Wednesday, August 31, 2016

More To Be Said

So, after playing a bit of a waiting game before beating the Mickey Mouse Marlins on Monday night, the Mets again spotted them a lead on Tuesday, as Seth Lugo allowed a Home Run to Hamburgers Yelich in the top of the 1st inning, only to come back quickly, and often, as they caught, passed and eventually overwhelmed the Marlins to win for the second straight night. With this rousing 7-4 victory, the Mets passed the Marlins outright in the Wildcard race, and with that restored proper order to the world.

Tom Koehler, who's one of those Kyle Kendrick-types, in that he's been pitching for the same NL East team for several years, and as such has pitched against the Mets about 107 times and for as many times as the Mets and said pitcher face each other, there's no particular pattern to anything. So sometimes, Koehler throws a shutout, and other times, Koehler gets bombed. This time, Koehler got bombed, good and proper, just like a true Marlin should be. Spotted a lead, he handed it back immediately as Jose Reyes singled and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a 2-run Home Run to tie the game, and after Jay Bruce reached on a rare double, Wilmer Flores drove him in to put the Mets ahead. Later, Curtis Granderson pinch-hit for Lugo in the 6th and hit another Home Run off Koehler. And for good measure, Granderson was kind enough to hit a second Home Run in the 7th, this time off Dustin McGowan to extend the Mets lead.

Lugo was the beneficiary of this, as he once again did a fine job over his 6 innings of work. After allowing the Yelich Home Run, Lugo clamped down and allowed the Marlins no further. Hansel Robles added two scoreless innings in his best outing in about a month, and Jeurys Familia picked up his 43rd Save, and should rather shortly assume his rightful place as the Mets single-season save leader once he picks up #44 and finally removes Armando Benitez from the Mets record books.

I'd like to tell you more interesting things about this game, but I didn't see it so I can only rehash fact. But if you want interesting things, I can tell you some tidbits as they relate to Monday's game.
  • Monday night's game was my first Extra Inning game of the season. I mentioned that yesterday in juxtaposition with 2013. But I only attended two extra inning games in 2013. I've actually never been to more than 3 extra inning games in a season, with 2006, 2008 and 2014 holding the record. 
  • Monday's victory was my 10th Walkoff Mets win since Citi Field opened back in 2009, as well as my first of the 2016 season. Of those 10, this was the first to end on a Home Run.
  • Yoenis Cespedes' Walkoff Home Run was the first Walkoff Home Run I'd witnessed since Carlos Beltran hit one on June 11, 2008, back at Shea Stadium. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mic Drop

Ultimately, it is the end result of a game that matters the most, and less so the journey that a game takes to get to that end point. That's not always quite so apparent. On Monday night at Citi Field, however, it was, as an odd and incongruous 10 innings and 3 and a half hours of Baseball turned to elation as Yoenis Cespedes cranked a walkoff Home Run to give the Mets a crucial 2-1 victory in the opener of this 4-game series against the Mickey Mouse Marlins.

Getting to that point was, well, I'll call it interesting, and maybe that's being kind. It didn't seem to be an evening that would shape up in the Mets favor altogether, seeing as how they were throwing Rafael Montero out on the mound which is sort of tantamount to throwing your spaghetti at the wall to see if it's ready. The Marlins were throwing Jose Fernandez, who usually not only stifles the Mets but throws over-the-top celebrations in the process. To say nothing of the fact that the Mets lineup didn't include Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera or Jay Bruce, and Cespedes was probably playing on one leg again.

I wouldn't call either pitcher's effort on this night particularly good. Montero spent most of his evening getting two outs, then walking guys, and then getting the third out, and Fernandez more or less did the same, if only in a different order. Montero walked 6 in all over his 5 innings of work, and only by sheer will did he make it out of there unscathed. Certainly, the Marlins had opportunities. But in the 4th, he got Fernandez to ground out to end the inning, and in the 5th, he got Marcell Ozuna to swing at a sucker pitch and ground into a Double Play, the exact thing he needed at that moment.

Fernandez was a bit sharper, although not by much. He'd skidded through the 2nd inning, in spite of Celebrity Manager trying to cajole the Umpires into challenging a call without using his challenge, for no other reason that I can figure out other than he's just a total sack of shit. Meanwhile, he was leaving his pitcher out there to throw warmup tosses for 5 minutes. In the 4th, he started walking guys too, but the Mets couldn't come up with a hit of consequence either.

Montero departed after 5 and Fernandez after 6, and for a while both bullpens seemed to pick up where the starters left off. Sean Gilmartin worked around a 2-out hit in the 6th. Jerry Blevins gave up a walk in the 7th. Kyle Barroclough worked a clean inning. In the 8th, Addison Reed came in and appeared to follow suit, getting two outs before allowing a hustled double to Ichiro Suzuki, who seems to be the Anti-Marlin, the only redeeming quality of an irredeemable object. Xavier Scruggs followed, and he hit a line drive to left that looked to me to be an easy out, but I don't know whether Cespedes didn't have a good read, or it knuckled, or it wasn't quite as I saw it, but it sailed past Cespedes for a double, scoring Ichiro with the game's first run and sending me into a total snit because once again I was watching the Marlins do stupid Marlin things. It figured that after all of this, they would win on this crap.

But they didn't. Irritating fidget A.J. Ramos came in for the 8th and immediately gave up a double to Jose Reyes. The Marlins then started doing more Stupid Marlin Things, and pulled their corner infielders in to play for a bunt, while Ramos ran a reverse-wheel to try and pick Reyes off and nearly threw the ball into Center Field. Alejandro De Aza did not bunt, but instead flew out to Left, and perhaps if anyone other than Jose Reyes were on 2nd this would have accomplished nothing, but instead Reyes took off and made it to 3rd easily. Cespedes followed, and this was the sort of spot you wanted him up in. But Cespedes didn't need to do anything, as Ramos chucked a pitch to the backstop. It took a fortuitous carom to J.P. Regalbuto, who wheeled and threw back to Ramos at the plate, but his throw was lousy and Reyes probably would have beaten it anyway. In fact, all it accomplished was giving Ramos the opportunity to drop a knee on Reyes' neck and nearly decapitate him in the ensuing collision. While for a brief second it looked rather scary, Reyes eventually popped up and walked off, probably because who the hell wants to deal with Cortisone Shot Ramirez and his bunch of bullshit. To say nothing of the fact that, had Reyes departed, the Mets had no other option to play Shortstop. Walker was out, Cabrera somehow girded up his loins enough to pinch hit in the 7th, they made the asinine choice to option T.J. Rivera when Montero was activated and so they were stuck with a roster of 14 Pitchers, Rene Rivera and Bruce on the bench. Or at least it seemed that way. They'd already used Jacob deGrom to pinch hit and George and I were waiting for Birthday Boy Noah Syndergaard to take an AB.

Irregardless, Reyes stayed in the game and the game remained tied. Jeurys Familia allowed the Marlins nothing in the top of the 9th, and Mike Dunn got the first two men out in the last of the 9th, before Rene Rivera was announced as a pinch hitter. And, of course, here came Mattingly out of the dugout to make the total Dick move of taking out Dunn and bringing in Nick Wittgren, for no other reason than to force Collins to use Jay Bruce, the last guy on his bench. That was, perhaps, the most Marlin thing ever. It would have served him right if Bruce parked one in the seats, but his line drive was right in the glove of Scruggs, and it was off to Extra Innings.

I had, through 15 games this season, managed to avoid Extra Innings, in stark contrast to 2013, where it seemed like every game I went to went into extras. Josh Smoker came in for the Mets and struck out a pair of Marlins, punctuating his inning with a fist pump and celebration, perhaps just to stick it in the Marlins' ears a bit. Or maybe the kid was just feeling fired up. Wittgren retired the first two in the last of the 10th, and I figured this game wasn't going to end here, because he wouldn't throw Cespedes anything remotely close to the plate. Certainly, he couldn't be that dumb, could he? So I started thinking about 11th innings, and how late I could stick it out as it was a school night. But on the 1-1 pitch, Wittgren I guess was feeling his Wheaties a little bit and left a fastball a little to close to the outer half. You know, just the spot where Cespedes likes it.

And, of course, you know the rest. All the machinations and weird, paceless Baseball that had gone down to that point was just backstory to the real show, which was the missile Cespedes fired into the Left Field seats, you know, one of those shots that was gone as soon as he hit it. Following his requisite bat flip and 40-second Home Run trot, Cespedes was then doused with all sorts of odd liquid, some chewing gum, and eventually he was crowned by Reyes. Generally, I don't stick around for the postgame interview, but on this night I did. Probably because after jumping around and yelling, I needed to collect my bearings before heading downstairs. Or because I just needed to cap it all off by hearing whatever Cespedes had to say. Then again, if you asked me what he said, I probably couldn't tell you. Whatever it was, the Mets had won, they pulled even with the Marlins and now just take it from there.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Third Game Snooze

There was a season, some time ago, where the Mets had this problem of being unable to finish out a sweep. No matter how many times they would win the first two games of a series, they would inevitably come out flat and complacent in the 3rd game, and then lose, and eventually those losses would bite them in the ass. I can't remember the year. Let's just say it was all of them.

The Mets did this again on Sunday against the Phillies, as they came out flat against Vince Velasquez. It didn't help that they once again decided to play a game shorthanded as both Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker were held out of the lineup. This was bad enough, but then Asdrubal Cabrera was lost in the 1st inning after colliding with Tommy Joseph on a bad throw at 1st Base. The Mets subsequently loaded the bases with 1 out and ended up scoring one run...and that was the sum total of their output for the day.

Robert Gsellman acquitted himself well enough in his first Major League start that kind of felt like his second, until you remember that he didn't actually start in St. Louis. Regardless, he did fine against the Phillies lineup, which remember isn't much of a lineup these days, but he also got plenty of help from the Phillies in the process. In the 3rd, Freddy Galvis doubled and moved to 3rd on a Velasquez sacrifice. He then proceeded to pull one of the worst baserunning moves conceivable. Cesar Hernandez attempted what I guess was a safety squeeze, but he bunted the ball basically right back to Gsellman, who looked Galvis back to 3rd and then threw to 1st for the out. THEN Galvis decided to break for home, where James Loney threw him out by a good 30 feet.

In the 4th, the Phillies looked similarly foolish when, with two outs and men on 1st and 2nd, Jimmy Paredes lifted a high fly ball to right that, for a second, looked horrifyingly close to being a 3-run Home Run. But it instead bounced off the wall, and scored the tying run with ease. Aaron Altherr should have been right on the heels of the lead runner, but for some reason he started coasting, then looked back to see where the ball was, rather than looking at his frantically-waving 3rd base coach Juan Samuel, and then was subsequently thrown out at home, while Samuel nodded disapprovingly and Keith Hernandez had a conniption fit.

Gsellman was then cruising along until the 7th, when his luck ran out and he gave up 3 straight hits to start the inning. It's debatable as to whether or not Gsellman should have even started the inning, but I had no problem sending him back out there. Then again, when he got in trouble, I probably would not have gone to Hansel Robles, who's been terrible of late, to get out of this particular jam. Maybe go to one of the other 8 relievers you're insistently carrying instead of a useful bat off the bench? Robles, of course, torched the whole game, allowing a 2-run double to A.J. Ellis, walking another guy, and then hitting Peter Bourjos to score another run before departing to a chorus of boos. Once again, he's proved that there's no in-between with him; he's either really good, or he's absolutely putrid and you can usually tell after 3-4 pitches which one you're going to get.

By this point, the game was beyond salvage and the Mets faded out with a 5-1 loss.

You hate games like this because it can be a bit of a momentum killer, and it didn't help that they started the game short two starters and finished short 3 starters. On the other hand, I can see the Mets wanting to show a little precaution because the next four games could conceivably make or break the season as the Mickey Mouse Marlins are coming to town. Yes, if you can stomach the thought, this fake-ass team is actually a game ahead of the Mets and, really, I'm totally dumbfounded as to why this is the case. To make matters worse, they're starting the series tonight with Jose Fernandez, while the Mets have had to dip down to Binghamton for Rafael Montero. Remember him? He actually pitched in two games this April. I'd forgotten that completely. But here now he's coming up in a really big spot in what Mets fans should really view as a week for pure, unadulterated sports hatred. You want to pay the Fucking Marlins back for all those years of being a pain in the ass and put them back in their rightful place as irrelevant? Now's the time to do it.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

All The Love

The Mets raked the Phillies over the coals on Friday night and on Saturday they did more of the same, as they whacked another 4 Home Runs, one of them a Grand Slam, and coasted behind 7 strong innings from Noah Syndergaard to win a genuine laugher, a 12-1 victory that gave them their second 3-game winning streak in a week.

For once, I actually was around to see a game from start to finish, as my evening was free and my other half was out for the night, and although I was up early for odd business, I was also finished early and as such, came home and took a nap well before game time, so I was up and raring to see a game from start to finish, and oh, did I see a game.

Syndergaard against the Phillies should in most cases be a mismatch, and on this night it was. His late-Summer rally continued as he delivered his third straight sterling effort. The Phillies, who were a bit of an early-season surprise thanks to their young pitching, have come back to earth as the rigors of the season more than caught up with them, and as such, their lineup, which continues to feature the carcass of Ryan Howard, and a multitude of youngsters, were little match for Syndergaard. Outside of a solo Home Run by Freddy Galvis in the 3rd inning, that seemed to be more of an accident than anything else, the Phillies barely made a peep against him. Over 7 innings, Syndergaard whipped the Phillies to the tune of 1 run on 2 hits, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts.

The Galvis Home Run gave the Phillies a temporary lead, but in reality I suppose it was a matter of making Bruce Banner angry, because once the Phillies got ahead, the Mets got angry and started dropping haymakers on Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson, who works at a pace that's somewhere in between Steve Trachsel and Daisuke Matsuzaka, divided by the square root of Hansel Robles, allowed a leadoff single to Jose Reyes in the bottom of the 3rd, then started getting peckish because he was afraid Reyes would steal, and ultimately left a fastball down over the plate for Asdrubal Cabrera to golf it into the seats.

Helllickson ate his own milk again in the 4th inning. With one out, he gave up a double to Syndergaard, who has 7 hits this season, 6 of which have gone for extra bases, and then a single to Reyes. Though he got Cabrera out, he then set out to try to get Cespedes, and after working the count to 2-2, Cespedes started fouling off every pitch. When Cespedes gets into one of these at bats, where he's wasting pitches and the Pitcher isn't fooling him, well, you kind of know where this is going, and where it went was in someone's wine glass on the porch of the Acela Club Porsche Grill for a moonshot of a 3-run Home Run to extend the Mets lead to 5-1.

The Mets didn't score again until the 7th, when they decided to treat Michael Mariot as well as they did Hellickson. Although Mariot did himself no favors by walking the first two batters of the inning, and then a hit and a walk later nearly allowing a Grand Slam to Alejandro De Aza. De Aza's hit didn't go over the fence, but it also didn't land in the glove of Odubel Herrera and as such a pair of runs scored. A walk and a strikeout subsequent to De Aza, Mariot then actually allowed a Grand Slam to Kelly Johnson, which represented the Mets 2nd in as many games and opened up the score to 11-1. With the Wheels officially having come off, Mariot was finally removed from the game, but not until he'd allowed another hit to Reyes, you know, just for good measure.

In the 8th, Neil Walker added the frosting by hitting a solo Home Run, because at that point, why the hell not?

The Mets, then, have done what they needed to do to keep this thing going, and can now go for the kill this afternoon against the Phillies before the Fake Team comes to town for an absurdly important 4-game series. The Mets, though, seem to be clicking, and enjoying themselves again. Jose Reyes, who I've already said has just been a joy to have back here, seems to be acting like the Jose Reyes we remember, and has made himself some new friends in Cabrera and Cespedes, who were seen doing some weird Home Run Mosh Pit dance in the dugout. This, of course, is nothing new for Reyes. It's good to see it again.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Chugging Away

After several weeks of inconsistency combined with ineptitude, the Mets have now gotten themselves back together, it seems. The team had mostly just been existing for about 6 weeks after the All Star Break, after two months where they had been playing. And I'm not sure if I can call it anything beyond that.

But now, some of these injured guys are coming back, and getting a little more comfortable, and now after whacking the Phillies around for a 9-4 victory, the Mets have won 5 of their last 6 games and dragged themselves back into the conversation for the second Wildcard spot. Of course, there are four other teams involved in this equation and maybe five depending on whether the Giants and Dodgers can get out of each other's way, and the Mets are at the rear of this particular group.

Point is, the odds are kind of against them, but at the same time nobody has broken away from the pack, so if the Mets can continue this little hot streak while everyone else muddles around, maybe they can interject themselves further into the conversation.

Games like tonight's help, as Bartolo Colon had another typical Bartolo game, holding the Phillies in check for 7 innings, picking up two hits, including a double, and bringing down the house, and the Mets rode 4 Home Runs home from there.

The Mets were hitting early and often against Adam Morgan. Jose Reyes started things off with a Home Run, and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with one of his own. The last time the Mets had started a game with back-to-back Home Runs happened to be a game I was at, back in the forgettable season of 2007, and also involved Jose Reyes. And just to wax poetic on Reyes for a second, I know it was a lifetime ago for Reyes as a player and it feels like even moreso for the Mets as a franchise. And I know that the circumstances that brought him back to the Mets were rather shameful. And I know it may be purely nostalgia talking, but I really love having Jose Reyes back on the Mets. This just feels right.

All that being said, the Mets were riding these Home Runs and Bartolo through the game. In the 5th, Colon doubled, splitting the gap between Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera, if those are indeed the guys that the Phillies are trotting out these days. It was so well hit that even Colon at his glacial pace was able to make it to 2nd with ease. A few batters later, with two outs, Neil Walker rooked his way into a walk after about a 10-pitch at bat that emptied Morgan's tank to the point where the first pitch he threw to the next batter, Wilmer Flores, was parked into the Left Field seats for a Grand Slam that put the game out of reach.

The rest of the game was mostly uneventful. Cabrera hit a 2nd Home Run in the 6th. After the 7th, Colon was asked if he had another inning in him, and he coyly flashed two fingers, and of course if Colon could bang out two hits and throw a Complete Game, well, wouldn't that be something, but it wasn't in the cards as the Phillies started hitting him in the 8th. But, you know, not to the point of any concern.

So this rather crucial 10-game homestand is off to a good start. Fine. Now they have to keep it going. Everyone appears to be moving like Bartolo of late.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Guy Who Hung Around

The Mets had already run out to a 3-0 lead on Thursday night by time the 5th inning rolled around and things really started tilting in their favor.

With 1 out, Yoenis Cespedes drew a walk. James Loney followed by dunking a hit in a particular spot where no Outfielder could possibly have caught it, which might be the story of his season to this point. Cespedes, seeing this, turned on his jets and headed for 3rd. The throw, whose originator escapes me, to Adam Wainwright at 3rd appeared to be in plenty of time to get Cespedes. Except that all of a sudden Wainwright lost his glove under Cespedes' cleat, and following a review, Cespedes was called safe. I've seen Pitchers have to chuck their entire glove to 1st Base on a comebacker, but this one's a new one on me.

Point is, when you get a break such as this, good things tend to happen.

One out later, Greg Garcia yakked on a Wilmer Flores ground ball that probably would have ended the inning outright, and Cespedes scored. One batter later, Alejandro De Aza, who one inning earlier drove in 2 runs with a single, slammed a Wainwright offering into the Cardinals bullpen for a 3-run Home Run that essentially put the game out of reach at 7-0, put Wainwright in the showers, and put a well-deserved puss on the faces of Cardinals fans.

For De Aza, it was his 2nd 3-run Home Run in a week, after a season in which I'd claimed he would be the first player to be DFA'd this season and he spent the first 3 months not playing well or not playing at all. But he's stuck with it and for all the pieces falling around him, he's been here all year and has come up with more key hits than one might realize. To say nothing of the 5 RBI he had tonight.

As far as falling pieces, well, the Mets had another fallen piece in the 6th, as Seth Lugo, who'd been pitching rather brilliantly over the first 5 innings, came down with a cramp and had to leave the game. This was, of course, the second time in two days this happened to the Mets in St. Louis, so you don't have to be a genius to figure out who's at fault here. I'm not sure why Ol' Cortisone Shot Ramirez can't figure this one out, because all you need to do is fucking hydrate before a game on a miserable humid day in St. Louis and maybe you can avoid cramping up, but this sort of logic seems to be beyond that gentleman's realm. But he still has a job, so what the hell do I know?

Regardless of the turd in that particular punchbowl, it didn't sink the Mets, who in spite of some spotty relief work from Jim Henderson, Josh Smoker and the mysteriously returned Sean Gilmartin did not allow the Cardinals a realistic chance of getting back in the game. Instead, the Mets offense tacked on a few more runs of their own (!) and won 10-6. So not only did they win this series in St. Louis altogether, but they managed to get themselves back to .500 on this road trip, and they're still hanging around in this Wildcard chase.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Done Before Its Time

I've been rather busy of late, which isn't anything new, but of course when I miss games completely and know little more than the final score and some rudimentary factoids it makes it difficult to write a well thought-out blog about it. Of course, on the other hand, most of the time what I write isn't exactly well thought-out anyway, so what's the difference?

For the second start in a row, Jacob deGrom didn't have it and got bombed all over the place by Cardinals batters, while, I can only assume, Cardinals fans behaved about as well as they did in New York, and even moreso seeing as how they were in their own stadium. But my concern is more with deGrom, who after 3 innings in San Francisco melted down, and what happened there carried over to here. He gave up 3 Home Runs, one in the 1st inning to Matt Carpenter, and later to Randal Grichuk and Steve Piscotty and he might have given up one to Mike Matheny as well if he'd been playing and not too busy congratulating himself for inventing Baseball. 5 runs and 12 hits in 5 innings doesn't give your team much of a fighting chance and, against Carlos Marthinez, might not give your team much of a chance at all.

So this all-too-brief Mets winning streak ends at 3 with this rather rude dose of reality and an 8-1 loss. These games will happen. The problem is that they've happened all too often this season and it's getting a little too late. And I don't think anything more needs to be said on the subject.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Make Yourself Useful

About 30 minutes in to tonight's Mets/Cardinals game, I was already formulating how I was going to once again rip into Jon Niese for another gutless performance, taking the mound injured, probably lying about it and pissing away a 3 run lead that was dropped in his lap in a crucial game that the Mets needed to win.

In reality, though, we really ought to thank Niese. Because he not only pitched poorly, but also got hurt (and again was probably hurt before he even hit the mound) in the 1st inning, he actually spared the Mets from an even greater disaster, and also allowed Fake deGrom Robert Gsellman to make his Major League Debut instead in what was tantamount to a start. Dropped into a virtually untenable situation, Gsellman buckled down in the sort of way we never see from Niese, stopped the Cardinals rally and kept them off the board for another 3 innings after that, allowing the Mets offense to rebuild a lead off of erratic Jaime Garcia and hold off the Cardinals late to win the opening game in St. Louis 7-4 and ruin the nights of the selfie-stick-waving Cardinal fans.

The conventional talk will focus on the Mets offense, which had a great night, taking advantage of Garcia early and Sam Tuivalala late, and got Home Runs from Wilmer Flores and Justin Ruggiano, but it really was the Pitching that won this game for the Mets. Never mind what Gsellman did, which ought to draw enough ink in and of itself (although whether or not it will remains to be seen), but following Gsellman, Josh Smoker threw two innings, allowing only a Randal Graves Home Run, and after that, Jerry Blevins, Jim Henderson (in his return to action following a lengthy injury), Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia held the Cardinals scoreless. That's not to say it was easy, because the Cardinals kept getting men on base all night, and we were essentially waiting for the Cardinals to do something typically Cardinal and annoying and caused their fans to slap each other with their seat cushions, but that never happened. Whenever a Mets pitcher needed to get a key out in this game, it seems that they were able to, and the end result is that the Cardinals were the ones left holding their jocks, leaving 11 men on base and not getting any closer than 6-4.

And, really, this is all because of Niese. I'd love to be able to rake him over the coals once again for basically pulling a Steve Trachsel and throwing the Mets further into the abyss and undoing all the good stuff they did over the weekend, but, you know, addition by subtraction. If Niese is hurt and has to miss some time, well, maybe that's not the worst thing in the world. And if Robert Gsellman really has the insides he displayed tonight, maybe we once again have something here. We could certainly use it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Suck It, ESPN

The Mets have a long and storied history of being treated as a punchline whenever they appear on a Nationally Televised game. Generally, they seem to be all too happy to oblige the ridicule, as they often do stupid things, or lose in stupid fashion, and thus are branded as a general laughingstock. As such, when they do appear on these National TV games, they're generally scoffed at as the undercard to their opponent, and when the fluff-filled broadcast goes on the air, the game mostly becomes sideshow to whatever idiotic ADD-induced features the network feels they can shove in our faces. Because, you know, who cares about the game?

ESPN used to be good at covering Baseball. I know that everyone hated cranky old Joe Morgan and crotchety Jon Miller but they were legitimate, good announcers that made me feel like I was actually watching a game. Now, I have no idea who the hell is announcing the game for ESPN, but they have Aaron Boone in the booth for comedy relief and then they stuck a woman in the booth. Now, I have no problem with a woman announcer. But much like I have a strong disdain for stupid male announcers, well, you get the picture. I get the impression that she's there as a pawn in some dumb PR game.

But then again, maybe this is their trick. They want me to get so irritated by their half-assed coverage that I spend more time talking about that than I do about the game itself. If that's the case, well-played, ESPN. You've sucked me in again. Also, fuck you. That's not what I'm here for.

There was a game underneath all the crap and it was actually pretty good. See, FOX and ESPN love to kick the Mets around, I know, and most Baseball fans love to kick the Mets around too. It's my impression that everyone wants the Mets to lose. Even Dodgers fans that hate the Giants want the Mets to lose to the Giants. Hell, I'm not convinced that there aren't some Mets fans that want the Mets to lose (You know, the BACKMAN BABY crowd). But sometimes, the Mets fight back and win these games, and I find it particularly gratifying. My sense is that the networks and Joey Bagodonuts in St. Louis, and Goombah Vinnie in South Jersey, and the 4 Marlins Fans in Miami have put up so much time and effort into hating the Mets, that a Mets victory just ruined their night. Or, at least, I hope that's the case (the flipside of this is that a Marlins victory can ruin my night, but ESPN hasn't deemed the Marlins relevant enough to put on The Biggest Game In The Galaxy, and rightfully so).

At least for part of the night, though, things were going everyone else's way. While Noah Syndergaard looked like April Noah Syndergaard and efficiently mowed down the Giants, his opponent, Jeff Samardzija, was even better, and had a no-hit bid going through the middle innings. You could feel the erections forming in the pants of the announcers as Samardzija kept the Mets out of the hit column through the 5th and 6th innings. Wouldn't that be the perfect storm? Put the Mets on Sunday Night at their low water mark of the season with the intent on humiliating them, and they oblige by getting no-hit?

But the Mets refused to cooperate as the game turned to the 7th. Curtis Granderson led off the 7th with an opposite-field double that Gregor Blanco probably took a bad route to, but sucks for him. Two pitches later, not only was the no-hitter gone, but the shutout was gone and the Mets, gasp, had the lead when Yoenis Cespedes tucked a bomb of a Home Run just inside the Left Field foul pole.

So, to the abject horror of ESPN, they actually had to stoop to the Mets, and stoop to Syndergaard, who continued to shove the bats up the asses of Giants batters through the 7th and 8th, in the process allowing 2 hits and striking out 6. So, instead of brushing the Mets under the rug, they had to show some respect for Syndergaard. He made them have to do it. Good for him.

And for good measure, Syndergaard showed the kind of temperance rare for a pitcher of his age and did not feel he needed to push himself and be a hero, ostensibly removing himself from the game after 8 innings and turning the ball over to Jeurys Familia, who allowed a measly single and nothing else in finishing off a crisp, gratifying 2-0 victory.

So, yes. After all that, the Mets come away from San Francisco with a split, they've inspired a shred of optimism among Mets fans as they go into St. Louis, and, perhaps most importantly, they kicked all the haters in the nuts, at least for one night. And isn't kicking the haters in the nuts one of the most important things you can do in Baseball?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Those Missing Guys

Lost, I suppose, in Friday's quagmire was the return to the lineup of Yoenis Cespedes and AsdrubAl Cabrera. Cespedes, of course, probably should have been on the DL 6 weeks ago but for the Mets insistent crotch-grabbing. Cabrera was last seen awkwardly spiraling his way around 3rd base and I was certain he'd be done for the season, but it seems he fortunately is not.

Whether or not their presence makes a bit of difference from here on out I'm not sure. However, on Saturday afternoon, at least Cespedes proved no worse for wear by hitting a pair of Home Runs, one off of Matt Moore and the other off of hapless, banished-to-the-bullpen veteran Jake Peavy, and in a sudden turn of events, the Mets actually relatively cruised to a 9-5 victory over the Giants in the name of Bartolo Colon.

This was another one of those Saturday games that I didn't see, only that it was just about over as I arrived home after being out all afternoon. So once again, that seems to be the recipe for success with the Mets, since I watched games on Monday and Thursday, and sort of on Wednesday, and at no point did that go well. Of course, I did see part of the game on Tuesday, and they won, so maybe this is just a weekend thing. Or maybe it's just another one of my cockamamie theories that makes no sense.

Regardless, it seems like lately a Mets victory is met with mass rejoicing, because it seems like they've been so few and far between over the past month. One more, and they'd actually be able to leave San Francisco with a split in this series, which seems like a real moral victory. I think. Of course, it's a Sunday Night game, so you'll have to put up with the sideshow and it's debatable as to whether or not you'll actually get to see a game.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Toe Tag

I didn't see any of Friday night's game, and this sort of thing seems to be happening more and more as the Mets spiral into irrelevance. The game was totally forgettable, to the point where all I know about the game was that Steven Matz couldn't start, Seth Lugo started instead, and although he pitched well, nobody else on the Mets did and the end result was a listless 8-1 loss that put the Mets deeper into the hole.

I received an e-mail during the afternoon from the fellow that is kind of the ringleader of the e-mail string I belong to, wondering why nobody had anything to say about the Mets since May. The truth is, there just hasn't been much to talk about. I've had a hard time figuring out things to write about the Mets for several weeks, to the point where I'm now consistently a day or two behind when it comes to writing about games (is that cheating? Does anyone really care?).

There are seasons not like this where the Mets have had no expectations and you have to watch a lot of really bad baseball over the course of the year. Pick a year from 2009 to 2014 and you'll get what I mean. But if there's a plan in place at work and there's signs of life, as there were in 2013 and 2014, there's at least something interesting to write about.

The problem with the Mets in 2016 is that the expectations were high at the start of the season, but the way the year has played out has just been so demoralizing and frustrating that there's not much to say. I mean, I know a lot of fans of other teams like to point and laugh and say that last year was a fluke, but the Mets are better than that. The fact that they've had the volume of injuries that they've had to deal with and still manage to hover around .500 does say something about the future of the team. The pitching, by and large, hasn't been the issue. The talent is still there. But it's hard for the pitchers to win games when they get no run support, and it's tough to score runs when your offense is either injured or regressed. Curtis Granderson is a shell of what he was last year, to the point where I wonder what he has left. Michael Conforto just fell into so many bad habits, and was probably mishandled, that what he needs more than anything else is for this year to end and to come back next year with a clean mind.

What the Mets need more than anything else for next season isn't a series of reactionary trades to rebuild a slumping offense. That would be tantamount to undoing everything that was done to get to this year. I think what they need more than anything else is a Sports Psychiatrist. I'm sure that would help Conforto and it would definitely help guys like Matt Harvey and Steven Matz, and probably other guys who get into bad habits and start pressing too much. The Mets never had a stretch where they could just relax and get on a roll like they did last year. But to call last year an outlier isn't giving this team enough credit for the talent they have. Then again, nobody wants to give the Mets any kind of credit anyway, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the #LOLMets-ers and the BACKMAN BABY morons are crawling back out of the woodwork now that times have gotten tough.

Friday, August 19, 2016

That Won't Work Either

For three innings on Thursday night, the Mets and Giants played the game that we expected them to play. Jacob deGrom and Madison Bumgarner were throwing darts, and throwing zeroes at each other. This was not at all of a surprise, seeing as how they've both placed themselves among the NL's most elite pitchers.

Then, the game hit the 4th inning and turned into something else entirely. What it was was definitely still baseball, but it was kind of a mockery of what you'd expect to see out of these two pitchers.

It started innocently enough, T.J. Rivera singled to start the inning, followed by a Jay Bruce strikeout. Bumgarner then walked Wilmer Flores and Travis d'Arnaud, and Justin Ruggiano followed.  Ruggiano is, in fact, a Met, in case you'd forgotten because he was signed out of nowhere, appeared here and then got hurt within the span of 3 days, but now he's back, and there he was hitting a Grand Slam off of Bumgarner to stake the Mets to a 4-0 lead. And when you can take a 4-0 lead off of Bumgarner and a Giants team that's been kind of reeling, well, you have to be feeling pretty good about yourself.

Of course, as good as you feel with a 4-0 lead is equal to how bad you feel when deGrom subsequently has a total meltdown in the bottom of the 4th inning and allows the Giants to first come back, and then ultimately take the lead when he gives up a Home Run to Bumgarner himself. It's not exactly a head-hanging shame to give up a Home Run to Bumgarner, who's clearly one of, if not the, best hitting pitcher in the game. But to have that come at the tail end of a 5-run inning is pretty bad. To make matters worse, deGrom came back for the 5th and allowed another 3 runs on top of it to turn his night into an utter bloodbath.

I know that the Mets came back and got it to 8-7, but unlike the Giants, they couldn't finish the deal, which sort of typifies everything that the Mets have done in the past 29 years. They get to within a run, against a weary Giants bullpen, they can't tie the game in spite of opportunities, and then Hansel Robles had one of those games where he has a Hamburger on the mound and instead of keeping the game where it is in the 8th, he gave up a 2-run double to Buster Posey which gave the Giants a 3-run lead.

By this point, I'd already thrown in the towel, because it was after 1am and I'd had enough, and really, if I was going to hang around and watch the Mets lose anyway, or I was going to get a little extra sleep, I'd go for the extra sleep. I kind of have the feeling that most Mets fans must feel the same way.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

That Familiar, Flummoxed Look

Jon Niese had started 177 games for the Mets between 2008 and 2015. Sometimes, he was quite good. Others, he was OK, if not great. Then, there were times when he was really bad. Something would go wrong and he'd just lose his shit and start throwing slop all over the place and get raked all over the yard. Then, he'd get pulled from the game and walk around the dugout yelling and pouting and moping. By 2015, this sort of Jon Niese outing had become so commonplace that everyone stopped listening to Niese, and so we'd have shots of him after getting his ass kicked again just sitting in the dugout screaming at nobody in particular. He'd have some slight amount of redemption pitching in relief in the Postseason, and as someone who did survive the Six Years of Met Wilderness that was kind of nice, but there really wasn't a place for him on the team going forward.

And now, mysteriously, that space has reappeared and he's back and starting games and nothing's changed. Niese is getting raked over the coals, the Mets are getting sunk and here he is screaming in the dugout again.

I guess it typifies the way this year has unraveled for the Mets that we're back to Jon Niese in the rotation because it wasn't supposed to happen this way. We were done with Niese. Now, we're not done with him. What we are done with, fortunately (SEGUE MASTER) are the Diamondbacks. And not soon enough. I know that the Mets can have a "thing" with a certain team during a season but this year's season series with the Diamondbacks has just been ridiculous. This is a team that's been a total bottom-feeder all season long. Somehow, they saw the Mets and it's like their switch flipped. They started stealing bases and banging doubles and just embarrassing the Mets. Then, they went to Boston and turned back into pumpkins. But when the Mets came to visit them in Arizona, same thing. At least the Mets won a game on Tuesday but Wednesday was just the coup de grace, as not only did the Diamondbacks beat up Niese, but they also beat up every reliever en route to a 13-5 humiliation that only ended up 13-5 because Rene Rivera hit a 3-run Home Run in the 9th inning. When it counted, the Mets did nothing. For the 6 games, Arizona I believe hit about .440 against the Mets, and slugged .874. They hit 41 Home Runs and stole 27 bases, while outscoring the Mets 66-10.

These are the sort of things that happen when your season has just gone off the rails. But I hope the Mets as a team remember this the next time they see the Diamondbacks and their cake frosting-colored jerseys. This really shouldn't sit well with anyone.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Unable To Finish

Monday night, I got home, took a rest, and got up just in time for the beginning of the game.
Tuesday night, I got home, took a rest, and got up just in time for the top of the 2nd inning.

Clearly, I'm slipping.

I was slipping pretty hard by time the 4th inning came around, and I'd finished making dinner. My other half and I then sat down to eat, but she started yammering about how she wanted to watch something else instead of the game. I can't say I blame her, given how lousy the Mets have been lately, but I would have preferred to watch the game as opposed to the alternative. But, I relented and let her have her way. At the time, the game was scoreless.

And, as such, when she'd finished watching her program, I put the game back on and saw that it was 4-1 Mets. Little did I know that I'd missed the real show, Noah Syndergaard smoking his 3rd Home Run of the season to stake the Mets to a rare lead. On the mound, Syndergaard was making it stand up, looking better than he had in weeks before he tired in the 6th and his defense betrayed him.

For Syndergaard, this is, perhaps, a bit of a corner turn, since he looked much fresher. He hasn't exactly been suffering for velocity and really the stuff looks OK, but that little extra something he had early in the season hasn't been there. We've talked about him dissolving into Leiteritis far too often, but it seems like he had it back, somewhat. After the Diamondbacks beat and kind of embarrassed him last Wednesday, he got a bit of revenge, holding the Diamondbacks down into the 6th. He probably could have made it through the 6th, but for a pair of errors by T.J. Rivera that not aided a 3-run rally but forced Syndergaard to waste more pitches until he was ultimately unable to finish the inning.

At that point, it being late and I still being tired (and with an early morning today) I shut the game off altogether. Whatever was going to happen would happen, and, well, if it was going to be bad, I didn't want to be around to see it. A 7-1 lead had shrunk to 7-4 and given the way the Mets have handled the Diamondbacks this season that didn't really sit comfortably with me.

But, as I rose this morning, I see that the Mets did, in fact, hang on to win the game 7-5, so that's something.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

1-10 In The Shade

When the highlight of the game for the Mets is Bartolo Colon's first career Walk, well, it probably wasn't a very good game. The Mets essentially picked up right where they left off last week, laying an egg which immediately cooked on the broiling Arizona turf and once again losing to the miserable Diamondbacks, 10-6.

The Mets, being on the West Coast this week, kind of accidentally fell into my schedule. Of late, I've been coming home and if I don't knock out completely I come very close to it and therefore a large swath of the early innings of games have been lost to me. I'd blindly assumed that this would happen again; not so much because I forgot the Mets were playing in Arizona (who is sometimes on Mountain time and sometimes on Pacific time and because I'm not in Arizona I don't care), but because I'd incorrectly assumed the game started at 9, and not 9:30. So I got up to make dinner, assuming I'd be turning things on in the 2nd inning, and instead was greeted with a boisterous greeting from cheerful Gary Cohen and crotchety Keith Hernandez, who probably isn't the best choice to send to Arizona but then again, I'm not the travel director. Shots of Cactii gave way to the inside of Global Domination Bank One Chase Field, airplane hangar that it is, and the start of the game.

And that's about all anyone should want to remember here. Bartolo Colon didn't have it, he looked tired and sweaty and when he looks tired and sweaty that's never a good sign. He somehow gutted his way through 5 innings, giving up 7 runs and 22 extra base hits, most of them by Welington Castillo and Michael Bourn, and, really, the game was cooked before it started. Robbie Ray, who has absolutely no business torching the Mets like this, didn't stifle them quite as hard as he did last week, and even gained the ignominious honor of being the first pitcher to walk Bartolo, but he still kept them in check and by time the bats awoke, it was far too late for anything meaningful to happen.

And, as such, all we should remember from this one is that Bartolo Colon continues to do miraculous things on the Baseball field, even on nights when he pitches like a normal 43-year old.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Its The Matz!

Apparently, what I need to do is be out of the house and out somewhere in order to ensure that the Mets will do well. Saturday, I was out on a day trip to Orient, NY. Granted, I was in transit home while the game was going on but the Mets won. Sunday, I was out of New York state altogether, having traveled with my other half out to somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania, to a place where we stopped for lunch in an establishment where the Phillies game was on multiple televisions, and in the meantime, the Mets played a game at rumor level for me and once again won, as Steven Matz took a no-hit bid into the 8th inning and the Mets offense did ostensibly the minimum necessary. The Mets 5-1 win marked the first time they'd won two games in a row in over a month.

Once again, I had no clue anything noteworthy was going on in the game until I got a buzz on my phone saying something to the effect of "METS: Steven Matz has a No-Hitter through 6 innings." Now, we've been through enough of these to take 6 innings with a grain of salt, and perhaps ever since June 1, 2012 there's been much less trepidation associated with such a notification. I figured if Matz got through 7 innings, then I might have to start following things on my phone.

Shortly thereafter, I got the alert that Matz had made it through 7 innings unscathed. At this point, No Hitter or not, he'd put forth his second really good start in a row, which is good to see given how his season has kind of unraveled. At the end of May, I'd figured Matz was right on the verge of being a lock for Rookie of the Year. This probably won't happen now, but 10+ wins and an ERA under 3.5 certainly is possible, which is perfectly respectable. So even though Matz gave up a hit to Alexei Ramirez with 1 out in the 8th to spoil the No-hit bid and finish Matz's afternoon (and relax Terry Collins' nerves), I'm still satisfied with the result.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Long Ride Home

I was out most of the day on Saturday, which is pretty normal for me in the Summer, and as such I missed the Mets game in its entirety. Had they been playing better, I might have felt more of an impetus to pay attention, but after 4 losses, each one worse than the one prior, and 6 out of 7 losses overall, well, let's just say that the Mets were beginning to lose my interest, at least on days where there might be something better for me to do to occupy myself.

My other half and I were on Long Island for the day, and our route home leads us directly past Citi Field. I'd figured, based on the timing of things, that we'd pass the stadium well after the game had ended, as we were way out in Riverhead, a good 90 minutes or so from Citi Field. By time we'd stopped for a bite, the game was already in the 7th inning, with the Mets ahead 2-1.

Here's where you might say, "Hey, Slapenfield, why didn't you just put the game on the radio if you were worried about postgame traffic?!"

The answer, of course, is that since my other half does the driving (as a native Manhattanite, I not only do not drive, I don't even have a Driver's license), she insists on picking what we listen to. Since her music is preferable to, as she calls it, "Mets Music," I'm out of luck. And, of course, all that being said, I wasn't especially looking forward to listening to the Mets game anyway, lest it depress me at the end of a nice day out.

So, we're driving, and I'm expecting a buzz on my phone to notify me that the game had ended, and we're passing through strange Suffolk County towns like Calverton, and Yaphank, and, of course, Ronkonkoma, and pretty soon we've reached Farmingdale and Hicksville, and Nassau County, and that buzz still hasn't come. Finally, we reach Lake Success and I pull out my phone and check the score. I see NYM 2, SDP 2, BOT 11.

So, that's what happened. Jacob deGrom pitches wonderfully as usual, the Mets barely hit, as usual, and then Jeurys Familia blew a Save against the Padres again. So, there they were, Extra innings and Gabriel Ynoa on the mound, making his Major League Debut.

Somewhere around Fresh Meadows, that buzz finally comes. F/11 NYM 3 SDP 2. Just what I was afraid of. We're about to switch from the LIE onto the Grand Central and the game has literally just ended. We'll be sitting in front of the Queens Museum all night.

But that traffic never materialized. Happily, I overlooked the fact that there was a Styx concert after the game, and it seems that those who stuck around for all 11 innings of the Mets unique interpretation of Major League Baseball then planned to stick around for Styx, and not cause a half-hour backup on the Grand Central. Plus, I guess everyone was feeling pretty good, since the Mets finally won a game for the first time in a week, and by virtue of someone else's screwup. Last night, Detlef Schrempf, whoever he is, singlehandedly throttled the Mets. Saturday, he gave it back by fielding a Wilmer Flores ground ball with 1 out and men on the corners, and rather than take the Double Play, he threw not especially close to Home Plate, allowing Neil Walker to score the winning run virtually unperturbed. As if Styx needed something to warm up the crowd. So we breeze past Citi Field and right on home. No traffic, no problems.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Literally, Tired

As can sometimes be the case on Fridays, after a full week of work, I'll come home and proceed to fall asleep for about 60-90 minutes. Game be damned. And lately, most of the games have been damned. Tonight was no different; I came home and after tooling around for a while, I started to nod off. But as I was about to fall asleep, I glanced at my phone and MLB At Bat to see how the game had been going. I saw that Logan Verrett had managed to load the bases with no outs, and some fellow named Detlef Schrempf was batting, and a little blue ball pops up, accompanied by that dreaded phrase: "IN PLAY, RUN(S)."

Schimpf, of course, had hit the Grand Slam, and from there I fell asleep, because I knew that nothing good was coming out of this game. After the bluster from Terry Collins yesterday, and after the roster shakeups of this afternoon, the same stupid thing was going to happen anyway. I suppose it makes no difference whether or not Michael Conforto is here. The Mets have once again managed to take a really promising young kid and screw him up so badly that he's now incapable of performing at the Major League level. They can toss him back to AAA where he'll inevitably hit .360, and then call him back up, jockey him around from position to position in order to placate whoever, and then shrug as he continues to hit .200. Then they'll trade him to Baltimore for Darren O'Day and two retreads and watch as he develops into a .320 hitter.

Meanwhile, Logan Verrett continues to start, and for Verrett the pattern tends to be one good start, one middling start, one completely putrid start and tonight was the putrid. Against a Padres team that, like Arizona, is barely trying, he allowed a Steve Trachsel-esque 4 Home Runs in 3 innings, shuttling the Mets off to an 8-2 deficit.

By time I woke up, the Mets had actually cut that deficit to 8-5. Somehow, this was enough to get me up and get me to turn the game on, even if I knew I was setting myself up for more misery. I know that we're all trying to finesse this one into something positive by saying that the Mets could have died after the score hit 8-2 but somehow battled back to make it 8-6, but what's the point? The loss counts the same whether it was 8-0, 8-2 or 8-6. You want to talk about the Mets being gritty and gutty, talk to me when they come back from an 8-2 deficit and win 9-8. There's nothing fluffier in Baseball than touting offensive statistics that come in meaningless situations. It's like when everyone would yell about that guy who retired hitting Home Runs late in games when his team was already up by 4.

So, yeah. I'm tired. Literally, tired. Of this team, of this season and in general.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Good Grief

I know that the Mets got their asses handed to them by an awful team for three consecutive days. I also know that for as much as we want to sugarcoat things, the 2016 season is probably in the toilet. With the Mets now caught up in a giant mess of teams and games in the standings, there really isn't much positive to say about what to expect over the final 6 or so weeks of the season. Terry Collins can throw one of his apoplectic shit fits, fans can call for his head (and the "BACKMAN BABY!!!" morons have crawled out of their caves once again—I thought we were done with these closeted Yankee fans) and, well, the rest of us more sensible types can go back to that same level of low-lying depression that seemed to infect us between 2009 and 2014.

What I really get concerned about is what the reaction here ends up being going forward. As I mentioned, I keep likening the 2016 Mets to the 2001 Mets, and really, that's what this season has unraveled into. But the larger issue is that the 2001 Mets begat the 2002 Mets, which were assembled mostly by several reactionary and ill-advised trades and signings that looked good on paper but never gelled, ultimately imploding upon itself in an embarrassing season that set the Mets back 3 years. It was 2005 before they sniffed .500 again and another year before they were a contender with teeth.

And that's just a primary example of how hard it's been, historically, for the Mets to sustain their own success. This is a franchise that has gone to the Postseason in back-to-back seasons once in 55 years. Every time the Mets find some form of greatness, for some reason the following year the air comes out of the sails, whether it's due to injuries, inconsistency, complacency or a lack of desire to improve. I don't know if the Mets, as composed on Opening Day, would have fallen into this pit just as much, but what I can say is that I know they wouldn't have gotten swept, and really embarrassed at home by teams like Arizona, or the Colorados, and they probably wouldn't have gone back to being 4-15 against Washington.

But is that just me trying to draw an excuse for all of this? The 2016 Mets pinned their hopes on several question marks, among them David Wright's ability to play out a full season, Lucas Duda's ability to find more offensive consistency and the continued health and strong performance of the starting pitching. These are three failures that the Mets have only partially been able to recover from, and only because even while injured, both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz can still pitch reasonably well. Everything else has just been a disaster, and it seems like it's come to a head here. It may be too late; the Mets seem to be well on their way to another 8-20 August death spiral, but what I'm worried about is that this is just the beginning of yet another descent into laughingstockdom.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

At Least I Wasn't There

Tuesday's game stunk. I know, because I was there. But when the Mets play a game on Wednesday, and my takeaway is that at least I was at the game on Tuesday and not Wednesday, well, Wednesday's game must have been absolutely putrid.

And it was.

I've been to no less than 3 separate and distinct 13-inning games between the Mets and the Diamondbacks and two of the three have been detailed explicitly in the annals of this blog. The Mets won all 3 of those 13-inning affairs. Wednesday night's game did not go 13 innings. Perhaps if the Mets had been able to extend the game that long, things might have ended up better for them. Though, the way things have been going for the Mets, I'm not so sure of that. Regardless, the Mets lost, 3-2 in 12 innings and, really, the only person I can blame for this is Kelly Johnson. Because if Kelly Johnson hadn't gone and hit a Pinch-hit, 2-run Home Run off of nervous Rookie Closer Jake Barrett in the 9th inning to tie the game, the Mets would have lost 2-0 in 9 normal innings and instead we could just talk about how boring and horrible everything is.

But instead, Johnson tied the game and extended things for another hour or so so that the Mets could still lose the game and we're still talking about how boring and horrible everything is.

Bartolo Colon and company did their admirable best to try and keep the game somewhat respectable. Colon, who was sweatier than David Dinkins in his prime, allowed a run, which is as good as you can hope for from a 43-year old. Addison Reed allowed a run, and we'll forgive him for that because he's given up like 4 runs all season. Jeurys Familia threw 2 innings, and hairy innings at that, so you can forget seeing him on Thursday afternoon. Even Erik Goeddel and Jon Niese split a clean inning. Jerry Blevins allowed the winning Home Run to Oscar Hernandez, which is bad, but then again should Blevins really have been in that position in the first place? The Mets offense is totally devoid of respectability right now. They should be throttling the Diamondbacks. Robbie Ray, who is at best a future journeyman, no-hit the Mets into the 5th, shut out the Mets through 7, and looked a lot better than he deserved to look in general. Then again, the Mets made it easy for him, throwing out a lineup featuring Ty Kelly, or, 2016's version of Danny Muno, T.J. Rivera in his Major League debut, where he was clearly going 180mph, and for all I know they had Darrell Ceciliani and John Mayberry in the lineup too, because they did literally nothing for 8 innings, and then for the subsequent 3 innings after Johnson tied the game. In the 10th, Rivera picked up his first Major League hit to start the inning, and then Travis d'Arnaud followed in a clear bunt situation, but he popped up the bunt, didn't advance the runner, and Rivera remained glued to 1st. That play right there seemed to typify the entire night for the Mets so I can't blame everyone for picking on it.

Meanwhile, I could focus on everything else that went wrong, like the D'Backs stealing another 5 bases off a totally befuddled d'Arnaud, but who has the energy? There's another game in 12 hours. Maybe the Mets will get it right. I'm not optimistic.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Blue Frosted

The Mets season has reached a bit of a dangerous crossroads. It's pretty evident that the upcoming week, where they'll play the two worst teams in the NL West, is going to say a lot about where this season is going.

If tonight was any indication, the 2016 Mets are not going very far.

It was my 15th game of the season at Citi Field and, really, most of them haven't been very good. I'd sat at 6-8 through the first 14 games and after a number of years in a row where I'd placed out .500 or better, it seems like this season is just a total stinker.

Tonight seemed to epitomize everything that was terrible about the Mets. Ostensibly, the game was a carbon copy of one I attended on another Tuesday night, back in May against the White Sox. Steven Matz started the game, had an early struggle, threw too many pitches early, but in the end left the game with an opportunity to win. The Diamondbacks, a team that's probably been even more disappointing than the Mets, came in and clearly they have to give partial credit to their advance scouts, because they basically robbed the Mets blind, stealing 5 bases and essentially embarrassing Travis d'Arnaud completely. Still, in spite of the fact that there were men on base, and runners running and a Catcher that was totally befuddled by everything going on around him, Matz buckled down after a 30-pitch 1st inning, settled down and ended up with 9 strikeouts in 6 innings. Still, a pair of Home Runs, one to Brandon Drury in the 2nd, and one to Paul Goldschmidt in the 6th (basically a pop fly to Right Field that landed in the seats because that's what Goldschmidt does) resulted in a 2-1 deficit for Matz, because aside from a 1st inning run off of Zack Greinke, the Mets offense was its usual, inept self.

Then, Neil Walker hit a 2-run Home Run in the bottom of the 6th and everything was great.

Then, Hansel Robles came in in the top of the 7th and took a giant dump on the mound.

Usually, you can tell when Robles doesn't have it right away, because he'll have missed horribly with his first couple of pitches, and then just grooves one. This time, he grooved one to Chris Owings that got hit for a leadoff double. Then, he walked Phil Gosselin. Then, they pulled off a double steal where d'Arnaud was caught with his pants down so badly he had no clue where to throw the ball. And at that point, you could just take a bite out of the inning. Sure, Robles struck out Jean Segura, but then Michael Bourn tripled to drive home both runs and let the air out of the building so fast that you could hear Bourn clapping and whooping in the Upper Deck. And then, you know, Goldschmidt singled to drive in Bourn, just to rub it in. Then, Collins removed Robles.

The rest of the game was academic. The Diamondbacks, who for some reason are wearing these terrible all slate-grey uniforms with piping that appears to be Cake Icing blue, looked fast and loose and confident, and even their rookie closer Jake Barrett, who appears to be in the Heath Bell mold, felt unhittable. But that's because the Mets just don't hit. I don't think the Diamondbacks are at all of a good team and they struck out 13 times for the game, but the Mets look worse. It's not just me. If they can't beat a team that's dressed like a birthday cake, well...you can draw your own conclusion.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Treading Water

Let's just punt Saturday's game, shall we? After a long day of hooting and hollering, I returned home at around 6:30 and promptly fell asleep, in spite of a loud, obnoxious block party being held directly outside my window. I woke up some time later and instead of watching the game or even checking the score, my other half insisted we go out to dinner, not so much because she wanted to go out, but she wanted to get away from the party. So, what I ended up missing was the sort of game I hate the most, the game where the Mets fall hopelessly behind, but then start mounting some thinly-veiled comeback that ends up falling short, and so the only thing accomplished was making the game longer.

Sunday, then, was going to be Waterloo for the 2016 Mets. They have been, as I keep saying, teetering on the brink of 2012 but yet every time that perilous loss seems to be at hand, they end up fighting back and winning a game, and that's what happened on Sunday. Jacob deGrom was his usual brilliant self, and I know at the end of the season his numbers aren't really going to tell the story, but no need to sugarcoat: He's been the Mets best Pitcher to this point this season. He was once again on top of his game on Sunday, keeping the Tigers off the scoreboard, which was fortunate because the Mets did squat against Anibal Sanchez and his 6.06 ERA. Sanchez, whom we've seen plenty of in his days playing on the Fake Team, has been patently awful this season, to the point where he lost his job and only got it back thanks to someone else's injury (you know, sort of like Nate Eovaldi). So of course the Mets couldn't hit him.

Until Michael Conforto got a hold of one in the 7th and hit a Home Run out to left-center field, the kind of ball it seems like he hadn't hit in months. I know that the Mets have basically done just about everything possible to screw up Conforto, but after all this he's still here plugging away and he might actually be starting to find his swing again. He's looked reasonably good over the past several games and now he drove one out of the park, so that's a good sign. A better sign would be if he starts doing it on a more regular basis.

But, alas, the Tigers tied the game in the last of the 7th thanks to a pair of 60 foot singles, one of which, by Austin Romine, loaded the bases with 2 outs and knocked deGrom from the game, and the second, by Ian Kinsler, "drove in" the tying run. The situation seemed ripe for the Tigers to then get a long hit or a Grand Slam from Jose Iglesias, but Addison Reed came in and would have none of it, so instead Iglesias was kind enough to pop out.

In the last of the 8th, the Tigers again threatened, and in fact Casey McGehee, another ex-Marlin, probably did the most Marlins thing he's done in his life, skipping an 87-hop single to right with 2 on and 2 out, that somehow got past 4 Met Infielders and appeared primed to score the lead run. But, fortunately, the Mets were playing the Tigers and not the Marlins, and instead of the run scoring, the Tigers managed to run, or not run, themselves out of the inning when J.D. Martinez decided to not run and Justin Upton decided to keep running, so the Tigers had two men on 3rd base and instead of scoring the lead run, Martinez and Upton basically just had to take a bite out of 3rd base and cut their losses.

In the 9th, Francisco Rodriguez came in for the Tigers and promptly hit Alejandro De Aza to start the inning. Rodriguez, who left New York in abject shame, continues to do the job since he's closing games, but he seems to be making things as difficult as possible. Just like a Good Closer should. He came perilously close to blowing Saves on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday the Mets finally got him when Neil Walker hit a 2-run Home Run to win the game, 3-1.

So, the Mets somehow managed to not get swept in Detroit, which was nice of them, and now they get to come home to play Arizona and San Diego. I have no idea what will happen to them from here. I don't even know what to say anymore.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Burden

Watching Friday's Mets game in Detroit was just one of those games that gives you no hope for the remainder of this season. I know that they were playing a red-hot Tigers team, but they had Noah Syndergaard on the mound for them and generally that's been a winning proposition for them. But lately, the air has come out of Syndergaard a bit and yes, I think the issue is simply that he's starting to get gassed.

It is a haul for a pitcher to come out and go full throttle 32-34 times in a season and to this point Syndergaard has not done this. It's easy to forget because of how good he looks at times, that he's still only 23 and will be 24 at the end of August, and this is, in fact, his first full season in the Majors. But coming off of the way he finished 2015 and the way he pitched for the first two months this season and, well, you change expectations. At some point, he went from being "pretty good," to "Legendary" and it's not unfounded. But he still has to prove stamina. This takes time. And going out there with a heavy innings load and a bone spur is proving to be more problematic than we want to think it is. In April and May, Syndergaard was basically sucking the will from his opponents and blowing them out of the box with regularity with his demon array of pitches (and Mjölnir). But then he started having issues with the bone spur, and he had some dead arm, and these things happen. The result, then, is that while it's not affecting Syndergaard's stuff, what's happening is that he's got what we in Metland like to call Leiteritis. The inability to put a hitter away and thereby running up one's pitch count by allowing absurd amounts of foul balls (not to be confused with its cousin, John Maine-itis, which is Leiteritis combined with abject misery and self-loathing). This is now what's happened to Syndergaard, as his season has unraveled into Leiteritis and outings where he gets two strikes on a hitter and then allows 5 foul balls, and it's the 5th inning and his pitch count is around 90.

It's alarming in the sense that you know something's not right, but then again he's still throwing in the upper 90s and he looks fine mechanically. I'm sure it's related to the workload and the bone spur and these are correctable problems, so I can't get too worked up about the long term. But given what happened to him on Friday night and the fact that the Mets offense is too overmatched to dig themselves out of holes, well, you can draw the conclusion from there.