Last week, Jay Bruce hit two home runs to help the Mets beat the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the first time in his Met career he had gone deep twice in a single game. Tonight, he did it again. This time he hit a three-run home run with the Mets down 2-0 in the sixth and after the Phillies tied it 3-3, Bruce un-tied it with a two-run laser beam in the bottom of the 8th. The Mets (8-7) snapped a four-game losing streak with the 5-4 win.
Bruce, who now has six home runs in the first 15 games of the season, hit only eight home runs in his 50 games with the Mets last season.
Starter Robert Gsellman (ND), put the Mets in a hole, allowing the Phils to score single runs in the fourth and fifth innings for a 2-0 lead while Vince Velasquez was having his way with the Mets offense. The Mets had just one hit, a double by Bruce in the first inning, and two walks as they batted in the bottom of the sixth and Velasquez had retired 10 in a row.
Then Gsellman, of all people, led off the sixth with a single, but was erased on Curtis Granderson’s 1-6-3 double play. But the Mets finally got to Velasquez before he could get the third out. Asdrubal Cabrera singled to center and Yoenis Cespedes worked out a walk to keep the inning going. Then Bruce hit a line drive over the right field wall for his fifth home run, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.
Gsellman got the Phillies 1-2-3 in the seventh and had already thrown 98 pitches, but with manager Terry Collins using 6 pitchers last night in the final three innings, he sent him back out there to start the eighth. Aaron Altherr greeted Gsellman’s first pitch and hit a ground rule double to left, prompting Collin to have a quick hook and bring in Jerry Blevins.
Blevins got Osdrubal Herrera on a grounder that moved Altherr to third for the first out, then struck out Maikel Franco. But light hitting Michael Saunders fisted a ball into short left that Cespedes dove for but couldn’t come up with and the Phillies tied the game 3-3. Once again, the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead.
With gloom and doom settling into the minds of the dwindling number of fans toughing it out at a cold, wet Citi Field, Cespedes greeted Edubray Ramos (L, 0-2), who relieved Velasquez, with a single to center on a 3-0 pitch. That brought up Bruce, who took the first pitch for a ball, then lined a shot to the same part of the ball park in right field, just clearing the right field wall for his sixth home run and giving the Mets a 5-3 lead.
Addison Reed came on in the ninth and gave up a run on a sacrifice fly after Freddie Galvis tripled, but earned his fourth save and made a winner of Hansel Robles (3-0), who got the final out of the eighth, a strikeout.
Noah Syndergaard (1-0) starts the rubber game tomorrow against Aaron Nolan (1-0). Syndergaard is 4-0 lifetime against Philadelphia with a 1.37 ERA and 30K in four career starts.
TWO INJURIES IN THE FIFTH
Both Travis d’Arnaud and Lucas Duda left the game with injuries suffered in the fifth inning. D’Arnaud banged this throwing hand on the batter’s bat as he attempted to throw out a runner stealing. Duda left the game with a hyperextended left elbow after he made contact with runner Cesar Hernandez on a throw from Gsellman that was offline. Later in the inning, with Altherr hitting, d’Arnaud hit his bat on this follow through, bruising his right wrist.
FAMILIA READY TO RETURN
Jeurys Familia will return to the Mets on Thursday night after sitting out the first 15 games during his suspension for domestic violence.
POSITIVES: Bruce had three hits (2-HR and a 2B) and five RBI on the night and leads the Mets in home runs (6) and RBI (14). He has his average up to .309 … Mets pitchers struck out 11 Phillies … Jose Reyes went 0-3 and his average dropped to .094 … David Wright went through drills with the team during the day and even took batting practice … Renee Rivera, who took over for d’Arnaud in the sixth, had another hit and is batting .316 for the year
NEGATIVES: Cespedes ran through a stop sign in the first inning and was thrown out at the plate on Bruce’s double, as he tried to score from first. At least this time he slid …
Paul DiSclafani is a featured writer on “A View From The Bench”, which has been recognized by Major League baseball as one of the top 100 blog sites.
Entering the game hitting .154 with just one RBI on a solo home run, Yoenis Cespedes cranked up the volume with three home runs and five RBI in the Mets 14-4 thrashing of their favorite punching bag, the Phillies. The First Place Mets (5-3), who love hitting at Citizens Bank Park, banged out a season high 20 hits, hit a total of seven home runs and have now won three straight. Lucas Duda, who hit his first home run of the year yesterday, hit two more today. Asdrubal Cabrera and Travid d’Arnaud hit their first homers of the year.
Cespedes hit a three-run home run in the first inning after Curtis Granderson walked leading off the game and Cabrera got the first of his four hits, a double. Phillies starter Clay Buchholz (L, 0-1) was down 3-0 before he even got an out.
Matt Harvey (W, 2-0) was the recipient of the early lead, but the Mets tacked on runs in every one of the next five innings, building a 10-1 lead, before Harvey left the game with hamstring tightness after racing to cover first with two outs in the sixth. Terry Collins said Harvey felt fine after the game, but will be evaluated tomorrow.
But this night belonged to hitters as they battered the Phillies pitchers. Buchholz lasted just 7 outs, charged with six earned runs and giving up eight hits. Adam Morgan was rocked for four home runs, two from Cespedes, and seven runs in his 3.2 Innings.
Jay Bruce, who hit two home runs last night, drove in two runs with a single in the second inning to up the Mets lead to 5-0. D’Arnaud made it 6-1 with an RBI single in the third. Cabrera and Cespedes went back to back leading off the fourth to make it 8-1. Cespedes with a 450-foot monster made it 9-1 in the fifth and Duda hit his first of the night leading off the sixth to put the Mets in double digits, 10-1. D’Arnaud went yard in the 8th to make it 12-1 and Duda finished things off in the ninth with a home run to make it 14-4.
Mets go for the sweep on Wednesday as Zach Wheeler (0-1) makes his second start after returning from TJ Surgery in 2014, facing Vince Velasquez (0-1). Both pitchers got battered in their first starts of the season.
POSITIVES: Cespedes is the 13th Met to hit three home runs in a game, but the first to do it twice … Mets had 20 hits, 14 of them were extra base hits … Cabrera, Cespedes and Duda all had four hits … Mets have hit seven or more home runs at Citizens Bank Park four times, hitting eight in 2015 … First time in Mets history that three Mets have had a single, double and home run in the same game (Cabrera, Cespedes and Duda) … Mets have hit 46 home runs in their last 21 games in Philadelphia … Duda’s home run in the sixth hit off the brick wall in center field, about 448 feet away … Every starter in the lineup had a hit, including Jose Reyes. Unfortunately, he was 0-5 in his other AB’s …
NEGATIVES: What can you complain about on a night they hit seven home runs?
The Mets continued to be the most successful franchise in baseball’s storied history as they beat the Braves 6-0, improving their record to an astounding 36-20 after Game 1 of their 56 seasons. And would you believe they started 0-8 on Opening Day? I’ll do the math for you, that’s 36-12 since 1970. They have also won 21 of their last 24 Home Openers.
The Mets scored six times in the seventh inning on the Atlanta bullpen, specifically former Met Eric O’Flaherty.
In a season that is starting with a lot of hope, Noah Syndergaard took the mound for his first ever Opening Day start and promptly threw the first pitch of the season at 98 miles per hour, eventually striking out the leadoff batter, Ender Inciarte on three pitches. Welcome to 2017, Mets fans.
Syndergaard was outstanding, striking out seven in his six innings, including five with his slider, which averaged 94.3 mph. He scattered five hits and didn’t walk anyone, but left after 86 pitches with a blister which will cause the Mets to hold him back a day, making his next start Sunday.
“The blister popped during the last inning”, said manager Terry Collins, “He will dry it out in the next couple of days and be ready to go on Sunday.”
But while Syndergaard was putting up zeroes, so was Atlanta Ace Julio Teheran, keeping the Mets off the scoreboard, matching Syndergaard inning for inning. Teheran has only allowed three earned runs to the Mets in 48 innings against them.
In the seventh, with the game still scoreless, the difference between the teams became apparent. The Mets sent out Hansel Robles (W, 1-0), who needed only 13 pitches to get a 1-2-3 seventh. The Braves sent out Ian Krol (L, 0-1), who could only get one out.
Syndergaard’s personal catcher, Rene Rivera, singled to open the inning, then Krol got an out when Wilmer Flores (batting for Syndergaard) grounded into a fielder’s choice to bring up the top of the order. Flores then stole second and Krol walked Jose Reyes, his second walk of the game. Asdrubal Cabrera then laced his third single of the game into center field, allowing Flores a chance to score.
Inciarte’s throw was in time to nail Flores, but catcher Tyler Flowers took the throw behind the plate and had to reach to tag Flores, who was ruled out by umpire Jeff Kellog. Collins challenged the play and it was overruled as replay confirmed that Flores got his cleat on the plate before the tag. Last year, Flores fractured a finger when he tried to score head first at the plate., learning his lesson and coming in feet first. The Mets had the first run of the game, 1-0.
That was it for Krol, who was replaced by Chaz Roe, who promptly walked Yoenis Cespedes (0-4, 1W), loading the bases and got the quick hook, bringing former Met O’Flaherty to the mound. And just as he did as a Met, O’Flaherty couldn’t get the job done. Curtis Granderson greeted O’Flaherty with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Reyes and giving the Mets a 2-0 lead.
After a wild-pitch moved Cabrera and Cespedes up a base, O’Flaherty walked Neil Walker to load the bases and followed that up with a five pitch walk to Jay Bruce (who walked three times) to force in a run, giving the Mets a 3-0 lead. Time for another pitcher? Not yet.
O’Flaherty got ahead of Lucas Duda 0-1, but Duda laced a bases clearing double over Inciarte’s head in center and the Mets had broken the game open, 6-0. It took the Braves 35 minutes to get three outs in the seventh inning.
Starting the season at 1-0 is something that the Mets seem to have a good handle on. Let’s see what happens in Game 2.
With an off-day tomorrow, former Met Bartolo Colon will make his first start for the Braves on Wednesday, facing Jacob deGrom. DeGrom was shut down in September, having surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve in his pitching elbow. He is 3-3 lifetime with a 1.90 ERA in eight career starts against Atlanta.
POSITIVES: Opening Day crowd was 44,384 … Braves had won six straight at Citi Field, sweeping the last two series in Queens … Mets fans gave Bartolo Colon a big ovation during the Opening Day ceremonies … Cabrera had three hits and scored a run … Bruce walked three times and scored a run … #5 starter Robert Gsellman struggled in the ninth inning, but got out of it as the Mets pulled off a strange double play to end the game … Met pitchers struck out 11 … Fernando Salas struck out two in his one inning of work in the eighth, giving the bullpen 3.0 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits and 4K … Braves had seven baserunners and didn’t steal a base
NEGATIVES: Collins said that after an evaluation, P-Seth Lugo will miss a couple of weeks … Guess the speed up rules didn’t apply, a game that was 0-0 after six innings still took 3:13 to finish 8 ½ innings …
By Paul DiSclafani:
The Mets (26-18) hit three home runs off Nats starter Gio Gonzalez to win their fourth straight game and pull to just one-half game of Washington, 7-1. The Nationals (27-18) took two of three last week at Citi Field as Gonzalez threw seven shutout innings in a 7-1 win over Bartolo Colon. What a difference a week makes.
This time it was Colon (W, 4-3) who was the master, following up his miserable performance last week where he walked five and hit a batter with seven innings of five hit ball, walking just two.
Gonzalez (L, 3-2), who had gone 44 consecutive starts without giving up more than one home run, was tagged for three dingers and charged with all seven runs. He had a microscopic 0.97 ERA against the Mets in his last four starts. Gonzalez gave up a 3-run home run to David Wright in the third inning, when the Mets strung together six consecutive base runners to put up a five spot and erase a 1-0 deficit. Then in the fifth, Yoenis Cespedes launched his 15th to right center followed two pitches later by Neil Walker’s 11th of the year. It’s the seventh time the Mets have gone back-to-back this year already.
DUDA TO THE DL
Fresh off their weekend sweep of the Brewers, the Mets needed to make a statement against Washington. With all the talk about Matt Harvey’s confidence being shot, Jacob deGrom’s velocity being down and Colon being rocked in his last two starts, the Mets got more bad news when they learned Lucas Duda would miss significant time with a stress fracture in his lower back. He could miss as much as six weeks.
“There’s no real timetable,” Manager Terry Collins said. “It’ll be a while. I guess there are some exercises he can do, but nothing baseball related for a while. We’re looking at a fairly long period before he’s going to be able to get back and do some baseball stuff.”
David Wright had a similar injury in 2011 and tried to play through it before it was diagnosed properly and he missed two months. He had words of encouragement for Duda, but didn’t sugarcoat it.
“You have to be conservative with it. You have to take your time with it,” Wright said. “You have to make sure that you’re meticulous with your rehab. It’s something where you’re talking about a bone being damaged. There’s going to be a time, if it was anything like mine, where you can’t do anything. You have to be very aware of your movements on a daily basis. You have to do things that keep that area stabilized so the bone can heal itself. And then, after that, is when the rehab comes into play. That’s when you really have to stay on top of it. It’s pretty boring. It’s a little long. It’s monotonous. But you have to stick with it because, as me being somewhat of a case study now, these things can kind of creep on you later in your career. And I felt like I did my rehab as good as I possibly could have.”
WHO’S ON FIRST?
So what is Plan B for the Mets? Eric Campbell made the start on Monday and Wilmer Flores is eligible to come off the disabled list on Friday. The Mets are exploring other options, including using Michael Conforto and David Wright. Conforto never played first base in a game, but has taken ground balls there in college.
“They always had me taking ground balls,” Conforto said about college. “They always had me make sure I was available in case there was an emergency situation, or if something wasn’t working out with one of our infielders. I was always taking ground balls at third, shortstop, first base. So I’ve been in there. I’ve practiced there. Just not a whole lot of game experience. … I’ll give it my best. I’ll do what I can to prepare myself for that if that becomes an option.”
Collins said he even approached The Captain, who of course agreed to do whatever is best for the team.
“I said that my entire career: Whatever this organization, whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll be on board as long as I can do it and can help,” Wright said. “With that being said, besides the handful of times that we played the shift, that’s about as many groundballs as I’ve ever taken on that side of the infield.”
Mets brought up career minor leaguer Ty Kelly, who has spent more than seven seasons in the minors, but whose .391 average at AAA is the best in all of professional baseball. Kelly plays all positions (except pitcher and catcher) and worked as a first baseman after being drafted by the Orioles in 2009. Mets indicated that 2013 first round pick Dominic Smith, a 20-year old who was drafted out of high school and has only been at AA for two months, is not ready for the majors.
Bet the Mets wish they still had Kelly Johnson …
UP NEXT: The soap opera that is Matt Harvey will debut another chapter tomorrow as The Dark Knight tries to find himself after two straight disappointing starts, including the worst outing of his career last time against Steven Strasburg, when he gave up nine runs while recording just eight outs. Harvey spoke about his frustration with ESPN, but he is not going to miss a start. “For me, taking time off isn’t going to do anything. I’m not a quitter. I’m not going to just quit and put the ball down.”
Terry Collins poo-poo’d the notion of skipping Harvey against the Nationals tomorrow.
Nobody is more frustrated than him. He said, ‘I’m not backing away from this.’ A lot of guys would have taken that out. He had a shot to. He could have said, ‘I need to get away from this.’ But he didn’t. He just said, ‘I’ve got to get back out there and I’ve got to pitch. That’s the only way I’m going to get through this.’ I thought that was the most impressive part of it.”
POSITIVES: Six Mets had two hits each – Granderson, Lagares, Cespedes, Walker and Cabrera .. Colon turns 43 tomorrow – Happy Birthday, Big Sexy! … Wright’s home run in the third inning was the 86th of his career that put the Mets in the lead and his 240th as a Met. He is just 12 behind Darryl Strawberry for the franchise record … Cespedes’ home run was his 32nd since he joined the Mets on 7/31/15, Matching Chris Davis and Khris Davis for the most in the majors since then …
By: Paul DiSclafani
I’ve always loved Opening Day and this one was special. We got to celebrate the raising of our fifth National League Championship banner and for the first time, there was a real palpable feeling that we were going to get another one this year.
Every year in recent memory, all talk about the Mets chances started with “If…” – If the pitching holds up, If this guys has a bounce back year, If the other team under performs. Finally, there aren’t too many “If’s” that are deal breakers.
Of course like any team, the Mets have a number of “If’s” that could be a potential problem, but none of them (I think) cause the train to go off the rails.
“If David Wright Can Play With Spinal Stenosis…” – As it relates to David Wright, of course that is a problem. Although the Mets didn’t specifically address the issue during the Spring, they made some curious moves that could have shored up a solid “Plan B”: releasing Reuben Tejada and not resigning Juan Uribe or Kelly Johnson. Granted Wilmer Flores can learn to play 3B, what if there is an injury to Neil Walker or Asdrubal Cabrera? The Mets are kind of thin on the infield after Flores – how many more chances are we going to give Eric Campbell?
“If the pitching holds up…” – you mean ALL the pitching? If there was any team that could survive a major injury to a pitcher, it’s this team. Of course, injuries to multiple pitchers would derail any team. This staff is constructed to take a licking and keep on ticking. There are three legitimate #1 pitchers and a potential #2 guy. Then our #5 guy would be a number 3 anywhere else, know what I’m saying?
“If Yoenis Cespedes plays like his first six weeks and not his last…” – Really? Is that a concern? He is going to be a major factor in the middle of the lineup and hopefully not a liability in the outfield. Is he going to hit 50 home runs? Did you expect him to hit 50 home runs? Let’s be realistic, people. Cespedes is going to get his hits, drive in runs, and force opponents to pay attention to the other guys in the lineup. We haven’t had anyone like that in a long time.
We are five games into a 162 game season, let’s sit back and enjoy things for a while before we start worrying about things we really don’t have to worry about.
DeGrom and the Lat Injury
Something has been slightly off about Jacob deGrom the entire Spring as he experienced back pain and a groin injury while losing some heat on his fastball. We started to see it late last season, especially as he labored in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers with a gutsy performance that should always be considered in the top 10 of any Met pitching performance.
I know, I know – last year Steven Matz had “lat tightness” and the Mets let him make his next scheduled start in Los Angeles and we didn’t see him again for two months after he tore the lat. Why don’t we just be cautious on this one?
With his wife about to give birth to their first child and his next start not scheduled until Wednesday, let deGrom go home to Florida to be with his wife and stay there, skipping his next start. Thursday is an off day, so his next scheduled start after that is Tuesday, April 19th in Philadelphia – that’s a full 10 days off. Don’t know how much “rest” a new father can expect to get, but he certainly should not have any chance of “tweaking” his lat changing diapers.
Michael Conforto Is A Hitting Machine
Are we about ready to let this guy play every day? In his first three games, Conforto is 4-9 with two doubles, two walks and three RBI and two of those RBI came against a lefty. Do I love Juan Lagares? I love the 2014 Juan Lagares, but I don’t know where that guy went to. Maybe Terry Collins should consider giving him a few games in right for Curtis Granderson (.063). The slim and trim Lagares is 2-5 so far, but still seems a little tentative in the OF.
But Conforto may continue to push the issue of playing time sooner rather than later for Collins. When you watch him hit, you always get the feeling he is going to put it in play. Conforto, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker are making the middle of the Mets order something to be reckoned with.
Remember that guy who hit home runs in six straight postseason games? Remember that guy who led the team in doubles and was the most clutch and consistent hitter on the team? Remember that guy who just sometimes didn’t know what to do with the ball when it came to him, no matter what position he played?
Listen, I loved Daniel Murphy and was sorry to see him go, especially to a team like the Nationals. But have you been watching Neil Walker in the field? Of course, he has been pretty impressive and productive at bat (4-12, 3R, 1HR, 5 RBI), but is he a professional second baseman or what?
I have watched all three games so far and not once when the ball was hit to second base did I have to say, “oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” and hope that it would result in an out. Is Walker the greatest second baseman to ever play the position? Of course not, but he will do just fine in Flushing. I know that the fans of the Pirates are all lamenting the loss of Walker.
Murphy has certainly kept up his end of the bargain for the Nationals (4-11, 1HR, 5 RBI) and all Mets fans should wish him the best.
Who Makes This Schedule Anyway?
Can someone tell me why baseball can’t schedule the first two weeks of the season in places with domes and warm weather? There are domes in 7 cities, including “cold” weather places like Toronto and Milwaukee. There are another seven teams in “warm” weather cities, like Texas and Atlanta, including five in California alone. That’s almost half the league.
On Monday, when most teams opened the season, Seattle (who has a dome) played in Texas (a warm weather climate) and Toronto (who has a dome), played in Tampa Bay (who has their own dome) while the Dodgers opened the season in San Diego. Was it really necessary to play on April 4th in Cleveland, Baltimore and New York?
This weekend we have games in sunny Detroit, Colorado and Chicago while two teams with their own domes (Houston and Tampa) and three California teams, are all on the road. Oh yeah, Texas is playing in Los Angeles while San Diego is bringing their snow parkas out to Colorado.
Mr. Met Didn’t Get a Ring?
How did that happen? The supposed “Best Mascot in Sports” didn’t get a ring from an organization that gave out over 750 of them? A Mets spokesman said that the organization established a specific set of criteria for the non-players to receive the second place rings and Steven Boldis (Mr. Met for the last 12 years) didn’t qualify.
“There were specific criteria for part-time and per diem employees related to hours worked last season. He (Boldis) worked approximately half of the required hours last season, did not meet the criteria, and as such did not receive a ring.”
Guess the new rules to help speed up play during the games hurt his chances of getting a ring. But let’s be realistic, where do you get a size 67 ring anyway?
The Rest of the Month for the Mets
After starting off the season against the World Champion Royals, the Mets face the Phillies ( six times), Miami (3), Cleveland (3), Atlanta (3) and Cincinnati (3) the rest of the month. That’s 18 games against five teams that lost 463 games last year – an average of 93 games each.
This week’s recaps:
The Royals are primed to celebrate their first World Series Title in 30 years with a flag raising ceremony in front on their home crowd on Opening night, followed by receiving their Championship rings two days later. Both ceremonies will take place front and center, with the Mets watching (or not watching) from the visitor’s dugout.
Captain David Wright addressed the mood of his team and how it will feel on Opening Night as the Royals open up old wounds as they celebrate with their fans.
“It’s impossible to simulate World Series atmospheres,” Wright said, “but with them getting their rings and raising the banner and things like that, I think it would give a little bit of motivation. But I also think they deserved it. They outplayed us during the World Series, no question.”
The Mets have had all offseason to lament their performance in the World Series, falling to a far superior Royals team. Although they had a lead in every one of the five games, they managed to win only once. But the theme of both training camps seemed to be that it’s time to turn the page.
”A lot of guys here were not in the World Series. At some point, you turn the page and get ready for 2016, and for us that was this spring,” Wright said. ”It stinks to fall a little bit short, but it was a heck of a run. We just can’t keep talking about last year.”
Even KC manager Ned Yost, who has guided his Royals to two consecutive World Series appearances, cautioned that it is not as easy as it looks. The last time a team made it to the World Series three consecutive years was the Yankees (1998-2000) and before that, the Oakland A’s (1972-74).
”It’s extremely difficult to maintain that, and just to get there,” Yost said. ”Our focus in spring training was getting off to a good start, and at the end of the year, having an opportunity to fight our way back. Because it is, it’s a fight. Everyone starts the year with those aspirations and dreams of making it to a World Series, but it’s very difficult to do.”
For the first time in baseball history, the two teams that met in the World Series will meet again on Opening Day.
If the Mets want to learn from their mistakes in the 2015 season and win the World Series for the first time in 30 years, all they have to do is look across the field at the Royals and follow their lead. The Mets road back to the World Series begins right where it left off in 2015.
The Mets (90-72) and the Royals (95-67) meet for two games on Sunday Night and Tuesday afternoon at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City. The Mets finished 2015 with a 41-40 road record, while the Royals were an impressive 51-30 at Home.
Matt Harvey (13-8, 2.71) will start Opening night for the Mets against Edison Volquez (13-9, 3.55). Harvey had a medical scare earlier in the week with a blood clot in his bladder, but he has been cleared to make this start. Volquez and Harvey met in Game 1 of the World Series, but didn’t factor in the decision as the Royals prevailed in 14 innings. Both gave up three earned runs in their six innings. They hooked up again in Game 5, another extra inning game that they Royals won, this time to take the World Series Crown. Harvey was brilliant for 8 shutout innings and Volquez was poised to be on the losing end, having surrendered just two runs, one earned.
Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.24) was set to face the newest KC starter, Ian Kennedy (9-15, 4.28 with San Diego), but a hamstring injury may force former Met Chris Young (11-6, 3.06) to start instead. Syndergaard was the only Mets pitcher to win in the 2015 Fall Classic, winning Game 3 of the series. Syndergaard started the game by throwing the first pitch over the head over leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar and the Mets responded with two home runs in a 9-3 win.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Nobody really knows. The Royals are the World Champions, playing in front of their home crowd for the first time since winning the World Series almost 1,200 miles away in Citi Field. Obviously, there will be plenty of emotion and pride as they raise their banner and receive their Championship rings. The Mets have had a difficult spring as far as results on the field are concerned, failing to win in 14 straight “games” at the end of the Spring and although everyone insist that they don’t count (and they don’t), there were a couple of red flags.
Understanding 100% that the “results” of the games in the Spring are bogus, individual performances over the course of an entire Spring need to at least be considered.
Consider this: The Mets hit just 17 home runs in 25 Grapefruit League games, seven of them from players who didn’t make the Opening Day roster and one came from the backup catcher. David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda hit one each – and they played a combined 45 games and had 125 AB’s. Add in Michael Conforto, who hit two HR in 49 AB’s, and that’s just 5 HR in 174 AB’s. Not exactly the type of numbers that will light up the Mets Home Run Apple.
A little more concerning are the relief pitching individual numbers. Antonio Bastardo pitched nine Spring innings, but gave up 8 runs (7 earned) and 10 hits. Remember, relief pitchers are only charged with runners they put on base that scored. Addison Reed surrendered 9 hits in his 8.2 innings (3 earned runs) and Jeurys Familia 8 hits in his 7.1 innings (also 3 earned runs). Granted, pitchers admit to “working on things” during the Spring, but it is still a little disconcerting.
So what can we expect for this Opening Series between the best teams from 2015 in each league? Both teams think they have a lot to prove after their success / failures in the postseason and both teams want to get out of the gate quickly, but frankly, who doesn’t? Both teams are all saying the right things and the Royals backtracked on their supposed “revenge” on Syndergaard’s opening pitch of Game 3, but one thing remains…
The 2016 Mets want to be the 2015 KC Royals, a team that returned to the World Series and finished the job. The 2015 Royals started last season sweeping the Chicago White Sox at home and went on to win their first seven games, making a statement to everyone in the American League that their 2014 appearance in the World Series was no fluke. Let’s see what the Mets can do behind Harvey and Syndergaard now that everything “counts” again.
It’s been a long time since that dreadful Monday morning, November 2nd, when we Mets fans woke up to the realization that the 2015 season was really over. We still may not be over it, but I’m ready to move on.
On April 2nd, we will be getting ready to defend our National League Championship pennant against those pesky Kansas City Royals, where our players will have to stand quietly while the Royals and their fans celebrate the raising of the 2015 World Championship banner in their gold and blue colors. Let’s hope that scene inspires the Mets to imagine what that will look and feel like in April of 2017, when the colors on that flag are orange and blue.
So with the full understanding that the result of these spring training games don’t mean a hill of beans, let’s take a deep breath and get ready for the 2016 season…
THE 2016 NEW YORK METS
The Mets are in a position coming into 2016 they don’t have a lot of experience in, being talked about as a front-runner. When they were World Champions in 1969, it was more of a joke than anything else and they certainly weren’t expected to even make it back to the playoffs. It took 17 years to get another Championship, but the foundation for that dominant 1986 team was laid by the 1984 and 1985 teams.
Based on the domination of 1986, there was talk of a Dynasty in the spring of 1987 with veterans like Keith Hernandez and Gary Cater and young studs like Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, this team was going to dominate until the end of the decade. Of course, that team followed every other successful postseason Mets team before them, failing to make it back the next year.
And although the Mets had much success in the late 90’s with Bobby Valentine and Mike Piazza, making the postseason in consecutive years for the first time ever, they just couldn’t get over the hump and disappeared after losing the 2000 World Series to the Yankees.
Can we not even talk about Carlos Beltran taking that called third strike in 2006?
This spring somehow feels different, doesn’t it? There is a quiet confidence about this team, a low-key air of optimism that we’ve never experienced before. For the first time in franchise history, the Mets don’t need to read their press clippings to find out how good they are. They know. The challenge for the Mets in 2016 though, is that everyone else knows it too.
The 1986 team that reported to Spring Training had a target on their back, but that was because everyone hated them and their arrogance. The target on the back of the 2016 Mets is out of respect.
If there is a better starting rotation in baseball, more power to them. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are top 10 pitchers in most baseball rankings and all three of them take the hill in Flushing. No team this season is going to “miss” seeing one of them every series. How many other teams can say that?
Although all had wonderful years in 2015, they are all going to be even batter. Harvey now has a full year under his belt following his Tommy John surgery and has got his slider back. He no longer has any doubt in his mind that “his next pitch might be his last” that most pitchers coming back from surgery experience.
DeGrom was dominant in 2015 before running out of gas in October, but he showed something in how he was able to pitch in the postseason without his best stuff. That might be more important than developing a “new” pitch or finding your fastball. DeGrom showed that even at a young age, he can be a pitcher.Syndergaard threw the only pitch that mattered in the World Series, throwing the first pitch of Game 3 at 98 MPH and right over the head of Alcides Escobar. It was the only game that the Mets won in the World Series. After the game, he said:
“My intent on that pitch was to make them uncomfortable, and I feel like I did just that. I think in every postseason game that Escobar has played in, he’s swung at the first-pitch fastball. I didn’t think he would want to swing at that one. I mean, I certainly wasn’t trying to hit the guy, that’s for sure. I just didn’t want him getting too comfortable. If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away. I’ve got no problem with that.”
He is not only being taught how to pitch, he is beginning to understand how to pitch. He may have the best pure stuff in baseball.
What about rookie Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon at the back-end of the rotation? Colon, at 43, will continue to put up quality starts and make everyone smile when he puts on a batting helmet. And Matz has as much potential as anyone if he stays healthy. And don’t forget Zack Wheeler is looming in the background, targeting a July return.
Nobody was counting on Jenrry Mejia anyway, so good-bye to bad rubbish. Jeurys Familia owned the ninth inning last year. The problem was getting a lead to him. Gone are the guys who made you roll your eyes, like Tyler Clippard, Eric O’Flaherty and Buddy Carlyle. The Mets signed Antonio Bastardo as a left-handed specialist to share the late innings with Addison Reed. Remember Jerry Blevins? He missed almost all of last year with not one, but two broken left arms – but he didn’t give up a hit in his 7 appearances before getting hurt. Hansel Robles and Logan Verrett may get more work as spot starters than long relief.
Talk all you want about the big three in the Yankees bullpen, this Mets bullpen is going to be solid.
Now all we need is some runs….
Probably the biggest question marks on this team are on the corners. Which Lucas Duda is going to show up for most of the season and how much of the season will David Wright be able to play – and how effectively? Duda will most likely get to his 30 HR mark, but although he hit 27 of them last year, he hit 10 of them during a 7 game stretch last season. He missed some time in August with an injury and played only 135 games, but that means he hit the other 17 over the course of 128 games.
Of course Wright will tough it out and play as much as he can, but what is more concerning is that Sandy Alderson didn’t really do anything to shore up that position if (when) Wright can’t go, or is ineffective. With this type of spinal injury, the body might be willing and able to play, but can the player perform at the level a team with Championship aspiration needs the player to perform? The playing field is littered players who have had their careers derailed by back injuries. Let’s hope that Wright still has a few more productive years left, but we should be prepared (and not surprised) if he doesn’t. Wilmer Flores (hitting .440 this spring) is learning another position this year, after spending last spring learning second base and at this point is the only viable option.
Was there anything more frustrating than watching the Mets NOT be able to turn a double play when they really needed it? Regardless of the quality of your pitching staff, you can’t give teams more than 27 outs and although the Mets didn’t lead the NL in errors (the Pirates did), they certainly led the league in bone head plays and poor decision-making once they caught the ball. Enter Sandy Alderson.
After making the decision to make a $13.5M qualifying offer to arguably our best hitter Daniel Murphy – that he turned down – , and losing out on the Ben Zobrist sweepstakes (he went to the Cubbies), Alderson made two moves less than five hours apart that tightened the Mets up-the-middle defense that was the bane of their existence in 2015.
Remember the search for a shortstop in the spring of 2015? Then remember how awful we all thought Flores was early in the season, when he made 11 errors in the first two months of the season? For the first time in a long time, the Mets are solid up the middle in the infield.
2B-Neil Walker came over from the Pirates for the always dour Jonathan Niese to hold down the fort until Dilson Herrera is ready for the majors. Walker is a much-needed defensive upgrade at 2B over the departed but highly popular Murphy and he’s has some pop with at least 16 HR in each of his last three seasons. Then Alderson signed Asdrubal Cabrera to play SS, which is more of an upgrade in offense than defense over Reuben Tejada.
Both of these guys are switch-hitters and there won’t be this three-headed monster to deal with every game with Tejada/Flores/Murphy depending on who the pitcher is or what inning it is.
No more crying about not signing Yoenis Cespedis, ok? No more worrying about his opt-out contract or the $27M he will be making or the cars he drives or any of the other nonsense that we have been bombarded with since before Christmas. He is here and, barring injury, will be in the middle of the lineup and patrolling Center Field. Where that leaves Juan Lagares, nobody knows. But he isn’t Cespedes – nobody is. If Michael Conforto continues to improve against lefties (like he is showing this Spring), Lagares may not be happy or comfortable in a reserve, 4th outfielder role. Just look at this particular Mets lineup without Cespedes in it somewhere. End of story.
Curtis Granderson is still the leadoff hitter and in the postseason, he got every one of the rallies started. He made me a believer after wondering early in 2015 if Terry Collins had lost his mind. Power and ability to drive the ball as a leadoff hitter turned out to be a great idea in the end.
No one doubts that Travis d’Arnaud is a good major league hitter and that this valuable pitching staff enjoys throwing to him and has confidence that he can call a good game. But over the last two seasons he has only played 175 games. He was on the DL three times last season alone. That type of past requires a solid Plan B to a contending team. The concern about Kevin Plawecki is: What do you do with him when d’Arnaud is healthy? He might be a better defensive catcher than d’Arnaud, but he struggled at the plate, hitting just .219 last year. The scuttlebutt is that the Mets might come north without Plawecki so he can play every day in Las Vegas at the AAA level, and let Johnny Monell ride the bench and spell d’Arnaud early on.
Is this a 100 win team in 2016? Probably not. Not because they aren’t going to be better than last year, but because there are a lot of good teams in the National League. They are going to have to play almost 40 games against the Nationals and the much improved Miami Marlins. Then there are 21 games against the three-headed monster in the National League Central, the “St. Louis Pirate-Cubs”. This Mets team won 90 games last year, but won most of them over the final two months of the season.
The pitching is way too good to fail them this year. This is not the touted, but unproven “Generation K” that fizzled and died a quick death after Opening Day in Chicago way back in 1995. These guys are solid and will just continue to get better. Let’s not talk about how long they will be together or how Free Agency will cause them to take different paths in the future. Just concentrate on 2016.
The difference between this Mets team and most Mets teams we have lived through might be something as simple as this:
In the fifth inning, with the Mets nursing a 1-run lead or trailing by a run, this team is going to step up and get the runs they need to win the game. They are going to make the defensive play they need to prevent a 1-run deficit from becoming a 3-run deficit. They are going to get that strikeout to prevent a run from scoring.
That seemingly innocuous 2-run home run by Cespedes in the third inning to make it 3-0 is going to look like 8-0 when the other team sees Syndergaard stride to the hill for the top of the fourth.
That’s what is going to be different about this Mets team. They are not going to need the dramatics of late inning home runs or walk-off wins. Don’t get me wrong, they are going to have their share of them. But teams that make it through the grueling regular season and the pressure of the playoffs to get to the World Series don’t win the Series because they are lucky. Maybe you get there because you are lucky, but you win because you are the better team.
The Mets realized in late October that the Kansas City Royals were the better team – even though the Mets had a lead in every one of the World Series games. And next Sunday night, when that blue and gold banner is being raised inside Kaufman Stadium and the Royals and their fans are celebrating their 2015 accomplishment, the Mets will be front and center to see it all. And they will lament that the colors on that flag are not blue and orange, and they will lament that they may have wasted a golden opportunity last October. But they better not dwell on it.
Matt Harvey will be on the hill to start the 2016 season for them and 2015 will be just a memory.
Fasten your seatbelts Mets fans and enjoy the ride!