Have The Mets Turned the Corner?

New York- A four-game winning streak for the New York Mets and you ask, does that provide a legitimate reason of contention that they are beginning to turn things around? For the moment, especially with a win against Atlanta, and three wins over the Yankees, there is optimism.

Added to the equation, the Mets go for a four-game series sweep, or two consecutive two game sweeps tomorrow night in the Bronx. Then, it is three games down in Miami with the Marlins, a team that continues to tumble with the second worst record in baseball.

The mood in the visitor’s clubhouse Wednesday evening, after the Mets third straight win over the Yankees, to say the least exhibited optimism.  The tide has changed from a week ago when a timely hit, scoring runs and good pitching was hard to find.

“We’ve won three very important ballgames in a row,” said Collins. “There is a different attitude in the clubhouse.” Because the Mets have put a string of wins together and doing it against the Yankees made it more fun in that clubhouse.

It could be the start of the summer for the Mets, according to Collins, alluding to how important it was to win these games against the Yankees.

And with Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis, a part of their infield on thin ice, it was so important for them to be a part of that five-run first inning that quickly put the Mets ahead.  Tejada led off the game with a single and would score on a Daniel Murphy double.

“Nice to get some runs early especially against this team,” commented Davis. He drove the ball the other way in that first inning.

He said, “If I can keep getting better at bats, I can turn this around. We have a better team than we have showed and we can turn this around.” And it has to be Davis and the bat to turn the season around.

Collins said, David Wright referred to Davis as the guy who can turn it around.  There is some type of optimism because Davis struck out once after 24 strikeouts in his last 16- games.

Tejada did get hurt in the ninth inning, so he is staying put for the moment.  He may miss a few games pending an X-Ray to a quad injury he sustained sliding for a ball down the third base line with two outs in the Yankees ninth inning.

“If we have any chance to win here, Ike Davis has to be hitting in the lineup,” said Collins. Lucas Duda and John Buck also got hits going the other way. Again, Collins said this was a big series.

Perhaps, a bigger part of this being an important series is because the Mets have started to hit the ball with more authority. “And they are doing it against the Yankees.

Later in the inning, Davis, with that .152 average would single to left center and drive in two of those five runs. Davis got some batting tips from manager Terry Collins before the game.  Mets fans can’t remember the last game when he drove in two important runs, even if it was early in the game.

Jermey Hefner, with that 0-5 record coming in, had runs to work with and finally got a win. And to him that must have been, as they say, a gift from heaven,

“Important to win, more importantly to keep our team winning,” said Hefner who broke the streak of not getting a win a day after the ace Matt Harvey gets the ball.

What it means is, the Mets will in all probability continue to struggle. The important thing is to continue this renewed momentum with three games down in Miami. But, as the captain David Wright said Tuesday night, at Citi Field in Flushing Queens, “We have a hard time capitalizing on games like this.”

Meaning, as Wright insinuated, the two Mets come from behind wins against the Yankees, Monday and Tuesday in their home park had to continue some type of momentum.

Wednesday night, the Mets continued that brand of good baseball with good pitching, timely hitting, and hitting quality pitches. They did not swing for the fences. They hit at the right time, and it meant another win against a Yankees team that has not resembled the Bronx Bombers they have faced in the past.

Davis handled the sinker much better thrown by David Phelps, and was more comfortable at the plate. Tejada started the onslaught in that first inning. Perhaps, the private meeting with Collins had with Davis and Tejada earlier in the day, where he reportedly told them, they were close to being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas was the beginning of a remedy?

After all, who wants to play baseball in Las Vegas with the famed strip in the background instead of the Empire State Building and other New York City landmarks?

It went down as a two-game series sweep in Queens and a revival of sorts for the Mets in Queens. They go for another two-game series sweep tomorrow night in the Bronx

And, doing it against the mighty cross- town Yankees does not necessarily mean it won’t be as gloomy in Flushing as we have seen. But, time will tell.

Comment Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Ballgames, Bats, Clubhouse, Contention, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Game Series, Game Sweeps, Game Winning Streak, Legitimate Reason, Marlins, New York Mets, Optimism, Rich Mancuso, Ruben, Tejada, Thin Ice, Three Games, Tomorrow Night, Top Story, Wednesday Evening

Vasquez Gets Milestone strikeout as Pelfrey and Mets lose to Marlins

There has been this up and down theory of the New York Mets this season as they continue to count down the end of another season. Their pitching staff depends on starter Mike Pelfrey, who was designated ace of the staff in April as Johan Santana continued to recover from left shoulder surgery.  Pelfrey has showed some spark as the ace but deep into the game, even with the good sinker, he gives up the runs with a high pitch count.

That was the case again Tuesday night at Citi Field. The Florida Marlins had a five-run seventh inning, Pelfrey lost his eighth straight decision to the Fish, Javier Vasquez got a milestone strikeout and win, and New York snapped a four-game winning streak with a 6-0 loss. In between there was a miscue on the field by rookie second baseman Justin turner and the Mets will look to rebound Wednesday evening in the third game of a four-day, five-game series.

“They definitely have my number, that’s for sure,” commented Pelfrey who is 0-8 in 16 starts against the Marlins since pitching a major league debut win against them in July of 2006.  Pelfrey was coming off a career high 125 pitches last Wednesday in Philadelphia and threw scoreless ball for six innings. But in the seventh inning a defensive mistake started the implosion. Vasquez came to bat and a bunt play became a single because the Mets left first base uncovered.

Turner made indication for a pickoff try but Pelfrey went to the plate. Turner would be the culprit that opened the inning for Florida. “I should have stepped off or threw to second,” explained Pelfrey (7-11) as the Mets were shutout for the seventh time this season and second time at home. “The worst thing in that situation is go home. He showed me the open glove, that’s on me.”

“It was a weird play,” said Turner, “and we got caught.”  David Wright, 2-for-3, was in the play. “A couple of different people saw a couple of different things, and that’s why it didn’t work,” he said about the play. Earlier in the day, Wright was a recipient of the first Roberto Clemente Sportsman of the Year Award at a latino Sports awards luncheon at Citi Field. “He (Pelfrey) deserved the win. He challenges hitters. That’s why his pitch count is up.”

Pelfrey got out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth but it was a struggle getting Gaby Sanchez to pop up to Justin turner at second. “Mike pitched very well,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “It’s a perfect example of what is going on the last four games where Mets starters previously allowed four earned runs in 28.0 innings, a 1.29 ERA.

Vasquez, (8-11) in the meantime continued to turn around a season that got off to a bad start. He achieved a career milestone in strikeouts with 2,500 in the sixth inning when he struck out Lucas Duda swinging, his sixth in seven innings pitched. The veteran pitcher of six teams, including two stints with the New York Yankees, became the 30th pitcher in Major League history to achieve that mark.  He retired 13 consecutive Mets before Josh Thole got a two-out single in the fifth, evened his career record at 160-160, walked one and gave up three hits.

It was his seventh straight quality start. “I didn’t know I had it,” he said about the strikeout. He claims teammates informed him of the milestone when he reached the dugout. “I played so many years, it’s an honor,” he said holding a 2004 bottle of Italian wine that was presented to him by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.

Vasquez knew, after being informed that he was one of the few to reach the plateau. “I don’t think I’m going to stick around for 3,000,” he commented. “I’m not going to play that long. This might be it,” he said, offering hints that this may be his final season in a uniform. Though he used both sides of the plate well against the Mets and it was good enough to impress Collins and his team.

“He had a good breaking ball and appears to got his strength back,” said Collins. Vasquez, though, would not admit that he is getting stronger and pitching perhaps the best ball of his career after a dull period in New York. “It’s nice to pitch well and finish on a good note,” he said.

But for Pelfrey, pitching well and working the hitters does not seem to add to wins. He has become the hard luck pitcher, especially against the Marlins. “It definitely gives me an incentive,” he said about the losing streak.

NOTES: Gaby Sanchez went 2-for- 5 and a RBI batting .373 with seven home runs and 26 RBI in his career against the Mets…. The Mets pen allowed two more runs and have given up one run in 29 of their last 36 games…. The finale Thursday night will see Miguel Batista get the start for New York, the veteran and former pitcher of the 2001 World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks….

It was the Marlins eighth shutout of the season and Mike Stanton hit his 31st homer in the ninth inning, a long shot to the Pepsi Porch in right. On the home run, Collins said, “I think he has the most, raw power I have ever seen. I have never seen a guy generate that kind of power before.”

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under David Wright, Florida Marlins, Game Series, Game Winning Streak, High Pitch, Johan Santana, League Debut, Mike Pelfrey, Miscue, New York Mets, Second Baseman, Seventh Inning, Strikeout, Time At Home, Top Story

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on August 31, 2011

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To Compete The Mets Will Need To Get Creative

What a great week for the New York Mets. After taking Round 1 of the Subway Series, the Mets totally dismantled the Philadelphia Phillies, so much so you have to wonder if they were stealing the wrong team’s signs.

And now, this five game winning streak has put the Mets back in play. They are now two games out of first on a five game winning streak, winning six of their last seven games.

The offence played perfectly to the fury of Citi Field, manufacturing runs while getting the occasional long ball, while the pitching has been sparkling.

Besides ace No. 1 Johan Santana and ace No. 2 Mike Pelfrey, the rotation has been revamped with R.A. Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi filling in nicely for the ousted John Maine and Oliver Perez. Yet, both of those pitcher are 35 and you have to wonder how long it will take for the league to figure out the knuckleballer and control pitching lefthander.

That’s why the Mets need another arm for the rotation. Although Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee will be available over the next two months, the Mets have to show restraint and not give up too much for either player.

Oswalt requested a trade from owner Drayton McClane; he is signed through next year, due to make $16 million in 2011 with a $16 million club option 2012 (or a $2 million buyout or an opt-out with a reduced buyout). Because a team will control the right-hander, McClane, along with Astros general manager Ed Wade will ask for a king’s ransom for their ace pitcher. Expect any Met trade to begin with the name Jenrry Mejia and move down from there.

With Lee, the Mets will look at a two to three month rental, as he will be a free agent after this season. Making $9 million this season, Lee will demand a very large contract during the off-season and by virtue of  being the biggest name on the market, the Mets will have to pay up for the 2008 American League Cy Young Winner.

But Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik will still ask for the Mets top prospects in return. Remember, this is not the off-season and the Mets can’t wait it out, hoping Lee will fall into their laps with B-Level prospects. Seattle will ask for prospects like Fernando Martinez and Mejia, which may be too rich for the Mets blood.

Rather, the Mets should look for creative ways to fill out the rotation, by taking a chance on a bad contract and hoping a change of scenery will do someone well.

General manager Omar Minaya may look to San Francisco to see if the Giants will be willing to take Perez and Luis Castillo off his hands for Barry Zito, who signed one of the worst contacts in Major League history before the 2007 season. The flaky lefthander has been a total disappointment for the Giants since inking the deal and the still $76 million owed to Zito will hamstring San Francisco over the next few seasons when they try to sign Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain to long term deals.

Lincecum is signed through 2011, but will command almost $20 million in arbitration for 2012, while Cain will make $15.33 million during that year. Along with Zito’s $19 million, the Giants will be on the hook for $55 million for just three starters. Since San Francisco likes to keep its payroll under $100 million, it will be tough for the Giants to compete.

So moving Zito will make some sense. With Castillo and Perez, this season and next will be a wash for both clubs. Perez may be able to re-find his form in AT&T Park, with its vast left field, while Castillo will fight for playing time with Freddy Sanchez (assuming he won’t be traded).

The Mets will get Zito, an enigmatic pitcher, who has a tremendous amount of talent. Behind Santana and Pelfrey, Zito will fit into the No. 3 slot. A fly ball pitcher, the 32 year-old could find new life in the vast canyons of Citi Field.

He had a hot start this April, going 4-0 with a 1.53 ERA, but cooled down in May, going 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA. The lefthander did make changes in his delivery and sometimes a different coaching staff can fix what has been ailing the flaky lefty.

Of course, there’s the small matter of the $57 million Zito is owed from 2012 to 2014, if the Mets plan on buying him out of his option, so the Giants may have to send some money back – say $20 million – to even out this deal.

The window is closing on these Mets as many of the “core” players will be free agents after 2011. With Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez, and even Jose Reyes free agents after next year, it may be a very different Met team in 2012. If the Mets can fill some of their holes with cheaper options, then Zito’s reduced contract is something the team can deal with.

Now, Zito also has a full no-trade clause, but a trade to New York may intrigue Zito, who is known to love the big city. If all parties agree, it may be just a small hurdle to overcome.

The fact is the Mets will need to do something, but emptying the fragile farm system should not be an option. To compete the team will have to get creative.

Posted under Ace Pitcher, American League Cy Young, Club Option, Cy Young, Cy Young Winner, Drayton Mcclane, Game Winning Streak, Joe Mcdonald, Johan Santana, Knuckleballer, Last Seven Games, Lefthander, Manager Ed, Mets Top Prospects, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Oswalt, Seattle General, Subway Series, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on May 28, 2010