Frustration and friction for the Mets as they conclude winless home stand

A second half collapse has once again left the New York Mets frustrated as they left town for an 11-game road swing to Arizona, San Francisco, and San Diego. Wednesday afternoon at Citi Field, after a series finale loss and three-game sweep to the first place Washington Nationals, manager Terry Collins was trying to find some answers.

Perhaps, like last season, when the Mets also collapsed after the all-star break, hitting the road was the best remedy. But this slide has come earlier as the Mets fail to get the hits, the bullpen gives up the runs, while a patched up starting rotation tries to put in some innings.

This time, Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg (11-4) fanned 11 in seven innings. And for the second straight game, Adam LaRoche hit a home run. His 18th of the season, a two-run shot to right field off Tim Byrdak broke the game open in what became a 5-2 win and series sweep.

Jeremy Hefner (1-4) took the loss striking out a season high and allowed three runs including back-to-back home runs in the second inning from Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa.

And that home run by LaRoche also became an added part of the frustration, a season high sixth straight loss for New York, 12 of their last 13 games, and 1-11 since the all-star break. And for the eighth time in their 50-year history, New York had a winless homestand of six or more games.

Frustration also, because the pitch that Byrdak threw to LaRoche was a fastball down the middle. His catcher, Josh Thole set up for an outside pitch that was reportedly called from the bench by pitching Coach Dan Warthen. ‘

Not the pitch Thole expected, and it led to a dugout confrontation that saw David Wright intervene to defuse the situation. The Mets say it is a part of the frustration and all they need is some wins to restore some order and get back in the race.

However, it is getting more difficult to win because the Mets are not doing anything right like they did in the first half. In a very quiet Mets clubhouse, Wright tried to explain what has been going wrong.

“It’s what happens when two competitors disagree with something,” said Wright about the dugout squabble. “That happens regularly, but when it happens, you don’t want it to be in front of everybody like that. I’d be more upset if they weren’t upset about it, because obviously Thole wanted one pitch and Byrdak wanted a different one.”

Said Byrdak, “We need to go out there and win ballgames. We can’t let our emotions get the best of us. There’s frustration all around the clubhouse. From what he did in the first half to come out in the second half and have this happen…”

He added, “There are a lot of guys that are pissed off. Everybody is pissed off. I made a mistake on the mound and I apologized to Josh about it. It never should’ve happened.”

Byrdak also said it was a pitch that wasn’t executed well, and the bullpen needed to keep the game close in the situation with LaRoche at bat.

Thole also said it was the emotion of frustration that has set in the Mets clubhouse, a totally different reaction that Collins and the team were portraying when they won ballgames in the first half and became a surprise team in baseball.

“It’s one of those things when you are not winning ballgames,” said Thole when asked about the pitch that Byrdak threw. “Emotions get the best of you sometimes. That’s what happens when you give up runs and lose games. Stuff like that happens.”

Thole added, the pitch caught him off guard and there was no elaboration about further dissension with Byrdak or Warthen. But he did say, “I don’t think anything can get any worse than it is right now. We can’t wait to get out of here.”

Before being swept by the Nationals, the Mets dropped three straight to the Los Angeles Dodgers and finished the stand,0-6, now their last seven at home with a loss to the Cubs before the break. New York is four games under .500 at 47-51, and further away from the Nationals in the NL east, 11/1-2 games and seven in the wildcard.

Frustration, yes, and a way to fix what is wrong and do what they did right in the first half is something that Collins and his coaching staff were going to contemplate on the long plane ride to Phoenix.

The Mets start a four- game series with the Diamondbacks Thursday night and Matt Harvey, their first round draft pick of 2010 will get the start.

“We’re gonna get through it and your gonna see a different team in the next two weeks,” said Collins about his team that was 36-29 on July 7th. He held a team meeting this week and would not comment about what happened with Thole and Byrdak in the dugout.

There is no sense of panic, but it is frustration.

“I deal with accountability,” he commented. The manager held a team meeting earlier this week sensing something was wrong.“Standing up and being a man and playing the game right. We’re gonna get back on track,” he said.

And getting back on track, is what Collins alluded to with getting big  hits and making the right pitches, just like his team did a month ago. “We’re better than the way we’re playing and we’re gonna prove it.”

For the Mets they have to prove it the next 11-game or the frustration will get worse.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring 786@aol.com

Posted under David Wright, Fastball, Game Road, Game Sweep, Hitting The Road, Michael Morse, New York Mets, Pitching Coach, Rich Mancuso, Road Swing, Straight Game, Strasburg, Top Story, Washington Nationals, Wednesday Afternoon

Long day for Mets in Twin Bill Loss to Rockies

The four-game series for the New York Mets at Citi Field with the Colorado Rockies is one that could epitomize where the season is going. New York had leads of two runs in all four that would not last long which contributed to a Colorado sweep.

And the Mets are glad they won’t see Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki until the two teams meet again at Coors Field next month. He homered in four consecutive games at Citi Field, a record at the three-year old park for a visiting or home player. The 26 year old finished the series with a .625 batting average (10-16) with five runs scored, one double, four walks and eight runs batted in.

That was one of the contributing factors that led to New York dropping a twin bill to the Rockies concluding a losing first home stand of the season. They have lost eight of nine, including five straight.  Pitching and defense has not been what manager Terry Collins envisioned as the team embarked on a brief three-game road series in Atlanta.

“We are going to Atlanta and think about what needs to be addressed,” said Collins after a long day at Citi Field .The Mets dropped the first game 6-5, and the nightcap 9-4. The second game was in reach after another two run lead. Then a chopped ground ball to Brad Emas at second, one he could not handle allowed a run to score.

That would lead to more opportunity for the Rockies, who managed to get many of them in the series because of costly miscues by the Mets. Dexter Fowler got a single giving Colorado the 5-4 lead, starter Chris Capuano (1-1) was lifted. And then Taylor Buchholz allowed Jonathan Herrera to hit a three-run homer to right, second of his career.

So the first seven home games at Citi Field have had a recurring theme. The bullpen leaves a lot to be desired, and on the field the Mets are making too many costly mistakes that allowed the opposing team to score and get the win. Earlier this week, Collins admitted it was frustrating. It got worse when he was asked about the losing streak, and how his team played before the home fans the past week after starting the season with a 3-3 road trip at Florida and Philadelphia.

“Depressing,” was the word now used by Collins. “We’re better than this and we’ll play better than this. I still believe we are going to straighten this out. We showed too much promise in spring training. This is not or how we wanted to show our fans.”

However there were some positives in an otherwise dismal Mets clubhouse. Jose Reyes extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a fourth inning two-run single to center field in the second game. He had two triples in the series and is getting on base with the extra base hit.

“We need to play better baseball,” said Reyes when asked if there was any sign of panic with the Mets heading to Atlanta with a 4-9 mark. “We have a better team. A loss is a loss. We need to turn this around.”

The four-game home run streak tied the longest stretch of Tulowitzki’s career. He had a similar streak from September 15-19 in 2009. “I definitely had a good series,” he said. The Rockies doubleheader win extended their best 12 game start (10-2) in franchise history and it was their first road series win on the road against the Mets since May of 2002.

“A lot of times you come on the road, you get down late, sixth, seventh inning,” commented Tulowitzki, “and you shut it down, get ready to go home. This team does not do that at all. We’re a bunch of guys who don’t quit.”

“When he gets hot, he’s a very talented player,” said Rockies manager Jim Tracy about Tulowitzki.  Reyes and the Mets also know that Tulowitzki is a talented player who can make an impact as three of the four games were lost by one run.

New York lost the opener Thursday afternoon, a game that opened the twin bill caused by a Tuesday rain out that was supposed to open the series. In that game Reyes homered closing the gap to 6-3, but Huston Street closed the win for Colorado as R.A. Dickey dropped his second consecutive start after going six innings.

For the Mets, now it is frustration and according to Collins,” We can win 10 in a row, five in a row. That’s baseball. The object is to play better, that’s my job.” It has to get better soon or quickly in April this season will be meaningless come June.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring766@aol.com

Posted under Bullpen, Colorado Rockies, Consecutive Games, Coors, Coors Field, Costly Mistakes, Dexter, Emas, First Game, Game Road, Game Series, Home Games, Miscues, New York Mets, Rich Mancuso, Second Game, Shortstop, Starter Chris Capuano, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on April 15, 2011

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