Tuesday, May 31, 2016

More Like The Prior Version

I'd heard some rumbling at some point over the weekend that the Mets had "pinpointed" Matt Harvey's mechanical issue and were working on correcting it. You take these things with a grain of salt. I'd also read something else somewhere that said that if Harvey didn't pitch at least a halfway decent game against the White Sox on Monday, that the Mets were considering sending him down to the Minor Leagues altogether. But as I'd said last week, all this talk surrounding Harvey is pretty cheap. We just have to let him work through it and if it means sitting through some games that are decidedly un-Harvey-like, so be it. He's not yakking these games on purpose.

So, of course, on Monday afternoon against the Chicago White Sox, he went out and threw 7 shutout innings, looking very much like his old self again.

Now, it could be the opponent. The White Sox, still led by Ballclub Favorite Robin Ventura, have been slumping of late after a hot start. The last time Harvey faced the White Sox, way back in 2013, he of course damn near threw a Perfect Game at them. But Harvey has had some lousy games against teams he should have dominated this season, so nobody really knew what to expect. But he worked through things, got through the middle innings, and when he got into a 7th inning jam, he managed to get himself through that as well. 7 innings, no runs, 2 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts? That seems like the old Harvey to me. If nothing else it's a step in the right direction.

The other thing, of course, that made this like an old school Harvey game was the lack of run support. His "Imperfect" Game in 2013 was undercut by the fact that he didn't get a win, because the offense couldn't score a run. This game seemed headed down a similar track as Jose Quintana allowed the Mets nothing until the 7th, when Neil Walker hit a Home Run. Some days, one run is all you need. This would have to be one of those days.

Then, there was Jeurys Familia, coming back after a miserable weekend and getting the White Sox in order in the 9th for the Save. So he remains perfect in Save situations in spite of himself and I'm not sure if this outing proves anything for him except for that fact. Maybe he just decided to stop cocking around with the sinker or the splitter and just throw more fastballs. It works for Bartolo.

The story of course remains Harvey, though, and while it's nice to see him have a solid outing, finally, we have to remember that it's still a process. He could come back against Miami over the weekend and pitch terribly again, especially considering Miami usually sticks it to him more than anyone. Baby steps. At least he didn't get blasted out of the building again.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Seek Professional Help

And, once again, the Mets find a way to lose and look like schmucks on National TV. It seems like this always happens when they play a game broadcast by someone other than Gary, Keith and Ron. After spending 8 innings battling uphill against an actual Bear of a Pitcher, Jeurys Familia once again shit the bed in a non-Save situation and sent the Mets to a 4-2 defeat in front of a nationwide audience.

Sunday, the Mets made their second appearance on The Biggest Game In The Galaxy on ESPN. Having to sit through an inning and a half of Joe Buck and his non-entity color guy was bad enough. ESPN's announcers, though not as anti-Met as Buck, are so vanilla it's not even funny. This game literally put me to sleep in the 2nd inning and when I finally woke up, the Dodgers had a 2-0 lead and with Clayton Kershaw cruising, the game may as well have been over.

Unlike when they met in  Los Angeles, Bartolo Colon had a reasonably good outing this time around, yes, he gave up those two runs but he kept the Mets within shouting distance, which is about all you can hope for against Kershaw. Asdrubal Cabrera reached him for a Home Run in the 6th, and it certainly seemed as though that was going to be it for the Mets unless lightning struck somewhere.

Amazingly, lightning did strike, because somehow the Mets got Kershaw's pitch count up enough that they cajoled Dave Roberts to take him out of the game with 2 outs and a runner on 1st in the 8th inning. Conventional wisdom would have him go right to his closer, Kenley Jansen. Back when Celebrity Manager was in charge, he would have gone to Jansen, and he was constantly blinded by his own adoration. But for whatever reason, Roberts went to Adam Liberatore, who subsequently allowed Curtis Granderson to hit a triple over the head of a discombobulated Yasiel Puig to tie the game.

Given new life, the Mets went to Jeurys Familia in the 9th to hold the line...and Familia did a wonderful job of handing the game right back to the Dodgers. No sugarcoating on this one. No 9th inning bailout like on Friday. Familia gave up a hit and two walks and probably should have been removed from the game before he could let Adrian Gonzalez hit a jam shot into Center Field to score the winning runs. It's not as egregious as Friday, when he blew a 4-run lead and shouldn't have been in the game, but that's not taking away from it being really bad. Because this time, he should have been on the mound, and he STILL couldn't get the Dodgers out. I don't know if this is a hiccup or something more symbolic, but maybe he needs to visit the team Psychiatrist. If Familia has that big of an issue going out there in a non-save situation, there's something larger at work here. He hasn't blown a Save all season but he blew two games in 3 days. And there's other instances of him not being especially crisp on those odd days. I don't know and perhaps I'm not meant to understand it.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Air Out Of Building

As much as I hate to say it, the scene at Citi Field last night kind of had all the makings of a major letdown as far as the game itself was concerned.

The Mets, in something that's often not spoken about, have a bit of a history of having these big, glitzy ceremonies where they roll out the red carpet for past heroes before a big game, and then they go out and shit the bed. It's happened more times than I care to remember.

They went out and did it again last night. After what I'm told was a very moving tribute to the 1986 World Series Champions (And no, I didn't actually see it—thanks to the game being on FOX, the ceremonies weren't shown on TV and I haven't had a chance to stream it yet), the Mets were then thoroughly humiliated by the Dodgers and the Umpires in a 9-1 disaster of a game.

This was another one of those nights where I wasn't actually around for most of the game, so I wasn't witness to the compounding bullshit that the Mets were subjected to, but since the game was on FOX, that means everyone's favorite dickheads, Joe Buck and Ken Rosenthal were on hand. Which means Joe Buck spent the entire game sneering at the Mets and Ken Rosenthal buried his head up the Dodgers' asses. I don't need to have seen the game to know this.

Noah Syndergaard matched up against Kenta Maeda. Last time this happened, things worked out pretty well for the Mets. It seemed headed in a similar direction until the 3rd inning when Syndergaard whipped a 99-MPH fastball behind Chase Utley. You didn't need to be a genius to know that something like this was coming. Even Utley expected it, and I suppose had the pitch drilled him, he would have just taken his lumps and gone to 1st base, because for as much of a jackass as he is, he's still a pro and knows when to take his medicine. Generally, these things are met with a warning and then it blows over. But for whatever reason, Adam Hamari, the home plate umpire, who I wouldn't know from a hole in the wall, ejected Syndergaard from the game immediately. Again, I don't really bring Umpires into the equation unless they make a severely poor error of judgement and need to be called out on it. Hamari was totally out of his element on this one. Give Syndergaard a warning and leave it at that. Terry Collins blew his stack at Hamari and got himself ejected as well, and, well, can you blame him?

Essentially, Adam Hamari nuked this game for the Mets. Instead of Syndergaard on the mound doing Syndergaard things, the Mets now had to bring Logan Verrett in in the 3rd inning, and he did yeoman's work until the 6th when Utley hit a Home Run. Because of course he did. Then, in the 7th, he hit a Grand Slam off Hansel Robles. Because of course he did. Because if you didn't hate Utley enough already, this was going to be the night he made sure he placed his name at or near the top of all-time Mets Villains, depending on who you ask on which day.

So, you tell me. You think Utley goes apeshit like that against Syndergaard? Yeah, me neither. Thanks, Adam Hamari. You basically screwed the Mets out of this game. I'm sure Joe Buck and Ken Rosenthal sent you flowers this morning. They must have loved watching this shit show unfold. I turned the game on sometime around the 8th inning—lord only knows why since I knew it was done with—and you could hear the glee dripping from Buck's voice. After the game, they threw it to the studio, where they have a real announcer named Kevin Burkhart—remember him?—and he was clearly incensed at what he'd just been subjected to. It seems like most everyone feels the same way. Sometimes, you just need to let the players police themselves, because outside of this, it's not as though the Mets and Dodgers have some stewing animosity toward each other. Instead, the Mets end up looking like clowns on National Television once again. Thanks, Hamari. You Ass.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Coming Up Roses!

I'm not quite sure what to make of tonight's game. I didn't watch it—other items of importance precluded me from doing so, but as I was able, I was updated via assorted means of mobile technology. I saw that the Mets bombarded the Dodgers' teenage rookie Julio Urias early. It is, I suppose, debatable as to whether or not the Dodgers using Urias in this particular spot was a good idea, but then again, I'm not writing a Dodgers blog, I'm writing a Mets blog and so who cares? Urias clearly was suffering from stage fright, the Mets took advantage, and the kid was gone in the 3rd inning.

By that point, the Mets had a healthy lead, and Jacob deGrom was cruising along mostly unimpeded. David Wright hit a Home Run, which seems to be about all he can do anymore, and Juan Lagares hit a Home Run, and the Mets led 5-1 in the late innings.

And so for whatever reason, Jeurys Familia was allowed to come in in the 9th inning and allow 4 runs to let the Dodgers tie the game. Familia already has a well-documented "Thing" about pitching in non-save situations. Now, yes, this is something he just needs to suck up and get over already. But when you have a situation begin to spiral out of control like that, there needs to be a backup plan. I get giving him the shot there; that's why you have a closer. But this is the sort of spot that could also have been handled by, say, Addison Reed or Jerry Blevins, especially when Chase Utley came to the plate and everyone wanted his head. And, you know, after all the hostility, is anyone really that surprised that Utley smoked a 3-run double to tie the game? I didn't even watch the game and I could have seen something like that happening.

So, yeah. A nice, uneventful evening for the Mets was about to turn into a complete disaster. A 5-1 game was now a 5-5 game and usually when something like this happens, the Mets end up imploding sometime around the 12th inning. But then Curtis Granderson hit Pedro Baez's second pitch into the Right Field seats for a game-winning Home Run and all was right once again. It always comes out positive if the Mets win. Familia has a bad day? Eyyy, fuhgeddaboutit! Mets win anyway! We can spend the rest of the night focusing on deGrom's strong outing, and Granderson's clutch hitting, and the Mets in 1st place. Everything's lovely!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Real Matz

So after the in-game misery and post-game muckery involving Harvey last night, the Mets really needed to come out on Wednesday afternoon and have a solid game. So, Steven Matz gave the Mets a solid game. Think of it as the Anti-Harvey. Instead of starting fast and imploding in the middle of the game, Matz got dinged for a few hits early in the game and then basically said, "Enough," and went into total lockdown mode and retired 16 Nationals in a row between the 4th and 8th innings. Yes, you heard me, 8th inning.

Whatever elbow issue that was bothering Matz two weeks ago in Los Angeles seems to be a distant memory now. If it's caused him to throw his slider less often, that doesn't seem to be a hinderance to his performance. He might be throwing it less, or perhaps he's modified it, but in the two starts since said elbow scare, he's allowed 2 runs and 7 hits over 15 innings and it's not outlandish to say that those two starts have been the best he's looked from start to finish all season.

And it's in a key spot, too. Against Washington in another rubber game, a day after Harvey was torched and the Mets went down in flames, and after the Mets had to go deep into their bullpen, Matz was his own bridge, throwing 8 innings--as I'd mentioned before--and allowed the Nationals for all intents and purposes nothing. In fact, perhaps the only hairy moment came in said 8th inning, as the pitch count crept upward and the Nationals started throwing Pinch Hitters at him. Clint Robinson was first, and the lefty got my favorite kind of hit, the 87-hop single up the middle. This brought the tying run to the plate (because the Mets put forth a mighty two runs in support of Matz), and of course Dusty Baker sent up Bryce Harper as the pinch hitter. Harper, it's rumored, could hit one into the Anacostia and tie the game. But he didn't. After falling behind 2-0, Matz then got him to swing at the proverbial sucker pitch and ground out meekly to end the inning. Jeurys Familia survived a 2-hit 9th inning and the Mets won the game 2-0, and now exit Washington having won the series and evening the season series.

That first game against the Marlinfeathers seems like another lifetime now. I guess it was just an anomaly.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hang Down Your Head

Other engagements caused me to miss Tuesday night's affair in Washington. I arrived home probably just as the game was about to end. I hadn't much looked at my phone to see what was going on, but clearly, it was just as well.

What's going on with Matt Harvey this season has gone from troubling, to concerning, but now I think it's safe to say it sits at sickening for most Mets fans right now. The fact that nobody's got an answer for these struggles is probably what makes it most frustrating. I know the general inclination is to just let him try to work through it and figure out what the problem is, but this is now two outings in a row where the team that the Mets are going to be hitting the shit with all season just lit him on fire. And I mean lit on fire in a way that we're not used to seeing.

I'm not going to try to go in Harvey's head here. I mean, what's to be said? I know he's a competitor, I know this probably kills him and he's probably frustrated as fuck and sick of being asked dopey questions about what the problem is. That's probably why he pulled an Amish Act after the game, although that never works because now, instead of getting subjected to another 5 days of hearing about why he sucks, and how it's because he's too fat, or he's too thin, or his ego is too big, or he's too insecure, or because he pitched to 2 batters in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the World Series, instead we have to hear about how he's an inaccountable schmuck, and really, none of it is anything more than mental masturbation. Talk is cheap. And talking about how Harvey's a jerk is even cheaper. When he was going good, all of this was endearing.

One of the larger problems of this is the societal aspect of Baseball these days. Fans think they're bigger than the game itself and as such deserve to have some inside access. This might be a bit hypocritical of me to say as a Blogger, but as a Blogger I'm just here to call it the way I see it and give some half-baked opinion on what goes on just in case I'm seeing things a different way than the next guy. I don't, however, feel that the players owe me something. I've said it before: I really don't care what Matt Harvey does or doesn't do, or says or doesn't say after a game. It's easy to look at the way Harvey carries himself and pick on some piece of his lifestyle and say, "SEE? SEE? THAT'S WHAT'S FUCKING HIM UP!" as though changing something he does off the field would affect what happens when he's on the mound. Again, unless he's snorting coke or shooting smack, that's probably not where the answer lies.

Like any slumping hitter, you work your way through these things and get yourself back together. It's magnified as a Pitcher because you only get your chance to right the wrongs once every 5 days, and of course it's even more magnified because Harvey carries himself like an ace. It's not as though he wants to perform badly, but somewhere, he hit a wall and now he's got to do the work to get through it. I'm not going to throw my hands and give up because he got torched a few times. If he'd pitched like this his whole career, well, first of all he'd be Jeremy Hefner and wouldn't be here right now, but if he'd pitched like this in 2013 and started in with the whole "Dark Knight" business, we'd have all laughed at him. Right now, picking on him and laughing at him isn't going to do anybody any good. We just have to let him figure this out for himself.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Going Depth

One of the hallmarks of the past couple of seasons for the Mets, and perhaps one of the primary reasons they've become so enjoyable to watch is the fact that there's a depth to this lineup that hasn't existed in a very long time. I realize that the Mets are, more or less, a station-to-station team that lives by Home Runs and while there's something un-National League about this, think about how many different guys the Mets have in their lineup that can beat you with the Home Run, Then, think back to 2013 or 2014 and ask yourself the same question.

Preferred, no, not especially, but it's working. When the Mets grind out runs, it's somewhat painful, but it gets the job done most of the time. When you add a few Home Runs into the mix, you get what happened in Washington on Monday night, which is a thorough pounding of a pitcher that really handled them last week.

But so getting back to my initial point of depth, I bring this up because of the whole Lucas Duda thing, and how he's out for some indeterminate length of time with a broken back. A few years ago, this would have been an unmitigated catastrophe that would have led to Eric Campbell getting 400 At Bats or something similarly terrible. But now, the question isn't so much What do we do?, now it's Who here can do it? The Mets have several options to fill this gap for the next however long it is that Duda's on the shelf, and it can be from within, whether it's Wilmer Flores, or Kevin Plawecki, or Michael Conforto if he can handle the job, or even David Wright who offered his name as an option... Point is, the Mets have the luxury of trying a few different options out here instead of just making some reactionary panic move to try to cover their asses.

And if none of that works, Ike Davis is still kicking around the Texas Rangers' Minor League system!

The other nice thing about depth and a deep lineup is that even without Duda, who hadn't exactly been performing up to snuff anyway, the Mets don't lose much on the offensive side. After Bartolo Colon spotted Washington an annoying 1-0 lead in the 1st inning thanks to an 87-hop Daniel Murphy single and a Ryan Zimmerman flair that fell in, the Mets got off the mat in the 3rd inning against Gonzalez. And of course after being mostly flat offensively for the past week plus, they all decided to wake up at once, beginning with David Wright, whose 3-run Home Run put the Mets ahead and started the roller coaster moving. The Mets followed Wright's Home Run with a string of hits that led to two more runs, giving them what felt like their largest lead in weeks. In the 5th, Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker each hit Home Runs of their own to extend the lead to 7-1, which is where it stayed as Bartolo Colon righted his own ship and pitched 7 rather efficient, Colon-like innings where he didn't walk anyone, made hitters hit balls right at his fielders, and then walked off the mound and gave everyone chewing gum.

Then, there's the depth in the starting lineup itself, which starts and ends with Cespedes. Cespedes, to this point, has proven himself worth whatever it is the Mets are paying him and could potentially be on the hook to pay him beyond this season. Or maybe they can somehow cajole him into resigning the same contract year after year so every season is his walk year. I don't know. Whatever it is, the Mets haven't had a power hitter like Cespedes probably since Darryl Strawberry—I don't even think Mike Piazza had his kind of power—and when you talk about the Mets hitting a lot of Home Runs, Cespedes is probably the ringleader. His 15 HRs lead the Majors right now—when the hell was the last time a Met led the Majors in Home Runs, Dave Kingman?—and you want to talk about a guy making the lineup deeper simply by stepping to the plate, well, that's what Cespedes has done from the second he showed up here last August. I know he's going to probably hit the skids at some point but even a slumping Cespedes is still a presence because you never know when he's going to flip the switch and hit 17 Home Runs in 44 games again.

Now, we hold our breath for Tuesday and see what happens when Harvey goes to the mound. Anyone got any ideas? I don't. No depth for that.

Monday, May 23, 2016

This Guy's Good

...and then, y'know, on Sunday, they throw Syndergaard at you and your day's basically over...

That's pretty much the case these days when the Mets send Noah Syndergaard to the mound, or at least it's the case more often than not. Fresh off his demolition of the Nationals, the Brewers were more or less minor irritants for Syndergaard, who allowed an unearned run in the 1st inning and nothing thereafter, as his teammates once again gave him minimum support in a 3-1 victory.

There's not too much you can say about Syndergaard at this point that everybody else hasn't already said several times over but as I mentioned before the season, I had a feeling he was going to step up and become the real Ace here and that's basically what happened. I know I'd harped on Harvey a lot and I still do to some degree but that's because as far as stature and tenure goes, it's still Harvey that started this ball rolling. He's not as good as Syndergaard right now. In a year and a week Thor just blew right by him for internal supremacy.

So, yeah, the Brewers basically scored by accident thanks to a 1st inning Error by David Wright that led to an RBI hit from Jonathan Lucroy, but the Mets fired right back, as Michael Conforto smoked a long Home Run off of Chase Anderson to even the score. There things stayed until the 4th inning, when Asdrubal Cabrera singled home the two runs that would be the difference in the game. This is particularly gratifying considering Cabrera was sort of brought in here as an afterthought. The move came in the shadows of the Niese/Walker trade and so nobody really noticed it but Cabrera's been an absolute gem so far. Solid defense, key hits, rarely needs rest, and accomplishes everything within relative obscurity. Sort of like another Mets Middle Infielder who wore #13 a generation ago.

OK. The Mets basically needed to sweep the Brewers and they swept the Brewers. It wasn't at all pretty, but they did it. Sometimes all you need is a few wins in a row to just get things going because the schedule doesn't ease up at all for the next few weeks. First, it's back to Washington, where the Mets can try to undo some of the mess they created for themselves this past week. Essentially, these are rematch games, beginning tonight with Bartolo Colon against Gio Gonzalez. Hopefully this one goes better than the last one.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Old Reliable

The saga of David Wright's mostly lost season hasn't been an especially pleasant story. But, for one shining moment, we got a little glimpse of the David Wright we once knew so well as he took a calculated gamble on a 3-0 pitch, swung, and drove home the winning run in the bottom of the 9th of the Mets 5-4 victory this afternoon.

Wright's dealings with spinal stenosis have been well-documented, but this has been building for a few seasons. Wright, without the lineup protection he had in his younger days, and with now 14 Major League seasons on his odometer isn't what he used to be. Last October, when he was reveling in the spoils of finally making it to a World Series, I noted that Wright looked old. Heck, Wright's been looking old in the Baseball sense for a few years now, but, you know, most of us look the other way because it's David Wright and he's the Mets Guy. At least one person I know feels differently. His stance is that Wright was really good early in his career, but never as good as the Mets wanted us to think he was. He'd been spoonfed to us as the Face of the Franchise for so many seasons that we just accepted it, sort of in that John Franco vein except that Wright isn't a complete ass like Franco. He also didn't like the fact that Wright was boring and a bad interview, although I personally wouldn't damn him for that. It is to the point that, when I attend games with him and Wright comes to the plate, he immediately starts screaming "RETIRE!!!"

Harsh, yes. Illogical, not so much. But with 4 years left on that contract, I'm not sure if that's actually going to happen.

Regardless, there are still little glimpses of that young fellow, and one of them happened to be this afternoon. This, after a game where the Mets appeared to literally be sleepwalking, like last night's game ended, they went home and just forgot to show up. Jacob deGrom again weaved his way through another uneven outing, this time only managing to parse his way through 5 innings while the Brewers hen-pecked him for 4 runs. Two of those runs came when Ramon Flores took him out in the 2nd inning. Another two came in the 4th, one of those irritating innings where you could see deGrom just trying to throw whatever he could past a Brewer hitter to get through the inning only to see another dunk hit fall in. Combine deGrom's issues with Harvey's issues, and you can see why a Mets fan might be apoplectic right now.

Fortunately, the Mets got off the mat and came back from this 4-1 deficit. They'd already plated a run off of Zach Davies, the Brewers' 15-year old starter, when Curtis Granderson hit a leadoff Home Run in the 1st. Asdrubal Cabrera did what he seems to do just about every day now and drove home a run with a 4th inning single. Finally, Yoenis Cespedes dragged the Mets back into the game kicking and screaming by essentially one-arming a Davies Changeup over the Left Field wall for a 2-run Home Run that tied the game at 4.

Then, of course, the rain came and I had visions of extra innings and suspended games dancing through my head, probably because that's what usually happens in instances like this. The crowd, from what I could gather on TV, seemed sparse to begin with, probably because of an ominous forecast, and thus had forsaken the allure of the pristine, eBay condition Bucket Hat to the point where I have a feeling there might have been some Bucket Hats left over at game time. And once the rain started falling that number appeared to dwindle. Sometimes, in games like this, the rain starts and the bullpens take over and the bats just decide to stop. That's basically what happened. Hansel Robles, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia stopped the Brewers--although stopping the Brewers isn't a terribly tall order--and the Mets did nothing against Carlos Torres and others of lesser acclaim, except that the fact that they can't hit Carlos Torres is galling to me.

But then, Michael Blazek came in for the 9th and the Mets awoke, as Eric Campbell hit, and Kevin Plawecki got on with a walk, and there was a sacrifice and then an intentional walk to get to David Wright. In prior years, intentionally walking the guy in front of Wright led to imminent disaster. Now, I would have been happy if Wright managed to not hit into a DP. But Blazek couldn't find the plate and it appeared was all to happy to make this easy for Wright by nearly wild-pitching the winning run home. Nonetheless, at 3-0, you figured Wright would take, so of course he swung and lined a single to Right Field to bring home Campbell and all of a sudden it was like 2006 again, when Wright would do things like this on a regular basis. And there were no rain delays or suspended games necessary.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Minimum Necessary

Any time one of these Mets pitchers has some kind of an ailment, obviously the worst is feared. Steven Matz is probably as susceptible to panic as anyone, given his injury history and the fact that he already had a season undercut by improper handling. So, when he had elbow soreness last week, all sorts of alarm bells were sounded. But, an examination came back clean, Matz took his start this evening against the Brewers and pitched like nothing had ever been wrong. After allowing a 2-run Home Run to Chris Carter (not to be confused with Ballclub Favorite Chris "The Animal" Carter of 2010 fame) in the top of the 1st inning, Matz locked the game down and allowed the Brewers nothing thereafter, giving his teammates time to shove 3 runs across the plate and earn themselves a 3-2 victory.

Matz's strong outing was a much-needed antidote for the Mets, whose bullpen was run ragged after Harvey's foibles on Thursday night. Following the 1st inning, Matz allowed the Brewers all of one hit, a single by Hernan Perez in the 6th inning, and he was subsequently thrown out stealing 2nd. Over his 7 innings of work, Matz was exceptionally clean, allowing no walks and striking out 8 before departing after 88 pitches. Perhaps he could have gone further. But why tempt fate?

It was, of course, on the offense to try to make up the early deficit against Wily Peralta, Milwaukee's de facto Ace. Peralta hasn't pitched especially well, but he's also been pitching in mostly hopeless situations. The Brewers, a rebuilding team, boast a roster littered with obscure names you'd never heard of, among them names like Jonathan Villar, Keon Broxton and Ramon Flores. They also seem to have a bevy of old friends from lost seasons on their roster, former Mets who were kicking around in seasons like 2011 and 2013, like Chris Capuano, Carlos Torres and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who feels like a sage veteran on a team like this. Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy are still kicking around there, but Braun still has some PED stink on him and additionally is now constantly injured. So, yeah. You draw the conclusion of what the Mets should be doing here. But it was a struggle. Nobody's going particularly well of late, and with Wilmer Flores on the DL and Lucas Duda and David Wright both battling assorted ailments, we end up subjected to more Eric Campbell than is necessary. It feels a little like the early half of 2015 at times.

Then, Michael Conforto comes up and swats a 2-run Home Run to the opposite field in the 6th inning and everything is right in the world.

A game like this is important to win, even if the Mets truly did the absolute minimum they could possibly do in order to win. I don't necessarily call games like this encouraging, even if there's encouraging individual performances like we saw from Matz and Conforto. It helps, but the better games are when you really can't single out a particular contributor, because everyone plays a role in some form.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Back To Zero

I was right back at Citi Field this evening, two nights after witnessing Syndergaard perform a clinical dissection of the Washington Nationals. But for as good as Syndergaard was on Tuesday, that's how badly Matt Harvey pitched tonight.

Few things are more galling than watching the Mets get whipped by a division rival, and this certainly qualified as a whipping. But watching Matt Harvey just get taken apart in the 3rd inning really bugged me. No, Harvey wasn't helped by a pair of defensive miscues by Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Conforto in a 3rd inning sequence where the Mets appeared to abandon all ability to play defense. But those things happen in Baseball and as a Pitcher you learn to work through them. Or, you implode completely. Harvey, who has the talent and the track record to make you think he can work through them, did the opposite.

He'd done himself no favors already by allowing Daniel Murphy to tee off and hit one over the Center Field fence on an 0-2 pitch in the 3rd inning, thereby removing any and all good will left towards Murphy as he essentially skipped around the bases (and let's not forget the crap he pulled with Cespedes in the 2nd). The 3rd inning was just a massacre. Harvey already was in trouble when he loaded the bases with 1 out and Ryan Zimmerman at the plate. Zimmerman, of course, hit the necessary ground ball but Cabrera booted it and a run scored. Anthony Rendon followed by hitting a line drive to left, which probably should be caught 103 times out of 100, except that Michael Conforto had a moment with Baseball and it clanked off his glove to plate two more runs. From there, Harvey basically turned into Jon Niese and it wasn't a pretty sight. By time Collins mercifully removed him from the game, the score was 9-1, people were starting to leave and those remaining showered him with boos.

I'm never a big proponent of booing my own team, and certainly I let the other fans there speak for themselves. In this instance, Harvey probably deserved to be booed. This hasn't been anything resembling a good start for Harvey and as it's continued, he seems to become more and more befuddled to the point where he's now going around with that hangdog John Maine look on his face. And I've now compared him to two different middling Mets pitchers, and that's not what Harvey is or purports to be. But when you portray yourself the way Harvey does, you open yourself up to a large amount of criticism for not performing up to level. The Media has already had a field day tap dancing on Harvey this season and I can only imagine what sort of things people will write come tomorrow morning. Then, you have the fan response and there are plenty of fans who have developed a distaste for Harvey following the inning-limit flap and the World Series business, again, I can't say I agree with them, but they're fans just as much as I am, and you know, when you go to a game, and you expect Matt Harvey to pitch a good, competitive game and he vomits up 9 runs in 2.2 innings and you now have to sit through 6 innings of worthless baseball, sure, you have every right to be pissed off.

Maybe all of this is a blessing in disguise. I know that if nothing else all athletes are prideful and often insecure, and this has to be incredibly injurious for Harvey, who has exhibited tendencies of both traits. But sometimes getting totally dressed down like this causes you to regroup, get back to basics and fix whatever the issue is, if it's physical, mental, mechanical or whatever. This happened to the Mets as a team last season when they got no hit by the Giants and, yes, it got worse before it got better, but it did get better. Harvey can get better too. He has to, because I don't think it's quite possible to pitch much worse.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Turn Back The Clock

The breathless intensity of Tuesday night was replaced tonight by an utter turd of a game, one of those endless slogs that seemed plucked directly from 2013 or 2014 when the Nationals would come in to Citi Field and just bludgeon the Mets. The Nationals didn't bludgeon the Mets on this night quite so much as the Mets just insistently handed them this game. Bartolo Colon slogged his way through 4 2/3rd innings, uncharacteristically walking 5 batters, consistently working from behind in counts and ultimately couldn't put away the Nationals in the 5th and departed behind in the game 3-1.

The Mets bullpen in 2016 has by and large been very good at keeping the Mets in games. This was not one of those games. A succession of relievers, first Hansel Robles, and then Gonzalez Germen, Antonio Bastardo, Scott Atchison, Logan Verrett, Jerry Blevins, Scott Rice, Jim Henderson, Greg Burke and Brandon Lyon proceeded to hand the Nationals baserunners by the bucketload, allowing them to continually tack on runs in painstaking fashion and ultimately allowing them to literally walk away with a 7-1 victory to even up the series.

This was destined for bad news from the start as Colon went to a 3-ball count on everyone in the 1st inning, and walked both Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, not so much by design on either count (in spite of the fact that everyone seems to be walking Harper as though he were Barry Bonds). Somehow, he got himself out of a jam and only in the 3rd inning did Washington score, after Werth and Harper again walked and Daniel Murphy singled off of David Wright's glove.

The Mets tied the game in the 4th when Yoenis Cespedes hit a Home Run, and this is good because Cespedes has been going great of late, but bad because nobody else really is and, again, it continues to underscore the station-to-station nature of this team because they tend to only score by hitting Home Runs. Or at least it just seems that way. Nonetheless, this was the only way the Mets scored on Tuesday, and it was the only way they scored tonight. Just saying.

Then, the game turned into 2013 and everything was horrible from there. Colon was a strike away from getting out of the 5th inning about 6 times, even after walking Werth and Harper again, but he couldn't put away Anthony Rendon and ultimately Rendon singled home 2 runs and threw the whole game down the toilet. From there, happenings included a 40-minute top of the 7th in which Bastardo channeled his inner Steve Trachsel and Fire Hydrant Head doing what he usually does against the Mets and hitting 2-run singles. And more walks to Werth and Harper. In all, the Mets, who as we were reminded by Keith and Gary a multitude of times lead the league in fewest walks allowed, handed the Nationals 11 walks on this night, which is unconscionable for a contending team to do, virtually guarantees a poor outcome, and also leads to a game that lasts 3 hours and 40 minutes (blah blah blah glad I wasn't there). You also end up with cameras catching the Manager and Pitching Coach standing in the dugout looking like they just spent 6 hours eating spicy meatballs.

Sigh. Wipe the slate clean and come back tomorrow is the best cliche to say after a game like this. Hopefully Harvey has his act together. That'd be nice.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Top Billing

Tuesday night at Citi Field was one of those nights that had "All the Makings." You know, Mets back home after a long slog of a road trip, heated division rival in town that they'll be butting heads with all season for supremacy, pair of ace pitchers on the mound, George and I in the stands, return of Daniel Murphy...enough to bring out a September-intense crowd on a Tuesday night in May.

The anticipated duel between Noah Syndergaard and Max Scherzer put enough starch in everyone's collar before anyone even showed up at the ballpark. I, of course, was out there after work and although I was at Mets-Willets Point at 6:40, I wasn't in the ballpark until about 6:59 (that's what the phone-scan ticket tells me), and I figured I'd get something to eat before I went to sit. By this point, I'd already missed the "Welcome Back Daniel Murphy" tribute video because I was on an escalator, and now the starting lineups were being announced as I sidled up to a stand with a short line by 3rd base and ordered. And waited. And waited. And waited some more as the game started and I was still foodless, while a large number of concessionaires ran around throwing french fries at each other. Finally, I got served and was in my seat...just as the top of the 1st was coming to its conclusion.

I'd just settled into my seat when Curtis Granderson drilled Scherzer's first pitch off of the alcove in Right Field for a Home Run. That was a good start, after being mostly quiet on the road and also to get an early run in support of Syndergaard. Ostensibly, in a game like this an early run can be enormously important, considering Scherzer no-hit the Mets the last time he saw them and also considering he struck out 20 batters his last time out. Jumping on him early was important; if for no other reason then to just remind everyone that he can't do that every time out.

Murphy hit for the first time in the top of the 2nd. I'd missed the tribute video but heard the subsequent ovation he was afforded, which I suppose he deserved; for all his foibles and unique interpretation of playing the game of Baseball, he was still a fine Met for a long time and did some good things in important spots. But once the niceties were done, it was down to business, and he's the enemy and when he stepped to the plate in the 2nd he was mostly treated as such. Yes, there were plenty of people standing and cheering, but there were plenty of people giving him the Bonilla treatment. George and I had discussed prior to the game whether to cheer or boo and landed on the Jeff Francoeur "Indifference" greeting. But for whatever reason I felt impelled to clap a little bit after a few seconds. Then, Murphy popped out and all was right in the world.

Things got a little hairy for Syndergaard after that as Ryan Zimmerman doubled and Anthony Rendon singled to put runners at the corners, but as he's made a habit of doing, Syndergaard pitched to the situation instead of muscling up and got Wilson Ramos, who in prior years might have stuck one in the seats, to hit a ground ball directly to Neil Walker in about as easy a DP grounder as you could possibly get.

So, the pitchers duel was on, as it was billed to be, and while the Nationals were nicking Syndergaard, that's pretty much all it was. Outside of that 2nd inning hairiness, Syndergaard allowed 3 other hits, all of them singles that went nowhere. The Mets weren't exactly hitting Scherzer either, but they made what they got count. We'd already seen Granderson go deep and in the 3rd Michael Conforto did the same, lining a pitch into a similar spot to where Granderson's landed to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.

With those runs in his pocket, Syndergaard settled in and really started to throw haymakers at the Nationals. In the 4th, Syndergaard got ahead on Bryce Harper and froze him on a 100 mph fastball on the inside corner as the crowd literally howled with delight and I channeled Pedro Martinez. He Kd two more in the 5th and another pair in the 6th, punctuating his inning by striking out Harper again after falling behind 3-0 and having the chutzpah to slip him a Changeup on a 3-1 count. This gave him 10 Ks on the night and two times he caused me to channel Pedro Martinez.

And, well, you want to talk about a statement, how about coming out in the first game of the season against your chief rival and throwing 7 shutout innings with no walks and 10 strikeouts? Syndergaard basically stole the marquee from Scherzer and there wasn't any particular debate about this. After Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia worked clean innings in the 8th and 9th and George and I were heading downstairs amid a Postseason-level human traffic jam in the staircases, the discussion was that Scherzer had a really good bad game, but Syndergaard was great. And I mean Great. I mean, I know that he didn't throw a shutout and I've certainly seen better pitched games, but when you know that a pitcher has to go out and pitch a statement game and he does just that, few things are more enjoyable for me to watch in Baseball. THOOOOOOORRRRRR!!!

Monday, May 16, 2016

17 Extra Pitches

The Mets played 27 innings of stupid over their horrible weekend in Colorado, but it seems like nowhere was it more on display than on Sunday, when the Mets afforded themselves a slim lead, but continually shot themselves in the foot and allowed the Colorados to come back on them. The end result was a 4-3 loss that the Mets absolutely deserved to have happen.

Never mind the bad baserunning, or the continually getting rooked by Umpires, or Michael Conforto's inability to figure out the Coors Field Jet Stream, nowhere was the stupid exemplified more than in the 5th inning, when Right Fielder Alejandro De Aza decided to play right-hand hitting Pitcher Tyler Chatwood as though, I can only assume, Carlos Gonzalez or Charlie McCharliemon were at the plate. I don't know much about Chatwood other than to say he probably hits like a Pitcher, and as such probably wasn't going to get around much on Jacob deGrom, but were he to put a ball in play, perhaps a flare to Right might be in order. So, that's what Chatwood did, but since De Aza was playing somewhere in Boulder, he couldn't catch up on that flare and it fell in for a hit. Harmless enough, and it didn't lead to anything, but what it did was kept the inning going, and deGrom subsequently had to slog through a long At Bat with McCharlieman, who ultimately walked, and then he had to deal with Flavor of the Week Trevor Story, and when all was said and done, that was an extra 17 pitches deGrom had to waste because De Aza wasn't playing a few steps further in.

This is, mostly, Baseball crotch-grabbing and things like this tend to happen on a regular basis, but it was pretty stark the way it threw the game down the toilet for the Mets. deGrom worked into the 7th, but allowed a hit to D.J. LeNosehair and was then removed from the game in favor of Jim Henderson. And, of course, Henderson allowed a 2-run Home Run to the Pinch Hitter Ryan Raburn, and of course, the rest is misery on toast.

And, of course, as Gary Cohen astutely pointed out, had deGrom not had to waste those 17 pitches two innings earlier, perhaps he finishes out the inning without any further damage and the Mets carry things home from there.

It's not something worth dwelling on beyond the game itself, but it certainly screwed up this game. Then again, the Mets did a good job of screwing up every game in this series, and now can go home, still in 3rd place after this 11 game road trip that felt like it was 43 games, but perhaps that was a result of all those late night starts. West Coast road trips are difficult enough, but this one felt a little too long, and the 4-7 record the Mets put up might be indicative of that. More than anything else, the team looked tired in Colorado and that's not good for anyone.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Revenge of the Torres

I didn't actually see Saturday night's game, or at least I didn't see much of it as I was out and about doing a vast assortment of deferred errands and therefore I caught about an inning or two of the game while eating dinner at an establishment somewhere in the midst of Suburbia but nothing beyond that. Only later did I Find out that the Mets not only lost in another debacle of a game at Coors Field, but that Logan Verrett had a 3rd inning meltdown that was precipitated by an egregious blown call that resulted in Terry Collins getting thrown out of the game.

And, of course, I then found out that the Umpire that ejected Collins was named Carlos Torres. Which seems fitting, because even though the Mets now have a Torres-free roster, they're still finding a way to get screwed over by a Torres.

The play, which I still haven't seen, involved C-level backup Catcher Tony Wolters, who's probably in the Major Leagues about 2 years too early, striking out on a pitch in the dirt with the bases loaded, 1 out and the pitcher on deck in an eminently-salvageable 3-1 game. For whatever reason, Torres insisted that Wolters tipped the ball. Mass chaos ensued, Collins got ejected, Verrett then subsequently gave up a 2-run double to Wolters that blew the game open and the Mets had no particular recourse. Eddie Butler, another one of these young-ish starters for the Colorados that pitches well on the road but is a mystery at home, mastered the Mets for most of the night and for the second game in a row, the Mets lost in Colorado, this time 7-4.

The Mets, it could be said, at least hit a little bit, or at least more than they had in the past few days by plating 4 runs, but still, 4 runs on most nights doesn't cut it in Colorado, so if you want to point your finger, sure, Carlos Torres is the easy target for your ire for this night, but the lack of offense on this West Coast swing that's mercifully almost over is really the best group to be annoyed with.

This series so far has just been another annoying series in Colorado against the irritating Colorados, a team that they should be handling easily but haven't done so. Handling the lesser teams is something that the Mets had been doing well in the early going this season but this has deserted them recently. As a result, their slim stay in 1st place is now over, and they've been leapfrogged by both Washington and a resurgent Phillies team that I told you was going to be a problem. They've already shit the bed for the road trip, now they have one more chance in Colorado this afternoon to prevent it from being a total debacle.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Cold Stop

Colorado has always been a nerve-wracking place for the Mets to play. I'd have to imagine that's the case for any team that has to go there, but it seems like ill happenings tend to befall the Mets in Denver moreso than most places. I'm not saying it's as bad as Atlanta or San Diego, but, then again, when every trip to Coors Field inevitably results in some mention of Dante Bichette, you know it's not exactly a happy place to be.

Last year of course was a different story as not only did the Mets come in raging hot but they also just blew the Colorados out of their own building in a 3-game sweep.

Friday night seemed to be more of every other season and less 2015. Matt Harvey regressed back to his struggling self, once again unraveling in a series of ringing hits in the middle innings and was ultimately bounced from the game in the 6th inning, leaving all sorts of questions and snibes in his wake.

Meanwhile, the Mets bats were stopped cold by Jon Gray. This isn't unprecedented; Gray pitched a rather strong, albeit abbreviated, game against the Mets last season and had them on the ropes until he was removed and the Mets came back. When the Mets saw Gray in Colorado, they ate him for lunch but again that was a different time. Gray, if you're willing to look past the fact that he pitches in Colorado half the time, is a pretty good pitching prospect.

That being said, Gray benefited from facing a Mets team that's stopped hitting, and this is a pretty inopportune time to stop hitting because on a normal Coors Field night, they probably could have figured out a way to offset Harvey's poor outing and maybe take some of the focus off of him. However, they're not hitting. They're not hitting Home Runs period and of course this gets people antsy because it seems like they've abandoned fundamentals. This isn't quite the case. The fundamentals are fine. This team just happens to hit more Home Runs than what we're used to seeing out of Mets teams.

Regardless, the Mets didn't hit Home Runs, didn't hit period and instead ended up losing the game 5-2 and now everyone's right back to asking "What's up with Harvey?" This is a question I'm sort of tired of hearing about, and I'm sure if I'm sick of it Matt Harvey must be completely apoplectic. These mechanical issues can be completely baffling but Harvey's not even alone on this staff as having to work through a mechanical issue. deGrom has at least identified his issue but identifying the problem is one thing, fixing it is something else entirely. These things take time and pitching in Colorado isn't exactly the best place to work through these issues.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Bwah Bwah

The Mets didn't exactly hit a ton in this 4 game series in Los Angeles, but whether the offense is going well or not is sort of immaterial when you have to face Clayton Kershaw. Particularly when he's on a hot streak.

All you need to know about this game is that the Mets were no match for Kershaw and if nothing else the moral victory is that Bartolo Colon had one of his "Fat and Sweaty" outings on a night when a good outing would have resulted in a loss anyway.

No further discussion necessary for this one. It's not worth remembering anyway.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

His Own Show

Noah Syndergaard made his Major League debut exactly one year ago in Chicago. Since then, we've seen him mature into a legitimate stud pitcher, and in the early going this season he's separated himself as perhaps the best pitcher on a loaded staff. He hasn't been perfect, but even his bad outings this season haven't been utter disasters.

Then, we have nights like last night in Los Angeles when he outdoes himself.

The mostly dominant 8-inning effort is something you expect to see from Syndergaard. Rather than trying to blow everyone out of the box, Syndergaard was pitching to contact most of the night and after allowing a pair of early Home Runs, he settled down and allowed 1 hit past the 4th inning. And he only walked 1 batter.

Of course, it was his exploits with the bat that stole the show. After years of having pitchers that were totally inept with the bat, the Mets now have Pitchers that can not only hold their own at the plate, but in certain instances have actually carried the day for the Mets. Syndergaard did just this last night by belting a pair of Home Runs, in the 3rd inning and again in the 5th inning.

It's usually pretty jarring when a Pitcher hits a Home Run to begin with (and when Bartolo Colon did it last Saturday it was a national headline), and generally when it happens, the general consensus is something like "Holy crap!" Syndergaard's first Home Run was sort of a Holy Crap, because he really squared up a pitch from ballyhooed Japanese Import Kenta Maeda and blasted it out to right. It seemed like the Dodgers were caught off guard because Puig had been playing way in and had to make a mad dash back to the wall before running out of room.

When he did it again in the 5th inning, Holy crap turned into laughter. Syndergaard had allowed his pair of Home Runs and came to the plate with 2 men on in an obvious bunt situation. But in some weird twist Mets pitchers can all hit but not bunt. Syndergaard couldn't lay one down, so instead he swung and blasted his second Home Run of the night to the left of Center Field, out of the reach of Joc Pederson and causing him to lose his cap over the fence.

So, then, it was Syndergaard 4, Dodgers 2 and in the 6th it certainly had a chance to be more when Syndergaard came to the plate with the bases loaded. He was clearly just seeing everything really well because he drilled the first two pitches foul with authority. And although he struck out, he'd clearly gotten in the Dodgers' heads on both sides of the ball.

Syndergaard basically did his Baseball version of the sleeper hold on the Dodgers over the middle innings and by time he'd gotten through the 8th it certainly seemed plausible that he could finish the deal. But of course in this day and age it's a tall order to ask, and so Jeurys Familia was summoned to close things out and of course he allowed a run to make it 4-3, but no matter. The Mets can now go for a series win outright tonight. You know, all they have to do is beat the Dodgers' Mr. Big Man.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Don't Think.

The game hasn't been over that long but already the whole "Jacob deGrom had a carbon copy of Game 5 of last year's NLDS" talk is all over the place. That's because that's the easiest way to describe what he did last night in Los Angeles. deGrom has already identified his mechanical issues that seem to be the cause of his lack of velocity and, more importunely, his poor start in San Diego last Thursday. Based on what he did last night, or perhaps early this morning, it's clear that he hasn't fixed the issue, but if nothing else he can work with it and try to bulldog his way through.

One thing deGrom can do really well is bulldog.

The Dodgers were all over deGrom from the outset and appeared primed to double him out of the building early on. But deGrom doesn't panic, doesn't stray from his game plan and just lets it all fall back into place for him. The Dodgers beat him like a drum in that 1st inning and all he did after that was let them keep getting runners on base so he could strand them there. That was the story of the game. He wasn't overpowering the Dodgers but he made every key pitch and got every key out and suddenly a game where he looked like he'd be hard pressed to make it through 4 innings was now in the 7th and he's still out there mowing guys down.

Unfortunately, while deGrom harkened back to one game from last year's NLDS, the Mets bats couldn't remind us of a different NLDS game against Alex Wood. You'll recall that Wood was essentially the sacrificial lamb in the midst of the giant can of whoopass the Mets unleashed on the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLDS, when he couldn't get Murphy out and then Yoenis Cespedes almost literally hit a ball out of Citi Field. Down 2-0, the Mets capitalized on a pair of fielding miscues by dear friend Chase Utley. Not that I ever liked Utley to begin with, but I'm even more convinced that he must be the douchiest teammate ever. With Cespedes on 1st and none out in the 2nd, Wilmer Flores hit a ground ball up the middle  that Utley fielded and then tried to do a backwards flip to 2nd base to get a force out. Never mind that Corey Seager wasn't at the base, Utley's toss wasn't especially on target either. So what does Utley do? He essentialy stonewalls his rookie teammate and never removes the puss from his face. Won't even look at the kid. Like it's his fault. Karma then bit Utley in the ass when Michael Conforto hit a ground ball deep in the hole at 2nd base and rather than take the easy out, Utley tried to wheel and throw to 2nd and instead heaved the ball into Left Field. Maybe someone needs to remind Chase that he's not 25 anymore? I don't know. I'd say he should retire but then that's one less opposing player for Mets fans to universally despise.

Then, that was it. Wood and deGrom controlled the tempo the remainder of the way, and really, I was prepping for extra innings because that's how it seemed this game was heading. Pedro Baez and Antonio Bastardo got through the 8th and the Dodgers went to Kenley Jansen in the 9th, while the Mets countered with Hansel Robles. Jansen was clean. Robles was too, at least through the first two batters. He got a quick 2 strikes on Trayce Thompson, a pinch hitter, and then came a couple of foul balls, and then for whatever reason Robles kept shaking off Plawecki.

We've all seen Bull Durham. You know what happens when you shake off the Catcher too many times.

Trayce Thompson got the free steak. And Hansel Robles just learned the first lesson of pitching.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

That Blue Place

Dodger Stadium is one of those "odd" ballparks. It has a look so particularly unique to it so that when you're there, or watching a game there (I've never been to a game there), there's no mistaking what you're looking at. I know that this era of "retro" ballparks  has made the Baseball stadium more aesthetically pleasing but by and large it can be difficult to tell certain stadiums apart (i.e. who the hell could figure the difference between Anaheim Stadium, The Ballpark in Arlington or Newer New Busch Stadium?).  There's only a handful of places like it, and generally they have names like Fenway or Wrigley. Dodger Stadium is now the 3rd oldest stadium in the Major Leagues but nobody in Los Angeles seems to care. You know what you're looking at because there's that light blue motif, those accordion pavilions in the Outfield bleachers, that random 5th deck behind Home Plate and the overmodulated PA system that makes the ambient ballpark music sound like it's in your living room.

In recent years, the Mets' visits to Dodger Stadium have sort of paralleled the success of the team. When the Mets go to Los Angeles and do well, they've been having a good year. When things are bad, of course, they get really bad. Then, of course, there was last year, when the Mets went to Dodger Stadium and stole a pair of Playoff games, including a clinching game. So instead of coming in there this season with a bad taste in your mouth and a feeling of general ennui, now it's like a pleasant reminder of what went before.

Curtis Granderson helped continue those feelings by hitting Scott Kazmir's first pitch of the game into the seats to get the Mets out to a quick lead. George texted me earlier in the day regarding Kazmir being a good candidate for the Charles Barkley "Who He Play For?" discussion that we had a few weeks ago regarding Jake Peavy. I agree to a point, because while Kazmir has bounced around from team-to-team quite a bit over the past few seasons, there's still always going to be some residual bad taste in the mouths of Mets fans because of the infamous trade of Kazmir, what's now a generation ago. Since that time, Kazmir has made the Mets look both stupid and prophetic. What I can say, though, is that generally, the Mets have had Kazmir's number. Yes, I know that's not saying much since he's only faced the Mets 4 times.

Granderson got the Mets going and later Kevin Plawecki hit a Home Run as well, and Steven Matz helped his own cause by driving home another run with a double, and for the most part things seemed to be going smoothly. Matz nursed things through 6 innings and left with a 4-2 lead. Then, of course, the Bullpen turned into the Bullpen and we had a bit of role reversal in the 8th inning. Sunday, Antonio Bastardo was summoned to clean up Jim Henderson's mess. Last night, Jim Henderson was summoned to clean up Antonio Bastardo's mess. Both times, the messes were cleaned without any significant damage and Jeurys Familia finished out the game, just like he did last October.

So, just when you think the Mets are about to fall off the precipice once again, they come back and quickly run off 3 straight wins. This is what happens to good teams, and right now, the Mets are playing like a good team. Nice when that happens, isn't it?

Monday, May 9, 2016

Escape From San Diego

The Mets managed to escape San Diego with a win on Sunday in a game that historically never ended well for them. Usually, a game like this would have played out the way it did for the first 7 1/2 innings. Matt Harvey had a resurgent start, striking out 10 batters in his 6 innings of work and flashing the 97 MPH fastball that usually butters his bread. Yoenis Cespedes hit his 11th Home Run of the year, and things were just hunky dory. Harvey had a minor hiccup in the 5th, but recovered, Jim Henderson hiccuped in the 7th and recovered, and the Mets were just trying to nurse their lead home.

In another time, on another day, the Padres would have tied the game in the 8th inning after loading the bases in the 9th. I'd say that they would have broken through and scored 4 runs in the 8th, but that's too easy. Collins would have gone to Scott Atchison or Ramon Ramirez in the 9th, they would have allowed the Padres to get runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out, get a strikeout and then allow a walk-off Home Run, giving the Mets yet another nauseating loss in San Diego.

But that didn't happen. Instead, after loading the bases with none out in the 8th, Antonio Bastardo came in and saved the day, striking out Derek Norris, popping out Melvin Upton Jr, and then striking out Alexi Ramirez to weasel his way out of this Blevins/Reed-induced mess and preserve the lead. And instead of going to a ragtag retread in the 9th inning, the Mets instead went to Jeurys Familia in the 9th and Familia set down the Padres in order to finish out this 4-3 victory that amazingly gave the Mets a split of this 4-game series in San Diego, when a mere 24 hours prior it appeared like they were headed down the road of previous 4-game washouts in Dog Run Stadium.

So, the Mets don't have to worry about San Diego again until next season, but there remains plenty of late-night West Coast games to come as the Mets head up the coast to Los Angeles, where they had a nice time last season and hopefully can carry that over.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Forget Game...COLON HITS HOMER!

One of the substories of the legendary July 4, 1985 Mets/Braves game was a completely absurd 18th inning Home Run by Braves Pitcher Rick Camp. The hit came with 2 outs, 2 strikes and tied the game 11-11. The Mets, of course, ultimately won the game, but a newspaper headline the next day read something to the effect of "FORGET GAME...CAMP HITS HOMER!"

The same could be said of Saturday night's Mets/Padres game. Because for all that happened in the game itself, and that the Mets got a sorely-needed 6-3 victory, everything is overshadowed by Bartolo Colon hitting his first Major League Home Run in the 2nd inning.

You could, I suppose, say that this moment has been building since 2014, when Bartolo first arrived with the Mets and put forth At Bats that were, to be kind, unique. It usually involved body parts flailing and helmets flying and strikeouts. But Bartolo worked to get better, and last season had what could be considered a reasonably respectable season for a Pitcher, let alone a 42-year old in comical physical condition who'd spent a majority of his career in the American League. After hitting .032 in 2014, Colon upped his average to .138 in 2015 and even drove in 4 runs.

This season, Colon hadn't found his way on base in the early going, but he did hit a rocket of a foul ball in his last start. For all the work he'd put in as a hitter, his approach still boiled down to swinging hard just in case he made contact. Last night, as we all now know, he did this, made contact on a James Shields pitch and sent it sailing into the Left Field seats at Petco Park. I'd stepped out of the room for a second but fortuitously came back just as Bartolo made contact and, well, Gary Cohen basically shouted himself hoarse telling you everything you needed to know from there.

I don't know, I think every Mets fan, and perhaps most of Baseball spent the rest of the game with this weird doofy Bartolo grin on their faces because this thing that everyone thought was impossible actually happened. But that's the beauty of Baseball. Even Bartolo can hit a Home Run. Whatever else happened in the game was secondary from there. Or at least it was so long as the Mets held their lead, which they did, because when Bartolo Colon hits a Home Run, well, they better win the game.

Let's just watch it again just to make sure.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Bizarro Baseball Planet

San Diego has, for many years, kind of flown under the wire for Mets fans as a place where the team traditionally gets sucked into a vortex of bad Baseball, but I think the past two games of this series has been a reminder to us all just how awful a place this is. Never mind the 4-30 record the Mets have had there in the last 10 years. Never mind the spate of 2-1 losses and walk-off Grand Slams. These past two nights haven't held to the standard formula but the formula they have held to is just as irritating to watch.

In these two games, every ground ball the Mets have hit has been directly at a shifted infielder. Every fly ball that seems destined for a double or more has been run down by Jon Jay, or Matt Kemp, or Joe Shemp, or that Sebastian Janikowski Travis Jankowski fellow that comes in late in games. Mets pitchers have seen their mechanics desert them at inopportune times and innings that should have been over extended by bearded ragamuffins or by umpires who suddenly won't pull the trigger on strikes and check swings that are usually universally called the other way. 2-out RBI hits are being given up to batters that have no business getting 2-out hits off of these Mets pitchers. And, of course, games are being saved by Fernando Rodney and his Rally Plantain. Yes, the same Fernando Rodney who seems to get picked off the MLB scrap heap every other season.

It makes sense that all this happens in a ballpark where every out is punctuated by this weird Vietnamese Gong noise.

This isn't like every other stadium where the Mets traditionally have bad luck. For example, Atlanta has been a place where it seems predestined that nothing will go right. In Los Angeles, things only break against the Mets when the Dodgers are on one of their weird voodoo streaks, but in other instances, the Mets can actually do well there. Colorado has that rarefied air so nothing that happens there makes sense. San Diego, all this stuff is like gentle bad luck. It seems like they lull you into this false sense of comfort with the nice weather and cool California attitude and the rebirth of the city itself. The Padres seem to kill you with kindness. They don't destroy the Mets with spirit-crushing blowouts, they just sort of beat you innocuously. Last night, they beat Noah Syndergaard by scoring a run in the 1st, a run in the 5th and that was it, and they weren't even loud runs. Drew Pomeranz beat the Mets by throwing an assortment of curveballs and sliders and off-speed stuff and somehow even though he really had to battle his way through 5 innings, the numbers say he allowed 1 hit and no runs and got a win.

Then, of course, there was the home plate play involving Asdrubal Cabrera, Alexei Ramirez and Derek Norris and it figures Norris was involved since he's the Padres #1 Met Killer, and yes, I realize Teufel was probably just trying to force the Padres to make the play there but it essentially ran them out of an inning. It makes no difference when Derek Norris dropped the ball, and as far as I could tell he dropped it well after the tag was made. So we could have a whole debate on what constitutes a caught ball, I guess? That seems to be kind of fitting for San Diego.

Losing the first two games of this series is hardly inspiring, even if in the grand scheme of things it doesn't make that much of a difference. But if this is how this West Coast trip is going to play out, then we've got some trouble. Hopefully this is just a San Diego thing.