frost Not

Ugh. I've got this horrible, creaky, aching feeling right now, which means one of two things: either I'm getting old, or I just spent another ill-advised April night at Citi Field and I'm only now starting to get feeling back in my extremities.

Or perhaps it's both.

Tuesday night was one of the more unbearably cold games I've attended at Citi Field, which for whatever reason seems to circulate cold air in such a way that it's simply piercing. I'm not sure if it's the way the stadium is oriented, because Center Field faces more towards Flushing Bay whereas Shea Stadium was angled so Center Field faced the picturesque Flushing skyline, or because Shea Stadium was open on one side and Citi Field is mostly enclosed, whatever it is, April games at Citi Field are about 134% colder than they were at Shea.

And for some asinine reason I keep showing up.

When they win, it's tolerable. When they lose, it's pretty miserable, and when they lose to the Marlins, by a run, when they squander multiple opportunities to send the opposing pitcher to the showers and waste a virtuoso effort from Noah Syndergaard, and the game takes 3 hours and 17 minutes...well, you get the picture.

Syndergaard, of course, seems impervious to the elements, which I guess can be chalked up to his Norwegian Danish heritage (it sounds Norwegian, I suppose, but it figures he's of Danish descent. Most things from Denmark are pretty awesome). All he did over his 7 innings of work was perform the Baseball version of the Vulcan neck pinch on the Marlins, striking out 12 and allowing only 1 run on 5 hits, all of them of the blooper/bleeder/Marlinish variety. You could say all sorts of superlatives about his first two starts this season, but really, I'm not terribly surprised. You could see this coming. Syndergaard was on fire from the first pitch he threw, and after fanning Giancarlo Stanton and Nickleback to start the 2nd, fans were giving him a standing ovation like it was the 9th inning before he Kd Derek Dietrich to finish the inning.

But, alas, it was mostly for naught, as the Mets bats were once again as cold as the April air. They had Jose Fernandez on the ropes early; Lucas Duda made a pretty lousy baserunning play to short-circuit one rally, and in the 2nd they had the bases loaded and Fernandez grousing at the umpire and snapping at the baseball before David Wright swung at a sucker pitch and flew out. From there, Fernandez settled in and even though he only went through 5 innings the Mets offense acted like a bunch of Marlins.

The Marlins acted like Marlins too, because that's what they do, and after 7 innings of striking out against Syndergaard, Jim Henderson entered the game and basically gassed himself trying to get out Dee Gordon. In typical Marlin fashion, Gordon fouled off a dozen pitches before hitting a stink bomb into left for a single, and right then and there I knew the Mets were fucked. Not only was he guaranteed to steal second but Henderson was done, and eventually walked Yelich and Stanton before departing for a Marlin-like combination of pitchers and pinch-hitters and then Jerry Blevins allowed the game-winning Sacrifice Fly. The Mets, of course, acted like Syndergaard had materialized on the mound for Miami and struck out a bunch of times.

This game sucked, and this is one of those games where I start to wonder what the hell I'm doing. It was probably about 40˚š at Citi Field last night and I'm probably being generous because it felt no warmer than 20˚. I watch Syndergaard pitch his ass off for 7 innings, allow one run because of an overturned call (you knew Celebrity Manager pulling some prick move would figure in somehow) and about 130' worth of singles, and then the Mets lose because the Marlins. Really? You can't somehow figure out a way to win a game like this? This was a 2-1 game that lasted 3 hours and 17 minutes, and there weren't a ton of in-game moves or crotch grabbing. Syndergaard works at a brisk pace. So you know, then, that it was the Marlins' fault. They're such a chicken-shit franchise that they can't even win a game properly. Not that the Mets are great shakes right now, either. I know there was some grousing about the way Terry Collins managed the bullpen but what difference would it have made? So Collins brings in Familia in the 8th inning and instead of the Mets losing 2-1 in 9 innings, they lose 2-1 in 15 innings? I'll say this, if the game had gone 15 innings, I sure as shit wouldn't have stuck around for the end of it.

I'm not that much of a masochist. Or maybe I am. I don't know.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Days Like This

There are few things that are more galling to me as a Mets fan than losing to the fake-ass, Mickey Mouse Marlins. I feel like this hatred I have of their very existence has reached epidemic proportions because now it's pissing me off when it happens in the 6th game of the season. Maybe it's magnified because of how everyone is creaming over the Marlins because they have the Celebrity Manager and the Celebrity Batting Coach, or because everyone loves their mouth-breather 1st Baseman and their slugger who's guaranteed to miss 60 games a season. I don't know. What I do know is that last night, the Marlins battered Steven Matz in his season debut in a wholly embarrassing performance and then took their sweet time playing out the rest of the game, handing the Mets a 10-3 defeat in a miserable 3 hour and 50 minute game that felt every bit as long as it was.

Usually, when a team runs out to a big lead early in a game, both teams start hacking away just to get out of there quick. Usually. But the Marlins, because they are who they are, just had to drag this out. It was bad enough that they hen-pecked Steven Matz to death on a bunch of infield hits and bloops before he got fed up and basically set one on a tee for Giancarlo Stanton to hit it out. Then, Jarred Cosart decided to stop throwing strikes and give everyone some false hope by allowing the Mets to string together a little rally. But for as much as Cosart tried to let the Mets back in this game, the stagnant Mets bats weren't taking the bait. All they really did was just delay the inevitable and get Cosart out of the game before the end of the 5th inning.

Enough has been said about the offense not hitting and after 6 games of this the talk is probably only going to get worse. I've even heard some "What's Wrong with Matz?" talk which is completely asinine. He hadn't pitched in 10 days, which can often throw a pitcher completely out of whack, and for all the talk about his ability, really, it's a side effect of his being lumped in with the rest of the starting pitchers. Of the "Big 4," Matz is really the unknown commodity and it's easy to forget that even figuring in the 3 starts he made in the Postseason last year, he boasts all of 10 games of Major League experience. He's going to have nights like this. He doesn't have Harvey's fire, Syndergaard's poise or deGrom's cool, or at least he doesn't yet. These things take time and the reason Matz can be a #4 is because those other three are there. The game he pitched tonight was a little more Jon Niese than anything else because you could sort of sense him losing his bearings a little bit as the 2nd inning started to get away from him. The key in this instance would be to try to minimize the damage, but Matz didn't do that and the end result was what happened with Stanton, and that spelled the end of his night. Really good pitchers have games like this, but what separates them from the Jon Nieses of the world is that they learn from these outings and get better. Niese never did that. Matz still has a chance.

This probably had to happen to Matz. I just wish it didn't happen against the effing Marlins. Those guys are such a joke they can't even win right.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Real Eye-Roller

It's incredibly easy for everyone to get all in a panic about the Mets getting off to a 2-3 start, and even easier to panic because Matt Harvey is 0-2 and Curtis Granderson is off to a 1-for-19 start at the plate. I guess as Mets fans, panicking is kind of bred into everyone so acting this way is basically some weird learned behavior.

But can you logically be that panicked? I mean, sure. The Mets once again lost to a really bad Phillies team, but barely a week ago I said there was something about this Phillies team that bothered me, and it's their starting pitching, more than anything else. They got to Eickhoff on Friday but for a few innings he was locking it down. Saturday, they did nothing against Velasquez and on Sunday, their de facto ace, Jeremy Hellickson, stopped them cold once again. At least until Yoenis Cespedes reached him for a 2-run Home Run in the 6th inning, but outside of Cespedes and David Wright, nobody I believe got a hit against Hellickson, or Hector Neris, or James Russell or Jeanmar Gomez, so while it's partially some good pitching, the offense is just in no rhythm whatsoever.

The flipside of all this is of course that Matt Harvey is 0-2 and everyone's wondering "What's Up with Harvey?" and I'm not sure anything really is up with Harvey. This has basically been the story of Harvey's career--a general lack of run support at some inopportune times, and so when he's not perfect it gets magnified because the Mets can't make up the 3 runs he allows. I can't say Harvey pitched poorly in either start; all he's done is go 6 innings and allow 3 runs, and against the Royals it looks bad because the Royals make everyone look bad, and against the Phillies it looks bad because you figure he'd eat the Phillies for lunch. But if he gave up 3 runs in 6 innings to the Phillies and the Mets blasted Hellickson out of the building and won, say, 8-3, nobody would have much to say. Again, perception based on outcome.

So, what can you do right now other than roll your eyes at it all? Granderson isn't going to go 1-for the season, Cespedes will get hot, Duda will get hot, they'll all get hot and everything will be OK eventually. 2-3 isn't the end of the world. They were 2-3 last year too. They were 2-3 in 1986 and 1988 and probably a whole bunch of other seasons I can't remember that turned out OK in the end. I know it stinks losing 2 of 3 to the awful Phillies but sometimes things like this happen.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

These Annoying Guys

It is inevitable, over the course of a long, 162-game season that the Mets will have nights like this, where they just get handcuffed by some random Pitcher you probably never heard of. Last night, it was Vince Velasquez that did it to them, as he stifled the Mets over 6 innings. Most Mets fans probably weren't aware of Velasquez at all, but here he was sticking it to the Mets in his Phillies debut. Velasquez was probably one of the lesser known players that Philly acquired from Houston in the Ken Giles trade during the offseason but I wouldn't sleep on him. I've already said this about most of Philly's pitchers and already it's biting the Mets in the ass.

The Mets' inability to generate any meaningful offense on what was probably a miserably cold night at Citi Field was Bartolo Colon, who essentially got hung with a loss based on one bad pitch—a ball that kind of hung to Ryan Howard in the 5th inning—that Howard hit out and accounted for the only run of the game. Colon, outside of that pitch, was his usual wonderful self. He pitched 6 innings, didn't walk anyone, struck out 7, had his two riotous At Bats, nearly legged out an infield hit that would have made Citi Field come apart, and made an over-the-shoulder catch of an Odubel Herrera bunt attempt.

These games are irritating enough when you lose to a bottom-feeder team that's throwing an unknown commodity at you, but the Mets did themselves no favors by failing to make much of a peep against four Philly relievers that they ate for lunch on Friday afternoon. Everyone seems to point to the 8th inning and the fact that David Hernandez was behind in the count on every batter he faced, but somehow each time induced a swing on a sucker pitch and the end result was he departed with a clean line. Then, of course, they did more nothing against Jeanmar Gomez and his 1 career Save in the 9th inning to finish off this 1-0 loss, the Phillies' first victory of the season.

Nobody seems to be in much of a rhythm offensively. I'm not terribly concerned about this right now, particularly when you consider that thanks to the nonsensical schedule they've had to play so far, this was the first time they had games on back-to-back days a week into the season. These things will right themselves over time. You just don't like to give games away to lesser opponents. That's what really makes everyone crazy.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Come On Over!

I was thinking it had been a while since I'd done a photo-heavy at-game post, and why not use the opportunity of Opening Day on Friday to bust one of these out. I've generally taken the day-after-opening-day to take everything I didn't like to task, but I think I've mostly covered those issues. Maybe. I can always find more things wrong.

This is new, of course, and one of the first things you see when you get to the part of the Field level where you can actually see the field.

Looping around the Field Level, where not much has changed. The Grilled Cheese stand is still there, although the panache I guess has worn off, and most everything else is the same. This thing is still here, too. I'm not talking about the skyline, I'm talking about the absurd line at Shake Shack. Bear in mind, the gates opened about 15 minutes before I took this.

New York's #1 Power Couple was also out. Here, they're in the part of Citi Field that I always forget exists, and people are lined up for photos.

Here's Fuku, the David Chang outlet. I've always had an issue with David Chang ever since he started charging $115 for a bowl of ramen noodles, but this is supposed to be pretty good. However, this stand won the line battle of the day, as I'd mentioned, and no chicken sandwich is good enough for a 45 minute wait. I'll come back another day. Maybe. I would have loved to show you the line except that this guy's head got in the way.

Here's the new dugout roof.

I bet you didn't know that all On Deck Circles are stored in the On Deck Circle warehouse in New Jersey and they have to be carted in every game.

But what I can't understand is if they're going to drive them in on a cart, why then, do these poor schlubs have to carry the damn thing across the perimeter of the field to put it down in front of the Mets dugout?

Bunting! It's not Opening Day without Bunting. There appeared to be a short supply of bunting this year, though. George noticed it too. It's only been hung off of the front of the Excelsior Level and the Suites. And a small portion of the Promenade. At Shea Stadium, they hung bunting off of every available surface. Time to step up the bunting game, Mets.

Here's the blowing of the Shofar, the presentation of the Bill Shea wreath to Terry Collins. Bill Shea is of course long departed but his son and two grandsons are here to do the honors. At least two of these guys look like they just stepped out of a 1920s Speakeasy, and I'd have to guess they sound like it too.

And now, some players. Wonder what these guys are talking about? Noah Syndergaard is probably trying to discuss where he gets his favorite Raw Juice from. Matt Harvey might be eyeing up some ladies. Either way, they've excluded Matz from the discussion.

All right, all right. Now I'm just showing off how good the zoom lens on my camera is.

Now they've stopped talking. Anthem time. If this were at another ballpark in this city, Syndergaard, Verrett, Blevins, Campbell and Familia would have 55,000 people screaming at them to "TAKE YOUR HAT OFF!!"

More of these guys.

Again, they got guys from Hamilton to sing the anthem. If you don't follow Theater (and I have to since I work in the business), well, then you probably don't care, but basically there's a 6-month waiting list for the privilege to pay upwards of $500 a ticket to see Hamilton, so, yeah. It's a big deal.
Here's the NYPD helicopter flyover. I guess the days of the B-52s are over, which is OK with me. I think those are probably best reserved for things like the Super Bowl. The helicopters were adhering to Bill deBlasio's schedule, so they were about 90 seconds too late.

David can still get that leg up, but I'm not sure how early in the morning he had to get there in order to be able to do that now.

More Coca Cola Corner. I've always preferred Coke to Pepsi so this change in vendors is just fine with me. But it was too cold for soda on Friday.

More fun with Zoom lens.

It's like Jacob deGrom is going to pitch right into your lap!

Jim Henderson, too.

And, of course, with new companies come new mascots. I forgot that the Coke mascot was a bear, and so when I first saw Mr. Met hanging around with a bear, I wondered what the hell was going on.

But then, of course, they go out for the 7th inning Stretch, and Mr. and Mrs. Met are there singing and dancing and whatever it is they do together, while they sent the bear down on the side by himself. This is supposed to be a partnership, why is the bear all the way off on the side?

And, that's all I've got for today, photo-wise. When they raised the banner, the wind immediately died down and the banner just hung there, but the wind eventually picked up so I could get this picture.

Maybe we'll have some more of these posts in the future. Right now let's just get through April without freezing to death.